7 Signs of a Control Freak
In one of my previous jobs, I had a boss who was the true definition of a control freak. Everything had to be done his way. I couldn’t make the tiniest decision without first having to run it through him.
He felt that he had to micromanage all his subordinates down to the smallest detail. He would sometimes dictate the exact template he wanted me to use in my PowerPoint presentations. He was quick to point out whenever I did something wrong.
At first, I never thought much of it. I assumed that he simply wanted to make sure everything was done perfectly, and being a new employee, I went along with his wishes.
Unfortunately, the behavior never stopped even after I had been with the company for a while. Eventually, his controlling nature became too exhausting for me. I ended up quitting less than a year after I got hired.
I’m pretty sure I am not the only one who has encountered a control freak. You will find control freaks everywhere.
The control freak might be a micromanaging boss like in my case, a controlling best friend, an insecure partner or even the big sister who insists that everything has to be done her way. Being around such people is never a pleasant experience.
You feel exhausted and suffocated, robbed of your own individuality. The worst part is that most control freaks rarely realize that they are controlling. They often think that they are doing it for the greater good, which can make it quite hard for them to change their behavior.
Sometimes, it might even be difficult for you to recognize that you are dealing with a control freak.
So, how do you spot a control freak, and how do you deal with one?
WHO IS A CONTROL FREAK?
A control freak can be described as an individual who has a compulsive need to have total control over every aspect of his or her life. The control freak also feels justified in his attempts to control various aspects of the lives of those around him.
To achieve this, the control freak will undermine and manipulate others with the aim of getting them to do what he or she wants.
The primary goal of the control freak is to instill total control over their own life. Attempting to control others is a protective measure and a by-product of trying to have everything around them under control.
Control freaks have a hard time trusting people or delegating tasks to others. They hate surprises.
They fear that without control, their lives will spiral out of control. If they find themselves in a situation where they are not in control, they tend to go ballistic.
Since control freaks feel the need to be in control of every aspect of their life, they also have this strong need to control their image.
Because of this, they might actually acknowledge that they feel the need to be in control of every situation, though they won’t label themselves control freaks.
Instead, they justify their controlling behaviors by claiming that they are doing what they are doing because they are the only ones competent enough to get things done. They believe that without them, the lives of everyone around them will fall apart.
In extreme cases, a control freak might be clinically diagnosed to be suffering from obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCD).
Such people experience a lot of anxiety just being in the world, something that compels them to try and instill control over everything and everyone around them.
Unfortunately, this is a futile attempt that makes matters even worse since the world is a dynamic place full of unpredictable twists and turns. It is impossible to achieve total control over life.
SIGNS OF A CONTROL FREAK
So, how do you spot a control freak? Below are some of the signs that may signal that someone is too controlling.
1. Always Correcting People When They Are Wrong
Control freaks are very averse to mistakes, both in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They don’t tolerate mistakes in their lives and feel compelled to point out and correct the mistakes of those around them. Mistakes make them anxious and angry.
A controlling person will correct you whenever they have the opportunity. They will let you know if you misspell a word in a text message or pronounce a word wrongly. They will point out if you give an irrational argument.
If they feel that your social etiquette is a little off, they won’t hesitate to let you know. If you do something wrong or inappropriate, you won’t hear the end of it.
One thing you need to note about this behavior by control freaks is that they do not do it because they want you to improve.
Instead, they do it because they believe they are always right, and that things should always be done the right way, which is their way.
2. They Don’t Delegate
Control freaks are very poor at delegation. They have a hard time delegating tasks. They will do everything by themselves unless it is virtually impossible for them to do it.
They believe that they are the most qualified to do something and that they are the only ones who can do it to perfection. They don’t trust others. They believe that the delegated task will not be done satisfactorily, regardless of the expertise of whoever does it. If they do delegate something, they will thoroughly go over it trying to find mistakes.
If they find a single mistake, they will harshly criticize whoever did the task and overhype their importance. They might say things like “It seems I am the only one in this office who can get things done.”
3. They Always Want To Have The Last Word
Control freaks believe they know it all. They believe that they are more practical, intelligent or logical than everyone else. When they get into arguments, they always try to win, because anything else rather than their line of thought is simply wrong.
In any situation, they want to be the ones to put in the last word. They want to be the ones setting the rules and enforcing them. If they don’t have the final word in a situation, they feel that the situation is unresolved, which can be a great source of angst.
They want to be the ones to nicely conclude situations with their preferred solution.
4. They Will Never Admit When They Are Wrong
This is one of the most annoying traits of a control freak; they will never admit that they have made a mistake. It doesn’t matter how small the mistake is, they will never admit that they did something wrong.
Instead, they will shift the blame to someone else. This is ironic because they are the same ones who won’t hesitate to chastise anyone else who makes a mistake.
Since control freaks believe they are always right, admitting to a mistake would bruise their fragile egos, which have to be protected at all costs.
They think it will make others perceive them as foolish or incompetent if they admit to a mistake.
5. They Are Poor Team Players
Working as part of a team means you have to cede some amount of control to the rest of the team. This is a difficult thing for control freaks. They don’t like subordinate roles because such positions deny them the opportunity to exert their rules and controls over the rest of the team.
If they find themselves as part of a team, they will quickly try to establish themselves as a leader so that they can have the opportunity to dictate the behavior of the rest of the team.
6. They Are Always Judging And Criticizing Others
Control freaks are highly judgmental and critical of others. They have opinions about everything, from how people should dress, talk, and eat to how they should live their entire lives.
Their opinions are taken as fact, and anyone who does not act in accordance with their opinions is met with a lot of criticism. No matter what someone else does, it will never be good enough; they will find a reason to criticize it.
Their judgmental and critical behavior can make them come across as pious and hypocritical to those who know them well. Control freaks cannot control this behavior. It is instinctive. Demeaning and talking ill about other makes them feel good about themselves.
This has an adverse effect on their relationships, since they end up pushing people away with their constant judgment and criticism.
7. They Try Too Hard To Change Others
Control freaks believe that they are the only ones who know what is best for everyone else. Because of this, they will try as much as possible to get others to do things their way. They will use different manipulation strategies in an attempt to change others.
They try to micro-manage others to ensure that they act in accordance with their expectations. They will lecture and sometimes become aggressive if you don’t do things their way. They will offer unsolicited “constructive criticism” under the pretense that they care for you and are trying to help, when in real sense they only want to change your behavior to suit their expectations.
They will paint worst-case scenario to discourage you from doing certain things they don’t approve of. They might even use silent treatment as a passive-aggressive strategy to get you to change your behavior to align with their expectations.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A CONTROL FREAK
Being around control freaks can be quite unsettling and unhealthy. Their rigid routines, condescending demeanor, constant advice and manipulation can get on your nerves and even induce stress or depression if unchecked.
So, what should you do when you find yourself around someone who shows the above signs?
Below are some tips on how to deal with control a freak.
Assert Your Boundaries
Control freaks are usually drawn to people with a victim mentality or a low self-esteem, according to an article by psychiatrist Judith Orloff.
This is because the control freak knows that he or she will be able to exercise control over such people, who usually have problems setting up and maintaining boundaries. The key to dealing with control freaks, therefore, is to assert your personal boundaries.
Let the controlling person know that you are your own person who can make your own decisions and that you deceive your privacy.
Below are some things you can do to assert your personal boundaries when dealing with a control freak:
- Learn to say no to their whims. Remember, we saw that control freaks will attempt to change your behavior or get you to do things that align with their expectations. If you notice that the person is trying to get you to do things you don’t want, say a firm no, without the need to justify yourself.
- If they throw tantrums or other emotional behavior because you have stood firm against their pressure, don’t submit to appease them, even if this might be easier.
- Make your decisions without telling them. Normally, a control freak will want you to tell them about what you plan to do since this gives them an opportunity to influence you. By not telling them what you plan to do, you will be reaffirming the fact that you are an individual who can make your own decisions.
- If they say something that does not sit well with you, speak your mind clearly and firmly. If the controlling person tries to criticize your choices, be assertive and stand firm in your choice. For instance, a controlling friend might try to get you to buy a shoe that you don’t like. In such an instance, you might say, “I appreciate your opinion, but I like the other shoe better.”
Control freaks don’t give up easily, so you might need to be patient and keep repeating this until the controlling person reconditions themselves to the redefined terms of the relationship.
Avoid Arguing With Them
Trying to argue with a control freak will never work. Control freaks believe that they are always right. They are experts when it comes to justifying themselves, and they always try to win every argument.
Bringing up an argument will only make matters worse, since you cannot possibly out-argue them. If you find yourself in a disagreement with a control freak, state you position without trying to justify it.
If they demand a reason behind your position, give them a reason that cannot possibly be argued.
For example, if your controlling friend wants you the both of you to go to the park but you think it’s not a good idea today, simply say something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like going to the park today.”
If you try to explain why going to the park is not a good idea today, you will get into an argument that will be difficult for you to win, and one that will leave you feeling drained.
Maintain Your Calm
Sometimes, a person’s controlling behaviors can get on your nerves to the extent that you feel like you should scream at them.
Unfortunately, getting angry at the control freak will not make things any better. Getting angry will show the control freak that he or she is getting to you, which will only make them determined to control you.
In addition, getting upset will make the control freak perceive you as a weak person who can be controlled. By giving such an impression, you will be encouraging them to target you.
To avoid this, you should maintain your calm when dealing with a controlling person. Simply stand your ground firmly without losing your cool.
Don’t Respond To Escalating Behavior
As you continue standing up to a control freak, they will start losing their grip over you, which will make them even more anxious. In an attempt to regain their control over you, the control freak will increase their pressure though more manipulative behaviors.
If the control freak is a romantic partner, for example, he or she might give you the silent treatment, ignoring your calls and texts and acting moody when you are together.
In extreme cases, he or she might even stop having sex with you in an attempt to get you back under their control. If the control freak is your boss, he or she might ignore your suggestions at work or try to badmouth you to superiors.
Your best bet in this situation is to remain impassive to their mounting pressure. Don’t escalate your emotions since this will only encourage them.
By remaining impassive, you will be making it clear to them that you are no longer under their control.
Seek Help If Necessary
If you feel that the control freak’s behavior is having adverse effects either on your work or your relationship, you should consider seeking outside help. If the control freak is your colleague at work, seek the help of a supervisor and manager.
When doing this, remember to keep matters objective. From the very onset of the conversation, make it clear to your manager that your intent is to resolve the situation rather than to cause disharmony at work.
Let them know that the controlling and manipulative behaviors of your controlling colleague are making it difficult for you to work productively. You can also provide any possible solutions you feel might remedy the situation.
If the control freak is a friend, a relative or a romantic partner, you should seek the help of friends or family.
Let them know what you are going through at the hands of the controlling person. The friends or family can then help come up with solutions to remedy the situation.
The important thing here is that you should let someone else know about the control freak in your life if you feel that their controlling tendencies have started affecting you adversely.
Avoid The Person Or Walk Away
Being around a control freak is not healthy for you, and try as you might, sometimes it becomes clear that nothing you do will change this person’s controlling tendencies. In such a situation, your best bet might be to avoid the person or walk away.
Of course, your decision to avoid the control freak or walk away will depend on who the person is and the kind of relationship between the two of you. If the control freak is someone in your family, it might be impossible to completely walk away.
The best solution in this case is to try and avoid them as much as possible. Stay out of their way unless it’s completely necessary for you two to interact.
If the person is a romantic partner, walk away from the relationship. Staying with such a person can lead to an abusive relationship or even violence.
Just let them know that you need a break from the relationship and move on with your life. Avoiding a control freak becomes a much more difficult thing if you work together, and especially if he is your boss.
If the person is a colleague from another department, you can try minimizing your interactions. If you can’t avoid interacting with them, this might be difficult for you, and the best bet is to seek the help of superiors.
However, if the behavior persists and it is clear that there is nothing you can do, it might make sense to look for employment elsewhere.
For instance, in my case, I decide to quit and look for another job because my superior was a control freak.
It is better to find a new job instead of getting stressed and depressed because of working under a controlling boss.
It is inevitable that at one point in life you will come across a person who will try to exert their control over your life.
They will criticize you, belittle your opinions, try to get you to change your behavior and try to micromanage your life.
Being around such people can be unhealthy, and in extreme cases, it can even result in a lot of stress. Fortunately, being around a control freak does not mean that you need to give in to his or her whims and expectations.
If you notice someone displaying any of the above signs that might indicate that he or she is a control freak, you can take the steps described in the article to get from their controlling grip and make life easier for the both of you.
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