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How To Stop Being Controlling

by Sonya Schwartz

Despite some of our best efforts, a lot of us are control freaks. However, not all of us want to be and in fact we would love to learn how to stop being controlling. 

The reason being is that controlling behaviors can actually be exhausting and cause us or our loved ones a lot of stress. Controlling actions are often typified by having very high standards that can consequently put a strain on any marriage or relationships we may be in. That is due to those high standards rarely being met, thus causing anxiety for both you and your partner. 

Here we look at how to stop being so controlling in your life. Trying to control everything is often a symptom of past experiences that you have had in your life, and so below we look at a number of ways to address those experiences and make peace with them. 

Make no mistake, learning to change and stopping trying to control things in your life is a big task. Take it one step at a time, be kind to yourself and listen to your emotions. It’s a good thing that you want to tackle your problems, but that does not make it easy. 

How To Stop Being So Controlling In A Relationship

Here are a wide variety of ways you can change your behaviors and your anxiety surrounding trying to control things. It is most effective to try to implement a few of these strategies at the same time, but do try to understand your limits. Implementing all of these strategies at once can be a stress itself that may not help your relationship with others. Take it slowly, but surely. 

1. Understand why you need control

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to address your controlling behaviors is to learn why you need control of every situation you are in. Knowing the why can help you get to the core of the issues much quicker, as well as learning how to stop the symptoms of your need for control. 

It means you can sometimes stop your thinking from leaning towards trying to control everything, before it even starts. 

2. Know your triggers

Know your triggers

If you find it difficult to identify why you need to control things, it can be beneficial instead to know what your triggers are. Ask yourself, in what situations are you most controlling? And what about the situation could you change to stop that from happening? 

Knowing your triggers is a pre-emptive way of learning how to stop being controlling in a variety of situations. It means you can remove yourself from the stress that is causing your need for control. For some it will be heightened emotions, fear or anxiety. For others, it will be certain relationships that cause them to try to be in control of everything. 

3. Realise that other people’s opinions count

To stop being controlling in situations, another idea that you need to take on board is that other people’s opinions are just as important and valid as yours. In doing so, you will see that there are also other actions that can be taken that are different to how you would proceed in any given scenario. 

Plus, realising that other people’s opinions count means you may learn something too. You can learn new ways of doing things that may help you with future problems. 

4. Take a breath

Needing to be in control often comes from feeling out of your comfort zone. Anxiety and fear are heightened and the only way to get a handle on that fear is to take control of what is going on in front of you. 

Take a moment in times like this. Take a breath. Try to view the situation from another point of view before charging in to control what is going on around you. That extra pause can really help you relax a little and make you see the bigger picture. 

5. Let things go

One of the problems with always seeking control is not being flexible enough to let things go when actually, you could be a little more easy going. Try to let smaller things go at first and then work your way up to bigger things. 

It could be to do with your kids, your relationship with your partner or all manner of different variables in your life that you like to feel in control of. If you can change your thinking about just the smaller things, it will make it far easier for you to change your thinking about the bigger issues in your life too. 

6. Have confidence in yourself

Sometimes when people seek control in a situation, it is because they are overcompensating for a lack of confidence in themselves. Tackle that issue straight on and you may find you stop being so controlling a lot more easily. Change how you think of yourself. 

Focus on things within your character that you like and experiences that you are proud of and draw confidence from that. Having confidence that you will be ok if things don’t go according to your plan, is vital for you to stop being controlling over many aspects of your life. Know that you have the skills available to you to sort out anything that does not transpire as you would like it to. 

7. Have confidence in others

In conjunction with having confidence in yourself, try to have confidence in those around you that you are giving up control to. Know that you only ever will surround yourself with people that have the ability to work through a situation to a successful outcome. 

Remembering this will be a big comfort and is another key aspect of learning how to stop being controlling. Your friends, family and colleagues - and any other relationship  you have - will have started up because there was something in those people you admired. Remember that and have confidence in their subsequent capabilities. 

8. Know it’s ok if things go wrong

Know it’s ok if things go wrong

It was briefly mentioned above, but the want for control often comes from the fear of what may go wrong if things aren’t done your way. Come to peace of mind that in all likelihood, in most situations, things will work out ok if they aren’t done as you would have - or in fact if they do actually go wrong. 

Again, have confidence in yourself and others that you will be able to resolve any issues that may arise. It is a piece of positive thinking that can really help a person’s need for control. 

9. Check your body language

Controlling behaviors are often displayed in physical form. It can be good to acknowledge when your controlling actions do not just come out with the words you say, but the body language you display. 

As such, address how your body language is fixed when in a situation you find stressful. Try to keep it in check so that you don’t intimidate people unduly. So much of how we communicate is through our bodies so that people may find that you are still controlling, even when you’re not saying a thing. 

10. Listen to other people

One of the tools you can use to help address a hostile body language is to listen to people. You may not like what they are saying, but if you do properly listen, you will start to learn to realise that other are other opinions out there that are just as valid as your own. Again, you may even learn a thing or two. 

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However, what is also good about properly listening to people is that it also helps bring out the best in them - helping whatever situation you find yourself in with them. 

11. Don’t have preconceived ideas

We often jump to conclusions about how someone will react in certain scenarios. Bearing that in mind, try to stop having preconceived ideas about how you think someone you know will act in a situation. Doing so will mean that you are assuming they are going to do something so differently to how you would, that you need to take control of what is going on instead. 

Again, remember to have confidence in people and their abilities. Doing so means you won’t have preconceptions that cloud your view and also means they will be far more likely to succeed. 

12. Speak to someone

Given that having to be in control of the situation you are in at all times is often a result of your past, it can be very helpful to talk to a trained professional. They can help you work through any issues that you may have - particularly when those issues may have arisen by a prior relationship or behaviors towards you by another person. 

13. Lower your standards

The reason that many individuals suffer from needing to be in control at all times, is that they have impossibly lofty standards. It means that they want to have those standards met at all times, and as they rarely are, they feel like they have to do everything or direct everything in the process. 

As a result, it is a good idea to lower your standards and expectations. It will allow you to go with the flow a little more and be happy with all manner of results. 

14. Address fear and anxiety

Address fear and anxiety

Needing to be in control is so often a direct result of being fearful and full of anxiety. Look at addressing those two emotions. They are big ones, so give it the attention and time it deserves - especially as they could also be affecting your relationship. It can be one of the key tools you find when trying to learn how to stop being controlling. 

Anxiety and fear are both very powerful feelings so getting to grips with them can make a big impact on how you manage and deal with certain situations where you feel the need to be in control. 

15. Stop trying so hard

In addition to having very lofty standards, one of the other driving motivations behind people with controlling style behavior is that they are trying so hard to please everyone and get everything 100% perfect at all times. Admit to yourself therefore that getting things perfect all the time it’s simply not possible and it is also affecting your mental health. Stop trying so hard all of the time and instead lower your efforts

16. Try to control your stress

Stress is another overarching theme that is displayed in controlling actions by people. In addition to learning what your triggers are that makes you try your hardest to control situations, you also need to identify situations what you are finding stressful either at the time or in the future. 

Admit what can sometimes cause you stress and either try to work around those issues or admit that some sources of stress are beyond your control.

17. See how other control freaks behave

A stark way to help you stop being so controlling all of the time, is to see how other people who are controlling act. Therefore try every so often to be in the company of other control freaks. You  may find it so off putting that it may shock you into being a lot more relaxed and flexible in your approach to many different scenarios that crop up in your life. 

Being controlling is no bad thing at times, but it can sometimes hamper your relationships with other people. Seeing other displays of controlling style behavior in action can be a helpful way of making you act the same way

18. Remove yourself from situations

It can be incredibly empowering to know that if you find yourself in a situation where you want to be controlling but try not to be, that you can remove yourself from the situation. Doing so means that you have to accept that other people will be able to sort the situation out or deal with whatever scenario is currently in play. 

Walking away from issues that are causing you stress and hurt can be one of the most powerful tools you have in your arsenal.

19. Open up lines of communication

Talking through issues with people either to do with the situation at hand or experiences in the past that have affected how you deal with your present can be incredibly useful when trying to stop needing to be in control at all times. Another good result from opening up lines of communication is that you allow other people to see why you act as you do sometimes. 

Doing so means that they will be far more likely to be empathetic to your situation and may not be as quick to judge you. People’s judgement is one of the reasons that those who like to be in control feel so stressed at times. By talking through issues you will be constructively circumnavigating such problems.

20. Identify your insecurities

Needing to be in control often comes from feeling insecure about all manner of different things. In an effort to try to get a handle on your need to be in control it can be highly beneficial to identify your insecurities. Well sometimes making a list of things you don’t like about yourself is only ever going to make you feel worse, in some situations it can be extremely advantageous. When it comes to overcoming the need to control, it is helpful to know your insecurities as they can be a key reason why you feel the need to be in the driving seat at all times.

21. Understand that new experiences allow you to grow 

Finally, handing over control to people may not come to you naturally, but if you accept that you may learn a thing or two, it does become easier. Additionally you will learn as well that you start exposing yourself to new experiences that allow you to grow when relying on other people other than yourself to reach a successful outcome in any scenario. 

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FAQs

What causes a person to be controlling?

There are so many different factors that will cause a person to be overly controlling. A lot of it will be down to factors that stem from their formative years. A controlling person will often be driven by fear and anxiety from those past experiences. 

How do I stop needing control?

Stopping needing to control a situation is a very difficult problem to address. One of the best methods to do so is identify your triggers that make you behave that way as well as understanding why you need to control situations so badly. 

What are the signs of a controlling person?

A controlling person is often typified by trying to speak for a person or physically stop them from acting as they would like to. Additionally, it can be displayed by manipulating a person into doing something they would not usually do of their own accord. 

How do you outsmart a control freak?

Outsmarting a control freak is hard to do as they will likely have an answer for everything. Bearing that in mind, it can be a good idea to have an understanding for a controlling person and what their needs are. Addressing those needs can often diffuse awkward run ins. 

Can a controlling person change?

A controlling person can absolutely change - or at the very least get a handle on their behavior. Controlling actions are usually a manifestation of a deeper seated problem which is what needs to be addressed for a control freak to change. 

Controlling Behavior - Key Takeaways

Controlling behavior is something that a lot of people suffer from. Some people learn to cope with it better than others. Using some or all of the suggestions above should help you address the issue of your need for control as well as tackle some of the symptoms of it. 

Ultimately it should help every single relationship you have in your life as it means that you do not stress others out around you with your over controlling ways. 

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Sonya Schwartz
A hopeless romantic that struggled for many years to find her Mr "Right" and made all the mistakes you could think of while dating. Known for always choosing the wrong guys or messing up relationships, Sonya was finally able to change her approach and mindset when it came to dating which helped her eventually find the man of her dreams and become happily married. You can read more about me here...

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