You Can't Control What Other People Think
by Rick Brenner
Ever think that the world would be a much better place if you could control what other people think? Maybe it would be. And maybe not...
Maybe you've never thought this, but many people have: "The World would be a better place if only people would think like I do." Rarely is this a useful thought. You can influence others, once in a while, maybe. But you can't control what other people think. The evidence is overwhelming.
In a world where people can control what other people think:
- …there will be only one brand of toothpaste, and we'll all like it
- …meetings will be much shorter because we'll always agree about everything and we'll all arrive on time
- …there will be no divorce lawyers, because there will be no divorces
- …there will be a broccoli shortage because the broccoli people will figure out how to make everyone like it
- …there will be no need for war, bullies, editorials, elections, cosmetics, or advertising. Hmmm. Sounds pretty good.
- …we'll be able to control what we ourselves think (I don't know about you, but I can't do that now)
- …we won't lose as many arguments because everyone will have the same opinion
- …we won't have to dress to impress anyone else, because we'll figure out other ways to impress them that don't involve dry cleaning
- …there will be no salespeople because everyone with something to sell will know how to make us want it
- …we won't have to say You can't control what other
people think. The evidence
is overwhelming.no to anyone because we'll know how to force them to withdraw their requests or not make them in the first place
- …we'll be able to trust everyone
- …our supervisors will love everything we do
- …the people we supervise will love doing whatever we ask them to do
- …all projects will have the resources and time their people think they need (but they will still be wrong by 100%)
- …cable news programs will still be bad, but instead of their guests yelling at each other, they will all agree with each other
- …children will rule the world
- …no, never mind, dogs will rule the world
- …lying will actually work
- …performance reviews will all be "exceeds expectations"
- …raises will still be low, but we'll think they're fine
- …employers won't provide paid vacation time, because we'll all be perfectly happy working 52 weeks
- …everyone will be patriotic in ways we approve of
- …there will be no new ideas because everyone will think, "Hey, I thought of that, too"
- …we'll all be wrong at exactly the same time, in exactly the same way
- …there will be only one country
- …people will probably still argue about religion (some things never change)
So, are you convinced that you can't control what other people think? No? Well, I can't control what you think. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- The Costs of Threats
- Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships, and create an atmosphere of fear.
- When You're the Least of the Best: Part II
- Many professions have entry-level roles that combine education with practice. Although these "newbies" have unique opportunities to learn from veterans, the role's relatively low status sometimes conflicts with the self-image of the new practitioner. Comfort in the role makes learning its lessons easier.
- I've Got Your Number, Pal
- Recent research has uncovered a human tendency — possibly universal — to believe that we know others better than others know them, and that we know ourselves better than others know themselves. These beliefs, rarely acknowledged and often wrong, are at the root of many a toxic conflict of long standing.
- A Critique of Criticism: Part II
- To make things better, we criticize, but we often miss the mark. We inflict pain without meaning to, and some of that pain comes back to us. How can we get better outcomes, while reducing the risks of inflicting pain?
- Impasses in Group Decision-Making: Part I
- Groups sometimes find that although they cannot agree on the issue at hand in its entirety, they can agree on some parts of it. Yet, they remain stuck, unable to reach a narrow agreement before moving on to the more thorny areas. Why does this happen?
See also Workplace Politics and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 22: Quips That Work at Work: Part I
- Perhaps you've heard that humor can defuse tense situations. Often, a clever quip, deftly delivered, does help. And sometimes, it's a total disaster. What accounts for the difference? Available here and by RSS on April 22.
- And on April 29: Quips That Work at Work: Part II
- Humor, used effectively, can defuse tense situations. Here's Part II of a set of guidelines for using humor to defuse tension and bring confrontations, meetings, and conversations back to a place where thinking can resume. Available here and by RSS on April 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates.
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or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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