Can Letting Go of Controlling Others Make Us Happier? And What Does Personality Have to Do with It?

Ask yourself: how does it feel when someone tries to control what you do? Being controlled is no fun—and that’s why we naturally tend to push back. That includes actions that loved ones want us to take to better our health.

Relationships Suffer When We Look to Control Others

For example your attempts to help your spouse eat healthy food may lead him to eat more unhealthy food—just to spite you. In relationships, you can either have control over others, or you can have their love—not both. And because love is such a basic human need, being overly controlling isn’t good for happiness. Another reason that being overly controlling of others lowers happiness is the tendency to get angry and frustrated when others don’t behave the way you want them to.

Needing Control Over Others Can Lead to Unhappiness

In one study, a group that had a high need for control and another group that had a low need for control were both asked to make an unprepared speech to two audiences. The audience reacted positively to one group, but reacted negatively to the other. When the audience was positive, both those with a high and a low in need for control felt happy–not surprisingly. But when the audience was negative, those high in need for control found it to be far more disturbing, and felt much more badly than those low in need for control. This result suggests that, seeking control over others can lead you to feel angry, frustrated, and disappointed when they don’t behave the way you want them to.

Bad Decisions Can Result from Controlling Others

The drive to control others not only pushes others’ love away, but can also lead to bad decisions. We make our best decisions when we hear a variety of viewpoints. When we’re overly controlling of others, our decision-making suffers…because we drive away those who disagree with us and tend to only hang out with the “yea-sayers.”

Which Personality Types Need to Pay Attention to Their Control Needs?

How does personality play into this idea? Those who prefer a “judging” approach to the world (J in the fourth letter) tend to plan more and might have a greater need for a sense of control over the outside world. Those who prefer the “perceiving” approach to life like to be spontaneous and have an easier time “going with the flow.” Of course, we all have a certain amount of human need for control! Being self-aware about your control needs might pave the way for a smoother ride through life. To increase our happiness levels, we can all benefit from “letting go” of the need to control others.

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