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Do You Know A Control Freak?

The ability to manage yourself is often considered to be self-control. This is a loose understanding of what is becoming a more confusing awareness, in that we are frequently running into people we consider to be “control freaks.” These are people who seem determined to control the thoughts and actions of those around them.

In relationships these are the people who control the spending of spouses, who need absolute agreement to their suggestions, who believe that because they demand something you are making a promise to do it.

They seem to function as if only they are the important people and everyone else is under their control. Yet if you confront them about their control needs, they are quick to deny it and play it off as if you are not understanding or not “getting it.”

In non-relationship interactions these people tend to fall into one of three camps. Either they come across as superficially nice and friendly or they are bullies and use people to get their way. There is a third group who use gossip or opinions as a control mechanism by what they “know” about others.

Here’s a simple test to determine if you are self-controlled or other-controlled. Circle the “S” in front of those statements you believe reflect self-control. Circle the “O” in front of those statements you believe reflect other-control.

S or O 1. Children need to learn by making mistakes.

S or O 2. Everyone who shares these values will vote for me.

S or O 3. If the neighbors find out about this, will be the laughing stocks of the subdivision.

S or O 4. I will keep you in my prayers as you grieve your loss.

S or O 5. I must get those shoes so others will know I am stylish.

S or O 6. Just wait ‘til the guys at work see me pull up in my new truck.

S or O 7. Is it OK if I show you a way to save you about 30 minutes a day?

S or O 8. I shut down my Facebook account three weeks before final exams.

S or O 9. If others don’t understand me, I look for another way to share the message.

S or O 10. I only tell people what they need to know.

How important is it to you that others must agree with you? If you’d benefit from getting this clarified – or you had difficulty quickly identifying the responses to the statements above, please give us a call.


1. Self-control.  Children learn through their own effort, as long as they have the resources to accomplish the task.  Failure only happens when they quit.
2. Other-control.  Expecting conformity from others is the opposite of internal control.
3. Other-control.  Again, the belief in the power of the neighbors offsets internal confidence.
4. Self-control.  Identifying an action taken on behalf of another is an internal commitment being shared.
5. Other-control.  Living up to others standards for acceptance is a sign of insecurity.
6. Other-control.  Needing the positive affirmation and acceptance is an external want, often misrepresented as a “need.” 
7. Self-control.  Asking permission to give help is inner-directed, jumping in and giving unrequested helped is other-directed.
8. Self-control.  Taking personal responsibility for choices, without faulting or blaming others is an inner directed value.
9. Self-control.  The purpose of communication is to be understood.  Accepting that guide releases negative confrontations and trivial arguments.
10. Other-directed.  You do not know what others need.  Imposing your belief on others denies their ability to govern themselves or make decisions based on their knowledge and expectations.