Posts tagged “Donald Miller

How to Spot a Controlling Person (Even If It’s You)

I recently read a blog post by Donald Miller, the best-selling author of books like Blue Like Jazz (2003), Searching for God Knows What (2004), and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009), and really want to share it with you. You can follow his blog at storylineblog.com. The list at the end of the post is especially insightful.

How to Spot A Controlling Person

by 

 

I don’t like it when people try to control me (especially indirectly through manipulation) and I would have sworn I didn’t do a thing to try to control others. But it turns out that isn’t true. For all I know, I might even be manipulating you right now. Raise your hand if you think I’m trying to control you. (I see that hand. Now put it down. Now scratch your nose.)

I realized I was a controlling person not long ago when a therapist caught me in the act. I was wondering out loud why a friend was doing what she was doing and the thearpist questioned why I was trying to get inside somebody else’s head.

“What does it matter why people do what they do? Are you trying to predict behavior to gain a sense of security?”

It was a terrific observation.

Trying to figure out why people are doing what they are doing is a preface to trying to control or influence them indirectly. If I really wanted to know why they were doing what they were doing, I could just ask. But I didn’t want to ask because it was none of my business. They had a right to think and do as they wished.

Photo Credit: Leo Hidalgo, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Leo Hidalgo, Creative Commons

Turns out controlling tendencies can hide anywhere. And most of the time (if not all the time) we don’t know we’re doing it.

The therapist went on to explain how relationships should work.

She put three large couch pillows on the floor and stood on one of the outside cushions. She then had me stand on the other outside cushion so there was an empty cushion between us.

“This is my pillow” she said, “and that is yours. This is my life and that is yours. The pillow in the middle represents our relationship. So, my responsibility is all about the pillow I’m standing on and yours is about yours. Together, we are responsible for the relationship. But at no point should I be stepping on your pillow.”

What she meant by that was this:

I can’t change anybody. I can’t force them or guilt them or shame them into doing anything. All I can do is stay on my pillow and ask myself whether or not I like the relationship. If I don’t, I can tell the other person what I want in a relationship and see if they want the same thing.

If not, I move on, and so do they.

In marriage, of course, it’s much harder. You can’t just walk away. But in business relationships and friendships, and even in dating, the model works quite well.

I found the metaphor freeing, actually.

No more wishing people would change or explaining “if they only did it this way we would be better friends.” Instead, I just say “this relationship doesn’t work” and there’s nothing I can do about it. If I’ve explained what I want in a relationship but the other person isn’t on board, no harm no foul.

It’s difficult in some relationships, I know, because sometimes you have to watch people destroy their lives, but that’s just the point.

Their lives are theirs to destroy.

I found the principle to be true in business, too.

When somebody tries to sell a little too hard, they are on my pillow so I back off or set better boundaries. It’s also a great way to find and enter into relationships with clients. If they want what you’re selling, great, and if not, that’s also great.

Business relationships work better when they’re natural and not forced and everybody stays on their pillow.

And in my spiritual life it’s the same.

If somebody is giving me a guilt trip, they’re on my pillow. I believe much of evangelicalism is influenced by leaders who don’t realize they are standing all over their congregation’s pillows. Some leaders feel incredibly insecure unless they are managing the lives of everybody around them.

Make no mistake, this isn’t strength, it’s incredible weakness. Just tell the truth, explain the consequences, and let people make their own decisions.

Here are a few ways to know whether you might be a controlling person:

1. You imagine a life in which somebody else was different, and indirectly try to affect their change.
2. You get angry when things aren’t going your way and you let people know it.
3. You can only be surrounded by people who are submissive to you.
4. You give the silent treatment to people you are angry with.
5. You are often tempted to show somebody the errors they don’t see in themselves.

What ways do you tend to step on other people’s pillows? Do you shame people (I’m guilty of that) or give them the silent treatment? How do you try to influence others without being direct or when their lives are none of your business?

Feelings Are Weather

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (2003), A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009), and many other books, recently tweeted –

I think the love we build is much more reliable than the love we feel. Feelings are weather.

The tweet immediately got me to thinking, especially that concise little sentence: “Feelings are weather.” To what extent, I wondered, is the tweet choice theory friendly or choice theory accurate. My mind tends to go there when I read a tweet or a blog or a story or an article or even when I watch a movie. Feelings are weather. Hmm . . .

Let’s see how far we can take the weather metaphor.

+ Weather can be mild or it can be extremely powerful. Choice theorists would agree that feelings are sometimes mild and sometimes overwhelmingly – at least it feels overwhelming – powerful.

Hurricane_Fran_sept_1996

+ Weather can quickly change, while at other times we can anticipate changes days in advance. Our feelings can be the same way.

+ Weather can’t be controlled, although I can choose my response to it. I can’t stop the rain, but I can grab an umbrella. I can’t cool the sun, but I can wear a hat. Choice theory teaches us that we cannot directly control our feelings, but that we can control our thinking and our acting. Because the four parts of our behavior – thinking, acting, feeling, and body physiology – always come into alignment, our feelings and our physiology will ultimately come into alignment with the part of our behavior we can control, that being our thinking and our acting.

(As I write this on Sabbath morning, October 3, 2015, at 9:00 am, the weather in Angwin is warm and calm, a beautiful morning actually, yet reports are indicating a fire advisory this evening into tomorrow morning with high winds and gusts up to 50 mph. As you can tell, I am interested in the weather.)

weather-alert10-14-14-300x110

+ We are aware of and monitor the weather constantly. If you are having an outdoor wedding and it’s taking place next week you will be especially interested in weather forecasts. Similarly, we monitor our feelings constantly.

There is no question that feelings, our emotions, play a big role in our moment-to-moment, day-to-day lives. The real question has to do with the level of importance we assign to our feelings and the extent to which we let them hold sway over our picture of our reality. Given the number of people caught up in self-medicating behaviors, including the pursuit of drugs to artificially modify emotions, it appears that a lot of us are believing whatever our feelings are telling us. Some of us, it appears, place so much importance on our feelings that we let them have far too much influence on our sense of wellbeing.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

One of Glasser’s most important contributions, and one of his unique contributions, is the concept of total behavior. As much as any of his ideas, the concept of total behavior describes the role of feelings in our lives and helps us understand the ways in which we can influence them or on the other hand be a victim of them.

Total behavior proposes the following key ideas –

+ All we (human beings) do is behave.

+ All behavior is purposeful.

+ All (or each) behavior is made of four parts – Thinking, Acting, Feeling, and Physiology.

+ We have direct control over our thinking and our acting.

+ We have indirect control over our feelings and our physiology.

Every behavior is made up of these four parts, and more importantly, the four parts, based on our focus, will come into alignment with each other. We all experience this alignment process throughout every day –

+ I THINK a bike ride will be good for me; I ACT by getting on the bike and heading down the hill; I begin to FEEL freer and empowered; and my PHYSIOLOGY (heart rate, perspiration, breathing, etc.) matches the demands placed on my body in the process.

+ I FEEL tense and anxious; my PHYSIOLOGY includes a clenched stomach and a tight chest (two of a number of body responses); my THINKING focuses on reasons to be afraid or angry; and I ACT by going home, grabbing high fat/high sugar foods, and distracting myself in front of the TV.

+ I FEEL frustrated and resentful; I acknowledge the feeling, but THINK it is time for me to talk with the person with whom I am frustrated; I ACT by using the caring habits of Accepting and Negotiating Differences; and my PHYSIOLOGY, momentarily heading toward high blood pressure and muscular tightness, remains at reasonable levels.

Keep in mind that we don’t have direct control over our feelings (or the weather). We can intensify our feelings by (through our thinking) affirming them and even nurturing them, but why not head in a better direction. Since we can directly control our thinking and our actions, why not focus on the best versions of ourselves we can be.

I think Donald Miller was right – feelings are weather.

====================

For insights into how to navigate life, including the continual debate over gun control, check out Glasser’s biography.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: