by Suzie Doscher, Executive and Life Coach, Zurich, Switzerland
In the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a “control freak” is “a person who feels an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves and others and to take command of any situation.” The Merriam Webster dictionary says that a control freak is “a person whose behavior indicates a powerful need to control people or circumstances in everyday matters.” One way or another, control freaks are not always easy to be around.
I understand this personality trait could stem from a chaotic childhood. Such experiences can make it hard for people to trust others or relinquish control to others. The fear of falling apart pushes them to control what they can. As their emotions are all over the place, they feel loss of control. For this reason, control freaks will micromanage whatever they can with the belief that this makes them strong. People who feel out of control tend to become controllers.
I imagine each and every one of us is a control freak, or takes on the behavior of such, at some point or another. The fear of failure is what makes it so important to control everything when you do not trust anybody else to do a good job.
One difficult aspect of being around a control freak is accepting that he or she does not understand how their behavior and choice of words affect the people around them. Another difficult aspect is not to take it personally. This behavior comes from deep inside and the person is actually quite unaware of the need to be controlling.
The attempts to control a situation or environment are intended to offer the controller a feeling of safety. This is a sign of low self-esteem.
One of the areas they often manipulate is conversation. A control freak is most comfortable if he or she decides what is talked about, for how long, and how deep or detailed a topic can be. This manipulation is achieved by constant interruption, finishing the sentence for the person, not listening with attention, doing distracting things like getting up and walking around, or even walking out of the room saying, “I am still listening.” A control freak does not consider that he or she is being controlling, but is convinced his or her way is the right way. He or she will have an opinion about almost everything and will disagree with most suggestions that he or she does not instigate.
Controllers also control themselves; you might observe obsessive habits in them – whether in a private relationship or at work.
Here are helpful tips to consider when dealing with a micro-manager:
A control freak has the ability to bring you down a couple of notches and take the wind out of your sails. They can make people feel insecure. You may want to distance yourself if it is possible. If not, because the person is a member of your family or work colleague or boss, then consider what choices you do have based on the points raised above.
Raising your awareness to the fact that the person is micro-managing frequently already helps to make the situation easier to handle.
The benefits of establishing a manner of communication where you do not allow the control freak to rob you of your energy or drown you with negativity is that you become stronger, more assertive and empowered.
In summary, here are helpful steps for handling the moment:
Subjected to a Micro-Manager?