Are you a control freak?

Before you answer that, call to mind someone who fits your definition of “control freak” to a tee. Got it? Are you imagining someone who:

  • always has to get their way?
  • bosses everyone around because they know the “right way to do it”?
  • is uber-organized with everything always in its place?

If so, it is possible you don’t spend lots of time with this person if you can help it.

In my personal experience, however, as both controller and controlled, I’ve found much subtler methods of control. Imagine:

  • A friend says, “I’m sure you’d like to do this. I’ll order the tickets.” Outwardly, he is being generous to buy the tickets – how can you say no? Yet, is this not a form of manipulation and control? He didn’t ask – rather, told you what you would like. Why? Maybe because he wanted to go with you, not that he really thought you might want to go with him!
  • At work, the manager may insist on her way because it “is foolproof and efficient”. In reality, she doesn’t want to learn a new method and doesn’t want you to have a better idea. Ouch!
  • As a parent, “Let me show you how. My way works very well.” just might be saying, “I don’t trust you to do it your way without making a mess or wasting time and resources.” Bigger ouch!

On a larger or long-term scale, I may have a vision for who or how my children will be as adults. Rather than encouraging them to grow, discover, and explore life as they see it, I insist on this sport or this musical instrument or this method for how and when to study. At work, a business which stays too long with an overly controlled vision that doesn’t flex with the market – fails.

I ask again, a bit differently:

Where do you try to control process or outcomes?
Where are you blocking relationship building or progress?

What might be possible if you let go a little?

(*) The Zen Leaderby Ginny Whitelaw, explores the impact of controlling on the journey toward Zen leadership.  Join the next discussion group coming this fall. Details will follow at:

What is YOUR wisdom?