10 things control freaks do that instantly alienates others

by Kathy Copeland Padden | November 6, 2023, 9:44 am

The term “control freak,” was coined in the late 1960s to describe people who compulsively seek to be in charge of something – or someone. Control freaks have a compulsive need to manipulate every decision that touches on their lives. 

You’ve likely encountered control freaks in the different corners of your life, such as a micromanaging boss, a controlling parent, or an autocratic romantic partner. 

Dealing with a person who has control issues can leave you exhausted and feeling robbed of your autonomy.

Most control freaks don’t realize what they’re doing. They usually believe their actions are in the interest of the greater good, making it that much harder to convince them their behavior is unacceptable and often toxic. 

Having control freak tendencies is not healthy psychologically, mainly because so much that happens in life is simply beyond our control.

If you crave total control in every situation even though it’s an impossibility, your anxiety level will skyrocket because you’ve set the bar so high.

Here are ten behaviors of control freaks that alienate others, whether it’s intentional or not. I’ll bet you’ve encountered a few of these once or twice.   

1) Constantly correcting others

People who crave control usually feel compelled to correct others. Control freaks include grammar dictators who are quick to correct spelling or pronunciation errors. These folks are particularly prevalent and lots of fun on social media. 

They nitpick inconsequential details, point out bad manners (irony!), and scold people if they act inappropriately. 

A control freak will firmly believe their actions are altruistic but their motivation, even if they don’t consciously realize it, is the belief that they’re almost always in the right.

They also lack flexibility, and have a meltdown if there’s a change of plans.  

2) Can’t handle a change of plans

Most people are fine when they have to modify their plans because, hey, life happens and stuff comes up. A control freak, on the other hand, gets thrown for a loop if their plans change, even if it’s just a minor deviation.

And if you happen to be the cause of this disruption to a control freak’s plans, be sure to duck and cover, because they show no mercy to anyone messing with their schedule. 

People with control issues aren’t very good at going with the flow. They will get angry and throw a tantrum, even if there’s an unavoidable reason for the change in plans. 

The only desires that matter are the control freak’s. Whether that inconveniences anyone else is inconsequential. 

To a person who thrives on control, unattainable perfectionism is ingrained into everything they do.

3) Perfectionism

Control freaks are terrible at delegating tasks and working in a team. They may proudly proclaim that they don’t play well with others. From the looks of it, they don’t understand that this isn’t the flex they think it is.

They prefer to be overwhelmed with the backlog of work. Then they’ll pitch a fit over everyone else’s subpar work ethic because they don’t trust their colleagues to get the job done correctly. 

People who need control don’t trust anyone but themselves, which stems from their perfectionism. They will take on a huge workload instead of delegating it to others because they believe their coworkers’ efforts will fall short of their own. 

Aside from that, they’ll talk over everyone, not just their coworkers. The compulsion to get the last word in is irresistible to control freaks, as the next section shows… 

4) Has to have the last word 

Not surprisingly, control freaks want to emerge victorious from every argument that they participate in. But it’s about much more than winning an argument to them – it’s a way to assert their dominance.

If a control freak doesn’t somehow manage to get the final word in, they can become angry or aggressive.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be heard — we all do. It’s just human nature and part of being a social animal.

But with control freaks, it’s completely next-level. Their obsession with having the last word usually trumps anyone else’s feelings. 

And because they’re so critical, having a conversation with them feels more like a duel than a give-and-take dialogue.

5) They’re judgmental and critical 

People who crave control pride themselves on their high principles on everything from how people should answer their phones to how they live their entire lives, and everything in between.

They generally have an answer for everything and are often perceived as sanctimonious and even obnoxious. 

Control freaks judge others’ behavior and often withhold their attention until you fall in line with their expectations. Sitting in silent judgment over others is classic passive-aggressive manipulation. 

Worse still, they refuse to admit when they are wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. 

6) Won’t admit they’re wrong 

This is one of the traits of control freaks that most annoy the people around them. The refusal to admit they’re wrong is particularly frustrating for partners, friends, and coworkers.  

Even if the issue is a trivial one, high-control people will dig their heels in regardless. Their anxiety erroneously leads them to believe that others will use it against them or perceive them as incompetent if they admit one simple mistake. 

Usually, control freaks exhibit black-or-white thinking. Dealing with shades of gray is distressing to them. Anything between all or nothing isn’t even an option.

And if you don’t agree, sometimes they will try to scare you into seeing things their way. 

7) Fear mongering

When people with control issues realize that they’re losing the “battle,” they’ll often resort to reciting a litany of worst-case scenarios to discourage the other person from taking certain actions the control freak deems unacceptable.

And if that doesn’t scare you, their driving probably will.

8) Road rage

People with control issues tend to get extremely frustrated while driving. They believe they are the only ones who know how to drive correctly, which means they are either control freaks, from my hometown of Boston, or both.

They curse, and yell, and use the one-finger salute when another driver has the nerve to merge or drive the speed limit. 

The theme from the “Dukes of Hazzard” starts playing on your inner soundtrack. When you finally emerge from the vehicle, you kiss the ground with gratitude.

Being on the road with a control freak is hard enough. Having a close personal relationship with one can suck the life out of you.

9) Relationship problems

As you may have guessed, those who crave control try to manipulate and manage every facet of their romantic partner’s life. They tend to be rigid, dominating, and self-centered, which inevitably to unhappy and unhealthy relationships.

Control freaks like to make the rules and call the shots because they think they’re the most qualified to do so, even if they emphatically are not. 

But a person with control issues has to keep their partner on a tight leash so they don’t show a moment’s weakness or trace of vulnerability. 

10) Struggle with vulnerability 

Control freaks have a difficult time openly expressing vulnerability because showing weakness or uncertainty is akin to losing control, and obviously that’s something they can’t tolerate.

But, it’s important to remember that lurking behind this deep-seated need for control is fear of being perceived as inadequate, being rejected, or getting hurt. 

Those with control issues believe that if they can control everything that touches them, they can protect themselves.

If you know someone who always appears strong and never lets their guard down, they might be struggling with control issues. And it is a struggle for them, whether they show it or not.  

Painful for you, painful for them

People who crave control have a lot of anxiety just living life, which compels them to try and control everything and everyone in their universe.

Unfortunately, this is usually futile and makes matters even worse for the one with control issues.

Life is full of unpredictable twists and turns. It’s impossible to have total control over anything.

This is the reality that haunts control freaks even though they continue to try, because the compulsion to command every situation is so ingrained.  

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