Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 14, Issue 34;   August 20, 2014: You Can't Control What Other People Think

You Can't Control What Other People Think

by

Ever think that the world would be a much better place if you could control what other people think? Maybe it would be. And maybe not...
A rescue puppy

A rescue dog being rescued.

Maybe you've never thought this, but many people have: "The World would be a better place if only people would think like I do." Rarely is this a useful thought. You can influence others, once in a while, maybe. But you can't control what other people think. The evidence is overwhelming.

In a world where people can control what other people think:

  • …there will be only one brand of toothpaste, and we'll all like it
  • …meetings will be much shorter because we'll always agree about everything and we'll all arrive on time
  • …there will be no divorce lawyers, because there will be no divorces
  • …there will be a broccoli shortage because the broccoli people will figure out how to make everyone like it
  • …there will be no need for war, bullies, editorials, elections, cosmetics, or advertising. Hmmm. Sounds pretty good.
  • …we'll be able to control what we ourselves think (I don't know about you, but I can't do that now)
  • …we won't lose as many arguments because everyone will have the same opinion
  • …we won't have to dress to impress anyone else, because we'll figure out other ways to impress them that don't involve dry cleaning
  • …there will be no salespeople because everyone with something to sell will know how to make us want it
  • …we won't have to say You can't control what other
    people think. The evidence
    is overwhelming.
    no to anyone because we'll know how to force them to withdraw their requests or not make them in the first place
  • …we'll be able to trust everyone
  • …our supervisors will love everything we do
  • …the people we supervise will love doing whatever we ask them to do
  • …all projects will have the resources and time their people think they need (but they will still be wrong by 100%)
  • …cable news programs will still be bad, but instead of their guests yelling at each other, they will all agree with each other
  • …children will rule the world
  • …no, never mind, dogs will rule the world
  • …lying will actually work
  • …performance reviews will all be "exceeds expectations"
  • …raises will still be low, but we'll think they're fine
  • …employers won't provide paid vacation time, because we'll all be perfectly happy working 52 weeks
  • …everyone will be patriotic in ways we approve of
  • …there will be no new ideas because everyone will think, "Hey, I thought of that, too"
  • …we'll all be wrong at exactly the same time, in exactly the same way
  • …there will be only one country
  • …people will probably still argue about religion (some things never change)

So, are you convinced that you can't control what other people think? No? Well, I can't control what you think. Go to top Top  Next issue: Deep Trouble and Getting Deeper  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

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          human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

This article in its entirety was written by a human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.

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The question of why some people are so influential has a partner question: why are others largely ignored, or opposed, even when their contributions are valuable?
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Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that creates difficulty in seeing novel uses of things that have familiar uses. Some devious moves in workplace politics exploit functional fixedness.
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Many of the difficulties we encounter while working together have few long-term effects. They just cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Eventually we sort things out, but there is a better way: avoid the speed bumps.

See also Workplace Politics and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeComing May 29: Rescheduling: Project Factors
Rescheduling is what we do when we can no longer honor the schedule we have now. Of all causes of rescheduling, the more controllable are those found at the project level. Attending to them in one project can limit their effects on other projects. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
A switch in the tracks of a city tramwayAnd on June 5: The Reactive Rescheduling Cycle
When the current schedule is no longer viable, we reschedule. But rescheduling is unlike devising a schedule before work has begun. People know that we're "behind" and taking time to reschedule only makes things worse. Political pressure doesn't help. Available here and by RSS on June 5.

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