Fear is a big driver in most people’s lives. Oh, some respond to it better than others but it has an impact on most of us. And one of the places that fear has a big impact is when we are worried about someone we care about doing something that will harm them, harm us or harm someone else.
There is a strategy that is often put in place in these situations that sounds good in theory but often doesn’t accomplish what we want. We withhold information from the other person. The rationale goes that if they don’t know about it, they are less likely to make the mistake. Parents do it with children. Adults do it with loved ones. Employers do it with employees.
If we just don’t talk about drugs, our children won’t have the information to get involved. If we don’t explain our financial situation to our partner, they won’t monkey with the finances and mess them up. If we try to explain the complicated rules to our employee, they may think they understand but then make mistakes. If we don’t tell them, they may not even try to do the thing in question.
The flaw in this logic is that keeping information from people often doesn’t prevent them from getting into the situation where they need the information. And when they don’t have it, guess what? They are more likely, not less, to not know what to do and to make mistakes. Keeping the information from them doesn’t really protect them or us. It just feels like it until something goes wrong.
The reality is that we can’t prevent others from making mistakes. That possibility always exists. And when we operate from a place of fear and try to control behavior instead of accepting that risk exists, we often make things worse.
The alternative to acting from a place of fear is to work to empower those people we worry about. Instead of trying to wrap them in bubble wrap, why not give them the tools they need to successfully navigate through the world. Instead of controlling them, empower them.
Mistakes will still happen. But that will always be true. By empowering people we increase the likelihood of things going well. And we acknowledge and accept that they might not. That’s a fact you can’t avoid.
The next time you find yourself worrying about someone, ask yourself how you want to respond. Do you want to operate from that place of fear and try to control them? Or, do you want to empower them so they have the best chance to succeed? Trying to control the uncontrollable seldom turns out well.