WHY DO I CRITICIZE AND CONTROL OTHERS?
Recently, I’ve had several occasions with a lack of harmony in my personal relationships. I get irritated when people interrupt me; correct others with things I know that they don’t; and criticize others for doing things that go against my own beliefs or values. After some reflection, I have realized it has a lot to do with what is going inside my own head.
Here are reasons I came up with on why I try to control others:
Ever since we are born, we are told what is right and what is wrong. This often comes from our parents, caregivers and the community we grew up in. This set of beliefs and values shapes us significantly, and we view the world through this lens.
I notice I put my expectations on others about how they should be, speak, and act. I notice I am irritated easily by the behaviour of others, am quick to coach or turn things into a teachable lesson, and hold the people closest to me to a higher likelihood of being nitpicked than others.
It isn’t necessarily that their behaviour is wrong in it’s own, it just doesn’t match my definition of what is right.
Tony Robbins says that ultimate failure is focusing only on things that don’t meet our expectations.
I agree, but it is hard to practice.
When I take a closer look at what I believe, my paradigm of what is right is something I don’t even completely agree with. I am trying to work on rewiring my expectations, and find it first starts with awareness of what values and beliefs I have. Only when I know this can I catch myself putting my expectations on others.
2) Lack of mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, seeing situations as they are, and not getting attached to our thoughts. Thoughts are things, and often our inner critic is like a monkey in our heads, and will do anything to get our attention, and feed itself. This ego part of our self feeds on pointing out what is lacking in both others and our self.
Knowing this, I am better aware of the thoughts that come across my mind, and recognize the ones that are from my true self versus that of my inner critic. It is a practice, and sometimes I definitely latch on to the negative thoughts and believe them. But even by faltering in this practice of mindfulness, helps in getting better at it.
3) Focusing on the wrong things
Closely linked with expectations, is the idea of what we focus on. Often, our unmet expectations come into our awareness because of someone else’s behaviour or language that doesn’t align with our beliefs and values. This unmet expectation turns into irritation, frustration or anger, only because we zoom in on it. Instead, if we are able to turn this unmet expectation aside, we are better able to manage where our energy goes and not let focusing on negative things bring us down.
I find in moments of irritation and when I want to say something to control or judge someone else, I like to try to ask myself a few questions to change my focus. For instance, I may ask “What do I respect about that person?”, “What is a strength they are showing in what they are doing or saying?”, or “What is the true intention or need they are trying to express?” This really helps me shift the experience from in my own head, to putting myself in their shoes and seeing them in more of a positive light.
4) Power tripping
Sometimes our need to correct others comes from feeling a sense of lack within ourselves. Maybe the other person’s tone makes us feel insignificant, or maybe recently they said something that made us feel hurt, and that pain is still lingering. Moreover, maybe we have low self-esteem and are not happy with how things are in our life. In any of these situations, by correcting the other person we are able to feel more in control and higher in power.
I know I am guilty of this on many occasions. However, I’m learning that this way of gaining power is artificial, and doesn’t truly address where the hurt lies within me. By taking the time to look at why I am correcting, often, it comes back to me feeling low self-esteem usually in an area of life that has nothing to do with the person I’m correcting. I then realize that this is the place I need to focus on giving healing and love, instead of trying to bring others down with my words to feel better.
5) Poor Communication
There is a difference between correcting and communicating. Correcting has a dominating tone, has the purpose being right, and is one way. Communicating is about sharing your knowledge and experience in a respectful tone, at the right time and place, and in a way that makes the person want to receive what you’re saying. The latter also doesn’t imply that what you say will be accepted, but rather, just received and acknowledged. In fact, I’ve found that when I give communicate well, the solution ends up being that is co-created by building on each other’s input, experience, and expectations.
6) Not practicing acceptance
Finally, sometimes I find not communicating my expectations at all is the best course of action. People do things their own way, and come from their own experiences, background, and upbringing. They have their own set of values and beliefs, and are acting in a way that is the best to them. Who am I to correct them? Maybe there is something I could tell them that would help them improve, but sometimes it is just better to let people save face, not get into a dispute, and save my energy and instead, encourage people on what they are doing right.
How do you stop yourself from putting your expectations on others? How do you avoid being critical of others?