Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

When I was about 17, my par­ents strongly objected to some of my friends. Yes, they were my friends and my par­ents didn’t know them nearly as well as I did oth­er­wise they would have agreed with my point of view. The more they protested about my spend­ing time with them the more time I invested into our friend­ship. To tell the truth – and after all these years I can – even then I intu­itively knew that they were right, but there was no way that I would ever do what they told me to do. My eager­ness and need to be right and the power of mak­ing my own deci­sions was sim­ply over­whelm­ing. Sure enough, most of those friends turned out either not to be such good friends as I imag­ined. Sev­eral of them became alco­holics, or ended up in jail. And, yes, I admit my par­ents were right. They knew what was good for me and they acted as respon­si­ble par­ents to the best of their abilities.

No-one-tells-me-what-to-do atti­tude is per­fectly nor­mal for teenagers any­where. Their need to break away from their par­ents’ influ­ence and prove them­selves as able to be suc­cess­ful and respon­si­ble in the “real world”, is healthy and nec­es­sary behav­ior for the devel­op­ment of a healthy psy­che. But as we mature this atti­tude may present a sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to healthy rela­tion­ships and a happy life.

First, this kind of rebel behav­ior may result in push­ing away any­one who comes close to you. This is how it usu­ally works: You know from your own expe­ri­ence that it is very easy for you to see when oth­ers are about to do some­thing that will not serve them well. If that per­son is a stranger or just an acquain­tance you most likely will not open your mouth to stop them. But, if it is some­one you care about, you will do your utmost to point out the fal­lacy of his/her intended actions. So, when­ever you become resis­tant to the sug­ges­tions of the peo­ple who care about you, you are jump­ing into don’t-tell-me-what-to-do modus operandi. In other words, you are digress­ing into a teenager. I cer­tainly do not pro­pose that you should accept all rec­om­men­da­tions from every­one who cares about you. What I am sug­gest­ing is open­ness to the pos­si­bil­ity and will­ing­ness to con­sider other points of view.

This kind of resis­tance to do what peo­ple ask you to do (or not to do) is a sign of inse­cu­rity, low self-esteem, infe­ri­or­ity com­plex and such. The more often you exer­cise your “right” to do what you want, the more you alien­ate peo­ple around you and more you push your­self in the direc­tion of inse­cu­rity and low self-esteem. Choos­ing not to do what peo­ple ask you to do is just as much a free choice as accept­ing other people’s requests and sug­ges­tions. You have right to change your mind. The choice is always yours. Be respon­si­ble for it. By refus­ing other people’s requests because you did not gen­er­ate the idea, and think­ing that some­how by accept­ing it you will lose power, is a vic­tim behav­ior. The choice is always yours no mat­ter which way you go. In fact, by accept­ing, or at least con­sid­er­ing and being will­ing to dis­cuss it in order to learn more about other people’s point of view, you show gen­eros­ity, trust, respect, under­stand­ing and secu­rity in your own beliefs. Para­dox­i­cally, the more you are open to the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing your mind the more you gain self-esteem. Most cul­tures teach us that chang­ing your mind under any cir­cum­stances makes you a per­son of a weak char­ac­ter, wishy-washy and less respected by oth­ers. Con­sider the fol­low­ing: you decide to do some­thing against other’s rec­om­men­da­tion, and you fail. Who do you blame? Your­self, of course (low esteem). Do you learn from the expe­ri­ence? No, you don’t. You vow that you’ll do it bet­ter the next time using the same strat­egy of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do vari­ety. Do you give credit to the per­son who sug­gested oth­er­wise? No, you resent him/her even more. What hap­pens if you suc­ceed? Do you give your­self credit? Rarely. It’s just you. You just made a good choice. That’s it. You were lucky this time (low self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son worsens.

Now con­sider that you take some­one else’s advice. If you fail, what do you think? You see, I told you so. I should have done it my way. (Higher opin­ion of your­self.) If you suc­ceed, you will be grate­ful to him/her and you will praise your­self for mak­ing a good choice of accept­ing the sug­ges­tion and exe­cut­ing it (high self-esteem). Your rela­tion­ship with that per­son will become stronger.

So, yes, just as you have right do to what you want to do, no mat­ter what advice you get, you also absolutely have right to change your mind to your ben­e­fit and take other people’s advice. These are the two equal sides of the same coin.

Again, by all means, you should NOT go around doing what every­one tells you to do (low self-esteem), but being able to make a sound choice free of the bag­gage from the past, or emo­tions that may pop up unbid­den at those moments of deci­sion. Some­times even “blind trust”, although nor­mally regarded as irre­spon­si­ble, is accept­able. Think of pro­fes­sional advi­sors, teacher, friends and oth­ers that you trusted blindly, maybe with mixed results, which, by the way, will always be mixed, i.e., we will always make occa­sional mis­takes whether we do what we want, or if we lis­ten to other’s advice. Mis­takes are a part of life. Learn to live with them. But at least with the absence of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do atti­tude you will have hap­pier life, bet­ter rela­tion­ships and open end for self-growth and being a respon­si­ble wise adult instead of a per­pet­ual teenager.

Doing what oth­ers request from you, being a “yes” per­son, will pro­vide you with an oppor­tu­nity for ser­vice, whether it is gladly bring­ing your part­ner a cup of cof­fee*, or car­ing for the sick and elderly, or any­thing in between. We grow by serv­ing oth­ers. We serve our­selves by serv­ing oth­ers. We are social ani­mals. “Doing onto oth­ers what they want done to them­selves” is a higher motto for peace­ful rela­tion­ships and peace the world. It is an atti­tude of peace, not con­fronta­tion. It is about care, con­tri­bu­tion, pros­per­ity, effi­ciency, effec­tive­ness and self-growth from teenage-hood to adult­hood. Remem­ber the choice is always yours.

To be bound by our choices is not to have lost our freedom

but to have exer­cised it.”

Robert Brault


*See The Rela­tion­ship Saver: “Reverse the process”


Comments (6)

Tina T

October 25th, 2010 at 6:02 AM    

The need to feel that we are mak­ing our own choices and not doing what we are told to do is a strong one. I guess that’s why peo­ple that give the best advice or are effec­tive nego­tia­tors are always the ones that express their advice in a way that leads peo­ple to feel that the deci­sion is truly theirs. Of course their is a fine line between giv­ing advices that nudges some­one in the right direc­tion so that they can make their own deci­sion, and out­right manip­u­lat­ing that person.


October 25th, 2010 at 8:34 AM    

I agree that the urge to do what we want is a very strong one and it is essen­tial for our sur­vival as well as our devel­op­ment. It just doesn’t always have to be con­trary or dif­fer­ent to what oth­ers request, sug­gest or ask us to do. When one is employed one does what he is told. The same per­son may be very resis­tant to try and take direc­tions from their par­ents, spouses, sib­lings and other peo­ple who mean well and want to help. I under­stand the need to feel. With­out emo­tions we are not able to make any choices at all. Feel­ings are gen­er­ated by our thoughts. So as con­scious beings we should be able to observe our thoughts, thus con­trol our feel­ings. Some­one said that the five most destruc­tive words able to thwart the best ideas from being real­ized are “I don’t feel like it.” Once you real­ize that you have the free­dom to choose to do some­thing even if you feel that you don’t want it, you cre­ate a space for open­ness accep­tance, grace, self esteem, self con­fi­dence etc. Because you know that you are in charge instead let­ting oth­ers dic­tate how you will feel.


July 7th, 2012 at 12:13 PM    

Well lately we have had a major upheaval in our rela­tion­ship the more i read the more it seems to fit. We have been together for 25 yrs mar­ried 21. work­ing together self employed for all of that time. My hus­band said he was start­ing to think that there was more to life then this. He thought he was putting every­one else before him and now it was his turn. He started tak­ing hol­i­days on his own and would say that i did in the past but i always took the chil­dren to fam­ily. I can see his point of view we worked to hard and because of busi­ness con­straints we were never able to go away much as a fam­ily or just the 2 of us.
He had decided that he no longer wanted to be dairy farm­ing, it was mak­ing him unhappy. He started vis­it­ing an old girl­friend quite reg­u­larly and would stay 2 or 3 nights. Would come home and not under­stand why i was not happy and more wel­com­ing. I have always said that i want our mar­riage to work, said that he needs to stop see­ing her for us to move for­ward. He says we had a good mar­riage before all this and wants to give us a go. We both decided to sell the busi­ness and we are able to invest money and take some free time before we need to find our career changes. Most likely we wont work together in the future.
He told me things wich made me believe he was being faith­ful. It was all a lie. I had done a lot of the first part of your book to try and get us both on he same page (the wrong things). He says i should focus on our time together with qual­ity and hap­pi­ness. I agree. But his friend will not leave him alone and texts him sad and depressed texts and asks him to come and visit as she loves him and misses him and ‚get this, needs him, he then wants to visit her and says i am not let­ting him, that i am telling what to do. He wants me to agree to him going to visit her and allow them to be friends. He says I have noth­ing to worry about. Can I tell him what to do. should i tell him what to do.Should i put my expec­ta­tions aside, my beliefs. I under­stand the need to put the past aside, it is easy to for­give but is it easy to for­get and trust again. I feel con­fused a bit as I can see the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the 4 rules in “The rela­tion­ship saver” but for the last 15 months i have strug­gled with this and i fear revert­ing back to old ways. I have said to him i asked you to choose and you chose me. He says she is the only friend he has as he lost con­tact with oth­ers.
What I am ask­ing is it ridicu­lous for me to put blink­ers on and fol­low the book to a “t” and wait and see what hap­pens. To stop ask­ing, explaing, try­ing to under­stand, feel­ing like a vic­tim, hav­ing expec­ta­tions and whin­ing I could go on.
I just don’t know if it will change as it feels like the more i give the more he takes.


July 7th, 2012 at 12:53 PM    

Would telling him what to do, or what not to do change his behav­ior? Lying, cheat­ing and deceiv­ing is not part of a suc­cess­ful rela­tion­ship. It’s up to you if you want to tol­er­ate it in your rela­tion­ship. If you don’t agree what he does, his knee-jerk reac­tion is to lie. Agree­ing with all he wants to do may change his behav­ior by under­stand­ing that you are easy to be with con­fi­dent in your strength, secure. and on his side, no mat­ter what. Approv­ing of what he does does not make you a vic­tim. On con­trary, once you agree it becomes your choice, not his. It puts you in charge, so to speak. That is a part of self con­fi­dence … and self con­fi­dence is very attrac­tive. Men love self con­fi­dent women.


October 20th, 2012 at 3:47 AM    

Self-confidence can­not pos­si­bly come from putting up with ‘Lying, cheat­ing and deceiv­ing’ — all of which does noth­ing but UNDERMINE self-confidence.
Kushla, tell him she WILL be the only friend he has because you’re leav­ing him. (Men also admire women who have the strength to stick to their prin­ci­ples)
’Agree­ing with all he wants to do’ will NOT change his behav­ior, as he’s already aware it makes her inse­cure. PRETENDING to approve of what he does to appear ‘self-confident’ will NOT put Kushla in charge — on the con­trary, it puts her even more at the mercy of this jerk’s emo­tional abuse.
Kushla, there’s no shame in say­ing you DON’T approve of what he does — you’re a human, not a saint!
The only way for Kushla to empower her­self here, as i see it, is to put him at the mercy of his ‘only friend’ and LEAVE his sorry der­riere in the dust…


October 20th, 2012 at 6:35 AM    

How­ever, if Kushla isn’t pre­pared to leave him here’s a more ‘in-charge’, con­fi­dent way to get him to drop his ‘only friend’ and stay:
LAUGH at her tac­tics as signs of inse­cu­rity (maybe she was unpop­u­lar in high school?), find it funny that it actu­ally works on HIM! See the com­edy of him run­ning to her ‘res­cue’ (you thought he hated ‘needy types’? haha!) Pre­tend to sym­pa­thize. ‘Real­ize’ he’s sucked in by her ‘poor-me’ act (awww, he caress — how sweet!), drop hints she’s PLAYING him (eg. using well-known ‘fat-girl’ tricks like ‘help­less female’ or ‘one of the guys’ — which btw he con­trasts favourably to you as ‘downer’). Be sneaky to avoid him say­ing you’re just jeal­ous (of that con­niv­ing lit­tle home­wrecker? How insult­ing!) So make sure you don’t draw that reac­tion from him.
Go ahead, pull out all the stops: stroke his ego while actu­ally mak­ing him feel an utter fool. One more thing..
You’ll need to make him fear he’s risk­ing los­ing you. Eg. Don’t be @ home when he returns — call old friends so they call YOU and incite his sus­pi­cions — keep a bit of mys­tery about your­self; be fun but dis­tant. Don’t seem like you’re mad or ‘try­ing’, be fun & ‘sparkly’ when he comes home; act flirty when he walks into the room. Make him won­der where your new good humour’s com­ing from…
He’ll stick around more, being a hyp­ocrite (as all imma­ture men are), as now HIS jealousy’s aroused: WHOLE new ball-game! Don’t ever point that out, he’ll just turn it back on you.
All the above is easy, as men are vain and sus­cep­ti­ble to ego-crushing imagery that deflates their frag­ile –uh– man­hood…
Soon you’ll both see this ‘other woman’ from the same side of the fence, as the ridicu­lous & self­ish spin­ster she is, laugh­ing together in relief at dan­ger averted (come up with a name for his ‘moment of weak­ness’ he’s not afraid to use, like ‘going A.W.O.L.’ or ‘M.I.A.’). Assure him it’s a shame she had to USE his gen­er­ous nature for old-times sake (but thanks to your affection/ patience/ under­stand­ing, he ‘saw the light)…
You’ll need to dish out decep­tion, and lots of it, to keep this man-child by your side — and keep work­ing at your ‘mys­tery’ to hold his atten­tion long-term, as he has the emo­tional matu­rity of a teenager so any­one who’s already ‘in the bag’ –i.e. you– will put up with his antics no mat­ter what.
Be warned: I’ve used this and it worked — until the next excuse to run around like a dis­re­spect­ful jerk came along. At which point i put my foot down, unwill­ing to com­pro­mise myself again — all it took for him to flee for good, with­out the least con­cern for humil­i­at­ing me…

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