Picture this scene. The man comes into the living room. You are watching your favourite soap opera or the kids are watching their cartoon. By default, he grabs the remote control and flips through the channel until he settles on one that catches his fancy. He changes the channel. You look at him half expecting an apology. You know it won’t come because he doesn’t even know he just bullied everybody.
There is something almost so telepathic between the remote control and some men and the reason is not so farfetched. The remote control is a metaphor for control and as men, we like to be in control. In essence, whoever controls the remote control has power. The power to choose what everybody watches.
This metaphor goes beyond men, it extends to anyone who likes to control or be in control without regard to the feeling of others. We can replicate it in several situation and circumstances. We can have the remote control husband, the remote control father, the remote control boss or even the remote control leader.
The remote control man likes to control things. He doesn’t just like to control, he likes to be in control. He likes things and people to respond to him at the click of a button or the click of a mouse. It is the reason why he expects a woman to be ready for intimacy whenever and wherever he is ready. It makes no difference to him if she is not physically or psychologically ready. It is the reason he expects his kids to respond immediately when he gives an instruction. If the kids should ask why he simply tells them ‘because I said so’. If he is a boss, he will insist his instructions be obeyed without question. He doesn’t react well to opinions that are contrary to his instructions. In his view, you obey first before you complain. The remote control never complains, so he doesn’t expect you to complain. If the remote control is faulty, he simply replaces the battery or the device entirely. He has no patience to consult. So the idea that he needs to negotiate or seek permission to be able to “change the channel” or change course sounds to him like a weakness. The remote control leader never listens. He never consults. He never negotiates. He believes everything must revolve around him and everything must be done to ensure he is satisfied.
Are you a remote control man, husband, father, boss or leader? If you are, then you need to take note of the following.
1. Human beings are not machines. You can’t just press a button and expect them to run. They have an opinion and they have rights. Last I checked, Slavery was abolished more than a century ago and the idea that people can be controlled like robots or machines belongs in the Stone Age.
2. You cannot always have your way. I know this is hard for some bosses and leaders to accept but because you “paid for it” doesn’t mean you “own it.” So learn to ask for permission. It doesn’t diminish you, it elevates you. You cannot win every battle. Sometimes it makes sense to lose a battle but win the war. Learn to know what little things to let go of so you can win the big ones.
3. Empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. If you were in their shoes, would you do what you just instructed them to do? If yes, would you be happy doing it? The ability to empathize is in itself a liberating experience. Try it for a change.
4. Negotiate, Negotiate, And Negotiate. Is it possible to live daily with everyone feeling like they won? Yes! It depends on what you place priority on. Can you focus on those things that you consider very critical and negotiate away the ones that are not?
On the other hand, if you have or are exposed to a remote control man (Husband, Boss or Leader), you might want to pay attention to the following points.
1. Be a person of value. One that cannot be easily replaced. If you are valuable, your opinions will be valued.
2. Understand the state of mind of a remote control man and how they think. To be able to manage them, you need to understand them. Sometimes the behaviour is not deliberate. It is sometimes unconscious just the same way a man picks up the remote control by default without thinking. So be prepared to give them the benefit of a doubt.
3. Avoid creating a scene – When you understand them, you will realize that you are not as easily offended as you would usually be. That allows you the clarity to be able to be measured in your response. What you don’t want to do is create a scene with your reaction. What that does is divert from the appropriateness of the instruction to the issue of your insubordination. If that becomes the case, I can assure you, you can’t win.
4. Give honest feedback – With understanding and clarity, it is important to give a feedback. How do you feel about the instruction? Do you think it is insensitive? Would you have preferred to be asked or consulted before you are instructed? Like I said earlier, the man might not know how inappropriate his words were. So a gentle and measured feedback might just be all he needs.
5. If feedback is not well received, de-escalate – If the person refuses to accept your feedback, don’t insist on your position. Walk away to defuse the situation. If the instruction is not consequential, please carry it out and revisit the issue later. There will always be many more opportunities to give a feedback.
Just so you know, the person described in the first paragraph of this article was me. It took honest feedback from my wife and a willingness to change to try to be better. Even at that, it is still work-in-progress. Even though the context of this article is about men, the issues discussed can be applied to women as well in other circumstances. The point is, don’t be a “Remote Control Person”. Be better.