How to stop being controlling

Learning how to stop being controlling is essential to maintaining not only your own sense of peace with life but also your professional and personal relationships. If you’ve already determined that you are being controlling in your life, you’re ready to begin the process of letting go of control. While learning how to be less controlling requires both diligence and courage, the fulfillment you’ll find in letting go is well worth the effort.

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Principles behind how to stop being controlling

The guiding principles behind learning how to stop being controlling are twofold: you must learn to take control of your mind and to get your needs met in healthy and effective ways. Let’s unpack these principles of how to let go of control:

Taking control of your mind

 One of Tony Robbins’ core principles is that you can reprogram your mind, which in turn reprograms your behaviors. Instead of letting your unexamined mindset run the show, letting go of control requires examining the limiting beliefs that are driving your behavior. Be intentional about your thoughts and question whether or not they are serving you. For example, the next time you feel anxious or catch yourself wondering how to be less controlling, take a few minutes to assess the situation. Ask yourself: What am I afraid of? What about this situation is making me feel nervous? Think of your inquiries as a brainstorming session in which you are not judging anything that comes to mind. Be kind to yourself and be honest. As you learn to be mindful about your thoughts and reactions, you’ll become more self-aware which will help you in letting go of control.

control of your mind

Learning to get your needs met


The need for a feeling of certainty in life is so elemental to the human experience that it is actually one of our six human needs. When we do not get our needs met, including the need for security, we learn to get those needs met through unhealthy means like trying to control everything around us. Such strategies might seem to work for a while since they create the temporary illusion of safety. However, as time goes on you will begin to notice that if you don’t learn how to stop being controlling, your attempts at control will begin to control you. You need to learn to let go of the past so it stops causing anxiety in the present. You can’t control everything, but you can control your attitude and approach to life. 

Strategies for how to stop being controlling

Even if you understand that you can’t control everything, you might still struggle with letting go of control. The good news is that there are strategies you can employ to learn how to stop being controlling, including the following:

1. Educate yourself about anxiety and how to manage it

Rather than falling back on control as a defense against uncertainty, learn all you can about the fear that is driving you to micromanage. You might try reading books about how to let go of control and/or talking with a therapist. Knowledge is power and as you become more informed, you’ll become better able to identify your self-sabotaging behaviors and replace them with healthier ones.

educate yourself

2. Assess whether your efforts at control are effective

people controlled

When you find yourself wondering how to stop being controlling, ask yourself, “Are my efforts at control making a lasting difference?” For example, suppose you have been calling your unemployed sister every week to see if she’s found a job. Rather than continue the weekly phone calls, ask yourself if your interference is actually helping your sister find employment. If the answer is yes (and your sister enjoys the weekly calls), keep calling! If the answer is no, stop calling! By bringing self-awareness to your behavior you invite greater sensitivity into your interactions with others and with yourself.

3. Get an outside perspective

Instead of approaching letting go of control through your own isolated efforts, enlist the support of a trusted friend or therapist. Pick someone with whom you have a reciprocal relationship, and ask for their input on ways in which you are being controlling. By getting an outside perspective, you’re able to identify and change unconscious behaviors stemming from your perfectionism.

group control

4. Ban control-oriented language from your vocabulary

control your language

Learning how to be less controlling requires recognizing the role of language. Learn to recognize the language you use to exercise control – for example, couching unsolicited advice in seemingly benign language (like “have you ever tried…”) or criticizing a friend’s perspective on any given subject. Ask supportive friends to bring these behaviors to your attention as they arise. Recognize that, while it can be tempting to give others advice, the best way to love someone is unconditionally, which means refraining from trying to change them. Altering your language takes courage, and you must commend yourself for learning how to let go of control. Consistent practice will pay off, and you’ll become more aware of when you’re unconsciously trying to change or fix others.

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