Control. Who's really in charge?
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Dr. Claude Brodeur, PhD


Being in Control
Who's really in charge?

Nobody minds manipulating others within reason and as long as they allow us to get away with it. They usually object to being manipulated solely to meet the wants and needs of others without any advantage to themselves. What they seem to dislike is the nasty feeling that comes from realizing that they are being exploited, or were exploited without realizing at the time that they were being so used.

You are sometimes going to be manipulated by someone. Or someone is sometimes going to try to manipulate you. You also are sometimes going to be manipulating someone to get what you want. This is natural. It can't be avoided as long as you have something you want or need.

Can you ever lead a life free from manipulation? This would be most unnatural. Can you ever recognize when and how you are being manipulated? You can if we know yourself, your weaknesses,  your strengths, and your boundaries.

Notice, if you can, when you are being manipulative. Pay attention also to whether those whom you are manipulating are enjoying some benefit. If you are uncertain what the benefit might be, ask them. In this way you can avoid being an exploiter. This attitudeis more likely to develop your sensitivity to situations in which you have in the past allowed yourself to be exploited by others, realizing later that you were had.

The more serious issue, I claim,  is the issue of exploitation. If I have control over your actions, what are your counter-controls? If you have some control over my actions, what are my counter-controls?

Once you begin to take this type of question  seriously, you have positioned yourself to become  aware of how you get what you want and what you imagine you need. Also, you might become aware of how you fail to get what you want and what you imagine you need. Other questions you could ask yourself would be:

What are my rules for you? How do I make known to you that these are my rules for you? For example, you must never interrupt me when I am speaking.

What do I do for you when you follow my rules or choose to live by my rules? For example, do I then show an interest in what you have to say?

What do I do to you when you act contrary to my rules or when you refuse to live by my rules? For example, do I avoid you?

What are your rules for me as a group (like employees, a class of students)? How can the group make known to me that these are their rules (substitute expectations for rules)? For example, do I have to always be available to you when you want to see me?

What will the group do for me when I follow their rules or happen to conduct myself by their rules? Will life be easier for me? How? For example, will you then support me when I need your support?

What does the group do to me when I act contrary to their rules or when I refuse to conduct myself according to their rules? For example, will you then try to unionize?

You can act in ways which you ourselves indicate to others that you would like them to act. You can also act in ways which you yourself indicate to others that you dislike. Following the Transactional Analysis model of interpersonal relationships for categorizing the ways that you can relate to others, I can imagine the following possibilities:

I can act as if I'm OK and You're OK, in which case:
- my attitude is to try to get along with you
- my way of working with you tends to be to explore and to develop; to keep you informed; to make decisions
- I tend to act as if my rules are simply guidelines
- my way of solving problems tends to be balanced between process and outcomes
- I tend to view conflict as a positive opportunity for growth
- I will let you know when I am angry

I can act as if I'm OK and You're not OK, in which case:
- my way of working with you tends to be to have to control you; to use persuasion; to be the strong one; to use physical or psychological coercion
- I tend to act as if our job is to make and enforce rules
- my way of solving problems tends to be focused on the job to be done rather than the way it is to be done (get it done no matter what)
- I tend to put the good of the organization first and foremost when conflict emerges
- my anger will appear as resentment

I can act as if I'm not OK and You're OK, in which case:
- my attitude is to try to avoid you, to stay out of your way
- my way of working with you is to relinquish myself and accommodate you (to forget about myself and think only of you)
- I tend to act as if rules are duties, which must be fulfilled no matter at what cost to me
- my way of solving problems tends to focus on the way others want the job to be done (tasky)
- I tend to react to conflict as something negative and harmful
- my anger will appear as frustration

I can act as if I'm not OK and You're not OK, in which case:
- my attitude is to keep us from getting anywhere (sabotage all efforts)
- my way of working with you tends to be highly defensive (fight or flight)
- I tend to act as if my rules are absolutes
- my way of solving problems tends to be ineffective and forced
- I tend to react to conflict by ignoring it (hoping it will go away)
- my anger will appear as defiance (rebellion, belligerence, threats).

For books on Behavior Modification, Cognitive Behavior Modification and Transactional Analysis search any online bookstore.


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Copyright © 1999, Dr. Claude Brodeur, PhD
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Page last modified:
October 29, 2000