Coping with People telling you what to do
Written by Josh Phillips Posted in General Advice
Dealing with other people in positions of authority, like teachers or parents or bosses, can be a drag, can’t it? You’re younger than they are; you’re full of energy; you know what modern life’s about. They probably can’t even use a computer properly! Chances are you think you know it all: you have life spread out before you.
Of course you’re not going to listen to people trying to stamp their authority on you; people telling you what to do. Of course you’re going to try to rebel, right? But this might not always be the best way forward. Figures of authority might have something to say, and might just be worth listening to.
Rebelling against people who tell you what to do can be useful, but it is frequently more useful to try to channel this urge to rebel into something more positive, something that both you and the person you want to rebel against can use.
“Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes”.
It’s an old saying, but one that can be usefully applied. Before you rebel against someone, it can be useful to think about what is going through their mind. There might be a perfectly good reason for them to do something in a way that you don’t like, or say things that you disagree with.
If you try to understand things from their perspective, then you are likely to see those things more clearly. If you see things more clearly, then you are more likely to come to a useful understanding with that person, whether it’s a boss whose management style you don’t like, or a teacher who keeps telling you off.
As well as this, try to look at your own behaviour from a perspective that isn’t your own. If you can see a reason why you keep getting into trouble with these people, then you might be able to see reasons to change the way you behave. If you try to empathise with the people you’re around every day, and who criticise the way that you behave, then you might be able to change the way you behave and interact with others for the better.
Be prepared to compromise
Every relationship is a two-way thing, whether it’s between friends, between a parent and child, a teacher and a student or a boss and an employee. And every relationship involves some degree of compromise. Both people in a relationship have to be prepared to give up something in order to get anywhere. Without compromise, it is very difficult to get anything done. A successful compromise is a win-win situation, where things are improved for all the people negotiating with one another. Both you and the other people you’re talking to should be prepared to give a little to gain a lot.
How to talk to figures of authority
Talking to people in positions of authority can be frustrating. It can often feel like you can talk until you’re blue in the face, and they just won’t listen. There are ways that you can go about talking to people in authority that will get you listened to, though.
Try to give feedback positively and constructively, rather than in a negative way. Nobody likes to hear that something that they are doing is bad, or wrong, but you can turn this into something positive very easily.
Instead of just saying that you think that something doesn’t work, try to explain why you think this is the case, and how it can be improved. Try also to identify areas where things work, and talk about them, instead of just talking about things that do not work well.
If it all fails?
If this all fails, then do not be dismayed. Just remember that the person in question is only human, and that things can change very quickly. If you are having problems with a teacher in school, then there are always other people at that school you can talk to.
If you are in a company, and your boss is giving you grief unfairly, then there should be company processes in place to deal with this in a way that benefits both of you. The best thing to do is to stay calm and try to relax. Dealing with a teacher or manager who seems not to listen or care can be frustrating, but try to remember that it is only one part of your life and you shouldn’t let it get you down.
And just to make you smile, we thought this is very fitting on inappropriate use and abuse of authority.
About the Author
Josh Phillips interned with us for six weeks during his summer holidays while studying English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford. He has written reviews on shows for the Edinburgh Festival and has also represented his University College on the BBC's University Challenge.