How to Handle a Controlling Person
Everyone runs into someone with "control issues" at some point. ” Many of us will look back on this experience with less than fond memories. Not surprisingly, controlling people have a powerful need to control others. But why?
The controlling personality develops from a sense of insecurity. Though they may appear confident and strong, controlling behavior is really their way of feeling safe and secure. This is little comfort for those they are attempting to control, however. Quite often the controlling personality will leave friends and loved ones feeling as if they’ve lost their independence and autonomy. It is a behavior that makes the controller feel safe at the expense of another and can result in lowered self-esteem for those who endure it.
Characteristics of a Controlling Personality
Not all controlling people exercise power and control in the same way. In general, controlling behavior can be categorized into four styles. These are:
1. The Volatile Controller
Volatile controllers use the threat of losing their temper as a means of gaining control over others. Though their blow-ups can be intense and frightening, it is typically short-lived. In fact, the sense of being out of control that typically accompanies this loss of temper can be rather unsettling for the volatile controller. Instead, their preference is to intimidate by issuing threats of what might happen if they do not get their way.
2. The “Smarter-Than-You” Controller
The Smarter-Than-You Controller uses knowledge, logic, and expertise to establish control. This controlling personality has an answer for everything and they consider themselves to be rather infallible. They derive power from your insecurities and self-doubt. It doesn’t matter whether your idea is better or your answer is more correct. The “Smarter-Than-You” Controller will always present themselves as smarter than you and has a knack for making you actually believe it.
3. The Deceptive Controller
The need for control may be higher in the deceptive controller than in any other style. These controlling people will start/spread rumors, bad-mouth others, omit crucial facts, and outright lie in order to feel a sense of control over you. They are the puppetmasters of all the controlling personalities. This can be one of the most difficult styles to identify as it often takes time to realize things are being orchestrated behind the scenes. Deceptive controllers are often good at what they do. Confronting this controlling personality will often result in protests and lies which are typically highly believable.
4. The Passive Aggressive Controller
The passive aggressive controller establishes control by stonewalling, saying yes when they really mean no, and playing the victim when necessary. It is a very common style of controlling behavior. This particular person dislikes confrontation and conflict so, instead of being direct, they devise diversionary tactics to get what they want without the risk of challenge. They will often leave you baffled, insecure, and even guilt-ridden as they are quite adept at making you feel you are the problem.
How to Deal With Controlling People
When dealing with controlling people it is important to remember one thing: It’s less about how you handle a controlling person and more about how you handle yourself. The first step is to be able to successfully identify when a person is controlling. The key to this is understanding that there is a difference between pressure and persuasion. A person that utilizes facts and logic to present their argument, while still allowing you the freedom to make your own choice is using persuasion. A person that is attempting to make you feel like you have no choice or that circumvents your choice is using pressuring behavior and attempting to control you. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on the right path to dealing with controlling people:
1. Consider why you comply
People typically do what works for them. This means a controlling person continues to control because people typically comply. The answer to this is not then to turn around and try to control the controller. Instead, ask yourself if you are playing a role in continuing the behavior. Have you grown so use to their behavior that you just give in without a second thought? Is it just easier to do what they say than to face a blow up? Are their self-doubts and insecurities within you that you just don’t want to surface? Is it just easier to allow them to lead so that you don’t have to take any responsibility? These are all questions worthy of an answer, particularly if you want to learn a new way of dealing with controlling people.
2. Believe in yourself
People lacking in self-confidence often feel ill-equipped to question authority and most controlling personalities present themselves as authorities over everything. They are quite good at undermining any confidence you may have. It is, therefore, important to remember all the successes and positive outcomes you have had in life. Remind yourself daily of your strengths and accomplishments. Write them down if you need to. Set goals and work towards attaining them. Once you’ve accomplished it, write it down and then set another. You are a person that deserves to be heard and once you’ve proven this to yourself, you will find a way to make sure it happens.
3. Go Ahead and Give them the Control (or so they think)
Sometimes the easiest way to deal with a controlling person is to simply make them feel in control. Find ways to make your ideas their ideas. Verbalize that they were the inspiration behind the plan and that without them none of it would have happened. Even try phrasing your ideas in the form of a question that allows them to be the authority, such as, “What do you think would happen if we tried…?”
4. Keep Ammunition Away From the Gun
In other words, don’t give them anything to use against you later. Watch what you say to a controlling person, particularly if they are of the deceptive controlling style. It is important that you not share secrets or discuss your self-doubts and fears. If you do so then be prepared to hear about it from other people and for it to be used against you at some point.
5. Remember it’s not you
This is an important point, especially when dealing with passive aggressive people. They seem to have a gift for turning things around and making you think you’re the one in the wrong. They will play the “poor me” card until you find yourself feeling guilty and apologizing. Remember, their controlling behavior does not have to control you and in all things you have a choice.
6. Say “No” or “Yes” and stick to it
Being direct and honest is often a good way of communicating with a controlling person. It conveys a sense of confidence and self-worth. Waffling takes that all away, however, so once you say “no” or “yes” stick to it.
A controlling personality can be a hard thing to deal with. Handling them successfully may require a lot of mental self-coaching on your part, but it is often worth it in the end. The final tip on just how to deal with controlling people is this: use caution where caution is needed. You know your situation better than anyone. Though most controlling personality types are not violent there are those whose controlling behavior rises to the level of abusive. No one deserves to be abused and no one deserves to lose their identity.