We use the term control freak pretty loosely. Most of us can be “controlling” about certain things, but overall a control freak. Many of us have likely encountered controlling people in our lives. It might be the college roommate who gets angry when you load the dishwasher “incorrectly” or the boss who always seems to micromanage everyone. Dealing with someone who is controlling can be difficult, but there are ways to work through it.
Signs of a Control Freak
People who are control freaks tend to avoid delegating and when they do they often micromanage. They struggle to relinquish control over certain projects or tasks. Even if they give you responsibility, they will hover and frequently check up on others. They might even take responsibility back and do things themselves. A control freak tends to be perfectionistic in nature and wants everything to be on their timetable. A controlling person likely feels less anxious when they are in the driver’s seat. If everything is done their way on their schedule, they can make sure “everything is perfect.” Lastly, control freaks tend to judge other people and become upset easily. They prefer their way over everything else because they strive for perfection. They might judge others who do things differently. However, the drive for perfection can be anxiety provoking and stressful. It can leave control freaks feeling on edge frequently making them seem like moody individuals at times.
How to Deal with a Control Freak
After reading some of the signs you believe you are dealing with a control freak, there are some ways to work through those relationships.
Understand it is usually about anxiety. Again, most people are controlling or are perfectionists utilize these parts of their personality to manage some type of anxiety. Understanding their anxiety can help you understand why they try to control everything. It can help you show more empathy but also address the anxiety rather than the controlling symptoms.
Try to prepare them for upcoming changes. It may not always be possible, but be open about upcoming changes can help. It can give these individuals time to prepare and adjust as best they can. If unexpected change happens, you can work to help them manage the anxiety and stress they will likely feel.
Set your own boundaries. Control freaks will want you to do things their way, but that does not mean you have to do it their way. There might be some things you are willing to do, but it is also appropriate to set boundaries with them. Figure out your limit and express it to them. It will likely bother them, but it can help you avoid resenting them or getting burnt out the in the relationship.
Have open conversations about how you feel. Depending on the type of relationship you have with them, it can be beneficial to talk them about how you feel. They might be unaware of how controlling they are being. Talking about it can also help them be more aware and potentially allow them to work on any anxiety driving their desire to control their environment.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.