Locus of control and getting annoyed at being reminded
I often find myself annoyed when a family member asks me to do something or reminds once too often to attend to the same thing. My husband and I do a lot of traveling together in Europe. He walks fast, always faster than me, and is often ahead of me. So when we come up to a street crossing, he crosses ahead of me and keeps reminding me to cross quickly, lest cars, buses, and trains that are often present in European streets not run over his precious wife. However, I am always annoyed by this “comment” to cross quickly. There are of course, many other such reminders, instructions, and exhortations that come up in our daily life, such as did I remember to close the door or turn off the oven etc. He is a kind and considerate person and rationally I know he means well. But I nearly always respond with annoyance to attend to something that I would have done anyway, or at least I plan to with some degree of certainty!
Of course, we do this to others, including our children without thinking. Nearly always after the second or the third reminder, we are likely to get back an angry response. This surprises us, as we of course mean all this advise only for the best.
This is comes from our concept of self as a competent human being with some measure of control over the daily events. But there are thousands of things to be competent about in daily life. Did I take everything out of the car, did I turn off the heater, did I remember to call so and so for such and such thing. We feel we have “control” of our lives which includes all these little things that must be done. Generally, most of us feel to a large extent that we are in control of our lives and understand the outcome of failure. Sadly enough, even people who are not in control also feel this way. Okay, we know we are not perfect and out of the 100 things that must be attended to everyday, we are liable to drop a good 20% percent of them and are surprised when things don’t turn out well. Yes, we know we are imperfect. However, we are still annoyed when someone over-reminds us to attend to something. This can be in a near and dear relationship, or at work.
There is a concept of locus of control that applies to feelings of annoyance this type. We begin to develop this locus of control around three years of age. We begin to feel that we are masters of our “environment”. Children begin to exhibit this early on. Over reminding, violates their sense of control and bites into their developing sense of control about their developing personhood. “No, I wanna do it my way!” How often do you hear that? A lot.
As we grow older, the locus of control increases to a larger set of activities, and is probably at its height in our teens. Unintended violation which implies that we do not have such control, leads to frustration and anger. It hurts our sense of self and as such a fighting response is evoked. In fact, it happens to all of us, whether we are actually competent at the activity or not, and, would indeed benefit from the “reminder or the helpful advice.”
So, what to tell someone when you feel that this is happening too often? You can explain the concept of locus of control, if they are of the intellectual type. Most likely it won’t work. Because, they also have their locus of control and the task falls within it. So the technique would be to remove or move the item or task in question out of their locus. You might try saying, “let me take care of it, by this date or time. You don’t have to worry about this, as you know, I usually get things done, or do them the right way.” This is also not likely to work with most people in your personal life, probably because they know your failings. At work, however, where such locus is more formal and behavior requirements more rigid, you may just be able to wrest some control away from the trespasser, into your own locus. If both people do not understand this concept, are not willing to respect these fundamental boundaries and concepts of personality, then the little conflicts and outburst become part of the relationship, keeping it simmering and volatile.
A bit more from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control