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August 20, 2014 Volume 14, Issue 34
 
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You Can't Control What Other People Think

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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...
A rescue puppy

A rescue puppy. Photo courtesy Animal Services Department of the City of San Marcos, Texas.

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. Go to top Top  Next issue: Deep Trouble and Getting Deeper  Next Issue
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See also Workplace Politics and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

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When a group member agrees to a proposal, even with conditions, the group can move forward. Such agreement is constructive, but there are risks. What are those risks and what can we do about them? Available here and by RSS on June 10.

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