The Difference Between Controlling a Situation and Etiquette-fully
Being in a Situation


There is a sense of security that comes with feeling in control of a situation.  When your home is neat and clean, you may feel you are in command of your household.  When you know how to introduce yourself to people and aren’t shy about doing so, you may feel you can command a room at any gathering.  And when you are confident in your work, you feel secure in your job.

You’ve probably been in situations when you felt out of control.  As if you were sledding down a hill too fast, you reach the bottom and wonder, “What happened?”  Memories of situations when you felt out of control may not be so pleasant.

However, there are times when you are called upon to control a situation and times when you only need to be in a situation.  Etiquette can help you determine the difference.

Controlling a Situation

Self-command is an admirable quality.  When you have it, you know how to conduct yourself in various environments and situations.  You know appropriate things to say, you respond rather than react, and you maintain a friendly demeanor.

When you are nervous, you may tend to take over a situation rather than let others – who are doing just fine – handle it.  Jumping in when someone is doing something and taking over tends to escalate.  No one enjoys the feeling of being dominated by another person.

Fear is another culprit in feeling the need to be controlling.  We all know the person who wants to make sure a social situation goes well for others.  And so, you see them hovering over a guest with food and drink or lurking around conversations to finish sentences and interject to ensure everyone is laughing.  Sadly, this makes for a clumsy social gathering.

In a professional environment, one may fear that a project or situation won’t go well unless he directly oversees it.  Colleagues find him looking over shoulders, sending endless emails, and repeatedly going over checklists.  Unfortunately, the primary achievement of this behavior is earning a reputation for being a micromanager.

The Reality of Control

The things we can and cannot control are constantly shifting.  There are far too many elements at work in our lives to give us 100% command - other people, nature, and our own moments of carelessness.

However, there are some things you have the ability to control:

  • How you prepare
  • What you wear and how you present yourself
  • What you say and do
  • Your attitude
  • Your decisions
  • Your actions
  • What you give attention to
  • How you listen
  • Your breathing 

We can all wish for more common sense as we gain experience and knowledge in work, relationships, and life.

How to “Be”

Most situations are entered into with a desire to enjoy yourself, add some value, and avoid feeling out of control or embarrassed.  But no situation requires you to dominate. 

If you are not the one called upon to lead, “take the floor,” or direct, then you are only asked to be present – and “etiquette-ful.”

Being etiquette-ful means you are aware that you are in the company of others.  Whatever your role is at the gathering, being kind, helpful, and respectful is bound to add an element of “upbeat” to any situation. 

Sometimes being etiquette-ful is knowing when to be quiet, understanding that all gatherings and situations aren’t going to be happy.  You are doing the best you can, given the givens, and know that others probably are trying to do that, too.

To “be” is to know when, why, and how you may need to control – or not.  Control should only be exercised to improve a situation.  Otherwise, etiquette requires that you only be present.

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