By Suzie Doscher
In the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of Control Freak is: a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation.” Merriam Webster dictionary says that a Control Freak is: “a person whose behavior indicates a powerful need to control people or circumstances in everyday matters.”
This Control Freak personality trait could stem from a chaotic childhood, alcoholic parents, abusive behaviour or early abandonment. Such experiences can make it hard to trust or relinquish control to others. The fear of falling apart pushes them to control what they can control. In other words as their emotions are all over the place, they feel no control over them, and therefore micromanage whatever they can with the belief that this makes them strong. People who feel out of control tend to become controllers.
I imagine each and every one of us is a Control Freak, or takes on the behaviour of such, at some point or another. The fear of failure is what makes it so important to control everything when one does not trust anybody else to do a good job.
One difficult aspect of being around a Control Freak is accepting that they do not understand how their behaviour and choice of words affect the people around them. Another difficult aspect is not to take it personally; these behaviour and communications are designed to manipulate and are not really personal. I believe that this behaviour comes from deep inside and the person is actually quite unaware of being a Control Freak.
The attempts to control a situation or environment are intended to offer the controller a feeling of safety. This is a sign of low Self Esteem.
One of the areas they often manipulate is conversation. A Control Freak is most comfortable if he/she decides what is talked about, for how long and how deep or detailed a topic can get. This manipulation is achieved by constant interruption, finishing the sentence for the person, not listening with attention, doing distracting things like getting up and walking around or even out walking of the room saying, “I am still listening.” A Control Freak does not consider him/herself as controlling, but is convinced his/her way is the right way. He/she will have an opinion about almost everything and will disagree with most suggestions that he/she does not instigate. Controllers also control themselves; you might observe obsessive habits in them.
There are many different levels in the need to be in control. For this article I will discuss how one can be in the company of a person who needs to be in control - be this in a private relationship or at work.
Helpful Tips to consider:
· If someone dominates conversations, allow him to finish. Then, in a calm manner tell him, “I understand what you are a saying and now would like to express my thoughts.”
· If someone continually gives you her advice by telling you exactly what you should be doing, again, in a calm manner, tell her, "I value your advice, but I wish to consider my own thoughts on this matter as well.”
· Your goal for establishing a healthier communication pattern with a Control Freak is to eventually ‘agree to disagree.’ Be as consistent as possible with the style in which you communicate. It will require patience and time, but can result in turning the negative communication pattern into one that is more acceptable for you.
· Express yourself assertively without giving the person the feeling you are telling him what to do. Never try to control a controller.
· Remain calm and be consistent with controllers. Getting angry does not achieve anything. Control Freaks have no problem with arguments. In fact, they seek power struggles. Remember, in their minds the world should feel, think, do what they deem is right.
· By remembering a Control Freak always looks for a power struggle, you can buy yourself some time by taking a couple of deep breaths after excusing yourself for a minute. If you can leave the situation for longer, take a walk around the block to clear your head. Accept that you are dealing with a Control Freak.
· Accept them for who they are. Acknowledge the fact that you are trying to change them or have them behave differently (if you are). Then, in fact, you are trying to ‘control’ them. Control Freaks are riddled with fears and insecurities. Remember that you can walk out of the room into a better space; they, however, are left with their issues possibly for the rest of their life, unless they seek support.
· A Control Freak has the ability to bring you down a couple of notches and take the wind out of your sails. They like to make people feel insecure about themselves. You may want to distance yourself. Start to distance yourself slowly. Do what it takes to get your Personal Power back.
· The benefits of establishing a manner of communication where you do not allow them to rob you of your energy or drown you with their negativity, will be a stronger, more assertive, empowering you.
In summary, here are 8 Helpful steps for what to do in the moment:
1. Acknowledge that you are in conversation with a Control Freak.
2. If necessary, buy yourself some time to clarify your thoughts. Do some deep breathing to clear your head and calm your emotions.
3. Accept that you are not going to be able to change how the person behaves or who they are. Maintain the focus on your reactions and communication style.
4. Forgive the person for his/her behaviour by understanding what makes him/her behave this way.
5. In conversations, listen without interrupting. Be calm and patient.
6. Express your own opinion/thoughts. Be assertive, but not aggressive.
7. Once the conversation is over, do something that will nourish you. This might be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths in and exhaling the negative energy the Control Freak brings along.
8. Accept that you handled the situation as best as can be expected and that it will take time and practice.
Being in the company of Control Freaks can feel like being in the company of an ‘Energy Vampires.’ Their ability to endlessly bring the attention back on to themselves is draining and exhausting. Knowing what to expect can help you choose how to interact and take care of yourself at the same time.
A Practical Handbook