Controlling our freaky relationships

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Almost all of us experience a need for some control in our lives. Whether it’s keeping to our kid’s busy after-school schedules or managing a demanding team and project agenda at work. Whilst most of us will develop strategies for controlling the things in our lives, the real fun begins when we have to deal controlling the people around us. It gets even more interesting when we are confronted by the feelings that arise from other people attempting to control us. For most of us this relationship comes into particular focus when the person trying to control us is our boss.

When it comes to control, there tends to be two distinct types of people in the world. Those who love freedom, the empowerment to make our own decisions and the permission to go off piste occasionally. We shall call these individuals the ‘Freedom Freaks’. On the other side of the fence are those who revel in detail, tight delivery plans and being consulted on every decision that is made. These are…yes you guessed it………the ’Control Freaks’.

In my experience it is rare for these two types of freaks to understand each other’s motives, let alone respect the strengths that these approaches can have when they work together in harmony. When it’s a CF that fills the role of boss they typically spend their time trying to make sure that the FF’s in their teams follow orders, hit deadlines and don’t waste too much time ‘being creative’. In a role reversal when it’s an FF who is the big boss they make it their mission to shake things up, focus on people rather than things and brainstorming sessions become the new black. Oh and team away days tend to be much more interesting/groan producing affairs depending on which type you are.

Whether you are an FF being managed by a CF boss or a CF being ‘empowered’ by an FF boss, there are certain things you can do to make the experience a more bearable, even pleasurable experience. This week I was chatting to a friend who was in the middle of this very predicament and was reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’s book ‘The Four Agreements’ where he talks about the four things that we can all do to improve the quality of our relationships. I have found them are particularly useful when coaching harmony between CF’s and FF’s.

They go something like this…….

1. Be Honest

Arguably the hardest step to take and the one we should always return to. Rather than letting resentment for your boss simmer under the surface until it bursts violently out in the form of verbal attacks or laxatives in their coffee, be honest about how their approach makes you feel. Whether you are craving more respect and freedom or more structure and deadlines, if you can find the courage to sit down and tell them how their behaviour makes you feel then this has the power to move things forward. The key here is to focus on their ‘behaviour’ as the source of your pain rather than their personality or face etc.

2. Don’t take things personally

Although it may be tempting to interpret everything that your boss does as an attack on your person, it is rarely the case. It’s useful to remember that we all have a unique way of seeing the world and it’s a fact that your boss is doing things in a different way to you that has annoyed you in the first place. If you can remain calm and repeat step 1 then you will usually find that their behaviour had nothing personally to do with you and you can try and agree a way forwards that works for you both.

3. Don’t make assumptions

Often when someone annoys us it because we have interpreted their actions within the frame of our own world-view. How many times have you found yourself creating a story about something someone has done (they did this to me today which means they want to destroy me) only to find out you were completely wrong when you spoke to them later. Not making assumptions means giving up the story writing and gossip. It means going back to step 1 before you draw any conclusions or attach any meaning to someone’s actions.

4. Always do your best

Some days we will be in better form than others. Some days, our hangover / lack of sleep will mean that we are less self-aware and patient with others than we should be. The final step is to always do your best. If you notice you have let the judgemental demon version of you come out way too much today, then acknowledge this and resolve to bring out the Zen like sage version tomorrow. Always doing your best means paying attention to the results you are getting and always trying new ways to create fulfilling win/win relationships with those people you struggle against. This is one of the main ways we learn and grow in life.

So to all you CF’s and FF’s out there, good luck. There are strengths and weaknesses associated with both approaches and its only when we take the time to work effectively with someone of the opposite type that we can truly begin to appreciate this.

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