How much of my mental energy goes toward trying to manipulate other people? Lots. Sometimes it’s clearly for the good, if say I try to get my daughter to take vitamins. More often it’s for my good, so that things will go easier for me.
I need to have a difficult conversation with a co worker. I have to tell her that I can’t be part of a specific project because it involves dealing with an outside organization that discriminates against gay people. Of course there is no question that I will work with this organization. And to me, there is no question that I’m right not to. In my perfect world, no one would work them, and they’d either stop discriminating against gay people or die.
Regardless, she probably doesn’t know they discriminate, and when she finds out, I’m assuming she won’t care and will be very displeased with my non cooperation. Again, I’m right, she’s wrong (in my mind – this is part of my moral code). Unless I’m wrong that she all of sudden won’t work with them either, which I seriously doubt. Her religion discriminates against gay people, and I haven’t heard her object to that.
Anyway, I have run the conversation sixteen different ways, trying to figure out how to make her the least amount of angry towards me that I can. Again, I’m not asking anyone else to withhold cooperation (though maybe I should, and that’s a different post), and I have no doubt that I’m doing the right thing for myself as well as for the greater good. But this is someone I work closely with every day, someone I care about, and her unhappiness with me will effect me and I want to avoid it if I can.
So I spend time thinking about it.
Part of my work ( not having to do with the anti-gay thing) involves behaviorism on a very basic level. At times we deal closely with the ABCs – antecedent, behavior, consequence. The thought is that by understanding what comes first, and/or what comes after the behavior, we can change it and thus, in a way, have power over other people. At work I hope and try to make sure the behavior should be changed, and we’re talking about things like aggression towards other people. But it’s often a fine line.
I remember hearing a statistic that said a huge percent of what people talk about to each other has to do with other people.
I won’t even go there to consider how much I try to manipulate (control) Carole. I will say that I think it takes a very high level of cooperation to exist happily in a couple, over time, and to each one’s benefit.
There are some times when I try to practice powerlessness. To a degree, I do it with my adult children. Lots of administrators but also actually people under me at work, too. With my ex it saved my sanity to not try to control him. People on the road, in the store, in the news. I have no power over them, and I’m glad.
That’s a thought that has comforted me at times. Really, if I could suddenly have power over people, who would I choose, and what would I have them do? Really, what? I’m sure I’d muck up the universe terribly, and it’s more than enough for me to try to have power over myself.