Following Directions

This is something that is challenging for several people I know.  Now, I’m not talking about just remembering to do what they are asked or actually understanding the directions, which I know can be difficult for some people.  I am talking about it being a challenge because of the need to do things on their own terms and when they choose.

Again, I will use my husband as an example.  Not only does he not like people suggesting when he should do something, but he can never seem to do it the way he was asked.  He always has to do something differently so that he got to make some decision about how it was done.  For example, if I ask him to set up the card table and chairs in a particular spot or orientation for company, he will always do it differently and tell me he thought it would work better that way.  If I ask him to put food from the grill in a particular sized dish because that’s all I have room for on the buffet table, he will deliberately go get a different plate that is way too big for the food it needs to contain and won’t fit on the table, which means I have to swap dishes in front of all the guests, and then he gets mad because I made him look bad.  It’s like he thinks he always knows more about something than I do or has a better way of doing it.  Even when he agrees with me about something, he has to make it sound like he is coming up with a better idea.

That’s the underlying issue. I can never be right or know more about something than him.  And I think it’s very much a control thing.  I think he sees following my instructions or suggestions as him relinquishing control or power to me and that he is “whipped” if he does just do what I ask, as one of his friends would say.  He also says that checking with me about something or asking how I would like something done is “emasculating” to him.  So apparently he is less of a man if he has to ask my opinion rather than do it the way he thinks it should be done or make the decision himself because men are supposed to know everything and make all the decisions.  I chalk that up to how he was raised and his lovely friend.  I would really like to see him work for a female boss sometime and see how that goes.  I’m guessing not well.

Unfortunately, this has trickled down to two of our kids, all of whom like to do things according to their own terms and schedule.  They are not cooperative team players, which makes things rather stressful for me trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules and responsibilities and teach them about time management and so on.  I know this is partly because they are kids, but I’m sure they have learned by example, and perhaps it is in their DNA, to not want to do things when and how they are asked.  I have actually been told several times, “Well, now that you have asked me to do it, I won’t.”  Guess where they have heard that.  I am hoping this will all change as they grow older and wiser and have more experiences with other people who don’t like hearing this. Hopefully, they will be more willing to change their behavior than their dad.

I know there are reasons why he doesn’t like following directions, but those reasons are not there for others who have this difficulty.  Following someone’s directions is not a sign of weakness or relinquishing control but rather shows that you are willing to do what it takes to make someone else happy, make their lives a little easier or less stressful, or any number of other positive outcomes.  And should you need to deviate from the given directions or have an opinion on the matter, it never hurts to check with the other person first.  They may have reasons for wanting things done a certain way that you haven’t thought about.  It also shows you are thoughtful and value their opinion and thought process and trust their judgment.  That’s a lot better than making the other person constantly feel like their thoughts and decisions are invalid.

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