How to Handle a Controlling and Pushy Friend

Even if you'd rather avoid the situation

Friends Talking
Christian Vierig / Getty Images

The healthiest friendships are those based on honest and open communication and support. However, not all relationships are perfect, and some friendships can foster more toxic behaviors than positive ones. If you find yourself dealing with a bossy friend—you know, the one who shares their opinion even when it's not welcome or tends not to participate in activities unless things go according to their plans—it might be time to reevaluate how this relationship is serving you.

That's not to say you can't make a friendship work with someone who has a strong personality, but there are ways to learn how to say no to a bossy friend that will leave you and them feeling happier and more at ease. The key to making it work is identifying why you might be prone to letting someone boss you around, understanding why your friend has the tendency to take control, and learning how you can best both move forward. Keep reading to find out how to handle a bossy friend.

Don't be afraid to be honest and take a stand when you need to. It will help both you and your friend feel happier and more comfortable with the friendship in the long run.

Self-Reflect

It’s one thing to have a bossy friend and another to allow them to interfere with your life. You can’t necessarily change your friend but you can control how you react to what they say and do.

Before you blame your friend, you might consider asking yourself why they have power over you. Are you looking for approval? Do you feel uncertain in your own decision-making abilities? Are you trying to avoid conflict? Once you get to the root of why you've been able to let a friend boss you around, you can better learn how to handle them and your relationship in the future.

Gain Perspective 

For some people, taking control and voicing opinions is simply in their nature. While you might not always be able to understand exactly why your friend is the way they are, you can accept them for who they are and learn how to communicate with them in a way that works for the both of you (even if that means saying no every once in a while). 

For instance, people with bossy tendencies may be quick to offer opinions and often feel best when they know others follow their suggestions. If this is how someone in your life acts, you may consider voicing your own opinion about what you need from them as your friend.

Perhaps you want them to understand that sometimes you just need a person who will listen without offering advice or opinions. If you're unsure how to say no to a bossy friend, you can try saying something like, "You've always been great about sharing your thoughts with me, but for right now I'm looking for you to just listen. This will help me figure out what I need."

This helps assure your friend that they’re still important to you but that their role needs to change from adviser to listener.

Move Forward

Negative friends can change your personality if you let them. Instead, keep your cool with a bossy friend and do your best to remain assertive but kind.

Advice guru Liz Pryor notes: "My first suggestion for a better approach to handling a bossy person in your life is to keep in mind that many bossy people back down immediately when confronted...They seem so powerful and mighty in their commands, but the moment you calmly say 'no' or state that you disagree, you will likely find that more than half will, without discussion, immediately acquiesce."

Keep in mind that just because someone is being pushy or loud with you doesn’t mean you have to treat them the same way. Instead of falling into their patterns, you can always remove yourself from a negative situation.

Other than disengaging when necessary, you can also control how you deal with a bossy friend. For instance, if your friend gets pushy when it comes to making plans, invite them to join in on plans you’ve already decided on. This way, they'll be forced to either agree to the plans or stay home. This sends the message that they aren’t in charge of the friendship or how you spend your time.

Lastly, if a friend gets bossy when it comes to giving advice, you can make it clear that you're not looking for their opinion. It's okay to be upfront about how you're feeling and say no to a bossy friend. "We don't want to be doormats and we don't want to be bossy. We want to be in charge and cognizant of the way we are communicating," summarizes Pryor. By speaking your mind, you and your friend can move forward and take steps towards fostering a healthier friendship.

Article Sources
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  1. Amati V, Meggiolaro S, Rivellini G, Zaccarin S. Social Relations and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Friends. Genus. 2018;74(1):7.doi:10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z

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