A few months ago I was driving to speak at an event I had titled “The Art of Being Out of Control.” As I sat waiting at a stoplight I reached into my purse and pulled out my MAC lipstick. I must have grabbed an old lipstick because I didn’t recognize the color right away. I turned the tube upside down to read the name:
This is funny if you know me even a little bit. Let’s just say that I am a “recovering” control freak. I had issues. Even my issues had issues.
I’m all better now, thank you for asking.
If we’re being honest though, I think we all have some control issues. Particularly around outcomes. My work is a great example: people often want to learn nonverbal “techniques” so they can get people to do what they want. In other words, they want a particular outcome.
What I’ve come to realize over the years is that the most effective communicators, leaders, etc, are people who switch from outcome-oriented thinking to option-oriented thinking. Instead of asking, “How do I get X to do Y?” they ask, “What are all the options here?” Nonverbal intelligence not only allows us to identify the various options available, it assists us in communicating effectively based on those options.
For example, if I need to fire someone, I can make up a story ahead of time about how I think they’ll react, how upset they’ll be, what a mess this is…. and boom! I walk into the meeting in fight or flight mode which my employee will naturally react to. If however, I focus on my breathing so that I remain calm, I can stay present to whatever happens. If my employee becomes angry, I can deal with it. But it might also be that they’re relieved, because they’d heard rumors, or perhaps they were dying to leave and are thrilled to be offered a severance package. The point is, I don’t know what will happen. But if I focus on one outcome–this person will become upset–I breathe high, cutting off oxygen to my brain and I lose all my resourcefulness. Instead, if I stay present and respond based on what is actually happening in the moment, I can better serve my employee, myself, and the needs of the situation.
Anyone can be “out of control.” The art of being out of control is letting go of our attachment to outcomes and instead opening ourselves up to possibility.