5 Steps for Dealing with a Control Freak

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are disrespectful, offensive, or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “5 Steps for Dealing with a Control Freak

  1. Great suggestions, especially the “don’t argue” tip. Arguing with a control freak is a total waste time. So is resenting or spending any energy thinking about a control freak. The thing about people who are trying to control everything is they feel insecure and powerless. That’s why they’re trying to control everything. Compassion and understanding are more appropriate, and it feels better to feel that than anger.

  2. Getting away from a control freak is near impossible, they usually have a very intimidating personality. any suggestions?

  3. People often become controlling to overcome their own fears and insecurities. Recognising this in them can be a good step towards moving away form their controlling ability.

  4. I think when the control freak is one of your parent the situation can become even more personified. Guilt trip, daily arguing matches all become part of a regular routine, far from the healthy relationship that one seeks. This gets even worse when their elderly and you don’t have the heart to put them in a nursing home. Sometimes I think to myself, is this really a labor of love or am I just a glutton for punishment? Great article, thanks for the tips!

  5. But what if you are married to one? My life is miserable ad I am becoming ill. I try, try, try to tell my partner that they are a control freak to no avail. I cannot leave because I promised to love honour and obey. I think that the only answer is for me to take my own life. Can anybody suggest an alternative?

  6. James,
    First of all, taking your own life is never, never, never the answer. You deserve better than that! A great quote by Katie Hill says, “Anger, tears, and sadness are only for those who have given up.” Control freaks tend to take a persons fight away. Over years, the contorllER causes the controllED to feel like they aren’t really a person as much as they are the controllER’s servant. Move when they say move, jump when they say jump… that sort of thing.

    You MUST get back in touch with the person you were before the fight was knocked out of you – before the life was all but sucked out. And, I’m talking to you as a Christian – someone who VERY MUCH reads the Bible, believes the Bible and tries to live by the Bible. Yes, marriage is very important. However, most experts (even in the religious field) say that if a marriage is ABUSIVE, the abused has got to get out. Extreme cases of “control” can qualify as mental and emotional abuse. Given what your suggested “out” is, I’d say you’re in an extremely bad relationship. Either that, or you’d had one of the worst days ever when you wrote the comment!

    Here’s one piece of advice, if you think it’d be productive – show your personal control freak the comment you left. Let them know just how far they’ve driven you. This, alone, may be the “light bulb” moment they need to wake up and realize what they’ve become.

    You see, control freaks don’t WANT to be the way they are any more than we want them to be. Over years, they gradually become someone they wouldn’t have recognized years ago. In fact, if they could see (from a distance) the person they’ve become, they’d be just as broken hearted as the people they control. Maybe more so.

    You are at a place where something has to be done.

    1. The individual who has become so controlling has to realize that they have essentially become a little monster! They have to look in the mirror and vow to change – take off the fangs and retract the claws!
    2. You have to stand up for yourself because you deserve it. You are a human being, just as much as they are and you deserve a happy life – your own happy life, un-dictated and orchestrated by someone else.
    3. If this can’t be achieved TOGETHER, then it must be achieved APART. Imagine yourself living in a world where you make your own decisions, make your own choices, and live your own life. Imagine being free again! Life is beautiful and fun and unbelievably exciting – and it’s waiting for you! If you can live it with this person, great – if not, great! Either way, you’re happiest days are ahead of you.

    Finally, here’s a piece of advice I always give to people. It’s advice that springs from the fact that the answer is always inside of us. Here’s what you do: Imagine that someone you care about has the EXACT same problem you have. Imagine that they’ve come to you for advice. What would you tell them? What if they suggested the same thing you did? Wouldn’t you tell them that that’s the worst idea of all time?!?! I imagine you’d say something like, “They’re not worth hurting yourself over!”

    Be strong and never give up. Find your fighting spirit and stand up for yourself. Remember that, deep down, the control freak doesn’t want to be that way. If you find your strength again, they may back off. I have seen countless situations where a control freak lost their bite over the years. Sometimes they get to a certain age where they mellow. For women, often reaching a certain age causes their hormones to relax and they become much more laid back and easy-going. For men, sometimes the worries of life ease up and they become less controlling.

    Compliment your personal control freak when they have good days (or moments). Tell them, “I really enjoyed the evening we just had – no stress, no conflict… it was like the old days!” Many times, compliments get you further than complaints.

    In the end, look out for yourself. And please, NEVER even think of hurting yourself or ending your life. Instead, think of healing yourself and FINDING your life. – Your friend, Joi

  7. Joi: You have REALLY hit the proverbial nail on the head! Thanks for taking the time to encourage James…..And James, I am in the same boat as you, suffering it out in the name of Jesus because I vowed that I would. But, alas, 2012 is going to be different, I am going to see to it that I show my children that love, honor and cherish are not synonymous with being a door mat! Keep walking with Jesus, He’ll show you how living with this person has revealed the weaknesses in yourself that you need to work on and then He’ll lead you to a place of healing and strengthening where you’ll love yourself enough to fight for yourself and those who truly love you. Be strong and of good courage and don’t give up!

  8. My ex-wife is a control freak. We were married for almost 30years & have lovely kids. She refused counselling, refused to believe she was a CF & became more controlling by taking the thing I loved most in my life away – being a father to my kids. I work Fly-In/Fly-Out (FIFO) so I desparately wanted a family life when I came home. She took that away from me.

    I tried to reason with her. It was a complete waste of time, as was living with her. On the CF scale of 1 (nagging person) to 10 (complete & utter CF), she rated a 12 – because she turned the kids against me with her spin & lies. For my own sanity, I had to leave, which in her mind, only proved her right! Not all CF’s are the same. If you are in a relationship of a CF1-5, you may have a chance of that relationship surviving. Living with a CF6-10 is a recipe for some serious mental and emotional abuse issues that you will have to deal with.

    I have wondered if a study on CF’s & suicide has ever been done as I fleetingly considered that solution before I chose to believe that the love my family & friends had for me was not undeserved & I was a worthwhile human being after all.

    Trust in yourself. But be aware that even those who know you may not understand anything about the emotional pain of living with a CF. The problems of FIFO were nothing compared to dealing with a CF12. Good luck, you’ll need it. Believe in yourself (no, you are not crazy because no-one else can see the CF in them!)

    Remember, don’t let the CF get you down. If all else fails, you HAVE to walk away. My biggest regret is my kids still aren’t talking to me.

    But hey – 2 years after I walked out, I have met the most kind-hearted woman. The pain is still inside me, but she makes the pain go by her many little caring gestures. Jack Nicholson said in the movie “As Good As it Gets” – “You make me want to be a better man”. The difference is a CF doesn’t want or allow you to be better, whereas a loving partner will encourage you.

    That is worth living for.

  9. Mozhgan
    You have to leave. Report your fears to the police and give them some evidence if possible. Document everything. If he continues to harass you, take out a restraining order.

  10. Found you on the internet and was glad to read the “5 steps…” This describes my mother to a T and our dysfunctional relationship. I am at a point in my life where I understand the problems and have info that actually helps instead of feeling helpless. It no longer affects me as it used to and I am at peace with myself thanks to hypnosis and knowing how to deal with a control freak.

  11. I have a two control freaks in my life; my brother and his wife. After my husband died they came back into my life after many years, and I thought I would get some support. But I remembered what they were like way back when I was a kid and it wasn’t long before the controlling behaviour started all over again. I told them in the end that they were overbearing bullies and from that stage on they began to distance themselves again; which is something I am rather glad about to be honest.
    They know what they are, but they cannot stand anyone to hold up a ‘mirror’ to them of their own natures, and so I was never forgiven for that comment.
    As they are family members, I probably can’t ride myself of them completely, but if you don’t want people like this around you it is best to be honest about it and tell them how you feel about them (or how they make you feel.)
    If that doesn’t work then you may just have to disappear out of their lives bit-by-bit and not tell them where you have gone.
    I see no other option with people like this.

  12. good info, some will not change, or listen to another’s good advice, thus know when to walk away and know when to run

  13. I understand what you are saying, but my husband always says, “I think you need to do it this way, or I thought you was going to do it that way, or he will say one thing to one person and tell you infront of this person I did not say that. and he is so wishy washy, and he acts like a coward towards men, but will abuse women or girls.

  14. my girlfriend lives with her aunt which is a total control freak. She is so lost to what to do to survive in that environment. She has been in trouble with drugs in her past and her aunt and uncle with your uncle is ADHD, saved her and promised to help her regain her footing. The price for that help is being subjected to her control freak aunt. I’ve read this above article and believe you are on to something with the information and instruction. I would appreciate any other pamplet that I might could give her hope.thanks again Bruce Williams.

  15. After more than 15 years with a most cunning undercover control freak, I can only advise that when you feel so alone and despair overtakes you because your life is now a vicious seesaw of sacrifice for peace with your dreams destroyed and the past appears as a futile waste of life energy … You have two choices;

    1. GET OUT of this destructive relationshipor NOW … Don’t doubt yourself just run and learn the lesson by recognizing the mechanism of control – feeling alone with somebody !!!

    2. Otherwise DECIDE what you will sacrifice to stick it out – like me, maybe you will do it for your kids to try mitigate their casualty by supporting them in this madness so they can avoid this plague in their relationships. “Draw a line in the sand” with yourself and decide what you will sacrifice; your emotional needs, your freedom, your wallet, your life standards, even your integrity … Whatever it may be but draw a line in the sand! Just take that first moment, go for a walk, clear your head and accept your BS life then regularly re-energize by reminding yourself to stop trying to fix or change the situation – ACCEPT IT and plan your survival based on ONE reason for continuing which is not dependent on you … Your kids, religion, family etc.

    Maybe this is not palatable advice but I am now going on 3 years with this approach after everything else failed, and it is amazing how much more clarity I have on my circumstance – and “yes” it is worth it because my kids are standing up against the CF as a consequence of me not trying to compensate all the time. Furthermore, once the desperation to ‘make it work’ is nullified by acceptance the CF modus operandi starts to become clear and predictable. I mention to compromise on integrity because, I had to learn to accept that I should induce Scenarios for Control Attention to deflect CF focus from the younger children back onto me – in a harmonious relationship this is not acceptable but hey I don’t want my kids to carry this baggage since they are the reason to go on… Who knows how I will manage after they leave in 10yrs

    Hope this helps someone to not waste 14yrs and 50 weeks…


    P.s. If you don’t have kids then option#1 is COMPULSORY coz when you despair takes you way down low you will definitely need a reason other than yourself to face each day!

  16. I live with a control freak but when I get very drunk I retaliate, it feels like a release of all the negetive comments build up and I have to let it out so sometimes it gets violent…I actually called the police last night but when they called me back I said I was fine and apoligized….a few hours later I went to bed to be kicked in the head etc…I dont know what to do anymore as I live in his house, I drive the car he gave me,he made me give up work etc