Hermione’s Wisdom

Attempting to control other people’s behavior usually backfires. I love the example of Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When Professor Umbridge (the consummate control freak) forbids students to read a magazine interview with Harry, his wise friend Hermione just smiles: “Don’t you see? Umbridge just guaranteed that every student in the school will read it!” In my observation, this literary example reflects how people really behave. My mother, a life-long Roman Catholic, had no interest in the bestselling DaVinci Code until the Vatican told Catholics not to read it. My mother who was in bed and on hospice responded, “Get me a copy of that book.” About two thousand years ago, the Roman philosopher Cicero identified Six Mistakes of Man. “Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do” is one of them.

2010-07-30T16:39:41+00:00July 30th, 2010|Uncategorized|


  1. Barbara August 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Yeah Eileen, that is true isn’t it? However, I think you have to be some sort of authority or have some sort of actual control over people to have them respond like that. I don’t know if that kind of reverse psychology would work in every case. In those cases, it was because the leaders seemed to want to supress some information, that made the information even more enticing. Then the readers will scan the book or article for the offending passages, until they find something that throws some dirt the leader’s way.
    However, I use the serenity prayer a lot because I often try to influence other people’s behavior, sometimes for "their own good" and sometimes for my own good, or what I think would be good. So how about recommending a book to someone, like your book, for example. That could qualify for both of the above, since I might be recommending it to a family member who might need to deal with the serenity prayer, or I think they need to. Should I recommend it to them? Send them a copy? It’s tricky, right?
    I do enjoy your musings.

  2. Eileen Flanagan August 2, 2010 at 10:57 am - Reply

    You are right, Barbara. It’s tricky, especially when the person is close to us, and the relationship is complicated. There are moments when we can see what someone needs more clearly than they do, though people tend to resist when they think someone is trying to change them. My experience is that I am more effective when I am centered myself and accepting of the other person as a whole. When I’m not feeling anxious or angry, I’m much more likely to have my offering received, whereas when I feel I have to change someone, it’s likely to backfire. I think my own state of mind is more important than the actual method (i.e. suggest the book or send it).

    Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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