How To Get The Control Freak In Your Life To Loosen Up
Let me start out by saying I have control issues but to be clear, I’m not a control freak. I just love having a plan; I enjoy feeling prepared, and I really like the illusion of feeling somewhat in control. But I seldom try to control the lives of others—I’m not saying I never do, but I try to allow people to do their own thing in their own way.
A control freak (CF) on the other hand, is someone who feels an overwhelming need to exercise control not only over themselves but others as well. They have to take command of every situation which is good in times of disaster or emergency, but can be aggravating in less stressful times. The best way I can describe a control freak is as the opposite of laid-back and easy-going.
In boot camp, a control freak is expected and wanted, but when you’re on vacation—not so much.
Control freaks control, manipulate, and micromanage. They’re unable to release control even if someone else is better qualified to handle a situation. CFs are demanding and have no problem telling people what they should do and rarely do they allow another person any autonomy.
One of my best friends is a control freak and I have to admit sometimes it’s nice when he’s in charge of making plans for a group event. However, it can also be annoying if there’s a party and he has to change everything from the music to the booze to fit in with what he wants. I have seen him get into a massive argument with someone about the music not having the vibe he thought was best for a party—not even his party, btw, a mutual friend’s party.
Some people have very little patience for control freaks and their constant know-it-all attitudes, their strict routines, and the way they obsess and plan every event down to the last detail. There’s no room for spontaneity or surprise when you’ve mapped out every minute. And watch-out if something goes awry.
Here’s what we need to remember regarding the overwhelming need for control—that it’s really about anxiety and fear. CFs may feel as if the only way they can feel secure or emotionally protected is by controlling everything. y planning things out, imagining power over what happens, having insight over the actions of others, and following routines and rules can help to lessen their anxiety and make their environment seem safe.
If you remember the person who needs control so badly that it shapes their life is suffering, it can help you change your attitude from annoyance to empathy.
Being in a relationship with a control freak can affect the way you behave and feel about yourself, so it’s a good idea to do what you can to get some control back.
Here are 16 tips for dealing with the control freak in your life.
Work on your own self-esteem and confidence:
There are times when a controlling person can make you doubt your self-worth and ability to make your decisions. If you do self-esteem and confidence builders such as mastering a new skill, making a list of your achievements, helping someone else, facing a fear, learning from your mistakes, and focusing on the positives of your life, your confidence and feelings of self-worth will grow. When you have a greater sense of your worth, the control freak may have a harder time controlling you.
Practice asserting yourself:
Start small by not agreeing to go along with everything the controlling person suggests and build up to saying “no” more often. It may feel easier to just submit to them and do what they want all the time but you’re not helping them when you appease them. The easier it gets to stand up to the CF the more balanced your relationship will be; and, soon you’ll feel more like you’re on equal footing instead of feeling completely dominated.
Look at the underlying causes of their behavior:
One way to develop more empathy for the CF is by listening to their story and finding clues to why they feel the need to be so controlling. If they’re controlling because of insecurity, paranoia, anxiety, or emotional issues, you may need to come up with a plan on the best way to reach them without hurting them further. If you can show them that you’re trustworthy and they can share some of their burden with you, they may be able to release some of their tension.
Have an honest conversation about what bothers you:
The truth is many controlling people aren’t aware of how controlling they are. If you let them know how their controlling affects you, they may be surprised and start to notice how their behavior affects others. They’re not going to change overnight, but by expressing how you feel you could get them to consider changing.
Remind yourself that you didn’t cause it:
No matter how close you are to the controlling person, you didn’t make them become a CF. You can take responsibility for your actions and reactions but not for theirs. Don’t play the blame game for you’ll never win, and it will only cause you unearned stress.
Alert them to any changes:
One thing that tends to throw the CF into turmoil is the last-minute change. They tend not to be great at going with the flow. If you let them know any change ahead of time, it gives them time to process new information and to come up with a new plan. “This doesn’t mean asking for their permission to make changes,” says Adina Mahalli, certified mental health consultant for Maple Holistics. “Let them know firmly but ahead of time of any transitions or changes so as not to cause unnecessary drama.” Any warning you can give them whether it’s the addition of another person to the guest list or a change in the venue for a show, the controlling person will appreciate the heads up even if they don’t show it.
Setting boundaries can be very helpful when dealing with a control freak—let them know exactly what you’re comfortable with doing. If they want you to be at a certain place on the race route, holding your arm a specific way with water as they race by, let them know you’re happy to be there supporting them and giving them water but they need to relax a bit on the specificity. They need to know exactly what you’re willing to do, and not do. Some requests are unreasonable and even if they’re not, if you don’t want to do something, you shouldn’t have to do it just because they say so.
Pick your battles:
If you fight the CF on everything—both of you will end up exhausted and the possibility for change will lessen. “Control freaks tend to try and control everything, but not all of it will necessarily be a big deal to you,” says Mahalli. “When it comes to the small stuff, let them have their wins so that when it comes to bigger issues you can be more assertive doing things your way.”
Use body language:
Body language is a great way to reinforce your message. Words are wonderful but they do leave things up for interpretation. However, as we’ve seen in dance, the body can be extremely expressive—sometimes even more than verbal messages.. Body language can speed up the process towards better and more meaningful communication and can demonstrate your newfound assertiveness.
Talk to a friend:
There are times when we just need a sounding board—someone to vent to help organize our thoughts and help us to see solutions that we may have missed. A friend can offer you support and be your back up when you confront the CF. If they’ve witnessed the controlling person’s behavior they can confirm that you’re not over-exaggerating and if they haven’t, it’s still helpful to verbalize your thoughts so you can make sense of them.
Limit time spent with them:
If the controlling person is causing you stress and you’ve tried to get through to them and tell them how they make you feel, it may be a good idea to put some distance between the two of you for a while. You can think about if the relationship is worth working on or if it’s time to move on. If you’ve learned the lesson that you needed, then it may be time to end it.
Seek understanding for both of you:
We know that when dealing with a control freak it’s best to come from a place of compassion and empathy, but don’t forget to show yourself some of that same compassion. Dealing with a CF can be stressful, so do what you can to relax. Perhaps you need to schedule time for self-care or take yourself out on a date. Understanding doesn’t always have to be directed at others; it can be exceptionally good for our well-being when we are compassionate with ourselves.
Feeling as if you have no control in your own life can be distressing and scary, but there are ways to get back your control without causing a lot of drama. Remember that you’re worthy and capable of making your own decisions. You need to do what’s best for you. Having some empathy for the anxiety and insecurity for what may be motivating the CF can help you find a peaceful resolution.
If like me, you have control issues, be kind to yourself and work on reducing your anxiety if you can. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing the best you can and whatever you’re struggling with has a lesson you need to learn.