Today I was reminded again of a lesson I have repeated in my life multiple times – the correct way to get what you want from people. I actually learned this lesson from being a parent and then applied the (eventually) successful parenting techniques to my interactions with adults that were as hard to control as my strong-willed two-year old (who is now 8).
From the moment she was placed in my arms it was clear that I would not be in control of my youngest. Then again, any parent who fools themselves by believing that they are in control of their children probably is in denial in more areas in their life than parenting alone. Anyhow, I was clearly NOT in control of my youngest. I learned that I had no ability to really control her actions, as they were under her jurisdiction. What I could control was MY actions and MY reactions – which is exactly what I did. Rather than tell her that she had to go to pick up her toys (after she had already refused multiple times), I told her what I would do if the toys were not picked up. “So sorry you cannot find time to pick up your toys, at 17:00 any toys I find on the floor will be placed in the garbage bin. If you can’t find time to put them away, I will be happy to take care of that for you – permanently” Needless to say, the toys were picked up.
My favorite scenario where I put this principle into practice was when I bought a crap DVD player from a local electronic store. Within days of purchase this thing was not functioning (no, my daughter did NOT try to feed this one a sandwich!) Anyhow, when I asked for them to repair or exchange the DVD player they refused – completely refused! (I LOVE customer service in this country…… ) I yelled at them on the phone for DAYS, trying to get them to replace the DVD player, telling them they HAD to replace the DVD player, etc. Suddenly it occurred to me that I needed to apply the same parenting principles I used on my daughter to this company. I could NOT control the company, that was very clear, I could not force the manager or anyone to do what I wanted them to do – but AHHH, YESS, I could control MYSELF. I called the company the next day. I said to them, “I understand you are in a bind and you feel it is against your policy to replace the bad DVD player you sold me. I need you to know I work for a large organization with many employees and as it is a school, there are many children and their families. If I do not have a working DVD player by the end of this week, I will be using my email lists to let all of the people in my network know that they cannot trust merchandise from your store as you are unable to replace broken products.” A day and a half later I had a new, working DVD machine.
This is a powerful lesson to learn – when stuck in situations where children or adults in your life are refusing to give you what you want/ need/ deserve. The key is not to force them – you cannot force anyone to do anything (at least, not easily). The trick is to let the other person know that you are fully in control of yourself. Explain how you are going to act/ react if they are not able to work with you to rectify an uncomfortable situation. By letting them know what you are doing (which is something they cannot control), they are often suddenly interested in working to solve issues. Ironically, by not yelling/ screaming/ or bullying a person, you can be more intimidating. People know how to tune out the yelling, it is harder for them to ignore a rational calm person explaining the chain of events that will occur in the near future if changes are not made.
Any questions? Feel free to post and I will answer.
Any examples from your own life?
Yours in self-control! Controlling yourself in productive ways will impact your environment and help you to get what you want in a difficult situation.
As I approach 40, I hope that I can lead my life by working to control myself and my actions, rather than frustrate myself by wishing others would change. As I change myself those around me change naturally – they have little choice.