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Dealing with Bossy and Controlling People

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"Never try to control a controlling person. It takes one to control one."

Know anyone you consider bossy or controlling? Below are six basic behaviors often experienced as controlling.

______1. Pushing to be helpful.
______2. Insisting they have the best answer.
______3. Pressing you to consider all options.
______4. Interrupting and being outspoken.
______5. Needing to prove they are smarter than you.
______6. Acting driven to be right.

So, think about who is on your bossy list. Review the list above and mark:
• (0) for characteristics that do not fit the difficult person
• (+) for descriptions that apply sometimes
• (++) for the items that often fit

Evaluate your responses. Identify which characteristics are most descriptive. Here are two common clusters.

Cluster A (1, 3, and 4)

She may be less bossy than she seems – especially if you consider her:
• a helpful busybody
• an incurable brainstormer
• excessively talkative

Persons with this cluster of traits often do not realize how they are coming across to others. They have the best of intentions and feel obligated to help and share what they know. Usually, they are more focused on their skills, rather than on any negative reflection on your capability. To their thinking, their mind (ideas, thoughts, feelings…) is a terrible thing to waste.

Cluster B (2, 5, 6)

Are these three behaviors more descriptive of him? Does he typically:
• discount your ideas and opinions as ridiculous?
• keep repeating himself because if you only could understand you would agree?
• get on his iPhone to find proof, to force you to admit he is right (which, of course, makes you wrong)?

These behaviors are reflective of his higher opinion of himself and lower regard for you.

Both clusters indicate a deficit in interpersonal boundaries. With predominantly Cluster A folks, try politely acknowledging the intent to be helpful, say "thank you" or "I'm good" – and that you do not need suggestions.  Or announce in advance that you are not seeking feedback. These comments may help you maintain personal space.

Enforcing boundaries and not getting stuck with Cluster B individuals are more difficult tasks. Start with the tips for Cluster A. Become increasingly assertive as needed. Statements like, "I understand and disagree," "we sure see it differently," "we have different opinions," "my way works for me," "there's always more than one good way," and "let's move on" are firmer efforts.

Using rudeness or control to control a bossy person generally serves to escalate the situation. Excusing yourself and walking away with one-way closure may be your only option to escape invasion of your space. And as always, seek professional help if you are unable to resolve or tolerate your situation – especially if the controlling person is an intimate partner or not a peer.

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About Dr. Coach Love

  • PattPickett

    Ah, yes, Sandy. Bossy people populate every workplace. Thank you for adding your insightful observations to this discussion.
    VIP to differentiate the well-intended from those who will recklessly harm without conscience.

  • Sandy

    I was so happy to see what I had assessed of the bossy persons in my workplace, in points 1 to 6 on your page. H’ever, I also like to add, that these are people who are insecure plus they have a hidden agenda, as wanting to show others they are helpful, more intelligent than you, whilst at the same time, they want to put you down and make others see as if you are not capable of carrying out your work (your point 5).
    As you correctly say, there are those who mean well, but those who do not mean well, they have all 6 points in a more than 50% measure. 🙂

  • jack

    I understand and disagree,we see things differently,we have different opinions.My way works for me,there’s always more than one good way.