Control Freaks

Discussion in 'Women's Issues' started by Imported, Dec 31, 2004.

  1. Imported

    Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2000
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    leotaylor: Control Freaks

    How to Work with Control Freaks
    by Albert J. Bernstein

    Why are some people obsessed with control? Why do they insist that everything be done their way even when your way works just as well -- or even better? You know them: They're the fear-driven colleagues who question and complain unless every task is done as they would do it, bosses who think they never have enough information to make a final decision, or bean counters who delay important orders because they're checking boxes over and over again. Here's why they are like they are, and three steps for dealing with control freaks.

    Control freaks see themselves

    as burdened with the task of protecting an ungrateful world from mistakes. They are seldom aware of the fear that drives their behavior.

    Imagine a dog inside an electric fence. After he touches it once or twice, you can turn off the power because he won't go near it again. That is how control freaks handle the possibility of mistakes. They try to keep a safe distance by obsessing about every detail lest even the tiniest of errors take them by surprise.

    Of course, this strategy can be self-defeating. While it's good to avoid mistakes, people who take chances are the ones who succeed. Remember, Babe Ruth held the all-time record for strikeouts as well as for home runs. Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light and the phonograph, patented 1,091 inventions, most of which no one ever found useful.

    So what do you do if you have to work for a control freak? Getting mad and accusing him or her of being a control freak will only make the situation worse. She will see your behavior as evidence that you're not interested in doing things the "right" way.

    The answer to working with control freaks lies in negotiation, not recrimination. A little reassurance that you take your tasks seriously won't hurt either. Remember that fear is the driving force behind their persistent meddling. Try these tips for controlling your control freak.

    Tip 1: Every task has a goal, whether it's a report, a decision or a sale, and a process, the actual behaviors through which the goal is achieved. Negotiate to deliver a very specific product at a very specific time. Always try to set goals that can be measured. Send updates on your progress to forestall surprise checkups, but do not send a partially finished version of your project unless you want to reopen the negotiations.

    Tip 2: Treat attempts to control the process as requests to change the end product, which any business person would have to agree reopens the whole negotiation. If the end product is not affected, why change the process? Keep thorough notes and bring them out when the person wants to meddle with the project. Ask whether the characteristics of the project's final goal are different now. If your manager says they aren't, respectfully ask why, if the goal is the same, the process to achieve it should be changed. This logic is difficult for anyone to refute, even a control freak. This strategy works best when you have some history of delivering the goods on time and in a satisfactory manner.

    Tip 3: Hand over the deliverables on time, and stand firm on the point that you have met the deadline and your product conforms to all stated specifications. If you do what you say, when you say you'll do it, the control freak might go away and bother somebody less reliable.

    Wondering whether you might be a control freak? Here's a surefire test. If, once every day, you can't publicly acknowledge that somebody else's way of doing something important was better than yours, start looking for that invisible electric fence around your mind.

    Get more advice on dealing with the difficult person in your office!

    Learn tactics for dealing with sticky co-worker situations.

    Determine what kind of personality you're dealing with with.

    Get advice from other iVillagers with the same issues.
  2. Imported

    Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2000
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    leotaylor: by Thomas J. Schumacher, Psy.D., R-CSW
    More About Thomas...

    Most all of you have had to contend with control freaks. These are those people who insist on having their way in all interactions with you. They wish to set the agenda and decide what it is you will do and when you will do it. You know who they are – they have a driving need to run the show and call the shots. Lurking within the fabric of the conversation is the clear threat that if you do not accede to their needs and demands, they will be unhappy.
    Certainly, it’s natural to want to be in control of your life. But when you have to be in control of the people around you as well, when you literally can’t rest until you get your way … you have a personality disorder. While it’s not a diagnostic category found in the DSM IV (the therapist’s bible for diagnostic purposes) an exaggerated emphasis on control is part of a cluster of behaviors that can be labeled as compulsive generally characterized by perfectionism, orderliness, workaholic tendencies, an inability to make commitments or to trust others and a fear of having their flaws exposed. Deep down, these people are terrified of being vulnerable. They believe they can protect themselves by staying in control of every aspect of their lives, including their relationships. Control freaks take the need and urge to control to new heights, causing others stress so they can maintain a sense of order. These people are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity, and anger. They’re very critical of themselves their lover and their friends, but underneath that perfect outfit and great body is a mountain of unhappiness. Let’s look at what makes control freaks tick, what makes you want to explode, and some ways to deal with them.

    The Psychological Dynamics That Fuel a Control Freak

    The need to control is almost always fueled by anxiety – though control freaks seldom recognize their fears. At work, they may worry about failure. In relationships, they may worry about not having their needs met. To keep this anxiety from overwhelming them, they try to control the people or things around them. They have a hard time with negotiation and compromise and they can’t stand imperfection. Needless to say, they are difficult to live with, work with and/or socialize with.

    Bottom Line: In the process of being controlling, their actions say, “You’re incompetent” and “I can’t trust you.” (this is why you hate them). Remember, the essential need of a control freak is to defend against anxiety. Although it may not be apparent to you when they are making their demands, these individuals are attempting to cope with fairly substantial levels of their own anxiety. The control freak is usually fighting off a deep-seated sense of their own helplessness and impotence. By becoming proficient at trying to control other people, they are warding off their own fear of being out of control and helpless. Controlling is an anxiety management tool.

    Unfortunately for you, the control freak has a lot at stake in prevailing. While trying to hold a conversation and engage them in some way, their emotional stakes involve their own identity and sense of well-being. Being in control gives them the temporary illusion and sense of calmness. When they feel they are prevailing, you can just about sense the tension oozing out of them. The control freak is very frightened. Part of their strategy is to induce that fear in you with the subtle or not so subtle threat of loss. Since the emotional stakes are so high for them, they need to assert themselves with you to not feel so helpless. To relinquish control is tantamount to being victimized and overwhelmed. When a control freak cannot control, they go through a series of rapid phases. First they become angry and agitated, then they become panicky and apprehensive, then they become agitated and threatening, and then they lapse into depression and despair.

    Repetition Compulsion

    Control freaks are also caught in the grip of a repetition compulsion. They repeat the same pattern again and again in their attempt to master their anxiety and cope with the trauma they feel. Characteristically, the repetition compulsion takes on a life of its own. Rather than feel calmer and therefore have a diminished need to be controlling, their behavior locks them into the same pattern in an insatiable way. Successes at controlling do not register on their internal scoreboard. They have to fight off the same threat again and again with increasing rigidity and intransigence.

    Two Types of Control Freaks

    Type 1 Control Freaks: The Type 1 control freak is strictly attempting to cope with their anxiety in a self absorbed way. They just want to feel better and are not even very aware of you. You will notice and hear their agitation and tentativeness. They usually do not make much eye contact when they are talking to you.

    Type 2 Control Freaks: The Type 2 control freak is also trying to manage their anxiety but they are very aware of you as opposed to the Type 1 control freak. The Type 2 needs to diminish you to feel better. Their mood rises as they push you down. They do not just want to prevail; they also need to believe that they have defeated you. They need you to feel helpless so they will not feel helpless. Their belief is that someone must feel helpless in any interchange and they desperately do not want it to be them. The Type 1 needs control. The Type 2 needs to control you.

    Some Coping Strategies

    1) Stay as calm as you can. Control freaks tend to generate a lot of tension in those around them. Try to maintain a comfortable distance so that you can remain centered while you speak with them. Try to focus on your breathing. As they get more agitated and demanding, just breath slowly and deeply. If you stay calm and focused, this often has the effect of relaxing them as well. If you get agitated you have joined the battle on their terms.

    2) Speak very slowly. Again the normal tendency is to gear up and speak rapidly when dealing with a control freak. This will only draw you into the emotional turmoil and you will quickly be personalizing what is occurring.

    3) Be very patient. Control freaks need to feel heard. In fact, they do not have that much to say. They have a lot to say if you engage them in a power struggle. If you just listen carefully and ask good questions that indicate that you have heard them, then they will quickly resolve whatever the issue is and calmly move on.

    4) Pay attention to your induced reactions. What is this person trying to emotionally induce in you? Notice how you feel when speaking with them. It will give you important clues as to how to deal with them more effectively and appropriately.

    5) Initially, let them control the agenda. But you control the pacing. If you stay calm and speak slowly, you will be in command of the pacing of the conversation.

    6) Treat them with kindness. Within most control freaks is a good measure of paranoia. They are ready to get angry and defend against what they perceive is a controlling hostile world. If you treat them with respect and kindness, their paranoia cannot take root. You will jam them up.

    7) Make demands on them-- especially when dealing with the type 2 control freak. Ask them to send you something or do something for you. By asking something of them, you will be indicating that you are not intimidated or diminished by their behavior patterns.

    8) Remember an old but poignant Maxim: “Those who demand the most often give the least.”

    Keep in mind that control freaks are not trying to hurt you – they’re trying to protect themselves. Remind yourself that their behavior toward you isn’t personal; the compulsion was there before they met you, and it will be their forever unless they get help. Understand that they are skilled manipulators, artful and intimidating, rehearsed debaters and excellent at distorting reality.

    In order to not feel degraded, humiliated and have your sense of self and self worth assaulted, you need to avoid being bulldozed by a controlling lover, boss or friend. When you are caught up in a truly destructive/controlling attachment, the best response may be to walk out. You have to understand that whatever you do will have a limited effect. These people are angry and afraid to let go of you. Hence, it is your job to let go of them, protect yourself in the process… and grow.

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    Recommended Reading

    - Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed Out Children by Grace LeBow, et al.
    - One Family's Journey Through Alzheimer's by Mary B. Walsh
    - Are Your Parents Driving You Crazy? How to Resolve the Most Common Dilemmas with Aging Parents by Joseph Ilardo and Carole Rothman
    - Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents by Claire Berman
    - Nursing Homes: The Family's Journey by Peter Silin
    - Caregiver's Reprive: A Guide to Emotional Survival by Avrene Brandt

    Available from ElderCare Online™ ©2002 Thomas Schumacher
  3. madame_zora

    Gold Member

    May 5, 2004
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    Leo, you've already been banned, go away.
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