5 ways to cope with a control freak

Can you learn to cope with a control freak?


“He’s driving me absolutely out of my mind!” Emily wailed to her best friend. “I mean, I knew he liked to control things before we got married but I had no idea he was such a control freak! I want to rip his hair out!”

  • Are you married to or do you know someone who insists on always being in charge?
  • Do you work with someone who must micromanage even the smallest detail?
  • Have a family member who is ‘always right’ and so bossy you want to rip his/her hair out?

We usually call these sorts of people a control freak and they are very difficult to be around. Control freaks are one sort of difficult people, and you can learn to understand why they are the way they are, and help them to come to a place of change, or at the very least change your response to their behavior and therefore change the dynamic of the relationship, making it better for you.

So what are some ways to handle a person who is getting on your ever loving last nerve with his/her insane need to always be in charge?

Here are 5 ways to cope with a control freak.

1. Recognize and Understand What Drives Their Control Issues

Sometimes the best way to figure out what drives a person is to understand what is the motivation behind their need to always be in charge. Is it simply his/her personality? Does he/she have some compelling need to be the one calling the shots? Are they also compulsive obsessive and simply must have things done a certain way?

Control freaks usually have very little trust in others and an intense fear of failure. They are often arrogant and need to feel they are in charge. If you can manage to uncover what truly motivates a control freak, you might be able to address the problem rather than the situation.

But what if the person is simply controlling, bossy, always critical, believes he/she is ‘better’ than everyone else and simply won’t change or try to help him/herself?

Change is something a person brings to himself or herself. You can’t change a control freak unless he or she wants to change. Once you discover if he/she is truly wanting to change or if he/she isn’t going to change, you can better understand and cope with his/her reasons for having control issues.

Emily had a heart to heart talk with her husband and pointed out some ways she felt he was trying to control her and their married life. He acted amazed and couldn’t understand why she believed these were issues. A bit more talking and probing led him to reveal he feels out of control at work often and has to be in charge somewhere. Once Emily knew the true reason for her husband’s actions, she and he began to work together to help each of them better cope.

2.  Pick Your Battles

If you live with or must be around a controlling person, you may need to choose which issue to take a stand with and which to simply let go.

Ask yourself, “Is it really important Control Freak be in charge? Or does it matter?” If, for example, Control Freak must have the toilet paper fall over the top of the roll instead of under, does it really matter? Is Control Freak the best person to lead the team project at work? Or does someone else have more knowledge and experience? Does it matter if you leave at 10 to drive to the movie or if you leave at 10:30?

If it’s not life or death, harmful to you, the person, or others, or won’t cause massive trouble, there’s nothing wrong with letting the Control Freak be in charge. It even takes the responsibility off your shoulders. And always remember, you are in charge of your own responses.

Emily recognized the needs behind her husband’s need to be in charge and let him choose things for dinner or what time to leave for the movie. For bigger issues, such as which parents’ home to visit on holidays and if they were going to buy a new car or not, she insisted they discuss the matter and each have equal say to come to a decision together.

3. Always Remain Calm, Cool, and Collected

Yelling, arguing and fighting with a control freak over who’s in charge or how to do things only results in headaches, hurt feelings, and possibly supervisory action if done in the workplace.

If you can, walk away before the control freak’s behavior escalates to the point of a fight. If this isn’t possible, maintain your silence, no matter how difficult it is. Sit on your hands, hold a hand over your mouth, whatever you need to do to stay silent. Often your very silence will calm the control freak. If he/she becomes more angry, simply walk out. The human body contains over 7 trillion nerves and some people manage to jump up and down on every one of them. Keep your nerves and yourself under firm control. Stay calm and carry on.

Always remember, though, if the control freak becomes physically or emotionally abusive to you, leave immediately. This is a huge red flag the control freak needs professional help. No matter how much you love or care for the person, someone who is abusive cannot and will not change without professional guidance and help.

Emily refused to argue with her husband when he insisted on being in charge. After several times of her gentle but firm disengagement from a discussion, he began to understand she wasn’t trying to manipulate him, she was simply refusing to fight. He also agreed to attend couples counseling with her to try to resolve his control issues.

It can be helpful to use hypnosis to create new behaviors in yourself, because that’s where the change in the relationship begins.  We can never control others, only ourselves. My friends Roger & Mark at Uncommon Knowledge (aka hypnosisdownloads.com) have an audio for learning to deal with the control freak.

4. Look for the Positive Side

Just as nothing is all black or all white, nothing is all good or all bad. A control freak may be demanding, arrogant and bossy, but he/she may also have some good qualities. This might take some digging on your part or even some ‘thinking outside the box’.

Sure, your sister is the bossiest person you know. She’s also the first one to pitch in and help clean up after a big family meal. Your coworker is insistent on the everyone sitting in the exact same place at every meeting. But he also is the first one to volunteer to stay late or work the weekend to finish an assignment. There is something positive about everyone. No matter how small we think it is.

For Emily, her husband’s need to control the time they left for events stemmed from him not wanting to be late, miss the beginning on the movie, or be stressed out. He also knew how much Emily hated to have to grope her way to a seat in a darkened theater and how impatient she got when traffic backed up.  He was, in his way, trying to prevent her from not being able to fully enjoy the whole movie or to become upset about being late if traffic was snarled. He simply wasn’t expressing his concern in the correct way. He learned how to say, “I heard there’s a an accident on the interstate, so we’ll have to take the long way around. We should leave earlier.”

5. Give the Person Time

No one changes overnight. It takes time to change habits, good or bad. For a control freak, it may be impossible to ever completely give up being in charge or being correct. Yet if you see the control freak trying to change, or to make things better, or even give someone else a chance to be ‘first’ or ‘in charge,’ give him/her the space and time he/she needs. Don’t harp on ‘back sliding’ into control issues again.

Emily praised her husband each time he allowed her to make a decision or gave up control. She didn’t mention all the times he wrestled with or had to be in charge. They began to work more as a team and less as a micromanager and employee. It took several months, but Emily is much happier in her marriage. And she’s not wanting to rip her husband’s hair from his head.

Thought for the Day: Circumstances and people are beyond our control but our conduct is in our own power.

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