Confessions of a Bossy Chef

by Donne Davis on February 5, 2013

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My husband says he married me because he was impressed by my assertiveness in the kitchen. A few months after we met, we were on a ski getaway sharing a cabin with half a dozen other skiers. When it was time for dinner, he said I took control of the group and got everyone cooking together very efficiently.

Now he gets irritated when we’re cooking together and I take control—as well he should. I’m pretty bossy in my kitchen. On New Year’s Eve (see related post), I caught myself being a bossy chef. My husband and I were enjoying our annual tradition (see related post) of planning and cooking a gourmet dinner together when I noticed we were arguing and not having much fun.

We talked about it and he told me he was frustrated by how much I needed him to do everything a certain way—my way. I feel justified because I love to cook and have developed my “best” practices. But at the same time I’ve not given him a chance to develop his own.

Once I let him dice things his way (chunky and irregular), I realized that I liked the results. But I don’t do it enough and if I don’t let him do things himself, he’ll never learn. That is not empowering behavior. But awareness is the first step to change.

When I told a good friend about my bossiness, she knew exactly what I was talking about and confessed that she too hovers in the kitchen. Her solution: pretend he’s your grandchild and you’ll be more loving and forgiving.

My husband and I agreed to plan and cook one dinner a month together where we’ll share equally in all parts of the process, deciding ahead how to distribute the tasks, and leaving each other alone unless help is requested.

Here are some excellent tips from wikiHow.com on how to stop being bossy . I’m posting them in my kitchen.

How to Stop Being Bossy

Be Patient

When you’re used to being in the role of leader (or dictator or tyrant, in the eyes of others,) it can be excruciating to step aside and wait for someone else to step up, and even more torturous to watch them fumble at a task that you can accomplish so quickly and easily. But what’s the rush? Will it really be the end of the world if things don’t go as smoothly as planned? Relax. Take a deep breath. Wait.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Sometimes we’re bossy because we want things done right, and there’s nothing wrong with striving for a job well done, is there? The thing is, there’s more than one way to achieve a good result, and just because your way is the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B doesn’t mean it’s the best way. By assuming your way is the best way, you lock out the creativity of others, and you also chip away at morale. Both of these things are limiting factors in the long run, and that’s not a good result. If all else fails, seek professional help. Being “bossy” or a “control freak” are just over-the-counter terms for being narcissistic.

Invest in People

Many bossy people focus their attention on incompetence, and they fail to notice potential and progress. Try to be more alert to people’s individual talents. Give positive feedback. Lots of it. Don’t just see people as tools, as a means to an end, as machines. In order for people to think for themselves, they need to learn, and in order to learn, sometimes we need to make mistakes. Trust them, and give them a fair margin of error. Let them know that you’re there to help, but don’t watch over their shoulders or take over their tasks.

Improve Your Communication Skills

Many times it’s not what you say that comes off as bossy, it’s how you say it. Your tone and phrasing can make a person feel like an incompetent cog in a machine, or it can make them feel like you’re inviting them to reach a worthwhile goal with you.

Strive for Consensus

Nothing fosters team-building like consensus-building. Even though it’s more time-consuming than democratic voting, the consensus process is more likely to result in all parties reaching common ground. You can be a facilitator, ensuring that everyone’s opinion is heard, and that a decision is made that is satisfactory to everyone involved.

Ask for Honest Feedback

Ask for it honestly, not simply because it is a good idea or makes a good impression. Explain to people that you know you can come off as bossy or domineering sometimes, and you’d like to change your style. Ask them to let you know when you’re coming off as bossy, whether by pulling you aside, or even by sending you an anonymous note or e-mail. Be humble and request their help.

{ 1 comment }

Susan Adcox February 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

I read a story about a couple preparing Thanksgiving dinner. After they had gone to all the trouble of hollowing out little pumpkins to hold their special butternut soup, the husband played with the recipe and made it too spicy. The wife’s remark was, “It’s only soup!” So when I get irritated with my husband for tweaking my time-tested recipes, I tell myself, “It’s only soup!” And most of the time it comes out just fine. But I love the hint about thinking about him as being a grandchild!

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