Want to Reduce Your Stress? Stop Controlling People

During times of stress, it’s natural to focus on controlling people—what they do and how they act. After all, stress makes you feel like you’ve lost control, so it’s human nature to try to regain that sense of control in some way. Many people accomplish this by controlling others, including their partners, children, and co-workers. But did you know that the more you focus on controlling people, the more stress you’ll ultimately experience?

How do you know if you’re being too controlling? If you experience much stress when interacting with others, chances are that you are aiming to control them. The fact is that people being controlled have low motivation to carry out decisions IMPOSED upon them. As scores of researches have documented, enforcement is both difficult and time-consuming.

Controlling People vs Influencing Them

Aiming at controlling people is really focusing on controlling the body and hoping the brain follows. In contrast, influencing people, whereby you aim at the brain and have the body follow, is less stressful and far more effective.

Controlling people aims at obedience. Except where the relationship is so strong that the person being controlled feels that the control is in his or her own best interest, control rarely brings either desire or commitment.

Realize, too, that control is only temporary. In contrast, influence is long-lasting. In the final analysis, people change themselves. Therefore, the most effective way to actuate change in others is through noncoercive influence, rather than coercive control. 

Tip: Successful influencers empower rather than overpower. They are positive—not negative. They encourage others by sharing expectations, rather than telling others what to do.