How to Cope with Control Freaks
The following is a guest article by Mark Tyrrell from Hypnosis Downloads.com:
Five Steps for Dealing With a Manipulative Control Freak
by Mark Tyrrell
Control freaks don’t tend to make people around them happy. Okay, this is an understatement. Being in the constant orbit of a control freak can make you downright miserable.
Colleagues, friends, and partners can feel their every thought, action, and opinion is only valid if it concurs totally with the control freak’s take on things. We all need to feel we control some things to help us feel secure and safe; but the constant judging, micromanaging, interfering, bossiness, and manipulation of a dictatorial control freak goes way beyond this.
Feeling constantly judged, micromanaged, and manipulated eventually builds resentment, bitterness, and anxiety. The lack of tolerance or credit given for any initiative of our own makes us feel subjugated, like dejected subjects of some despotic ruler whose one role is to hear and obey. Remember that control freaks are “status junkies”. Anything they feel you say or do to undermine their own sense of inflated self won’t be tolerated, regardless of your thoughts and feelings.
And whether they intended to bully or not, the fallout is that people feel steamrollered and bullied.
So how can you best deal with a control freak?
Understand that yes, you are dealing with a control freak
No matter how intelligent, ingenious, and prone to being right your control freak is, despite all that or whether they are wonderfully helpful sometimes, you still have to deal with that controlling behavior, that tyrannical bit of them. Separate all the wonderful good they might be doing through their tremendous drive to get things done from the fact that you feel totally controlled by them.
We can make excuses for other people at the same time as they make us feel acutely bad. So right here and right now, whatever their “saving graces”, understand what you have to deal with by separating in your own mind the good stuff about them from this overbearing control.
Respect your own autonomy
We all need to feel a sense of independence and self-direction. Even if the control freak is your boss, don’t feel you have to automatically say yes to every little whim and demand.
A client of mine was amazed by the idea she could sometimes turn down her boss’s demand she do unpaid overtime after work. “Treat your boss’s unreasonable orders as if they were requests,” I suggested to her. Whenever he “ordered” her to work unpaid, she would tell him she’d get back to him about it after seeing whether it was possible. This started to alter “the game”. He began to appreciate she wasn’t a doormat.
Sometimes you have to force people into the situation of behaving decently rather than waiting until they “see the light”. If you don’t behave as if your own sense of autonomy is important, than neither will the dictator in your life.
Don’t always be “nice”
Control freaks don’t play by the rules of “niceness”. Helpfulness, a willingness to pull together and “not make waves”, is part of human nature. Many of us like to help if we can because we are “hard-wired” to. Human beings are social creatures and after all, we don’t want to hurt the control freak’s feelings.
But control freaks sometimes like to meet their match. They’ll respect people who have a will and mind of their own or even those who don’t overly care whether they are liked or respected by the CF. Control freaks are so hard to please that you might waste many lifetimes trying to please, placate, and pacify them only to inevitably fail. If someone is pathologically mean with their praise or consideration of your feelings and needs, then don’t treat them as if they are not like this.
Don’t argue; it won’t work
Don’t be too nice because control freaks don’t really work in the realms of “niceness” (as opposed to charm), but don’t get into long-winded arguments trying to justify your position, either. Control freaks are great at arguing why you and everyone else in the world should feel, think, do, and say just as they see fit. Just make your point once and keep coming back to it. If you don’t want to paint your bedroom wall the color they demand is best, then tell them so but don’t feel you have to justify your position. This “broken record technique” is hugely effective. Just state your position (“I want to paint my walls lime green!”) and repeat whatever they say. They’ll soon get bored.
Life’s too short
If you don’t have to have this person in your life, consider cutting them loose to go on their way dictating and steamrollering others. We risk becoming control freaks ourselves when we feel it’s our divine role to change them. We may help others to change by adjusting our own responses, but ultimately they are responsible for themselves.
Part of their journey to maturity needs to be a realization that other people are not just puppets to be bent to their will. This is how very small children may see the world, but a mature human being knows what they can and cannot influence and control.
Some control freaks really do want to change and they might need help. I am reminded of the cartoon in which a man tells his wife: “You know, my New Year’s resolution is to stop telling you what to do all the time and I’ve also written down what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be!”
Mark Tyrrell is a trainer, therapist and author and co-founder of Hypnosis Downloads.com where he has created downloads on How to deal with the control freak and other difficult people.