Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The illusion of control

Reruns of a minor dust-up in the office yesterday buzzed in my brain all last evening. It wasn’t even really enough to be called a dust-up, rather a simple misunderstanding. She said one thing, I heard something else. We tossed words back and forth past each other for a few seconds until we figured out the disconnect. The matter was resolved quickly, I thought; no harm, no foul, so the saying goes. It annoyed me a bit since I felt like I’d been scolded for nothing, but it was over.

Three hours later she raised the matter again, insisting we debate how and why it happened, where the problem started, and who was to blame (in so many words). I reiterated my earlier explanation of what I thought happened, added yet another apology for the confusion, and steered the conversation to a new topic. But now it really bothered me.

I mulled over the discussion on and off all evening, and again this morning on the drive to the office. I tried to look at the whole board, as Hubby always counsels, and realized it wasn’t about the words I’d misheard (or possibly, she misspoke).

It was about control. Not having control is frightening.

In our short month or so together, she has exhibited an inordinate need to control every facet of the work that passes through the office. Every document, every work product, is vetted and redone and revised and edited again. Yes, she’s in charge, but if you can’t hire people you trust, give them a task, and believe they will do the job well, there’s a bigger problem to be addressed.

The illusion of control.

There are very few things in life we can truly control. How people hear and understand our words is not one of them. Once those words leave my lips, or I hand off a printed page, I’m out of the loop. The recipient’s perception of my most carefully constructed thought is entirely up to them. I do my best to craft my words carefully; it’s one of the reasons I prefer writing to oral communication. I can rework those phrases, find just the right nuance to explain what I really mean. In conversation, I lose that luxury. My brain freezes, the words won’t come, and my effort is often thwarted by my insecurities.

As I pondered the recent office situation, I realized why her unacknowledged need to control is so very obvious to me.

I’m the same way.

Not as much as I used to be, thank goodness. I’ll never knowHow Hubby put up with me all those years when I insisted on micromanaging every detail of our life, but I’m eternally grateful that he did. I’ve learned, slowly, painfully, to let go of those things I truly can’t (or shouldn’t) control. There are times I still fight the urge, when I find myself chafing at my inability to be hands-on, in control of something from start to finish so it’s done exactly as it should be, or rather, the way I want it to be. But I am getting better.

And as I return to the office non-dust-up, I realize I was trying to control her response almost (?) as much as she wanted to control mine. I’d let go to a certain extent; now I needed to release that last bit which I insisted on clinging to after it was all over. She will respond to me according to her perceptions. All I can do is be the best that I am, at any given moment and stop trying to control how she reacts.

Control. Release.

One more life lesson the universe knew I needed to be reminded of. What did you learn from life today?

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