Women Who Walk the Talk™

celebrates women of authenticity

Menu Close

How to Recognize Controlling People



Controlling people can be difficult, to say the least.  While at times they don’t  realize they’re driving others away with their manipulative tactics, their actions are often deliberate in their efforts to sabotage. Once we recognize their specific traits, we can often develop a strategy to respond to them with effectiveness, and free ourselves from their controlling ways.

Below are several characteristics experts cite in describing controlling people. If someone in your life exhibits any of the following behaviors, he or she could be attempting to control you.

Controlling people…

  • expect you to alter your views, plans, or personality to fit theirs.
  • are unhappy and try to improve their situation by controlling others.
  • will try to cause problems between you and your family or friends.
  • are stingy with compliments.
  • have temper outbursts.
  • will blame you for everything—nothing is ever their fault.
  • psychologically induce their own physical pain if they think they’re losing control.
  • criticize or demean others as a way of building themselves up and keeping control.
  • must always “win” and get their own way.
  • expect to be “the boss” and be obeyed. They give orders and make demands.
  • give false information and present a false self.
  • frustrate the efforts of others and undermine their plans.
  • hurt others to prove they have the power to do so.
  • use tactics of aggression and intimidation

Liz Ryan listed “The Five Habits of Controlling People” in her January 1, 2016 article for Forbes as follows: 1) They know what your problem is before you tell them; 2) They can’t understand why anyone sees things differently than they do; 3) They get angry when you don’t follow their advice; 4) They have personal rules they expect you to follow; and 5) They don’t see themselves as controlling.

My own assessment is that if someone is continually putting you in a one-down position—leveraging themselves to a pedestal from which they can look down upon you—that person is manipulative and controlling. These individuals also frequently display narcissistic traits, including a need for admiration and lack of empathy.

If someone is opinionated, it doesn’t mean that person is controlling, as long as he or she is willing to accept your differences. So try to be judicious in reaching fair assessment. But most of all, you need to be fair with yourself. If someone is making you feel miserable, because you never seem to meet their expectations, but you always seem to satisfy their insatiable need to best you, while you’re trying your best to be polite and accommodating, a controlling person is most likely using their tactics to manipulate you. If their behavior gets to the point that it’s causing you undue stress—and perhaps you no longer like or respect this person—it’s time to do something about it.

Keep in mind you only want to manage your own response, and liberate yourself from his or her aggressive ways. It’s futile for you to try to change his or her behavior, which —although you may not want to believe it—can be based on cruel intentions.

I’ll share some excellent strategies for dealing with controlling people tomorrow in my next blog. When you’re aware of the effective ways to respond to others’ efforts at control, the stress and discomfort of being in their presence can virtually disappear. And if that doesn’t happen, you have the freedom to disappear as well. We all have a right to our wellbeing and dignity.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones


Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™