The Control Freak Fix

Have you ever been labelled a “control freak”? Or feel that you need to be in control at all times, in every situation? How do you know if your controlling behaviour is healthy or not? Read on..

Clinical psychologist and author, Tim Carey, describes controlling as more of a spectrum. Often, we all want a certain outcome, so we can all be guilty of controlling for the result. What separates control “freaks” from the “normals” is what they do and how they behave to get to the finish line.  

The risk with erring on the extreme side of control can be alienating ourselves. No one wants a puppet master as a friend or a micromanaging boss. That’s the risk we take with an insatiable need to over-direct even the most minute details.

Planning has its place and there certainly are situations in which we can’t do without expert advice and management. But how do we tell if we’re pushing too hard or our efforts are unwelcome? Look out for the little red flags.

You always need to give your input.

Do you squirm in your seat when you feel someone’s plan is inadequate? What about when they make a decision for themselves that you don’t agree with? If it’s tough to stop giving unsolicited advice (especially when everything would work out fine without it) this may be an indication you’re too keen to control.

Delegating tasks makes you uncomfortable, because you’d rather do it yourself.

If you struggle to hand over tasks in a project, ask for help planning a trip, or even allow someone else to pick a restaurant, then maybe it’s time to let go a little.

Unhealthy stress and obsession over outcomes.

It’s wise to plan. It’s just as wise to allow the plan to play out, observe and learn from the outcome. Is this something you’re willing to do? Losing sleep and stressing over what you’ve already prepared for or what is out of your control is unsustainable.

Others don’t respond well to your direction.

Now, this may be a reflection on them rather than you; however, it’s always a good indicator that something needs to be addressed. Self-evaluate: are you directing their every movement and not leaving room for any input and freedom?

So what can the control freak in all of us do?

Share responsibilities and value others’ abilities.

You can’t steer a large boat without some help, so practice allowing others to help. Recognising the value in others’ skills will make it easier to give up control and trust.

Get comfortable with mistakes.

Seriously, mistakes doesn’t have to be a dirty word. You can’t control for everything in life. Make the most of your skills, plan for the possibilities, then become a student of the outcome.

Let people learn their own lessons.

You may think: “I’m doing it for their own good.” But the truth is that often the lesson we remember most is the one we learn through our own experiences. Empower others and give them the space to do so.

It may be a fine line between effective management and an unhealthy need to control, but one thing is for certain: the control freak badge isn’t one we should feel proud to wear.