Sunday, December 13, 2009

Control or Be Controlled

If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.
Henry Ford

Yesterday, writing this article, I got really, really stuck. I was developing a new idea and every time I got to the part of the article that explained the idea, I decided that my theory didn't make sense! And so I started over, and over, and over...

Then around midnight, I went to Mark and asked him to listen to what I had written so far to see if he could help me along again. Long story short: I had decided that my thoughts were too convoluted and unclear to make it into this article today!

Then, while discussing the topic, Mark asked a question that got us to an excited new place of exploration.

Mark: Do you believe that people can control others?

Iris: If the person believes he can control others, yes...

Mark: Really????

Iris: Yes.

Mark: So you believe you can be controlled by others?

Iris: No, but I believe that someone who believes that he can control others surrounds himself with people who want to be controlled.

Mark: Hmmm..

The Control Matrix
I explained to Mark that my concept isn't about true or not true, it's just about what I've experienced. I believe that people create their experiences by surrounding themselves with others who support what they want or believe. When one person believes that he can control others and really wants/needs to be in control, he will eventually be surrounded only by people who want/need to be controlled.

Wow, fun! This theory reconciles so much of my experiences that run contrary to my beliefs. On the one hand, I believe that no one can actually make someone else feel, think or do something they don't want to do. On the other hand, I see examples of what would appear to be one person controlling another all the time.

Inspired by Faith's framework presenting consciousness and competence, I created the same kind of visually representative grid around control:
  1. The lower left quadrant represents people who are controlling and want to be controlled
  2. The lower right represents people who are controlling, but who do not believe they can be controlled by others
  3. The upper left represents people who are not controlling, but believe they can be controlled by others
  4. The upper right represents people who neither want to control others nor believe that they can be controlled by others
Examples of Control Relationships
Based on this model, I can think of many examples that fall into one or another quadrant.
  1. Think of couples where one partner is controlling, and the other is compliant.
  2. Think of bosses who push their employees around, and employees who do whatever is asked of them without questioning. Or they may leave, or get fired!
  3. Think of bosses that trust their employees to find answers and create solutions themselves and how they end up with employees that can create solutions and be trusted.
  4. Think of parents who push their children to always get A's in school. If one child responds by diligently working hard, the parent's belief that they can control the child is reinforced. If another responds by fighting the parents, the parent operates on the belief that they can control him as well.
  5. Think of large bureaucratic organizations where each person in the hierarchy is both in control and controlled.
  6. Think of emerging entrepreneurial organizations where trying to control others doesn't work at all.
  7. Think of people who seek wisdom from others; they find others who will give them wisdom.
  8. Think of people who seek wisdom on their own.
In the end, you can find relationships that fall into any one of the four quadrants!

What I like about this concept is that it explains why we can meet people with completely different and contradictory sets of beliefs, and each of us will have evidence to support them.
I might believe I am in control of others, because I've surrounded myself with others who want to be controlled. You might believe that no one can control another, because you've never tolerated someone trying to control you.

I used to be in the not-controlling/want to be controlled group. This made me quite attractive to the controlling types. Nowadays, I'm in the not controlling/not controlled group and I have noticed that some people who in the past were part of my life don't fit in my life anymore, or, I don't fit into theirs. When working with a controller, the easiest way to get the boot is to cut the strings.

Iris' First Axiom of Control
Of course, you can extend my little theory to cover a multitude of beliefs. But here's what I've come to so far:
  1. Over time, the people in our lives are the ones who comply with our beliefs
  2. As our beliefs filter people in and out of our lives, they grow stronger based on the evidence of the people in our lives. It's a feedback loop.
  3. When we change our beliefs significantly, the people in our lives might also change their beliefs, or, we might change the people in our lives.
  4. We can learn a lot about ourselves from the beliefs of the people in our lives. Their beliefs will tend to be compliant with or reciprocal to our own. If I want to be controlled, then I probably have people in my life who are controlling. If I want to control others, then I probably have people in my life who want to be controlled.
  5. You can extend this concept to any number of characteristics. Empowered people are surrounded by either other empowered people, or, people attracted to empowered people. Energetic people are probably surrounded by other energetic people. And so on...
  6. A new variation on Henry Ford's quote might be: If you believe you can be in control of others or believe you can't be in control of others, you're right!
This thought is only a couple of hours old (or at least it is for me). I'd love to hear what you think!

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