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Control: A Universal Strategy

Imagine someone asks you if you have a need for control.  Does your heart soften?

I am guessing the answer is no.  That's a good sign that control is not a universal need.  When you guess another's need your heart softens because you have the same needs.  When you feel resentment or resistance come up you are likely thinking about how someone is behaving rather than about what he or she is needing.

Control often gets called a need because it is a common way people try to meet needs.  It is a useful strategy when applied to things like controlling a heat source to meet your need for warmth, controlling what you eat to meet your need for health, etc.  Control starts to cost more needs than it meets when it is applied to other people's behavior.

When you witness someone behaving in a way that you might label convincing, cajoling, guilt-tripping, threatening, analyzing, or criticizing, you are tempted to guess they have a "need" for control. You can separate this out in a more clear way by naming that what this person is doing isn't meet your needs for honor and collaboration, for example.  If you want to offer empathy to this person, then some empathy guesses might sound like this:

Feeling nervous because of a need for competence

Feeling defensive because of a need for self-acceptance

Feeling anxious because of a need for support

Feeling shy because of a need for belonging

Feeling worried because of a need for predictability

Feeling apprehensive because of a need for safety

Whether you make these guesses out loud to the other person or in your heart depends on the sense of rapport and trust you have established.  Sometimes the simplest way to start with offering empathy is just to begin silently in your own heart. 

Take a moment now to bring into your awareness a time when you bristled and had the thought that someone was trying to control you.  Name the feelings and needs that weren't being met for you with that person's behavior.  If you have the space make some empathy guesses just in your own heart.

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3 Responses

  1. May 08, 2014
    Kim Braun

    I find, using the word defensive as a feeling often is another word that doesn't soften someone's heart because they think you are analyzing them.

  2. May 09, 2014

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know how much I have appreciated these gems, literally since my husband and and i did our retreat with you a few years ago at the mediation center. This writing on control was just what i needed to read! Much appreciated.

  3. May 27, 2014

    I love this one LaShelle. I don't know how many conversations I've had with people about whether CONTROL is a need or not. The concept of one's heart softening related to another's need brought it home for me. Right! Needs are universal. And the idea of CONTROL doesn't soften my heart.

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