Makarios Consulting Blog

Control? Meet Freak

Control is a particularly insidious form of HeadTrash that we’ve all encountered. Whether it’s the rigid rules our parents imposed on us, a spouse’s insistence that they alone manage the household finances, or a micromanaging boss, being subject to another person’s controlling behavior breeds resentment and conflict.

No wonder the word “control” is often linked with “freak” in popular culture. We all know these people. There is the subtle control freak who avoids directly expressing an opinion, preferring to use surrogates to enforce adherence to their agenda. Think of this type of controller as the puppeteer pulling the strings of the marionette. They may not be on stage, but they’re certainly driving the action.

Then there’s the controlling person who does everything “by-the-book.” They run their business by a specific system and frequently use the phrase “According to…” in order to prove their point by backing it up with either a rule book or an expert. What’s more, they often claim expertise on subjects they’ve read one book about. From parenting to fixing a car, knowledge is actually power for this type of controller.

So how do you handle a person suffering from HeadTrash Control? It can be tough. If they’re in a role where they actually can be controlling, it usually means they are good at what they do. They fully believe in their controlling nature because it has worked well for them thus far. Keep this in mind when confronting them. Expect an outburst or a jump to defense and just remember to be clear, firm and detailed so they get your point. Your goal in dialogue with a controlling individual is to get them to acknowledge how relinquishing control and delegating can be beneficial to both you and them.

Here are some quick tips for dealing with a person suffering from Control:

  • Disarm with Charm: Begin a challenging conversation with positivity, so you can disarm their natural tendency to be defensive. Acknowledge some of your own flaws to make your challenge less threatening and place you on a level playing field. Seek to build trust, which will get them to loosen the reins over time.
  • Help them Delegate: Ask them to identify tasks that could be handled by others to free up their time for more important things. Help them limit the amount of projects they take on. By helping them understand how many things they have on their plate, they’re more likely to pass off tasks to others.
  • Prepare Rebuttals: Controlling people are prepared with rationales for why they act the way they do. Anticipate what they may say or what they’ve used as excuses in the past and be ready so they can’t manipulate their way out of the conversation.