Are you a control freak?


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Are you a control freak?

Being in control can be healthybut being overbearing can really turn people off. Here's how to rein in your controlling behaviour

By Mary Teresa Bitti

If youre worried about your need to be in controlwhether its at work or with friends and familyyou neednt be: The positives of this behaviour actually outweigh the negatives. People who feel they are in control achieve more, says Jerry Burger, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University who has published extensively on individual differences in the desire for control. They tend to be better at problem solving, are happier and have a more positive sense of self.

The problem is that life doesnt always co-operate, and behaviour that you may view as essential to getting things done could be seen by others as pushy, or just plain nagging.

So the trick is to use what youve got and make your innate need for control work for you to effect the best outcomes. Steven Stein, a Toronto psychologist, offers a strategy he calls the Four As to help you work on what can be overbearing behaviours.

You can only change your approach when you are aware of what you are doing and the impact your behaviour is having. Often we dont know we are being controlling; we think were helping, says Stein. But if youve been called a nag, or you find yourself talking and no one is listening, these are the signs.

Now that youve identified yourself as controlling and realize its a behaviour that is getting you into trouble, stop and use a little empathy. Put yourself in the other persons shoes, says Stein. Think about how you are coming across.

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Look for a shared valuesomething that will put you on the same page as the person whose behaviour you are trying to manage. For example, if you want your teens to pick up after themselves, the shared value may be having an attractive home. This puts the focus on the value, not the behaviour.

Next, lower your expectations and think about an outcome you will be satisfied with. If you want your husband to lose 50 pounds and work out three times a week, nagging isnt going to make it happen, says Stein. Think in terms of small steps and what is feasible. What if he loses 10 pounds or stops eating junk food?

At this point, youve thought it through, you understand where the other person is coming from, and youve established a common goal with your partner, friend, child, co-workerwhomever it is youve been trying to control. Now its time for action: Set the goal and agree on it, but dont try to enforce the process, says Stein. Focus less on the how to and more on the outcome.

Though it can be tough if youre someone who is used to saving the world, you must accept that you might only get small changes. You may not be able to change the other person, says Stein. You might be able to influence them because of the shared values youve agreed on. But they will take the initiative.

So channel your need to manageand start turning negative controlling tendencies into pluses. Embrace who you are to make those behaviours work for you. (