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How to Handle a Controlling Person

Updated on November 28, 2012
The Controlling personality can quite often make you feel like a puppet on strings and they are your puppeteer.
The Controlling personality can quite often make you feel like a puppet on strings and they are your puppeteer. | Source

Everyone runs into someone with "control issues" at some point. ” Many of us will look back on this experience with less than fond memories. Not surprisingly, controlling people have a powerful need to control others. But why?

The controlling personality develops from a sense of insecurity. Though they may appear confident and strong, controlling behavior is really their way of feeling safe and secure. This is little comfort for those they are attempting to control, however. Quite often the controlling personality will leave friends and loved ones feeling as if they’ve lost their independence and autonomy. It is a behavior that makes the controller feel safe at the expense of another and can result in lowered self-esteem for those who endure it.

The volatile controller will use the threat of their wrath to gain compliance.
The volatile controller will use the threat of their wrath to gain compliance. | Source

Characteristics of a Controlling Personality

Not all controlling people exercise power and control in the same way. In general, controlling behavior can be categorized into four styles. These are:

1. The Volatile Controller

Volatile controllers use the threat of losing their temper as a means of gaining control over others. Though their blow-ups can be intense and frightening, it is typically short-lived. In fact, the sense of being out of control that typically accompanies this loss of temper can be rather unsettling for the volatile controller. Instead, their preference is to intimidate by issuing threats of what might happen if they do not get their way.

2. The “Smarter-Than-You” Controller

The Smarter-Than-You Controller uses knowledge, logic, and expertise to establish control. This controlling personality has an answer for everything and they consider themselves to be rather infallible. They derive power from your insecurities and self-doubt. It doesn’t matter whether your idea is better or your answer is more correct. The “Smarter-Than-You” Controller will always present themselves as smarter than you and has a knack for making you actually believe it.

The deceptive controller will lie, bad mouth,  or use other forms of manipulation to gain control.
The deceptive controller will lie, bad mouth, or use other forms of manipulation to gain control. | Source

3. The Deceptive Controller

The need for control may be higher in the deceptive controller than in any other style. These controlling people will start/spread rumors, bad-mouth others, omit crucial facts, and outright lie in order to feel a sense of control over you. They are the puppetmasters of all the controlling personalities. This can be one of the most difficult styles to identify as it often takes time to realize things are being orchestrated behind the scenes. Deceptive controllers are often good at what they do. Confronting this controlling personality will often result in protests and lies which are typically highly believable.

4. The Passive Aggressive Controller

The passive aggressive controller establishes control by stonewalling, saying yes when they really mean no, and playing the victim when necessary. It is a very common style of controlling behavior. This particular person dislikes confrontation and conflict so, instead of being direct, they devise diversionary tactics to get what they want without the risk of challenge. They will often leave you baffled, insecure, and even guilt-ridden as they are quite adept at making you feel you are the problem.

How to Deal With Controlling People

When dealing with controlling people it is important to remember one thing: It’s less about how you handle a controlling person and more about how you handle yourself. The first step is to be able to successfully identify when a person is controlling. The key to this is understanding that there is a difference between pressure and persuasion. A person that utilizes facts and logic to present their argument, while still allowing you the freedom to make your own choice is using persuasion. A person that is attempting to make you feel like you have no choice or that circumvents your choice is using pressuring behavior and attempting to control you. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on the right path to dealing with controlling people:

It is important to understand exactly why you may fall in line with a controlling person. This is the first step to learning how to handle them.
It is important to understand exactly why you may fall in line with a controlling person. This is the first step to learning how to handle them. | Source

1. Consider why you comply

People typically do what works for them. This means a controlling person continues to control because people typically comply. The answer to this is not then to turn around and try to control the controller. Instead, ask yourself if you are playing a role in continuing the behavior. Have you grown so use to their behavior that you just give in without a second thought? Is it just easier to do what they say than to face a blow up? Are their self-doubts and insecurities within you that you just don’t want to surface? Is it just easier to allow them to lead so that you don’t have to take any responsibility? These are all questions worthy of an answer, particularly if you want to learn a new way of dealing with controlling people.

2. Believe in yourself

People lacking in self-confidence often feel ill-equipped to question authority and most controlling personalities present themselves as authorities over everything. They are quite good at undermining any confidence you may have. It is, therefore, important to remember all the successes and positive outcomes you have had in life. Remind yourself daily of your strengths and accomplishments. Write them down if you need to. Set goals and work towards attaining them. Once you’ve accomplished it, write it down and then set another. You are a person that deserves to be heard and once you’ve proven this to yourself, you will find a way to make sure it happens.

3. Go Ahead and Give them the Control (or so they think)

Sometimes the easiest way to deal with a controlling person is to simply make them feel in control. Find ways to make your ideas their ideas. Verbalize that they were the inspiration behind the plan and that without them none of it would have happened. Even try phrasing your ideas in the form of a question that allows them to be the authority, such as, “What do you think would happen if we tried…?”

4. Keep Ammunition Away From the Gun

In other words, don’t give them anything to use against you later. Watch what you say to a controlling person, particularly if they are of the deceptive controlling style. It is important that you not share secrets or discuss your self-doubts and fears. If you do so then be prepared to hear about it from other people and for it to be used against you at some point.

5. Remember it’s not you

This is an important point, especially when dealing with passive aggressive people. They seem to have a gift for turning things around and making you think you’re the one in the wrong. They will play the “poor me” card until you find yourself feeling guilty and apologizing. Remember, their controlling behavior does not have to control you and in all things you have a choice.

No means no. Yes means yes. When dealing with a controlling person it's important to make a decision and stick to it.
No means no. Yes means yes. When dealing with a controlling person it's important to make a decision and stick to it. | Source

6. Say “No” or “Yes” and stick to it

Being direct and honest is often a good way of communicating with a controlling person. It conveys a sense of confidence and self-worth. Waffling takes that all away, however, so once you say “no” or “yes” stick to it.

A controlling personality can be a hard thing to deal with. Handling them successfully may require a lot of mental self-coaching on your part, but it is often worth it in the end. The final tip on just how to deal with controlling people is this: use caution where caution is needed. You know your situation better than anyone. Though most controlling personality types are not violent there are those whose controlling behavior rises to the level of abusive. No one deserves to be abused and no one deserves to lose their identity.


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    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 

      3 months ago from South Dakota, USA

      Excellent hub. I personally have used the techniques of letting the controller think that I had given in, and keeping my nose clean, so to speak.

      You need to have these coping strategies, because controllers are everywhere.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      controlling people make me self destructive. suicidally self destructive.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I can stop controlling. And being controlled. We dance the dance.

    • profile image

      donald reed 

      6 years ago

      this has been really helpful why people control others and how

      and how to deal with it thanks

    • LQWILLIams profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the article.

    • catgypsy profile image


      6 years ago from the South

      This is one of the best articles I've ever read on this topic. Unfortunately, I have several of these people in my life and your tips will help me deal with them better. Thanks for this hub!

    • LQWILLIams profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. i am glad you liked it. This is a really good question. I would say that people do what works for them and people stay where they are comfortable. This being said, a person that continuously attracts someone who is controlling may be unconsciously displaying a willingness, need, or even desire to be controlled. A controlling person is quite comfortable in this setting and they are quite adept at finding people and situations that will allow them to express their need to control. The first step to changing who you attract is to first become aware of why you may be attracting them. What is it about you that makes you vulnerable to these individuals? It may be something as simple as an inability to say no. Whatever it is, if you adjust it the other person only has a few choices. They can positively adjust their behavior to accommodate your new response, escalate their behavior (in hopes that you will adjust your behavior back to a response they find more comfortable), or leave. The more you practice saying no or being more assertive or whatever you determine is the reason you attract a certain personality, the more habitual it will become and before you know it you are no longer attracting the element you don't desire.

    • kosanya profile image


      7 years ago

      I like your hub. If you do have a personality that attracts controlling people, how do you change that?

    • LQWILLIams profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      You are quite welcome and thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Dreamhowl profile image

      Jessica Peri 

      7 years ago from United States

      Great hub. I feel that most of us have run into a controlling person at some point - I can even think of one right now. Thanks for the helpful advice!

    • LQWILLIams profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Do we attract controlling people? This is a great question. I would say certain personalities do attract other certain personalities. This is probably more evident in one's personal life than in the workplace because you can't always choose your coworkers or your boss but you can choose you friends or significant other. As for when is enough enough? I think in any given situation it's really up to the individual and their tolerance ability. If my boss is causing me more stress than my paycheck can compensate for, it's time to find other employment. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      7 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Controlling people are very difficult to work for. They seem to always have the upper hand. I like your last statement, "No one deserves to be abused, and no one deserves to lose their identity." At what point does a person say enough is enough and find other employment? Will the same thing happen again? Do we attract controlling people?


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