“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you”
-Brian Tracy, best-selling author and business/motivational speaker.
You are going to read this article and do exactly as I say!
Just kidding…but seriously, how did it feel to have me order you to do something? Did you feel defensive, even if just for a moment? Can you imagine living your life under the influence of a control freak? Some people do live that way and don’t even realize it.
Most of you have had to deal with control freaks. These are the people who insist on controlling and having their own way in all interactions with you. They are the ones who must set the program, agenda and schedule. It is they who must decide what you will do and when you will do it and, if you don’t comply, are very unhappy.
Jean had just met an “adorable” man, or so she told her friends. He was quite successful, loved opera and adored children. At first everything went stunningly well – until she suggested they go to a movie she wanted to see. He resisted. She persisted. He charmed. She pushed. He got angry. Two days later, he apologized and, won her back. It was then that she began to notice that he always insisted on ordering their meal in a restaurant, without consulting her, and set the precise time their dates would begin and end. As the days went on, she became aware of a number of other small, nit-picky, irritating behaviors. Wary, Jean decided she’d had enough and decided to end the relationship. That’s when he flew into a rage.
Why would someone demand such control? The truth is: controlling behavior is a defense mechanism to gain control in a chaotic world, but not all defense mechanisms for coping are healthy and empowering. When it comes to control freaks, their primary defense mechanism is attempting to control the uncontrollable by imposing their desires, wills and view of the world on everyone around them. They believe they can protect themselves by maintaining control of every aspect of their lives. They, literally, can’t rest until they get their way and, if they don’t, it’s not a pretty picture
People who must control are consumed with fear, anxiety, insecurity and anger. They are critical of themselves, their friends, their loved ones and their business associates. The worst part is they seldom recognize their fears. Meanwhile, they cause tremendous stress in everyone they encounter because they simply refuse to compromise or negotiate and can’t tolerate imperfection. They are very difficult people, but not necessarily bad.
Control freaks are not trying to hurt you. They are trying to protect themselves and control their own internal chaos. But even though they intend no harm, they can do incredible damage to your mind and body unless you are very careful. In order for you not to have your self-worth battered or feel humiliated or bulldozed over by your boss, friend or lover, you have to be aware and proactive.
It all comes down to one thing: You cannot change how other people think and behave; you can only change how you think and behave.
You have a lot more control of your life and your relationships than you know. These seven tips will give you the edge when dealing with a control freak.
- Take responsibility for your own actions. As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” Consider how your behavior might be enabling your controlling partner.
- Stay calm and focused. Control freaks generate and thrive on tension. Breathe deeply, remain centered and refuse to get sucked into the battle.
- Speak slowly. The tendency when confronted by a controlling person is to become defensive, speak rapidly and raise your voice. That only fuels their fear.
- Don’t resist. In the martial art of Aikido, the Aikido master uses the other person’s resistance to keep control. So when you feel someone is attempting to manipulate you, let them initially control the agenda. You can control the pacing if you stay calm, speak slowly and breathe deeply
- Treat them with kindness. Control freaks fear losing control and an aggressive confrontation can trigger their fear. Take the higher ground and treat them with compassion, kindness and respect.
- Don’t always cave in. If you do, you hurt yourself. Control freaks will threaten, flatter or manipulate. If you always give in, you crush your own self-esteem. Pick your battles and agree to disagree.
Here’s the bottom line. When all else fails, cut your losses and end the relationship. As poker players say, you have to know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to fold. Most importantly, you have to take care of you – in order to take care of others.
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.