When you hear the words “control freak,” there’s likely a certain person who pops into your mind. These are the people who meddle in your business, tell you how to do things, and hold you to impossible standards. They are quick to point out your shortcomings and always have the right answer (allegedly).
Whoever the controller is in your life—parent, boss, roommate, dating partner—you surely want to break the pattern and break free. Here’s how:
1. Realize you can’t change a controlling person. The only person you can change is yourself; trying to change someone else is only going to end in frustration.
2. Understand that you can’t please a controller long term. Even if you give the controller what he wants to make him happy, that doesn’t mean the bossy behavior will subside. “Playing along” to get the person off your back rarely works.
3. Make choices that are about you. Think carefully about decisions you make, big or small, that will preserve your dignity.
4. Recognize your rights. Such as the right to be treated fairly, have your personal choices respected, and to answer for yourself.
5. Create space between you and the controller. It’s possible that you can establish physical and/or emotional distance from the pushy person. Sometimes space is the best solution.
6. Set your own expectations. If someone consistently controls you in a particular area, think through your own standards and ways of doing things. Don’t let another person determine the guidelines for your life—you do it.
7. Don’t suffer in silence. If you constantly just suck it up and hold it in, nothing is ever going to change. Plus you’ll give yourself an ulcer. You may avoid conflict by staying quiet, but you aren’t doing either of you any favors in the long run.
8. Have a direct conversation if you’re able to. Avoid drama or accusations. Just state what is bothering you and why.
9. Seek wise counsel. Enlist a friend, family member, or therapist to help you understand the situation and navigate through it. Often an objective third party can come up with the best ideas and solutions.
10. Know that being controlled will never earn you respect. The controlling person may “like you” or praise you for doing what he/she wants, but that’s much different from respecting you.
11. Shore up your sense of strength. Controllers can drain your energy and undermine your sense of self-worth. Take extra measures to preserve your physical and emotional energy.
12. Know what you’re giving up in the “barter” exchange. A controller wants power, undue influence over you, and “permission” to bully you. When you acquiesce, you give up peace of mind, independence, and self-respect. What else?
13. Change the way the person affects you. You can’t change a controller’s behavior, but you can change your reaction and response. You can determine not to get sucked into the melodrama of it all.
14. Know when to hold ‘em (boundaries). When interacting with a controller, maintaining firm boundaries can be extremely tough—because that person won’t recognize the lines you’ve drawn, or will simply step over them. But for your own sanity, hold your limits so you don’t get pushed around.
15. And know when to fold ‘em. Frankly, sometimes the best way to deal with a controller—especially when your dignity and respect are on the line—is to walk away. Quickly.