People are controlling for many reasons. They can just be controlling because of the natural wiring of their personality, because they are projecting their feeling of being out of control onto you, or because they have anxiety or personality disorders.
But at a certain point, it doesn’t matter why someone is acting a certain way. You aren’t entitled to a perfect life. Stop being a victim and take the power back. Instead of asking yourself what is wrong with that person, ask yourself what you are going to do about it. This article will help you take action against controlling people today.
Table of Contents
- The most simple technique is to separate yourself from this person. Ask yourself what is to be gained by interacting with the person. If there is something to be gained, you probably need to stick around and fight. Otherwise, why waste your resources and energy? Life is too short to spend it with controlling people. Try having a simple conversation with them where you explain why you feel controlled and how you expect them to act. If they don’t change, walk away. You deserve people who choose to respect your boundaries.
- Follow the 3rd Law of Power and conceal your intentions. By being less transparent you make it more difficult for people to control you. Practice developing an air of mystery, only giving hints and possible courses of action. Don’t let anyone know what you are doing until it is too late.
- One of the three strongest tools controlling people use is logic. Logic is a powerful tool for discovering truth and governing behavior. But controlling people often twist logic to allow them to force others to do what they think is right. Remember logic isn’t perfect. The Greeks had plenty of logical reasons for believing in Greek gods. People use logic to control by making an appeal to a higher or better principle. They might argue that their way of doing things is better, or yours is worse. Theirs is more efficient, moral, socially sanctioned, or personally valuable. It is usually a trap to argue with a controlling person. Instead, use the deny and reassert technique. Disagree with them and restate what you will do. When they press you to explain or say it doesn’t make sense, don’t explain. These people make you feel like you owe them an explanation but you don’t. When you explain, you are giving them opportunities to nit pick your argument, and you are implicitly seeking their approval. Frame the conversation as if you are having it with a child. Simply say this is the way this is happening because I say so.
- If you must debate them, here are a few techniques that work well with controlling people. First discount their argument as “a nice theory.” Simply say you aren’t convinced yet and that you need to see more proof. You can attack the argument they are making as too difficult to do, too early to make a decision, or too late to deal with something. See this article on how to out logic them.
- The second most common tool of the controlling person is shame and social pressure. When logic can’t give them justification for what they want you to do, they resort to ad hominem attacks. These attacks make fun of you for not following the crowd, expressing yourself in an uncommon way, or just simply behaving in a way they don’t like. There are two things you can do in this situation. First realize people use shame based attacks because they don’t have a good logical reason for you to do what they want. See their jump to shame and social pressure as evidence that you would do well to reject their plan. Second you can respond to this shaming by reframing them as emotional and illogical. Say, “let me know when you have an actual logical argument.” See this post for more techniques on how to deal with toxic people.
- The third common tool is emotional manipulation. Controlling people will often try to get you to feel a feeling that is likely to make you comply with their demands. Counter this by recognizing what they are up to and refusing to comply. Instead, change the conversation to a different topic.
- Another tactic that works is to stonewall and refuse to talk about the topic. Controlling people need you to engage with them in order for them to control you. Stonewall by responding to what they are saying with another question. Refuse to answer their questions.
- Controlling people often use punishment as a way to force you to comply with what they want. A simple way to respond to this is to punish them back. This means if they insult you, insult them back. If they stop inviting you to social events, make a new group of friends. Simply practice taking their actions and using them to make your life better. See this article for more on how changing your mental approach to an event can empower you. Another version of this is the “you can’t hurt me” card. Simply take what the person is doing to you and start doing it even more. This shows them they can’t hurt you. For example, if someone is playing music to annoy you into leaving the house, play music even louder. Careful, this only works well with more benign punishments.
- Simply tell them to go control someone or something else. If they are doing something you think is controlling you can simply tell them to stop doing it because you don’t like it. Don’t explain any further.
- Tell them you never asked for their input.
- If they get involved in other people’s lives that aren’t their business, ask “why are you insulting (name of person)?” They will say they aren’t. Explain how they are by saying, “well if you thought (person’s name) was capable of handling the problem on their own, you wouldn’t feel the need to get involved in their life.”
- Reframe their attempt to control your behavior. If a controlling person tells you to do something you don’t want to do, simply say “you haven’t earned that yet,” or “you don’t deserve me doing that yet.” This works well because it sets you back up as the person who decides.
- Often people try to control you because you come off weak when they first meet you. This could be because you seem friendly, because you have poor body language or eye contact, or because they think they are higher on the dominance hierarchy than you. Fix this in two simple ways. First, start disagreeing with everything they say. If you can’t think of a good counter argument, simply say “that just isn’t how that works.” Perfecting Socratic questioning can also have a strong effect on people taking you seriously. Second when they tell you to do something you need to immediately do the exact opposite. This shows them you can’t be controlled. If they are the kind of person who tells you to do obvious things you were already going to do, say “what evidence do you have that I wasn’t going to do that?”
- Controlling people often run right over you when you speak, or cut you off. When they cut you off, hold up one finger and don’t stop talking. Instead, raise your voice and keep going until they quit first.
- Learn to only talk about things you want to talk about. Controlling people try to force you to give them information they can control you with. Stop sharing all the details of your life. Stop talking about your problems and shortcomings with them. These things are an invitation for them to take control. When they bring up a topic that they could use to control you, dodge. See this guide on how to dodge questions and topics you don’t want to discuss. You can also just reframe the conversation. Simply steer away from the topic by saying “that isn’t what I am interested in talking about,” or “that isn’t the topic of this conversation.”
- Use the counter technique. When people try to control you they often make an argument. Cherry pick part of that argument that is weak for them and refuse to talk about any other part of it.
- Momentum is important to controlling people. If you can get your full argument out, it increases your chance of controlling the person. Interrupt the controlling person’s momentum by constantly interrupting them. Act confused. Ask questions about words they use, start making loud noises like coughing, ask questions to other people in the room, walk away. Get them talking about some part of their argument and keep asking questions so they never make it past that part. Over complicate what they are saying. Do anything you can to stop them from building momentum.
- Controlling individuals need you to have a problem in order for them to fix it. Frame the person as a whiner or someone who is always negative or as someone who is overly sensitive. This refocuses the conversation on how they are the one with the problem, and not you.
- Try to control them back. Often people don’t know what they are doing until they have experienced a similar situation. If the person nit picks your actions, dress, words, or behavior, do it back to them.
If you regularly have people who try to control you, you need to ask yourself if you are the problem. Are you constantly asking for advice? Are you constantly whining about your life or problems? Do you differ to other people with your important life decisions? Do you do things worthy of respect? Are you assertive? Do you stand up for what you think? Stop being a victim and fix yourself.