Sometimes what we want most in the world is for another person to change.
If only she would see my side…
If only he would talk to me…
If only the boss would do things my way…
If only my mother would love me more…
If only I were queen of the known universe and could easily bend others to my will…
Some of our most preciously held desires are for others to be different. We have all known the heartache of wanting people to change. And even when we’ve cried buckets of tears, even when we know better, we can still clutch onto the hope that they will one day see the light and be how we want them to be.
As a coach I’m devoted to helping people know, own, and go for what they want, their hearts’ desires. I am the queen of manifesting desires, that is, unless or until that desire is predicated upon someone else changing.
Yes, certainly, we can have powerful conversations and, using “I” statements, ask others for what we want. Absolutely we can use non-toxic and non-violent communication to be in dialogue with each other. We can get curious to find out what’s going on for each of us. We can ask for what we need and make agreements that work for all of us. Powerful, intentional dialogue can work really well! Relationship coaching is all about working together for meaningful change and mutual thriving. This is at the heart of conscious, intentional relationships.
But what happens when we’ve made requests and we’ve worked to see and appreciate others for whom they really are and we still want, dream, hope, yearn for them to behave differently – and they don’t? What happens when we continue to clash and my desires are still not met? What then?
Well, I could go to war. I could attempt to force you, one way or another, to be how I want you to be. I could go to court. I could go to rules and to regulations and to sanctions and to threats. I could go to whatever power-over system is available to me to attempt to make you be how I want you to be.
And before I imagine any of these nuclear options, I have a few steps I walk myself through to get some clarity.
One huge help for me in getting clear when I so want to be the boss of someone else is the locus of control circles. Here’s how to use this tool. Draw two big circles on a sheet of paper, one within another, like a big target or donut. In the center circle I identify what I can control. In the outer circle, surrounding the inner one, I identify what I can (or might be able to) influence. Outside and all around both of these circles is what I can neither control nor influence.
It’s a simple image for a deep concept – that of remembering what power I actually have.
When I start wishing someone else would change, I ask myself these questions:
What about this situation can I actually control?
What can I (maybe or hope to) influence?
And what about this situation is outside of my ability to control or influence?
When you honestly get right down to it, all we can control is ourselves – our choices, our thoughts, our feelings, our requests, our beliefs, our perspectives, our stories, our dreams, and our expectations. We are the queen of ourselves, no one else.
Here are a few extra bonus point questions for even more clarity:
What am I hoping to avoid within myself by focusing on what I want you to do?
What’s the really hard thing I’ll have to face or do if you don’t change?
What terrifies me about not being able to be in control?
What tactics do I use to attempt to influence?
Who do I become in the process of seeking to have others bend to my will?
What would I be better served to focus on, other than changing you?
I can hope to influence others with my requests and my behaviors, but I can’t wish or ask or boss or force others to do what I want. I can’t bonk anyone over the head with my scepter or magic wand to make them change. I cannot bend others to my will. (Ok, maybe we can force little tiny children to our will, but every sleepless parent knows even that is not always possible.)
So whenever I spend vast amounts of my life force attempting to bend someone else to my will, I am setting myself up for exhaustion, disappointment, and heartache. When my happiness or my important desires depend on someone else behaving in a way that suits me, I am out of my center. When I’m focusing my energy on attempting to control you, I am ignoring what is actually within my circle of control – myself.
Now I know this is all way trickier and messier than some version of “just say no,” or “just stop it right now.” If only things were this easy!
Some of the choices we have to make when we finally quit attempting to bend others to our will can be excruciatingly difficult. Letting go of one of our precious dreams can be heart breaking.
And sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to control anything about our wild emotions or our scattered thoughts. When someone has more privilege than we do or when there are repercussions that are unacceptable to us should we choose something vastly different from what we have been doing, there are more challenges and more things for us to consider. Fortunately we have plenty of tools and perspectives available to us (not only scepters or magic wands, although those are quite awesome)!
The locus of control circles can be used in the process of manifesting any of our desires. They can also be used for hard decisions, strategic planning, or conflict negotiations. Getting clear about what we can and can’t control helps us get focused and back to our own business.
When I get right down to it, I am the queen of my own universe! It is all about me! Being queen of myself is the job I was born for and the one no one else could ever do better. And it is the most challenging and potentially satisfying job I’ll ever have. Now, if only I could find my magic wand…
Beautifully said, as always, Christine. Thank you for sharing your insight!