How To Be Less Controlling (2021) – 22 Expert Tips

8 min read

Is your controlling behavior ruining your life? Want to learn how to be less controlling?

In my role as a life coach, I’m often helping clients overcome elements of their personality that are holding them back from personal and professional success.

That’s why I’m excited to share this list of ideas to help you stop being so controlling. 

Let’s dive right into it.

How To Be Less Controlling
Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

22 Ideas For How To Stop Being So Controlling

This list is packed full of important ideas to keep in your head, plus actionable advice which you can begin to apply today. 

1. What Causes Controlling Behavior?

The need to always control things usually stems from fear. Indeed, for many people, it is scary to not feel in control of a certain situation.

In many cases, this can lead to something bad happening that makes one’s life worse. It’s natural to want control over everything in our lives, but unfortunately it’s impossible. There will always be things that happen that are out of our control. 

The perceived need to try to control as much as possible often occurs after a traumatic incident, or as a symptom of depression or anxiety. 

It is also believed to be a symptom of personality disorders, such as naraccism or borderline personality disorder.

By understanding what is causing your desire to control every situation, it becomes easier to curb it.    

2. Can A Controlling Person Change?

Yes, and the tips below will help you.

If you can address the fears that make you want to control every little thing, you can change the behavior.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing “this is just who I am” or “I’m too old to change”.

These are excuses made by people who are too scared, stubborn or apathetic to improve their flaws. 

You’re better than that.

If a control freak isn’t at least trying to change, it’s often recommended for people around them not to associate with them. No person should have to put up with someone shamelessly trying to control their lives.   

3. How Do I Stop Being Controlling Of Everything? 

The key is to face your fear of not being in control. Start small and see what happens. Then, try something bigger and bigger.

The more you see that nothing goes wrong, the easier it will be to find yourself letting go of the need to control every little thing. 

In many ways, if something bad does happen and you survive, that’s an even better lesson to help you let go of controlling behaviors.

It’s the same for any fear. Face it. See nothing that bad happens. Up the intensity. Repeat.  

4. Learn To Develop Trust

The more you learn to trust someone, the easier it will be to relinquish control to them.

However, the best way to develop trust is to let them earn it. That means you need to get the ball rolling by relinquishing control of something to them initially.

Surround yourself with good people and this becomes easier. Pay good wages and you’ll find employees you can trust. Create strong boundaries when dating and you’ll find a partner you can trust.  

5. Realize You Can’t Do It All 

You’ll achieve more with your business if you share the workload, even if your employees aren’t perfect.

You’ll achieve more with your team if everyone contributes, even if some are better than others. 

You’ll achieve more in your relationship if you let go and trust your partner. 

6. Don’t Fall Into The Perfectionist Trap 

Controlling behaviors often stem from the perceived need for everything to be perfect. Perfection is near-on impossible to achieve, and almost always unnecessary.

The video below does a great job of explaining why we feel the need to be perfect, and how to overcome that. 

7. Set Realistic Goals

Set yourself goals that create margin for error. This will help you stop stressing about what might happen if someone else makes a mistake.

8. Embrace The 80/20 Rule

This rule states that 80% of one’s results tends to come from 20% of their effort. This means it barely matters if someone screws up outside of your core work. 

Perhaps you want to put yourself in charge of that core work. But, once you understand the 80/20 rule, you may feel less anxious about handing over responsibility elsewhere. 

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9. People Learn From Their Mistakes

The most powerful way for someone to learn not to do something is for them to experience the consequences of doing it.

Sometimes, as a leader, it’s best to let others make a mistake so they can see for themselves why it’s a bad idea. 

This is how people learn and improve. 

So, instead of viewing others’ mistakes as the end of the world, try seeing them as an experience they can grow from. 

10. People Rebel Against Being Controlled 

Most people hate being controlled.

Some people hate it so much that they’ll deliberately disobey your orders – or do a lousy job – as an act of rebellion. 

In such cases, your ultimate goal of trying to micromanage someone still fails.

Once you understand this, you might see you’re better off giving people guidance with the freedom to make their own decisions. If they like and respect you, they’re more likely to follow this guidance.  

11. Change Your Understanding Of Self-Confidence 

A lot of people see self-confidence as the ability to believe that their way is always right, and that they always expect to succeed.

But there are other definitions.

A confident person could also be someone who knows that they’re going to be fine no matter what is going to happen in the future. They’ll feel able to handle it even if bad things happen.

This acceptance that things might not go how they want is very healthy. 

It’s a more achievable definition of a self-confident person, and one that can help you let go of the need to control everything that’s going to happen in the future.     

12. How To Be Less Controlling At Work

If you’re in a leadership role and your success depends on the performance from your team, it might be tempting to go into a dictatorial micro-management role.

However, leaders with a solid understanding of tips 9 and 10 in particular are less likely to feel the need to do that.  

Experienced leaders eventually grow to understand that their followers will want to follow people they like and respect. 

The micro-management mindset isn’t the way to make people want to follow you. 

13. Accept That Some Things Will Always Be Out Of Your Control 

There’s nothing to be gained from stressing over things that are out of your control. People have to make their own decisions to follow your example. Once you understand this, it becomes easier to stop trying to control every little thing.

It’s better to focus solely on what is in your control. 

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14. How To Stop Being Controlling With Your Partner 

The first step is to realize that trying to control an emotionally healthy partner will most likely scare them away. It will make your partner resent you. It is not the way to achieve happy relationships.

Most people act this way towards a partner if an ex betrayed their trust. You need to realize that your new partner isn’t exactly like your ex. 

Controlling behavior also happens commonly in codependent relationships. 

You need to be able to let go of the desire to control your partner. This might be scary if you’ve been hurt in the past, but it’s the only way to achieve a healthy relationship.

Here are some more detailed ideas to help you stop being controlling in your relationships. 

15. How To Be A Less Controlling Parent

A large portion of parenting involves controlling your child’s behavior, especially in a child’s younger years. This is because the child doesn’t know any better than to stick their finger in an electric socket, for example.

However, you need to understand another crucial aspect of parenting, which is teaching your child to be independent.

Without these lessons, they end up as the useless, emotionally immature adults you often see on reality TV.

To create an independent child, you need to relinquish control now and again. There’s no other way around it.  

16. Focus On Your Language

You can easily appear as less of a dictator and more of a friend from your choice of words. This is key to giving instructions in a way that doesn’t make people resent you.

A great start is to form all your requests as polite questions, rather than angry demands. 

On top of that, explain why it’s important for them to follow instructions and empathize if you’re putting a burden on them.

These simple steps will help you come across as friends, rather than an unlikeable tyrant bossing around his inferior. 

17. Realize That Not Everyone Will Like You

I wrote a whole article on the downsides of being a people-pleaser.

In that article, I explain that people-pleasers are often trying to manipulate other people’s emotions so they behave in a certain way. Their self-esteem is based on their ability to foster great relationships with everyone. They often feel anxious or worthless when someone doesn’t like them, so they try to manipulate everyone they meet into becoming friends. 

The thing is: this barely works. People see through it and often get upset with people-pleasing behavior. It’s better you stop trying to become best friends with everyone.

Instead, learn to accept that not everyone in life is going to like you – and that’s OK.

18. Use Affirmations

The use of daily affirmations is a great practice to help relieve yourself of any bad habits or personality traits.  

Here are some affirmations I recommend if you’re trying to let go of controlling behaviors’

  • I can only control myself
  • I can handle uncertainty
  • I don’t have to control every tiny thing
  • I can respect other people’s choices

19. Find Effective Ways To Reduce Your Stress

Yes, it can be stressful when things don’t go the way you want. It can cause an emotional rollercoaster when we feel things are about to go wrong. Indeed, many people resort to micro-management as a means of handling that stress. 

However, there are other more effective ways of handling stress that won’t cause conflict with otners. 

Meditation is a wonderful practice I’d recommend to anyone who is prone to feeling angry and anxious during times of stress. 

Meanwhile, this article contains 7 ideas to build your stress tolerance. 

20. How To Apologize For Being Controlling

Throughout any self-improvement journey, you may slip up from time-to-time. That’s why I wanted to include advice for how to talk to someone after this happens.

During a good apology, it’s always useful to identify what behaviors were wrong, why it happened and what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again.

This applies to being over-controlling as much as anything else 

21. Review What Happened When You Relinquished Control

I recommend journaling when working with a lot of my clients, because this helps to get a better perspective of our progress when trying to let go of certain behaviors.

So, if you’re trying to curb controlling behaviors, I’d urge you to write down what happened when you relinquished control throughout the day. 

A lot of us get into a habit of only noticing when things go badly and ignoring when things go well, but journaling makes it easier to see things exactly as they are. 

22. Use A Therapist

A therapist can help you understand why you behave in certain ways. They’ll point out what’s going on in your head, as well as giving you tailored advice to turn it around.

You’re far more likely to achieve your mental health goals with the help of a therapist, compared to going it alone.  

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Do You Have Any More Questions About Trying To Control Everything? 

Thanks for reading my article.

Hopefully, you have a deeper understanding of how controlling behavior harms your relationships and how to stop engaging in it. This is an important lesson to learn for the overall state of your mental health. 

If you have any questions about your personal life or would like some general advice related to this topic, feel free to write a comment below.

I’d be excited to talk about it with you. 

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