Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are You In Control or Controlling?

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Lately my focus has been on numerous work projects, home, and family with very little going on in the fun fiction side of things, and I’m very much okay with it. Let’s just say I’m taking time off to regenerate the creative juices.

What I’m about to share has nothing to do with writing in particular, but has everything to do with human behavior which for us writers might be a handy thing to know whether you write these traits into your next character or use it to overcome your next face-to-face encounter with a controlling person.

I was in the middle of updating a handbook for work on the subject of supervisors and human behavior when I came across and interesting list of negative traits that label an unsuspecting individual as a “control freak.” Why unsuspecting? Because these folks see nothing wrong with their behavior. They see themselves as crusaders to right the wrong in the world around them. With the proverbial red pen in hand, they slash out words, or if they’re feeling particularly powerful that day, entire paragraphs with a single stroke of their mighty pen. An evil grin spreads across their faces as subordinates cower back, pledging to mend the error of their ways.

Blah! We’ve all had a brush with controllers. They’re the people who finish our sentences for us and interrupt a conversation the minute the other person mispronounces a word or insist on instructing others how to “do it right.” Instead of looking at the overall picture, they focus in on the supposed errors or omissions the other person has made. Sometimes these aren’t really errors, but things that don’t fit neatly into the controlling person’s perception of logic. A controlling individual seems to find pleasure in catching someone making a mistake, rather than promoting and encouraging the positive. So what’s behind the need for control? Why do some folks think they’re the only people in the know or who have good ideas? Not sure, but the words, “deep-rooted insecurities” and “the need to feel important” come to mind -- just my opinion, of course.

Granted, we all have a little controlling mechanism in us (yes, even me), but I can’t understand the obsession nor do I appreciate this behavior when I’m on the receiving end of things. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t happened recently, but I’ve been there/done that before and know how it’s made me feel. I suspect a person consumed by the need to control must surely think his or her actions earn them respect or perhaps even label them as “knowledgeable.” Unfortunately, not everyone works well under the pressure of another’s thumbprint. What’s more important is that there is a limit to what others will tolerate. Soon those whispers behind closed doors will be the disgruntled cries of unrest.

I certainly don’t want to imply that opinions should be repressed or that corrections should not be suggested. On the contrary. I believe that in an adult setting, open discussion and suggestions are always welcomed when done in a constructive manner. Unfortunately the controlling individual tends to have a “me” mentality and frankly are sometimes nothing more than meddlesome bullies who mask their behavior under the guise of trying to help.

As I gathered the information I needed for my updates, I came across the following list of traits associated with these behavior weaknesses. Although my thoughts are from a management standpoint, the traits can certainly apply to anyone, anytime, anywhere. So here’s a test. No points, no grade, no calculated answers, just a little food for thought.

You demand to be in control if,

It's difficult for you to trust people.

You automatically reject any big idea that is not your own.

You can't stand it when you're in a car but not driving.

You always want to tweak something, even if it is the work of experts in a field you know nothing about.

When it comes to social gatherings, you prefer to do the planning.

You only accept something another person says when your opinion is outnumbered.

You tend to think that you know what's best for other people.

You have a dumb idea, you know it won’t work, yet you fight tooth and nail for it rather than admit you’ve made a mistake.

You take credit for other people’s ideas and are genuinely convinced they are yours.

You make lists for everything in your life.

As much as possible, you need to do everything yourself.

You rarely think that you're wrong.

You love to be the center of attention.

You get bored when you have to listen to other people talk.

Your vacations tend to be structured and active.

You don't like people touching your stuff.

When you're in a relationship, you like to know where your significant other is at all times.

You are definitely a perfectionist - and your own worst critic.

It's hard for you to get used to a new hair style or new pair of jeans.

You would not really enjoy a surprise party thrown for you.

You can't stand to wait for people who are running a few minutes late.

You are a completely stubborn person.

You tend to interrupt people a lot.

You don't like taking orders.

You don't take it lightly when people disagree with you.

Other people's messes really bother you.

When you're watching TV with other people, you always have to have the remote.

You are easily irritated.

You generally don't trust people.

You are insulted when people don't take your advice.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Most of them aren't me, but there are a few that I have to admit to.

Good post, Marta.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Me, too, Marilyn. I saw myself in some of those - especially not liking the messes of "others." RTA daughter who came home to live and promised to be neat. LOL. Good thing I love her to pieces! Great post, Marta!

Marta Stephens said...

I think the phrase, "all in moderation" fits here. LOL The world just wouldn't be as much fun if we were all perfect. Ha!! :)

Kim Smith said...

nope. not me. no way. uh uh.

s.w. vaughn said...

Hm. I only have one of those traits - must be the person driving when I am in the car. And I know why that is: psychological scars from a car wreck (whee).

So if I have none of these traits... I guess that makes me a doormat. LOL