How to Handle a Bossy Friend
Most friends will kindly offer opinions on our life if we ask them, but a few bossy ones will tell us what they think even when we don’t want to hear it. Or they get upset if you don’t do the things they want you to do. These people are still good friends to have but need to be reined in or you’ll end up giving them undue control over your life.
Identify Your People Pleasing Tendencies
It’s one thing to have a bossy friend and another to allow them to interfere with your life. You can’t change your friend (so your bossy friend will always be that way) but you can control the amount the influence they have on your life.
Before you blame your friend, ask yourself why they have power over you. Do you secretly want their approval to make up for some other area of your life where you are missing love and acceptance, like from a spouse or parent? Do you feel uncertain in your own decision making abilities and rely on their input? Are you trying to agree with them just to avoid conflict?
If you’re a “people pleaser,” it means that you emotionally get something out of making other people happy. You might be doing this with your bossy friend. Times when people typically act this way include:
• When their self-esteem is low. They look for validation in their bossy friend rather than getting it intrinsically.
• When they hate conflict so much they’ll do anything to avoid an argument. Remember that arguing isn’t bad in friendships. In fact, it can be helpful. It depends how you do it.
• They’ve relied on their friend’s opinion in the past and now their friend thinks they can’t make their own decisions.
• They’re in a mentoring relationship that is out of balance. Mentors should guide you maturely, not insist on you doing things their way.
When You’ve Relied on Your Friend’s Counsel in the Past
Perhaps you’ve consistently gone to a friend to ask how they would handle something. They gave you advice and you took it. But now, things are different. Perhaps even, you’re different. Maybe you started out as someone who was unsure of themselves but your self-esteem grew and now you’re more confident and less in need of advice.
This change in your friendship might be difficult for your friend to digest. Where your friend was once very helpful, their advice now seems bossy to you. Let them know that you’re grateful they were there for you but you’re strong enough to make your own decisions now.
You could say:
“I appreciate the advice you’ve always given me, but I think this time I have to make up my mind all by myself.”
“Thanks for offering your thoughts. I really need to think about this one on my own, but it’s good to know you’re there if I should need you.”
Allow your friend some time to digest all that has changed with your friendship. If they have taken on the “role” of being the mature one or mentor, it will take some time for them to realize that your friendship has evolved. Try not to get impatient with them as they continue to dole out advice, but if they start insisting on you doing things their way, gently tell them again that you are not looking for their input.
You could say:
“In the past I’ve really relied on your advice. Perhaps too much. But I need to do this on my own.”
“I appreciate your openness in sharing your opinions with me. But right now your advice isn’t helping. This is just something I need to think on myself.”
If Your Friend’s Personality Is Naturally Bossy
Subtlety doesn’t always work with a bossy person. People who push their opinions on others get an emotional payoff when someone does something the way they suggest. They can say, “I told them to do this” or “I connected her with so-and-so” and this helps them feel good about themselves.
But your bossy friend needs to understand that sometimes you just want them to listen without offering you opinions. In that case, tell them:
“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 their role needs to change from adviser to listener.
If your friend insists that you do things their way, you can push back by expressing your own desires more strongly. Say something like:
“I’m usually okay with whatever you decide but I’d like to really do this thing now. You’re welcome to come with me. If not, we’ll figure out something else we can do together later on.”
Don’t be afraid to let your friend know that you will walk away and do something else without them. You can do this without losing your cool or becoming the bossy one yourself. If you’re willing to take a stand a time or two, your friend will know that they need to be better at the give and take6 involved with friendship.
Managing a Bossy Friend
Negative friends can change our personalities if we let them. So don’t do that! Instead, keep your cool with a bossy friend and always remain assertive but kind. Just because someone is being pushy or loud with you doesn’t mean you need to do the same thing back. When you find yourself shouting to be heard or feeling like you need to fight to just have your side of things expressed, back away from the situation. If you disengage enough times with a bossy friend, they’ll have to find someone else to push around. Or, they might change their ways so they can stay friends with you.
Also, watch for times when a friend gets bossy and change how you deal with this person. For instance, if your friend gets pushy when it comes to making plans, invite him or her out with plans you’ve already decided on. Then they will be forced to either agree to the plans or stay home. This gives them the subtle message that they aren’t in charge of the friendship or how you spend your time.
If a friend gets bossy when it comes to advice, don’t ask them for it! Be careful about answering the questions they ask you about what’s going on in your life, and keep them at arm’s length with personal information. This lets them know that their unsolicited opinions are not appreciated.