Well all have those people in life who are just a little bit wearing on the spirit. You know who I mean. Their intentions are good, yet they always manage to stir things up. Sometimes it feels like you can’t get anything done when they’re around. They’re criticizing, they’re correcting, they’re meddling. They’re giving you all the reasons why you can’t (when you know that you CAN!).
So how do you accomplish anything when overbearing friends and relatives are all up in your face and playing self-appointed cruise director or drill sergeant? How to maintain some semblance of self-respect and dignity around these people?
1. Erect boundaries. Although at times you feel like booting the overbearing person right out of your life… we all know that this is not always possible. Maybe they’re your coworker, someone in your circle of friends… maybe it’s your mother or your brother! The best thing to do in that case is to keep it on friendly terms but control the situation. Some ideas:
• Relocate. If you live with them… move out! It’s not healthy to be around someone who is impeding your personal growth. No need to broach this topic in an accusatory way. Just explain that it’s time to make a go of it on your own.
• Limit contact. If they’re a frequent visitor… try to arrange it so they’re only showing up X times in a month. Politely discourage drop-in visits and weekend stays if you can.
• Limit context. For example, if it’s your coworker, keep it friendly at the office but don’t go out of your way to hang with them at happy hour.
2. Let go of the guilt. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to like them. Many people suffer a great deal of unnecessary guilt over this. They think that because they feel annoyed, angered and hurt by overbearing friends and family members, that they’re a bad person. Some reminders:
• Be choosy about what you share. You’re not obliged to reveal everything about your life to this person. If your gut tells you that something is better left unsaid, then go with that thought.
• Counseling or coaching can help. If the overbearing person has had a hold on you for your whole life, you may harbor some hostility and resentment. An impartial outsider can often be hugely helpful when you just want to let go of these feelings and move forward with things.
• Different people can serve different purposes in your life. You may have another person you’re close to who fulfills you in a different way than this person does. Know that this is perfectly healthy and a way to gain equilibrium in your relationships.
3. Try to put the overbearing personality to constructive use. Sometimes people who want to control everything just don’t have enough going on in their own lives. If there’s no getting rid of them, at least make their tendencies work for you. Give them a task or project to complete and it might just make them happier.
• Put them in charge. The truth is that most people are not great at leading others or organizing themselves. If there’s an event that needs managing, why not put the overbearing person at the helm of the project?
• Offer up the floor. For the times that you’re forced to be with them, it’s worth keeping the peace by making the overbearing person the center of attention. At least you’ll know that it will only be for a little while.
• Learn something from them. Get past the emotional turmoil they’ve caused you in the past. Recognize that everyone has something to share – even those whose delivery isn’t always the smoothest. Who knows… if you listen, you might learn something!
4. Let them go. When all else fails, you can always say goodbye. Sometimes we’re just better off losing the baggage that comes with one too many overbearing personalities in our lives. This is why people divorce, change friends, move far away from their families and search for new jobs. You may need to do some serious soul-searching before you make a decision. Know that this is a good and healthy process to put yourself through.