12 traits of an overbearing person (and how to deal with them)

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An overbearing person can cause a lot of problems in your life.

They typically don’t value others in the same way they see themselves, and their actions can reflect that.

It’s not that an overbearing person wants to harm others, it’s just that they have a false sense of superiority and they tend to feel that their way is always the right way.

In this article, we’re going to go over 12 traits of an overbearing person, and then we’ll discuss how you can deal with them.

1. They give advice even if no one asks

An overbearing person wants to give their advice when they see an opportunity to do so.

While they harbor positive intentions, they misread social cues when someone doesn’t want advice.

After all, overbearing people are confident in their know-how and rarely second-guess themselves.

The problem is, some people get annoyed or intimidated by someone offering unwanted advice.

Giving advice when it’s asked for can certainly be helpful, but unsolicited advice is on another level.

It’s disrespectful and presumptive to insert opinions and ideas that may not be wanted.

It communicates an air of superiority and assumes that they know what’s best for someone else.

In fact, according to a study, giving advice to other people might be useful, but it forces them to see themselves as lower than you.

Nobody likes to feel less than or incompetent.

2. They push people to commit

Overbearing people are difficult people. They are very pushy when it comes to getting people to join their cause.

After all, they think their approach is best and they want to lead themselves and others to glory.

But because of this overconfidence, they have a tendency to overstep people’s boundaries.

This is not to say it never works. Overbearing personalities can sometimes inspire people around them with confidence and exuberance.

After all, people want a leader to follow and reveal the path forward.

But on the other hand, people don’t want to be pushed.

Some people dislike being told what to do or think, and overbearing people can do exactly that.

It’s fair to say that overbearing people aren’t always suited to leadership positions, but there are situations where you might need an overbearing leader.

Overbearing leaders tend to fall under the “Directive” leadership bracket.

This means they’re clear in establishing performance objectives and skilled at clarifying people’s roles.

However, it also means they can be pushy and tend to micro-manage, which definitely doesn’t make employees happy.

3. They are not good listeners

Overbearing personalities aren’t typically good listeners.

As we’ve mentioned above, they’re very confident in themselves and their own knowledge-base.

They inherently believe that there isn’t much to learn from other people.

Overbearing people tend to suffer from a “sense of superiority”.

They see most of their relationships as “vertical relationships” where they’re at the top and others are at the bottom.

They want to teach, but they don’t need to learn.

This is why they struggle to listen, and they’re probably thinking of what they’re going to say while another person is talking.

This can present problems in a work environment where people don’t feel heard around an overbearing person and the chances of misunderstands and mistakes rise.

4. They tend to be control freaks

Control freak” is a nasty word, but overbearing people love to be in control.

They love to make decisions for the whole group.

Again, they’re very confident in their own thoughts so they assume that they are making the best decisions for everyone at large.

They forget that other people have opinions as well.

This is particularly a problem for parents with overbearing personalities. They try to control everything how their children think and behave.

But in fact, being an overbearing parent can affect a child’s development.

According to a study at the University of Virginia, teens who grew up with psychologically controlling parents struggle with relationships and educational attainment as adults.

“What we found was that kids who had parents who displayed more overcontrolling behavior tended to struggle in tasks that require assertiveness and independence and autonomy throughout development,” said Emily Loeb, a postdoctoral researcher who was the lead author on the study.

“So by the time the kids were adults, they were in romantic relationships where there wasn’t as much support being given. By 32, they achieved less education relative to those who had less psychological control, and they were less likely to be in a romantic relationship at all by age 32.”

5. They don’t realize when they’re overstepping the mark

Overbearing people aren’t very self-reflective.

Because of this, they may not realize when they’re stepping on someone’s toes.

They’re focused on themselves and the advice they’re giving, so they rarely realize when someone else becomes uncomfortable and distances themselves.

Overbearing people are very confident in their perception of reality, so it can be difficult to tell them otherwise.

Even if you tell them that they’re rude, they’ll generally dismiss it and assume that you’re just over-sensitive.

6. They steer conversations back to themselves

Overbearing people find it natural to steer conversations back to themselves. They tend to consume everyone’s attention because of their strong personalities.

But as they are used to the spotlight being on them, they constantly cut people off as they talk.

As we’ve covered a few times throughout this article, they don’t care to listen to others.

They firmly believe that they are the center of the universe, so they’re much more comfortable in a conversation when the topic is on them. They’ll plot however they can to get what they want.

They can also come across as unthoughtful and inconsiderate, as they speak without much care as to how it will affect other people.

All they do is take up all the space because they believe they’re the only ones with anything valuable to say. They can really be a handful.

If they constantly do this, then they may also be condescending. If you want to learn more about signs of condescending behavior and how to deal with it, check out the video below:

7. They struggle to take “no” for an answer

An overbearing person can be very pushy and direct. The world revolves around them and they’re used to getting what they want.

If someone tells them they can’t do something, they rarely respect it. They’ll keep pushing back, and pestering.

They focus on achieving their goals without consideration of others. This means they will try to change people’s minds, negotiate and just be plain pushy.

When you struggle to accept “no” as an answer you also infringe on people’s boundaries which can be very off-putting for a lot of people.

8. They plan everything down to the minute

Overbearing people may go overboard when it comes to making plans.

They like to be in control, and they expect everyone to go along with their plan.

For example, if someone comes to town to visit, an overbearing person will usually have already figured out the itinerary of where to go and what to do.

Passive people may enjoy this, but over time, it rubs most people the wrong way.

An overbearing person rarely compromises with others and finds it hard to resist the urge of the need to take control.

9. They keep score

Just like it’s a soccer game, an overbearing person will take note of every good thing they have ever done for you.

And they will use that as manipulation to get you to even the score.

This is because they are more comfortable when they are controlling people, and creating an “imaginary scorecard” is an excellent tool for manipulation.

10. They won’t let you be alone

We all love to have our own alone, but overbearing people won’t respect your privacy.

They’re overbearing for a reason. They like to consume your energy because it’s all about them.

If you say you want alone time, it doesn’t compute.

After all, they don’t want alone time so why should you?

11. They get mad at feedback

When you give them feedback about their work, they take it the wrong way. Overbearing people get so defensive when they think they’re being criticized.

They see your remark as negative feedback even if you were just being objective. It doesn’t matter if your intentions are pure, they won’t take it well.

You leave them with a comment on how you think they can improve their performance and they’ll think that you’re judging or hating on them.

You’d think that someone who likes progress would like some insights from other people on how to get better. But that’s far from the truth. Because overbearing people want ideas to come from themselves.

They don’t want to hear about what you think about their work if it’s something negative.

12. They get mad when things don’t go their way

Overbearing people breed a certain amount of rudeness inside of them.

For example, when a waiter gets their order wrong, they flip out immediately. Or when someone doesn’t choose to partner up with them, they’ll take it personally when it’s not really a big deal.

After all, everything has to go exactly according to their plans. And if things go south, they will blame it on someone else.

They have this perfect little view of their life and if they think you’re a factor in things going sideways, they’ll get mad at you.

It’s incredibly toxic and draining.

They just force things to go their way because they’re very keen on how they want things to be. They fixate on the future that they want for themselves and they’re not open to compromise. Even when there’s no way they can get what they want.

How to deal with an overbearing personality: 6 tips

Image credit: Shutterstock – By Dmytro Zinkevych

It’s not easy dealing with an overbearing person.

“People who try to dominate you can be exhausting and suffocating. They make you feel like you can’t breathe and you are trapped in their ways,” says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD.

“Unfortunately, we all have control freaks of different degrees in our lives.  Sometimes it is a boss or friend.  It’s particularly difficult when it is a family member which creates a toxic and tricky world to navigate.  You often can’t just cut them out — you have to learn how to skillfully navigate their nature,” 

So to learn to navigate how to deal with an overbearing person, here are some quick tips:

1. Set limits

If you can’t remove overbearing people from your life, then you need to set some boundaries.

For example, if you find that you always get criticized by an overbearing person when you talk about a particular topic, then avoid talking about that topic with them. Steer the conversation in a different direction.

Once you figure out what triggers you emotionally when you talk with an overbearing person, you can orchestrate the conversation to avoid those triggers.

If they persist in talking about something that you don’t want to talk about, you can take a more direct approach and say:

“I enjoy talking with you, but I just don’t want to talk about “topic trigger” with you”.

They may not like it, but if you say it in a non-confrontational way, they’ll get the message.

2. Be positive

Overbearing people feed off negativity, so try to find ways to be positive towards them.

I’m not saying you should let them walk all over you, but you can ask them to respect your boundaries in a positive manner. Stand your ground and be positive at the same time.

Show them respect, but don’t let them treat you like your superior.

3. Don’t take it personally

When an overbearing person brings you down, this may not necessarily reflect anything about you. In other words, it may not be about your skills or about anything that you did, although they might intentionally make you feel this way.

More often than not, it’s because they’re dealing with their own internal battles. As mentioned above, they love to be in control and rarely listen to others.

Once you know that they have an overbearing personality, you should take any criticism with a grain of salt because what they say may not stand up to reality.

4. Keep your cool

It may be tempting to lash out when you feel frustrated with overbearing people.

But giving them a piece of your mind may just make the situation even worse. Overbearing people might just retaliate in an even more toxic way.

So what should you do? When this happens, take a deep breath and remember that your worth is not dependent on what they say about you.

Be patient and understanding, and when the time is right and you’ve calmed down, then you can start holding them accountable for their overconfidence.

5. Stand your ground

If you are in the right, you should also stand your ground and be assertive. You can’t let overbearing people have their way all the time, especially if it would be detrimental to the community or to the business.

The key here is to argue with these people in a factual manner. To support your claim, share with them hard data, statistics, and insights that they can’t possibly argue with.

6. Distance yourself

Dealing with toxic people can get very draining and exhausting. With this, sometimes the best course of action is to simply remove yourself from the situation.

This may also come in the form of changing the topic when you feel tension arising from your overbearing colleague or friend.


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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