How To Effectively Deal With a Controlling Person

Dealing with a controlling person can be challenging, whether it’s a family member, friend, or co-worker. It’s not uncommon to encounter someone who wants to control every aspect of your life, from what you wear to who you spend time with. This type of behavior can be frustrating, stressful, and even damaging to your self-esteem.

Fortunately, there are ways to cope with a controlling person and maintain your sense of self. It’s important to understand that controlling behavior is often rooted in insecurity and fear, and not a reflection of your worth as a person. By setting boundaries, communicating assertively, and prioritizing your own needs and wants, you can minimize the impact of a controlling person on your life. Let’s dive in deeper below.

Recognizing Controlling Behavior

Dealing with a controlling person can be challenging, but recognizing the signs of controlling behavior can help you navigate the situation.

Subtle Signs of Control

Controlling behavior can be subtle and difficult to recognize. Some subtle signs of control may include:

  • Constant criticism or belittling
  • Isolating the person from friends and family
  • Limiting the person’s access to money or resources
  • Blaming the person for everything that goes wrong
  • Using guilt or manipulation to get what they want

These behaviors may seem harmless at first, but they can quickly escalate and become more severe.

Obvious Signs of Control

Some controlling behaviors are more obvious and easier to recognize. These may include:

  • Physical violence or threats of violence
  • Intimidation or bullying
  • Monitoring the person’s every move or communication
  • Dictating what the person can wear, eat, or do
  • Refusing to allow the person to make their own decisions

These behaviors are not only harmful but can also be dangerous. If you or someone you know is experiencing these types of behaviors, it is important to seek help immediately.

Understanding the Root Causes of Control

Dealing with a controlling person can be challenging and frustrating. However, understanding the root causes of control can help individuals respond in a more effective way. Control is often rooted in underlying psychological or emotional issues, such as insecurity, fear, and past trauma or abuse.

Insecurity and Fear

One of the main reasons why people become controlling is due to their own insecurities and fears. They may feel a lack of control in their own lives, and as a result, try to control others around them. This behavior can manifest in various ways, such as micromanaging, dictating how others should behave, or being overly critical of others.

It’s important to understand that controlling behavior is often a reflection of the person’s own internal struggles. By recognizing this, individuals can approach the situation with empathy and compassion, rather than becoming defensive or combative.

Past Trauma or Abuse

Another common root cause of control is past trauma or abuse. Individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse may feel a heightened sense of vulnerability and a need for control as a means of protecting themselves. This can result in controlling behavior as a way to avoid feeling powerless or helpless.

It’s important to approach individuals who exhibit controlling behavior with sensitivity and understanding. Recognizing that their behavior may be rooted in past trauma or abuse can help individuals respond in a more compassionate and effective way.

Overall, understanding the root causes of control can help individuals respond in a more effective and compassionate way. By recognizing that controlling behavior is often rooted in underlying psychological or emotional issues, individuals can approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

Setting Boundaries and Communicating Assertively

Dealing with a controlling person can be challenging, but setting boundaries and communicating assertively can help. Here are some tips:

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Identifying Your Boundaries

The first step in setting boundaries is identifying what they are. Take some time to reflect on what you are and are not comfortable with. This can include things like how much time you spend with the person, what topics of conversation are off-limits, and what behaviors are unacceptable. It’s important to be clear about your boundaries so that you can communicate them effectively.

Communicating Your Boundaries

Once you have identified your boundaries, it’s time to communicate them to the controlling person. Use “I” statements to express how their behavior makes you feel and be specific about what you need from them. For example, “I feel uncomfortable when you criticize my choices. I need you to respect my decisions and not try to control me.” It’s important to remain calm and assertive when communicating your boundaries, as getting defensive or aggressive can escalate the situation.

It can also be helpful to have a plan in place for how you will respond if the controlling person violates your boundaries. This can include leaving the situation, ending the conversation, or seeking support from a trusted friend or family member.

Enforcing Your Boundaries

Enforcing your boundaries can be challenging, especially if the controlling person is used to getting their way. However, it’s important to stick to your boundaries and not give in to their demands. This can involve repeating your boundaries and consequences, using non-confrontational language, and staying calm and firm.

If the controlling person continues to violate your boundaries, it may be necessary to limit or cut off contact with them. This can be a difficult decision, but it’s important to prioritize your own well-being and safety.

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Remember, setting boundaries and communicating assertively is not about controlling the other person, but rather about taking care of yourself and maintaining healthy relationships. With practice, you can become more confident in your ability to set and enforce your boundaries.

Seeking Professional Help

If the controlling person in your life is causing significant distress, seeking professional help may be beneficial. There are various types of professionals who can help, including therapists and lawyers.


Therapy can be an effective way to learn coping strategies and develop skills to deal with controlling behavior. A therapist can help you identify patterns in your relationships and provide guidance on how to set boundaries and communicate effectively. They can also help you work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to your vulnerability to controlling behavior.

There are different types of therapy that may be helpful, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, while DBT emphasizes mindfulness and emotional regulation.

Legal Intervention

In some cases, legal intervention may be necessary to protect yourself from a controlling person. If the person is engaging in abusive behavior, you may be able to obtain a restraining order or file criminal charges. A lawyer can provide guidance on your legal options and help you navigate the legal system.

It’s important to note that legal intervention should be a last resort and is not always the best option. It can be a lengthy and stressful process, and may not provide a permanent solution to the problem. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of legal intervention and consider seeking therapy or other forms of support before taking legal action.


Ultimately, dealing with a controlling person requires a combination of patience, assertiveness, self-care, and empathy. It is not always easy, but it is possible to maintain healthy and respectful relationships, even with difficult people.