If someone displays these 10 behaviors, they’re a complete control freak

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We’d all love to have some sort of order in our everyday lives. It would be nice to have a sense of control, especially when it comes to matters that we consider high-stakes. 

That’s normal. But there’s also a line between the desire to have some predictability and the need to be completely, utterly in control. 

To the point of stifling other people’s growth and freedom. 

Believe me, no one wants to be around a person like that – it’s absolutely suffocating, exasperating, and exhausting!  

If you’re wondering if you’re dealing with a complete control freak, here are 10 common behaviors that should confirm it: 

1) They micromanage everything

The first sign is easy to spot – micromanagement. If someone starts getting into the nitty-gritty of how you do things, then they’re probably a control freak.

I grew up with a controlling mom, so I know just how infuriating it is to deal with a micromanager. As a child, I didn’t mind it so much, as I didn’t know better. 

But as an adult, it pains me to say this, but it makes me crazy. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but I’m not immune to the annoyance that her micromanaging creates. 

The thing about micromanagers is that they honestly believe their way is the best way to do anything and everything. 

At work, a micromanaging boss would constantly hover over you, scrutinizing your every output, questioning every decision you make. 

Needless to say, that doesn’t do much for morale. Research shows that micromanaging results in: 

  • Reduced productivity
  • Low employee morale
  • High staff turnover
  • Job dissatisfaction

In fact, it’s one of the top three reasons why employees quit. No one wants to be with a person who creates an environment of anxiety and second-guessing! 

2) They constantly criticize and correct

Obviously, micromanaging goes hand in hand with this other sign that someone’s a control freak – constant criticism and correction. 

If you say “ain’t”, be prepared for a lecture on why it should be “isn’t”. 

If you say you like doing yoga, they’ll ask why you don’t do HIIT like they said. 

And don’t you dare add lots of garlic to your pasta the way you like it – they’ll scrunch their nose up and tell you what you should and should not have done! 

Control freaks don’t let small things slide. They aren’t content with being right; they want everyone else to know they are. 

And if you think that criticism and correction should be enough to satisfy their need to be right, read on and think again. 

3) They’re extremely judgmental

I remember when I was a young mom myself, trying to raise my kids in the best way I deemed possible. 

In contrast to the way I was raised, I allowed my children some leeway in making small decisions, like what to wear for school, which toy to buy, and so on. 

Of course, that didn’t sit well with my mom, and she actually came right out and said I was being a bad parent. “Kids don’t know what’s good for them!”

That’s just one example of how a control freak passes judgment on others. They have opinions on everything, and you’re going to get a running commentary on how you could be doing things better. 

The strange thing is, as much as they love dishing it out…

4) They can’t handle criticism

Do you think, since you’ve just been “critiqued” (a diplomatic term for the bashing and judgment you’ve just received), that you can hand it right back? 

Nope. With control freaks, critiquing is a one-way street – only they can do it. 

Because they can’t stand being challenged. Basically, when you point out their flaws, you’re saying their system is broken. And that won’t sit well with them. 

They’ll either ice you out or get into an intense debate if you dare suggest an alternative route. 

They might even make a PowerPoint presentation of the evidence that proves they’re right! 

That might sound funny, but don’t laugh – I’ve actually encountered one such fascinating creature!

5) Everything should go according to plan – their plan

I guess you know by now just how important plans are for a control freak. That’s why they find it hard to adapt when life throws a wrench in them. 

They can’t handle even the slightest change in plans. If you’re five minutes late to a meeting, they act as if you’ve ruined their entire day. 

If you say you need to do a side trip on the way home to buy bread, they’d sulk as if you’d just suggested a trip to the other side of the continent. 

And may I add, the pissed-off reaction to both small and big changes in plans are approximately the same – around 100%. There’s no in between. Even tiny changes can feel like a full-blown crisis. 

Which brings me to my next point…

6) They blow up over small things

Life is always a little tense with a control freak, that’s for sure. One minute everything is fine, then the slightest thing could set them off

Maybe you forgot to buy their favorite brand of coffee. Maybe you didn’t fold the laundry exactly the way they wanted. 

It’s a lot of considerations, and it’s not uncommon for people who live with control freaks to walk around on eggshells and carefully consider their every move. 

Exhausting, isn’t it? 

7) They are not good team players

Naturally, with that inability to adapt, be flexible, and accept other perspectives, it follows that control freaks don’t play well with others. 

For a control freak, the concept of team playing is practically foreign. It’s just not natural to be in a group where they don’t call the shots and micromanage everyone else. 

Their ideal setup would be this: they dictate what should be done, and everyone else follows. 

So, collaborative team effort? Not for them. 

Aside from that, because they find it hard to delegate, they need to be given a play-by-play account of what’s going on.

8) They need constant updates

Have you ever had a boss that constantly asked for updates, even on the most trivial matters? 

Or a parent/partner who needed to know exactly where you are at any given time? 

I’ve had both, and it made me want to pull my hair out in exasperation. I mean, I do understand how important communication is, but the way control freaks do it is just too much. 

Because the bottomline of this behavior is: you’re not a person with your own mind and capacity for making decisions – you’re a project that needs managing. 

9) They guilt trip you

If you happen to have the courage to stand up to a control freak and put your foot down, expect this behavior. 

As harsh as it sounds, they are masters of manipulation and emotional blackmail. If you do something they don’t approve of, prepare to be guilt-tripped. 

That’s exactly how my mom behaved when I told her to leave my children’s parenting to me. 

Among the many things she said was this, “If you love me, you’d listen to me.” 

And this: “Are you saying I’m a bad mother? I raised you – and with nobody’s help! You should be grateful for my advice!”

Notice the guilt-tripping tone? Far from apologizing, she played the victim. 

Why do they do this? Because, above all…

10) They don’t want to admit they’re wrong

Look, in their minds, control freaks have this picture of being “the one who knows best”. 

Anything that challenges that just isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t jive with their self-identity, which is that they’re competent and in charge.

Which means that: 

Being wrong = Being incompetent

That’s why they go to great lengths to avoid it. They might change the subject, blame other people, insist on having the last word. They might even twist the facts a bit to fit their version of the narrative. 

So it’s hard to have a constructive conversation. It’s even hard to have a meaningful relationship. After all, relationships are a two-way street, which, as we’ve already established, is a foreign concept for the control freak. 

How to deal with a control freak

It’s a little tricky handling this minefield of emotions and power struggles. But one thing that has helped me was to be compassionate – both for the control freak and myself. 

I don’t mean that we should give in to their controlling behavior. Only that it wouldn’t hurt to be more understanding that their need for control often has fear or insecurity at its root. 

Being compassionate won’t solve the issue, but it does help us get a handle on our own emotions and engage with them in a civilized and gracious way. Without sacrificing our own autonomy or sanity.

And if it’s truly impossible, feel free to walk away. Your boundaries should always be respected, and your life should always be of your own making. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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