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A Key to Happiness:
Resist Prompting Counterwill

For some people, happiness seems like something elusive and unattainable. But if you look around at your family, friends, and co-workers, you will see that the happiest people are those who don’t assume to know what’s right for others. They also don’t try to control anyone but themselves. They influence—but do not coerce.

You will further see that the people who are most dissatisfied are those who attempt to control others. Even if they have considerable power, the constant resistance in some form by the people they are trying to control promotes stress, hinders optimum relationships, and diminishes the happiness of everyone involved.

There is a name for this; it’s referred to as counterwill—the instinctive resistance to any sense of coercion. 

If you try to control others, you will be met with constant challenges. If you try to control a spouse or partner, the relationship will be stressful. If you try to control a friend, the friendship will be short-lived. Yet, so often, we try to control those who are most dear.

The fact is that you will rarely, if ever, solve a relationship problem by trying to make the other person see that you are right and that the other person is wrong. On the other hand, you have probably never heard someone say, “I’m having a problem with what you are doing, and I think I have to change what I do or we’ll never solve the problem.” Yet, this is the secret for improving relationships and increasing both happiness and effectiveness.

It is not necessary to say this out loud, but it is essential to think in these terms. For example, if a teacher expects students to change, it will always depend on what the teacher does differently. Put simply, any change will be initiated by what you do differently—rather than what you expect the other person to initiate.

Tip: In any relationship, rather than attempting to control the other person, simply reflect by asking yourself, “What can I do to improve the situation?” The result will be an option so much more effective in influencing others. As a result, your need to control others will diminish and your happiness will increase.

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Dr. Marvin Marshall

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