Do you allow people to pull your strings like a puppet? You are a person, not a puppet - don't allow controlling people to treat you like one. Image courtesy of ratch0013 at freedigitalphotos.net
We all probably have these kind of people in our lives: controllers. People who presume to know us better than we know ourselves – not possible unless we have “siamese twin brains”! That is, it is simply not possible for another person to know us, what is best for us, more than we do ourselves.
I sometimes get baffled by why someone else wants to become, without invitation, more “concerned” with another person’s life: why can’t they just focus on their own life? I put concern in quotation marks because there is a distinction between genuine concern, and someone who just wants to control you. So, how do you tell the difference?
If we take a hypothetical situation- someone believes you should not return to say, studies, after a break. If this is based on genuine concern, they will tell you why. What separates concern from someone who wants to control (albeit sometimes unconsciously) you is that in the latter case, they are also interested in hearing %%what you want, how you feel about it.
If it is control, there will be no hearing out or validation of how you feel. Controllers really are not interested in even trying to ‘hear’ you.
Using this example, a concerned person may say, “Are you sure you feel you are ready to return to study?” Notice it is a question, and indicates they are interested in a two-way conversation. You are treated like the individual you are, with your own thoughts and feelings.
Using this example, a controlling person may say "I don't think you should return to studies." You may say "I think I may be ready." The other person will continue to push their point of view without even asking "What makes you feel you are ready?"
A concerned person may say "Do you feel you are ready to return to study? " You may say "I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think so". They will be supportive even though they may have doubts you are. They may say "Well, I wish you luck with it". If they have concerns they will express them with interest in a two way interaction on equal grounds. Any concerns won't be addressed as a forceful statement. "Well I wish you luck with it, but I don't think you can." Instead, a more diplomatic, "Do you think you are ready to handle the stress?"
If you disagree with a controller, they will not validate that you are your own person who is autonomous: they either won’t ask for your opinion. For them, it doesn’t matter. For controllers, they believe they are right, and they will not bend to even listen to you.
I will mention, though, that some people who are controllers do not realise that they are. It may be part of their personality to be bossy: however deep down they do care. That is, they mean well. If you feel this is the case, you can acknowledge that whoever it is who is advising you or giving their opinion they are only trying to help. Let them know you appreciate it, that you have listened and taken their advice on board.
Another disclaimer: sometimes we can be closed-minded to other opinions then our own. Even if you feel someone is telling you what to do, take time to consider what they say. As mentioned the concerned person will be glad you are doing this. The controlling person does not really see you as a person in your own right, and will be pleased because you are just going along with them.
This is extremely invalidating.
However, and I am one of these people, sometimes the need for approval or fear of disapproval may lead people to acquiesce to their point of view.
This may be tempting if another person withdraws emotional support if you don’t go along with their suggestions, if you give in: yes it might be easier at first. However, if you continue to ignore your inner voice, your intuition, thoughts and feelings, and spend your life trying to gain approbation, this cannot be without a cost.
Inside, you know you are people-pleasing. You may feel a sense of anger and resentment. You may not even be aware of these feelings if you are used to living your life feeling others are superior, or you actually believe, despite you being an intelligent adult, they do know better. Remember the saying an opinion is “90% opinion, and 10% fact”.
Five, ten years later or even in the final years of your life, do you really want to feel that you have spent your life not being true to yourself, but have sacrificed your integrity for others? For 'approval' when they really weren't even ready or interested in really hearing you? Later down the track, those people may well not be in your life, but you have given up your integrity for them.
Realise you may not gain approval for doing what you believe is right for you, but you will be much more likely to know that you were true to yourself.
So, how do you deal with controlling people?
Firstly, it probably is a good idea not to give them too much information about the decisions you make, the actions you plan, your dreams and goals. Over and over, the true mark of control is consistent disapproval, with the other person wanting to be heard: and they 'are always right'. (Again they may have a valid point of view, but your individuality should be respected.)
Being controlling may be their only annoying trait. Otherwise you may get on. However, the relationship may involve you not disclosing your dreams or plans, because it is likely the controller will disagree and throw water on them.
Keep your dreams and hopes private, nurture them, succeed, and then tell others. Realise though you must have your own approval, and you don’t need to necessarily tell people, even when you succeed. Your life which you are managing according to your own ideas will speak for itself.
Try not to offend the controller though, if the friendship is still feasible because this is their only or one of only a few offensive traits. If they tell you what to do, you can say nothing. This is a technique to avoid conflict. You are not disagreeing and thus creating a spiral in which the other person expresses disapproval and a withdrawal of friendship. You are listening and being respectful and polite, but you are not sacrificing your integrity or authenticity by succumbing to their need to be right.
At the end of the day, as an adult, you can listen to others, and consider their opinions, and this is great because you have some other thoughts on any particular matter to take in, and which may lead you to an important insight.
However, after consideration of others’ opinions. If you feel what you are doing is what you feel is right for you, be true to yourself.
As the famous saying goes “To thine ownself be true, and thou cannot be false to any other man.”