How to Deal with Controlling People

One variety of human beings we tend to have too many of in our lives (too many as in, more than zero) is controlling people.

Considering the stress they can create, knowing how to deal with controlling people effectively is serious business and it requires a key set of people skills.

Controlling People Explained

Fundamentally, controlling people have a powerful need to control others (doooh!). This need is reinforced by their belief (conscious or subconscious) that they can bend the will of other people to their own and use others to get their way.

Having lots of practice, most controlling people are real masters of pressuring and manipulating others. They often have very good people skills (the bad kind) and may initially come off as very charming.

The basisof beingable to deal with controlling people effectively, from my perspective, is making them understand that they cannot pull your strings. Thus, you are shaking one of their core beliefs and you have the best chances of them backing off.

4 Principles for Dealing with Controlling People

Starting from this basis, there are 4 key people skills principles I encourage you to apply, in order to deal successfully with controlling people:

1. Distinguish pressure from persuasion. When someone presents facts and logical arguments for doing something, while allowing you the freedom to choose, that is persuasion.

When someone uses lying, exaggeration, manipulation, drama and tries to take away your freedom to choose, that is psychological pressure. “If you care about me you’ll help me, nobody cares about me, oh poor little me” is not a persuasive approach, it’s a manipulative one, often used by toxic people.

Practice analyzing how people try to influence you and what methods they use. You will sharpen your skills of distinguishing pleasure from persuasion.

2. Say “No”, “Yes” and “Fuck you”. Firm personal boundaries are often set using firm, strong words. It may not sound polite, but trust me, when you are dealing with controlling people, this is how to get the job done. Honesty and directness in communication have a mesmerizing power to convey confidence and create results.

Practice saying “no” when you don’t really want to do something instead of trying to bail out subtly. Practice saying “yes” when you want to do something other’s don’t want you to do, and learn to tell people off sometimes.

3. Do not submit to pressuring behavior. When they can’t pressure you with words, controlling people will resort to pressuring behavior. The logic of the game is simple: whenever you don’t play by their rules, they withdraw a certain positive behavior or insert a negative one.

Controlling people may stop talking to you, helping you, doing their chores, having sex with you etc., in an attempt to get you to play by their rules. If you submit, you lose. There are only two ways to deal successfully with this kind of behavior: either not reacting, or withdrawing a positive behavior yourself.

4. Do not seek the approval of one person. We all need to be approved and loved by people. It’s a human thing. However, we never, truly, really need the approval of one specific person.

One important attitude lesson I’ve learned is that no one person is irreplaceable in your life. Realize this, let it sink in, and you have the freedom to piss off a controlling person without feeling bad. Thus, they lose their major source of power over you.

Learning how to deal with controlling people usually requires at least some serious self-coaching. In all this process, if you find it hard, keep in mind that you are improving a set of people skills with a positive influence that stretches into many areas of your life.

PS: I now blog and share advice over here. Connect with me.

Image courtesy of thorinside


  1. Richard Massey says:

    I live with my GF and her mother and my GF’s mother has found a Boyfriend who I completely detest!

    The first time I met him, he came around to our house and tried taking over my computer and helping himself to stuff around the house. He’s rude and ignorant and over talks to high heaven.

    All his opinions are so wrong! He lacks common sense and continues to talk over me! 99.9% of what he says is complete and utter bollocks which I prove him wrong!

    Things I’ve tried :-

    During a conversation I said “excuse me, I was talking”. THIS DID NOTHING!

    During a conversation I continued to talk when he spoke. THIS DID NOTHING!

    I just said hello to him and was very one worded with his. THIS WORKED VERY WELL AND UPSET HIM! I FELT KIND BAD FOR HIM AND GAVE HIM ANOTHER CHANCE!

    Then he continued to talk over me and I was desperate for a permanent fix so I got him in a corner and said :-

    I’ve given up talking to you, your rude and ignorant and never listen to what others have to say! Your only interested in yourself and your opinions and I don’t want to listen to you talking crap anymore. I also said I will be polite to you for everyone’s sake. So all I do is say hello and goodbye to him. I don’t make conversation with him anymore and when he waffles on I just leave the room.

    I’ve not spoke to him properly for months and why would I want to? People like this will never change! I’ve tried to talk to him and every time he is rude to me.

    I always remember my first GF saying to me:-


    This is true, people who overtalk are ignorant and weak! Deal with them and all your problems will be solved!

    GOOS LUCK! 😉

    • William Jackson says:

      It is important though, to tell them that they’re bulldozing the conversation. Or talking too much. Tell them specifically what’s wrong because they might not realize what they’re doing.
      People who are very extroverted will often talk even more when I pull back to monosyllables. And they’ll laugh at the end of every sentence. Even though there’s nothing funny or particularly interesting about what they’re saying. Those people are not trying to bulldoze us, they’re trying to interest us. So they need to be told.

      As for myself, I’ll talk too much when I want to share something I’m interested in. And then I need to be told what I’m doing.

    • Archie Gurley Jr says:

      Wow! I wish you were around when my v client’s sister’s boyfriend can’t into the picture. All he talks about is himself and what he did (99.9% all lies), and his non stop wisdom of all things. He’s a jack of all trades, but a master at none. Here’s opinionated, self- absorbed, and…… is much like Donald Trump!

  2. Hi William just want to ask your advice. I’m 28 and still live at home with my mom. I’m the youngest of 3 children and lost my dad when I was about 16 . I battle with depression and over drink from time to time. I feel like I lack ambition and the people skills to even make friends but as I’m getting older I’m realizing it’s my mother that makes me feel like this and she manipulates me and has the ability to just make me so down. I feel like she is scared to be alone and that why she doesn’t want to loose control over me or let go and I don’t have a job at the moment cause I’m trying to setup my own business but she’s trying to control that too because I think she is scared I make money and move out. Please just give me your advice you can be brutally honest

  3. what if you found out you’re a controling person and feel bad and want to change how do you fix that? like how do you not be controling by using emotions for your advantage.

    i have bad depression and i found out that i tend to over react when people don’t message me / talk to me and i think they’re mad or hate me i used that oh gues you don’t love me thing before without realizing it even though i was really hurt… idk what’s wrong.. do i have a problem? someone very dear to me told me she felt uncomfortable with me becase i kept making jokes about pervy stuff even tho she did it to and was ok with it . .. i feel sorry for what i did she’s had past experiences with controling people and stalkers and we both had experience with depression.. so we understand one another.. it got to the point where i over reacted so much that i nearly broke our friendship because of the drama… how do i stop doing this? how do i fix my drama causing ways calm down and not control people..

  4. Samantha c says:

    Hi, just came across your site when Googling, “Very controlling people”… So glad that I read this and agree with your suggestions/conclusions. My boss’ boss has finally revealed her cards to me (it’s been difficult figuring her out), as she was once an ally.. And now I figured out she’s most definitely NOT. I sent an email out to her and other managers to stop their covert bullying of me through emails and got basically a lie and blame towards technology for the excessive emails and threads to me – in front of everyone. My boss, while he is not directly involved, has been passive about the whole thing. While I realize I can’t call her on her bluff (or others), I do a good job at my work and I know she wouldn’t want to fire or let me go over trivial means like this – after all, I help her look good. So I’m just going to start showing up late to meetings, not respond to her mtg RSVPs, etc. I used to be one of her strongest advocates and this is just petty, grade school behavior on hers’ and the company’s culture. Hopefully I can wait it out till next spring for a new job, but yeah.. I agree that staying expressionless, having firm boundaries of not putting up with bullshit and not saying anything is the best way. Thanks for your blog.

  5. People hwo are controlling often have several Axis II disorders including Borderline Personality Disorder, Bi-polar, Nacessistic Personaly Disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder, Cedependency, suicidal tendencies, etc. These people usually have emtional control issues such as anger, depression, fear of abandonment, very black white thinking, love-hate, very selfish and opinionated, etc. These are mental health issues from past untreated trumative experiences usually in childhood. They can be loving caring people and can be professionals, to those who are educated even, but its mental health issues that are unresolved and untreated and they cope with characteristics of these disorders.

    • I have to respond to this. It’s not always people who are depressed and emotional that are being controlling. Many times part of the reason they have those problems is because they have had to endure being around abusive and controlling people and situations where they’ve felt powerless. Some of the sickest people out there are actually the ones that don’t think anything is wrong with them and who believe they are superior to just about everyone else!!!

  6. My older sisters either talk behind my back or the oldest wants all gossip she can get about anything concerning our brother. A phone call is all about how much info. She can get out of me. I suggested she call them and she pushed me one time when I didn’t have an answer so I just hung up on her. I probably should have lied again and said I had to answer the door. What should I do to tell questions drilling at me.

  7. “no one person is irreplaceable in your life.”

    I would say that this is what is missing in most therapy. Traditional therapeutic approaches and assertiveness techniques revolve around always communicating and seeing the good in others.

    Last time I did therapy was through the Priory clinic in UK. Completely different approach – situations where I was having trouble my therapist spotted that my biggest difficulty was thinking I “had to” tell my overbearing parents about losing my job etc etc. I talked it through with him and I thought about it and agreed to only tell them how it may affect them and to sort it out myself and to let them keep their horseshit theories about how easily I’d get a new job to themselves. As I predicted, it took 9 months, so had I kept communicating I would have endured head scratching and disparaging crap from them for that time period. Nobody is worth that much to allow them to unfairly criticise you over something they know nothing about, particularly when every friend I knew in my industry described my approach as proactive.

    It also helped me appreciate them more as I came across a lot more extreme examples where people had broken off contact with parents over this. One story I read, a guy described how his boyfriend had always complained about his parents. He thought, like I would, that it was “not going to be that bad” and that he could have made it work. Then he met them and found they were worse than his bf had described after all. It made me realise how hamstrung traditional bog standard approaches to dealing with difficult people are.

    This is the reality that my, much more experienced, therapist was trying to get across. Not to assume it’ll all be fine but to act on the situation at hand. Especially when you are dealing with manipulation and other insidious tactics, it is worth bearing in mind.

  8. Sasha Gitug says:

    I live with someone , I guess you could say “room mate ” type of thing . Anyways , he is so controlling he wins every argument by using a loud voice , hurting my feelings , by backing out or just ignoring me . I can never win . Whether it’s about the t.v or about not wanting to know each other there is constant conflict , I love him but almost majority of what he does from the way he breathes , eats or drinks bugs me I can’t handle it . And moving out is not an option . How do I win the argument and gain back my control .

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