How to stop being controlling

Learning how to stop being controlling is essential to maintaining not only your own sense of peace with life, but also your professional and personal relationships. If you’ve already determined that you are being controlling in your life, you’re ready to begin the process of letting go of control. While learning how to be less controlling requires both diligence and courage, the fulfillment you’ll find in letting go is well worth the effort.

Signs of controlling behavior

Do you suspect that you might be controlling or that you might be in a relationship with a controlling personality? Before you can discover how to stop being controlling, you need to identify and admit your controlling tendencies. Here are a few of the most common signs of controlling behavior:

A need to be the center of attention

Controlling people are demanding of your time, attention and love. They insist on constantly being together, which slowly isolates you from friends and family. They may show jealous behavior like interrogating you about where you’re going or who you’ve seen. They will also downplay your accomplishments and find a way to make everything about them, creating drama in your life.  

Perfectionism

Life is never perfect. In fact, as Tony says, “Perfection is the lowest standard in the world, because if you’re trying to be perfect, you know you can’t be. So what you really have is a standard you can never achieve.” One key to how to not be controlling is to trade your expectations for appreciation. Be grateful for your life the way it is, not the way you insist it must be.

Lying

This seems like one of the most obvious signs of controlling behavior, but the truth is that lying is often subtle. Controlling people will lie to you about your own reality, getting you to doubt yourself and your emotions. They also lie to themselves. If you find that what others tell you doesn’t match up with your own perception of reality, it might be because you’re controlling.

Inability to accept “no.”

Controlling people often have trouble setting healthy boundaries in relationships. They won’t take no for an answer. If you’ve specifically asked them not to do something, they’ll do it anyway. If you don’t want to partake in their plans, they’ll pressure you. Are you this person in your friend group?

Shift your focus to what you can control: your life

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How to stop being controlling

To stop controlling behavior, you must figure out the deeper reasons that are driving it. There are many factors that contribute to why we are the way we are, but with the right knowledge and strategies, we can take control of our thoughts, actions and lives.

1. Reprogram your mind

One of Tony’s core principles is that you can reprogram your mind, which in turn reprograms your behaviors. Instead of letting your unexamined mindset run the show, letting go of control requires examining the limiting beliefs that are driving your behavior. Be intentional about your thoughts and question whether or not they are serving you.

For example, the next time you feel anxious or catch yourself wondering how to be less controlling, take a few minutes to assess the situation. Ask yourself: What am I afraid of? What about this situation is making me feel nervous? Think of your inquiries as a brainstorming session in which you are not judging anything that comes to mind. Be kind to yourself and be honest. As you learn to be mindful about your thoughts and reactions, you’ll become more self-aware, which will help you in letting go of control.

control of your mind

2. Learn to get your needs met

needs

The need for a feeling of certainty in life is so elemental to the human experience that it is actually one of our Six Human Needs. When we do not get our needs met, including the need for security, we learn to get those needs met through unhealthy means like wanting to control everything around us. Such strategies might seem to work for a while since they create the temporary illusion of safety.

As time goes on, you will begin to notice that if you don’t learn how to stop being controlling, your attempts at control will begin to control you. You need to learn to let go of the past so it stops causing anxiety in the present. You can’t control everything, but you can control your attitude and approach to life. 

3. Educate yourself about anxiety and how to manage it

Rather than falling back on control as a defense against uncertainty, learn all you can about the fear that is driving you to micromanage. You might read books about how to not be controlling or talk with a therapist. Knowledge is power and as you become more informed, you’ll be better able to identify your self-sabotaging behaviors and replace them with healthier ones.

4. Assess whether your efforts at control are effective

When you find yourself wondering how to stop being controlling, ask yourself, “Are my efforts at control making a lasting difference?” For example, suppose you have been calling your unemployed sister every week to see if she’s found a job. Rather than continue the weekly phone calls, ask yourself if your interference is actually helping your sister find employment. If the answer is yes (and your sister enjoys the weekly calls), keep calling. If the answer is no stop calling. By bringing self-awareness to your behavior you invite greater sensitivity into your interactions with others and with yourself.

people controlled

5. Get an outside perspective

Instead of approaching letting go of control through your own isolated efforts, enlist the support of a trusted friend or therapist. Pick someone with whom you have a strong relationship, and ask for their input on ways in which you are being controlling. By getting an outside perspective, you’re able to identify and change unconscious behaviors stemming from your perfectionism.

6. Ban control-oriented language from your vocabulary

control your language

When you change your words, you change your life. Learning how to be less controlling requires recognizing the role of language. Learn to recognize the language you use to exercise control – for example, couching unsolicited advice in seemingly benign language (like “have you ever tried…”) or criticizing a friend’s perspective on any given subject.

Ask supportive friends to bring these behaviors to your attention as they arise. Recognize that, while it can be tempting to give others advice, the best way to love someone is unconditionally, which means refraining from attempting to change them.

Altering your language takes courage, and you must commend yourself for learning how to not be controlling. Consistent practice will pay off, and you’ll become more aware of when you’re unconsciously aiming to change or fix others.

Ready to stop controlling behavior once and for all?

Transform your mindset and master your emotions with Re-Awaken the Giant Within, a free ebook packed with Tony’s top tips and strategies.