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8 Signs You're a Control Freak

You might not know it, but your controlling behaviors are making your employees batty. Here are a few ways to ease up already.

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Control freaks rarely know that they are one. They believe that they are helping people with their "constructive criticism" or taking over a project because "no one else will do it right."

They don't see their controlling behaviors as symptoms of what's really going on--their own anxiety has run amuck.

Irrational thoughts abound in our high stress world: If I don't get this contract, I'll get fired. If I'm not home by 6:00, I'm a terrible parent. If I don't get that raise, I suck at my job.  All of these thoughts might be true, but probably not.

Rather than tackle our own irrational thinking and massage it into more realistic thinking, we attempt to control the situation, usually by trying to control other people.

Want to know if you're a control freak? Here are eight signs for your self-diagnosing pleasure.

  1. You believe that if someone would change one or two things about themselves, you'd be happier. So you try to "help them" change this behavior by pointing it out, usually over and over.
  2. You micromanage others to make them fit your (often unrealistic) expectations. You don't believe in imperfection and you don't think anyone else should either.
  3. You judge others' behavior as right or wrong and passive-aggressively withhold attention until they fall in line with your expectations. Sitting in silent judgment is a master form of control.
  4. You offer "constructive criticism" as a veiled attempt to advance your own agenda.
  5. You change who you are or what you believe so that someone will accept you. Instead of just being yourself, you attempt to incept others by managing their impression of you.
  6. You present worst-case scenarios in an attempt to influence someone away from certain behaviors and toward others. This is also called fear mongering.
  7. You have a hard time with ambiguity and being OK with not knowing something.
  8. You intervene on behalf of people by trying to explain or dismiss their behaviors to others.

You believe that if you can change another person's undesirable behavior, then you will be happier or more fulfilled. You make someone else responsible for how you feel.

The thing is, you are only responsible for you. The road to better relationships always starts with you. Rather than attempt to control everyone else, work on becoming a better version of yourself. Here are a few ideas:

  • Be vulnerable with people.
  • Never compromise your self-respect by altering your core beliefs. 
  • Be realistic about your expectations of others. 
  • Quit the passive-aggressive nonsense--be direct. 
  • Accept that a large portion of life is laced with unknowns. 
  • Embrace confrontation--it really is sometimes the only thing you can do. 
  • Take responsibility for your own happiness.

If you work on your own improvement instead of trying to control others, healthier relationships at work, as well as everywhere else, will then come to you as a result.

IMAGE: Helen Ashford/Getty
Last updated: Dec 17, 2012

Dr. SHELLEY PREVOST is a mentor and early-stage investor at Lamp Post Group, where she hacks into the psychological and emotional side of starting and running a business. She is a co-founding partner of the JumpFund, an angel fund investing in female-led startups with high-growth potential. Prevost also speaks and consults with companies on finding purpose, humanizing work, and growing leaders from the inside out. She blogs about her work at the Glad Lab.
@shelleyprevost




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