Control: The Elixir of Life

By: judyweigle
Isn't control something we all strive for, either as a conscious effort or unconsciously as a survival technique? Aren't we happiest when we think we're in control of our life decisions, the amount of money we make, job security, our health, and in our intimate relationships? Conversely, aren't we angry if we feel out of control of anything important in our lives?

I'd like to focus on email as a control catalyst today. Email can be our best friend when we're able to move a message forward at any time of the day or night, without restriction. It makes us look superhuman when we shoot off a message at 4:30am! Email allows us to meet more deadlines, exchange pleasantries, and work much more time efficiently. But email has its nasty side. It can make cowards out of us by providing a shield to hide behind when we want to communicate an unpleasant message.

We can be insensitive in our communication because we can't see the face of the person to whom we're speaking, and judge through their nonverbal reactions the merit of our words and thoughts. The sneakiest ways that email influences our control issues is through a message that is innocently communicated to us, but that indirectly threatens our sense of control. I experience this every single day. And many days I succumb to the fear of control loss, and respond in such a way that makes me cringe after I hit "send."

I wonder if my response will appear as hurtful to the receiver as it felt to me. The busier I get, the more susceptible I am to an insensitive response. I'm a master at apologies now. Yesterday was a breakthrough day in managing my control-triggered responses to clients and contemporaries who wrote messages to me that stoked my emotions. In those instances I found myself replying with two sentences: "Let's talk about this later. When are you free?" As simple as this sounds, it lifted a giant weight of guilt off me. I said nothing that made me embarrassed; I didn't hurt anyone's feelings. And, I actually held onto the control card stronger by not responding, because the subject was still open, and the decisions inconclusive, until I responded. I kept control by waiting until I could fashion my thoughts and communication in a positive way.

By waiting until later in the day to talk and discuss the issues at hand, I was also able to be more centered in and honest about my positions, and more creative about solutions. Control is an elusive energy. Anyone can have it at any time they want it. But only in limited scope. None of us can control nature, but we can avoid its perilous effects most of the time by avoiding contact with it in its extreme environments. We can be fully in control of our emotions when we consciously choose to. We can control the ethics of our decisions.

We can assume control in business by understanding supply and demand, and where we fit in this order; and by knowing how to frame and position our negotiable goods, our skills and our talents. The goal with control is to create a happy, balanced environment for ourselves, isn't it? To be able to have the people and things around us that we enjoy, with a routine of work and play that nourishes us, is a good sign that we are exercising control in the things that matter. Those email messages that can potentially disrupt the balance of your day and elicit the feeling of control loss, can be now handled with the grace and style of ultimate control through two simple sentences: "Let's talk about this later. When are you free?" How sweet it is when we can control our emotional retorts.
Leadership
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