How to Deal With Overbearing Personalities | Slow Down Fast Personal Coaching and Lifestyle Design ~ David B. Bohl

How to Deal With Overbearing Personalities

istock_000005464638xsmall.jpgWell 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.

6 Comments on “How to Deal With Overbearing Personalities”

  • Wow! I know this type of person all too well. I’ve lived long enough to know that toxic people like this don’t belong in my world.

    When I’m confronted with such a person on rare occasion it makes me smile. If they attack me directly, I hold up a mirror to them. I make ask, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re overbearing?” They are sometimes appalled and huff away. Other times they bark back “How rude!” to which I respond “That’s exactly right, how rude!”

    Overbearing folks love to dish it out, but have great difficulty taking it.

  • Flora,

    Thanks for visiting and taking the time to weigh in. Good for you! You’ve figured this out in a way that works for you.


  • Someone I know thinks I’m “a tad overbearing”; but she’s the only one of my friends to think so. I see now that she was following most of these steps to the letter, and I really have to say — on behalf of the well intentioned portion of the accused — that one of the earlier steps before things get too out of hand is to tell the person that you think they’re too overbearing! That gets rid of the guilt suggested in step 2, and stops people from suddenly getting dropped in step 4 without warning. I know that I would do anything to regain my friendship in my particular case, and feel completely shattered since I’m not even sure what I did.

  • me and my fiance lost our jobs and had to move in with her sister. everything was fine til she took a medical leave of absense from her job due to a mild heart attack and anxioty attack. since then she’s been nosey, overbearing, and using the “you live in my house so you’re my maids” routine. before we were here she had lost her hubby in an accident with a semi truck, and the step children(older than her) had been breaking into the house and shooting out her windows saying she killed thier dad. she’s losing her spouses wrecker service, the antique cars, RV, pontoon boat, and if she doesn’t show improvement in the house she’ll lose that too. a great deal of the stress backed off when we moved in but she is treating us horribly and i don’t start my new job for another week. i had to sell my cars to pay off my debt to my bank and just got a junker for a temp car. and my fiance is dealing with her ex fighting to remove her parental rights to her 3 kids. i sure hope your site works. I’ll update this comment in a week and see if any of this is helping.

  • Jesse,

    Sounds like misfortune has hit you pretty hard. Who said that bad luck comes in 3s?

    Hang in there.

    As far as the Slow Down FAST techniques are concerned, simply ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen if I try them?”

    I look forward to learning of your progress.


  • Hello, thank you for the above steps. I moved from NYC to my husbands hometown where Spanish is the primary language and his childhood friends were my only friends. Now 3 years later I speak fluent Spanish and have made a great group of friends for us. One childhood friend’s wife who is very involved in my husbands family including being best friends with my MIl and my husband , his sisters etc and had adopted me when I first moved here gets very jelous with me over the following a) that I get along great with my MIL, b) that we have made a great circle of friends outside of our old friends, c) that I don’t involve her in all activities. From my point of view I love her and am grateful for all she has done, but I need my space and enjoy doing things with our old group, my new group and sometimes tho limited both like for b’day parties ect. I
    Have noticed that during the times I invite her to
    Activities for
    Both parties she likes to take over the show
    And always says things like next party my house or makes a remark or two putting me down. Having gone thur years of therapy I know that I
    Change anyone, but I need tools to
    Deal with her overbearing nature. Help!!!!!! For my husbands sake and cause she ain’t going anywhere I need to deal with
    Her maturely!!!! Thanks k

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