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 Controlling consists of coercing others to your way of thinking. It’s done through either forcing your views on others or domi­

nating the conversation. Methods include cutting others off, overstating your facts, speaking in absolutes, changing sub­ jects, or using directive questions to control the conversation.

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‘There’s not a person in the world who hasn ‘t bought one of

these things. They’re the perfect gift. ”

Meaning: I can’t justify spending our hard-earned savings on

this expensive toy, but I really want it.

“We tried their product, but it was an absolute disaster. Every­

one knows that they can ‘t deliver on time and that they offer the

worst customer service on the planet. ”

Meaning: I’m not certain of the real facts so I’ll use hyperbole to get your attention.

• Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dis­

miss them under a general stereotype or category .

.. Your ideas are practically Neanderthal. Any thinking person

would follow my plan. ”




Meaning: I can’t argue my case on its merits.

“You’re not going to listen to them are you? For crying out loud!

First, they’re from headquarters. Second, they’re engineers. Need

I say more?”

Meaning: If I pretend that all people from headquarters and all engineers are somehow bad and wrong, I won’t have to explairl anything .

• Attacking speaks for itself. You’ve moved from winning the

argument to making the person suffer. Tactics include belittling and threatening.

“Try that stupid little stunt and see what happens. ”

Meaning: I will get my way on this even if I have to bad-mouth you and threaten some vague punishment.

“Don’t listen to a word Jim is saying. I’m sorry Jim, but I’m on to you. You’re just trying to make it better for your team while

making the rest of us suffer. I’ve seen you do it before. You’re

a real jerk, you know that? I’m sorry, but someone has to have

the guts to tell it like it is. ”

Meaning: To get my way I’ll say bad things about you and then pretend that I’m the only one with any integrity.

look for Your Style Under Stress

Let’s say you’ve been watching for both content and conditions! You’re paying special attention to when a conversation turns cru­ cial. To catch this important moment, you’re looking for signs

that safety is at risk. As safety is violated, you even know to watch for various forms of silence and violence. So are you now fully armed? Have you seen all there is to see?

Actually, no. Perhaps the most difficult element to watch closely as you’re madly dual-processing is your own behavior.




Frankly, most people have trouble pulling themselves away from the tractor beam of the argument at hand. Then you’ve got the problem other people present as they employ all kinds of tactics. You’ve got to watch them like a hawk. It’s little wonder that pay­ ing close attention to your own behavior tends to take a back­

seat. Besides, it’s not like you can actually step out of your body and observe yourself. You’re on the wrong side of your eyeballs.

Low selfmonitors. The truth is, we all have trouble monitor­ ing our own behavior at times. We usually lose any semblance of social sensitivity when we become so consumed with ideas and causes that we lose track of what we’re doing. We try to bully our way through. We speak when we shouldn’t. We do things that don’t work-all in the name of a cause. We eventually become so unaware that we become a bit like this fellow of Jack Handy’s invention.

«People were always talking about how mean this guy was who lived on our block. But I decided to go see for myself. I went to his door, but he said he wasn’t the mean guy, the mean guy lived in that house over there. ‘No, you stupid idiot, ‘ I said, ‘that’s my house. ‘”

Unfortunately, when you fail to monitor your own behavior, you can look pretty silly. For example, you’re talking to your spouse about the fact that he or she left you sitting at the auto repair shop for over an hour. After pointing out that it was a sim­ ple misunderstanding, your spouse exclaims: “You don’t have to get angry.”

Then you utter those famous words: “I’m not angry!” Of course, you’re spraying spit as you shout out your denial,

and the vein on your forehead has swelled to the size of a teenage python . You, quite naturally, don’t see the inconsistency in your response. You’re in the middle of the whole thing, and you don’t upprcciatc i t onc bit whcn your spouse laughs at you.




You also play this denial game when you ingenuously answer the question, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” you whimper. Then you shuffle your feet, stare at the floor, and look wounded.

Become a Vig i la nt Self- Mon itor

What does it take to be able to step out of an argument and watch for process-including what you yourself are doing and the impact you’re having? You have to become a vigilant self­

monitor. That is, pay close attention to what you’re doing and

the impact it’s having, and then alter your strategy if necessary. Specifically, watch to see if you’re having a good or bad impact on safety.

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