How Strict are You?

This question is about reactions we have in our daily lives.  The breadth of these reactions can range from being overjoyed to being really upset.  For the purposes of this blog, I will concentrate on things that produce negative reactions in us.

Negative reactions are generally produced when we are disappointed in the results of an action – more often actions done by others which we are dependant on.  The level of this reaction (internally) is directly proportional to the degree by which the desired result is compromised.  The question is how it gets represented externally.

These situations can occur anywhere – with our family/friends (specially with the kids), with our service providers (domestic help, vendors, retail establishments, etc) as well as in the place of work.

When we have a negative reaction, we have multiple ways to express it.  First of all, we must decide whether to express it at all.  If we do, it could be done as a positive (you tried your best!), negative (how could you do this?), negotiation (what would it take to do better next time?) or coaching (you may want to try it this way!).  The decision on how to do this has to be made relatively quickly (until you subscribe to the count to 10 theory) under stress and has to take into account the history of the subject in question – is this result an exception or the norm with this subject, etc.

Each reaction causes a different counter-reaction.  The expression of this disappointment should be done in order to generate the appropriate counter-reaction.  Keeping this control goes a long way in being a good parent, manager or whatever other role you are playing at that time.  Also, the level of expectation should be internalized to evaluate the situation correctly.  High levels of expectation can be difficult to achieve and cause a higher percentage of disappointing results.

A person who maintains high level of expectations consistently is typically labelled strict.  So, is being strict really bad?  Not if you are are able to generate the correct counter-reactions.  These need to be based on the history of the task at hand, history of the subject as well as the criticality of the result.  But if carefully controlled, they can allow the subject to be motivated in the right direction.  Leading by example, and performing at the same level as your expectations will also allow you to use this in a positive manner.

Parents are the easiest example to observe for this behaviour.  If you look around you, you will find parents with this skill in all shades of gray.  You will also observe that there is no right or wrong, but that finding the shade of gray which suits the parent and the kid best, will produce the desired result.  So, the question remains: How strict are you?  and maybe more importantly: How comfortable are you with that level of strictness?