How to Not Be Controlled by Your Best Friend

Three Methods:Becoming More AssertiveAddressing Pushy Behavior and Setting BoundariesDetermining If You Are Being Controlled

Sometimes we end up getting close to people who like to be in control. They may be manipulative and bossy. If you start to suspect that your best friend is controlling you, there are a few things you can do. You don’t have to put up with a best friend who doesn’t listen to your needs.

Method 1
Becoming More Assertive

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    Practice saying “No.” Learning how to say “no” is an important part of being assertive. However, if you often say yes, even if you don’t want to, then this can be challenging. Try to remind yourself that saying no is not selfish, it is healthy.[1] Try to pay attention to your needs and say no when you feel that you should.
    • For example, if you friend has asked you to help her with her homework, but you already have other plans, then it is okay to say no. You are not responsible for your friend’s work.
    • Don’t give lots of excuses when you say no because this can provide ways for your friend to try and talk you into doing what she wants. Instead, just keep it simple by saying something like, “No, I can’t do that.”[2]
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    Tell your friend what you need. If you don’t express your needs in a clear way, then it will be hard for your friend to know that something is bothering you. Instead of staying silent, be direct and tell your friend what you need.[3] Your friend will probably appreciate your honesty and want to preserve the friendship.
    • Tell your friend that you want him or her to stop bossing you around by saying something like, “It upsets me when you tell me what to do. I would like it if you could stop doing that.”
    • You could also mention specific things that you need. For example, you might tell your friend, “I need you to listen to me sometimes.” Or, “I need you to be more supportive and less critical of my decisions.”
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    Explain how certain behaviors affect you. A lot of times, your best friend may not realize that he or she is being controlling. In many cases, it is simply their personality to take charge. Explaining that your friend’s behavior is upsetting to you sometimes can help your friend to make changes.
    • For example, you could say, "Hey, I know you don't mean to, but most of the time I feel ignored when you don't pay attention to what I want to do."
    • You could also try, "I know your heart is in the right place, but I want to be in charge sometimes. It feels like you don't care what I think, even though I know you don't mean it."
    • For an even more assertive approach, you could say something like, “I am going to take the initiative and plan our lunch date this time.”
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    Give gentle reminders. After you have explained that you are unwilling to be controlled by them anymore, you can set in place a system that helps your friend learn new ways of interacting with you. For example, instead of being rude and insulting them the next time they try to take over in a situation, you can be polite and say, “I get what you’re trying to say, but I want to figure this out on my own.”[4]
    • Since your friend is learning a new habit, it may take weeks of reminding them that you don’t want to be controlled anymore for them to get it.
    • Be gentle in your reminders, saying something like, "Hey, remember when I said that I wanted to decide where we go more often?"

Method 2
Addressing Pushy Behavior and Setting Boundaries

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    Stay calm. Some people enjoy making other people upset. If it seems like your friend often pushes your buttons just for fun, then don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing you get flustered.[5] Stay as calm as possible and address her in a calm, even voice.
    • Using assertive body language may also help. Try to stand tall, face your friend, and keep your arms loose at your sides.[6]
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    Respond to insults with questions. Insults put the focus on you, but you can turn them around by responding with a question.[7] If your friend comes at you with an insult, then do not get upset. Instead, ask a question to return the focus to your friend.
    • For example, if your friend says something like, “You are so dumb,” then you can respond with something like, “If you talk to me that way, then I am going to leave. Is that what you want?”
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    Explain how you would like to be addressed. If your friend has a habit of bossing you around, then correct her. Tell her how you want her to address you instead. For example, if your friend says, “Go get me a can of soda,” then you could correct her by saying, “I think you mean ‘Can I please have a can of soda?’”
    • If your friend refuses to address you in a respectful manner, then refuse to do what she wants. Remember that you have the right to be treated with respect.[8]
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    Cut down on the amount of time you spend together. If your attempts to address your friend’s bossiness don’t work, then you may need to cut back on the amount of time that you spend with her to show that you are not willing to put up with this treatment.[9] Try limiting your time with this friend to one outing per week, or less if she is treating you really badly.
    • If your friend asks why you don’t want to spend as much time with her, then you can say something like, “I don’t like the way you treat me. Until that changes, I can’t see you as much as I used to.”

Method 3
Determining If You Are Being Controlled

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    Determine if they always decide what’s best for you. If you’re feeling controlled by your best friend, you may want to confirm that what they are doing is not healthy. One way to do this is to notice if when you are hanging out, they like to decide what is best for you. Do they place your order at restaurants? Do they pick out your clothes when you are going out together?
    • A sign that someone is manipulating you is first promising you that they will fulfill some desire you have if you agree to go along with what they have decided.[10]
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    Discern if you always have to do things their way. Not only do controlling friends like to decide what you should do, they want things their way. Ask yourself: Does my best friend ever let me decide where we are going? Do they let me choose what kind of food we will eat? Do they let me plan outings? If not, your best friend may feel the need to be in control, which is a sign of a manipulative person.[11]
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    Decide if you feel this friendship is fun. If you notice that your friendship is stale and lacks spontaneity and fun, it may be a sign that your best friend is controlling you.[12] This can happen when your friend makes all the decisions for you, forcing everything in your friendship to be all about them.
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    Determine if you feel suffocated. Feeling smothered doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. A feeling of being dominated and smothered can occur in a controlling friendship. If you feel that your best friend is domineering and that they are suffocating your life, this is a sign that they are controlling you.[13]
    • You know you feel suffocated when you are angry that you can’t make decisions for yourself.
    • You can also feel smothered when your friend wants to take up all your time and does not have consideration for what you in your daily schedule.[14]
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    Listen to how often they tell you no. How often do you hear, “No” from your best friend? Perhaps they say, “No, I think I want to do something else,” or, “No, that’s not a good idea.” Hearing “no” constantly from your best friend is a sign that they are repeatedly taking over situations.
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    Notice if they get angry when you are with other friends. If your best friend becomes upset and jealous when you spend time with other friends, this is a sign that they are controlling. When you are with other people, you can’t be controlled as easily. Controlling or manipulative people want to constantly be in control, and when they see you with others, they feel threatened.[15]
    • They may yell at you for spending time with other people, or they may try to sabotage your friendships without telling you what they are doing.


  • Say "no" in an assertive tone, but don't sound aggressive.


  • If your best friend threatens you physically, with blackmail, etc., then you need to get out of the situation and find help. This may be as simple as telling a parent if you are a child, or telling someone important in your best friend’s life (like their spouse), or even teachers.

Article Info

Categories: Best Friends