The Difference Between Control and Healthy Communication

Holly Kellums
Nov 26, 2018 · 5 min read

As many of us know, it is extremely unhealthy to allow a person to attempt to control you or another person. This relationship dynamic is very common and its presence in any relationship can result in co-dependency, abuse and toxic relationships.

It is a fact that all of us experience relationships with excessively controlling people. Whether it be our parents, a romantic relationship, a friend or an employer, it happens to everyone. And, everyone has tried, on some level, to control other people. We are human and therefore we all have fear. Fear is where the need for control comes from, so no one is immune. It is when this need for control becomes excessive and unchecked that it leads to unhealthy relationships.

There are differing levels of severity in this tendency to place demands upon others.

Some people are simply annoyingly controlling, where others are so caught up in their need for control that it leads them to abuse, manipulation and deceit. Some people are straight forward in their approach while others use more passive and subtle tactics to manipulate and control people.

If you have ever had a relationship with someone who is severely addicted to controlling you, you know it can become hellish. Many of us have had to make a conscious decision to leave relationships with controlling people and vowed never to be controlled again. For those of us who have had this experience, it can be hard to tell the difference between communication and control.

We all have varying wants and needs.

We all take our coffee differently. We have different wounds, experiences, triggers, likes and dislikes. For this reason, we have to communicate with others about our wants and needs. No-one can give you what you are looking for if you are not clear and honest in your intentions and desires.

For those of us who have made a no-nonsense decision never to let someone control our lives again, it is important to be aware of the difference between someone who is communicating effectively and someone who is attempting to control us. Otherwise, we will never grow in our relationships and it will be impossible to support our loved ones.

In order to support our loved ones in a relationship, the ability to listen to their feelings objectively is imperative. If the person you love is telling you that something hurts them or makes them uncomfortable, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are trying to control you, change you, or make you into who they want you to be. By taking it this way, you may be unknowingly invalidating the feelings and needs of the person you love.

Think of it like a cup of coffee. If someone tells you that they don’t like sugar in their coffee, this doesn’t mean that they are trying to control you. It means they don’t like sugar in their coffee. So, if you ever bring them a cup of coffee that you expect them to drink, don’t add sugar. This doesn’t mean you have to bring them sugar free coffee. If you have a problem with making coffee without sugar, you can just opt out of bringing them coffee at all. But you wouldn’t do that because if you wanted to bring them coffee, it’s no big deal to skip the sugar right?

The same principle applies to heavier wants and needs. Just because someone has their own wants or needs, doesn’t mean that they are trying to control your life or change you.

You would not hold someone to the standard of having sugar in their coffee in order to have coffee with you, so why take this approach with other things?

Yes, sometimes people try to force their expectations on you.

Yes, sometimes you are asked to do or not do things that are unreasonable. Yes, sometimes people will try to change you. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, we are simply learning how to love and support each other with our diverse wants and needs.

You don’t put the lid on the toothpaste because you want to or because they are forcing you to, but because they like it that way, you know this and you don’t want them to be annoyed in the morning. You don’t put the toilet seat down because you believe in the concept that it “goes down” or because she will yell at you if you don’t. You put it down because you know she doesn’t pay attention when she’s half asleep and you don’t want her to fall in. You don’t make the bacon extra crispy because you like it that way or because you will get in trouble for floppy bacon. You make it crispy because your loved one will not eat floppy bacon and you want them to enjoy their breakfast. You don’t use a sweet tone with your loved one in the morning because you have to but because you know that they are sensitive when they first wake up.

It is perfectly okay and even healthy for your loved one to tell you if something hurts them or helps them. It is up to you to decide whether you are capable of supporting them in this way or not. But if you refuse to listen because any request for change is perceived as control, you will never be able to fully connect with another human being.

Being fully connected with another human being is the most amazing feeling on this earth.

We as human beings are highly social creatures.

Therefore it is extremely important to communicate and relate to each other in a healthy and respectful manner. After-all, the whole concept of a personal relationship stems from one person relating to another effectively. Sometimes certain boundaries can be crossed and what was once a stable relationship can morph into a power struggle for control.

It is crucial that you learn how to communicate your wants and needs with others and master the art of identifying and disengaging from unhealthy control-based relationships. However, it is just as important to be aware of when you might be projecting your own insecurities onto others.

Relationships can be hard. It’s not easy to share your entire life with another person. And it can be even more difficult to decipher whether someone is trying to control you or just communicating their own healthy wants and needs. It really comes down to who you choose to form and maintain relationships with.

A loving and understanding friend, family member or mate will no doubt, be there to work these differences out with you.

People who truly care for you, have your best interest at heart and will listen to your concerns and evaluate whether or not a change needs to be made. Those who genuinely love you will not consciously try to control or change you. Ideally, when a loved one unconsciously says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, they will make an effort to identify and repair the issue once it is brought to their attention.

If an individual completely denies any culpability when confronted with a concern and utterly refuses to consider their role in a possible disagreement; it may be time to reconsider that relationship.


Holly Kellums

Written by

Author * Team Builder * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist * Social Media Influencer * Public Speaker

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