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Controlling People: 14 Common Traits and Ways to Deal with Them

Maybe it’s your parent, boss, or significant other. But no matter who they are, controlling people are very dangerous. Here’s what they are like.

Controlling People

I have a couple of friends who were in abusive relationships. And you know what? It shocked me. Not only did I feel horrible for them, never in a million years would I have expected them to end up in a destructive situation like that.

No one likes to feel like a caged animal and controlled by another person. But sadly, that is the reality for many people in the world.

The scariest part of it, however, is that some of those who are the victims of controlling people don’t even realize the situation that they are in. They have been beaten down so much that it’s normal to them. It’s their reality, and so they don’t even question it. But I’m here to tell you… it’s NOT normal.

10 biggest characteristics of controlling people

Interestingly enough, controlling people are very skilled at what they do. What I mean by that is they slowly, but surely, turn up their repressive behavior. When it happens slowly, the victims don’t notice the change in behavior quite as easily.

But if you are wondering if you have one of these controlling people in your life, keep reading. Here are 10 characteristics of controlling people. [Read: 15 questions to handle a controlling personality instantly]

#1 Constant criticism. One huge characteristic of controlling people is that they constantly criticize other people. Why? Because they want to beat you down. If you feel powerless from constant criticism, then you won’t be able to fight back. That’s just what controlling people want.

#2 Their love and acceptance are conditional. If you’re hearing things like, “If you cook me dinner and it’s ready on time… ” then the person is implying that if you don’t comply with their demands, then they won’t love or accept you.

But the irony is that even when you do comply, they still don’t love and accept you. Not because of YOU, but because they are literally incapable of loving another person *including themselves*. [Read: 25 signs of covert narcissism – A special kind of mind game]

#3 They isolate you. Another thing controlling people do is they make sure that you don’t associate with your friends or family anymore *or a lot less often*. Again, this happens slowly. If it was sudden, then you would notice it and probably fight back.

But as time goes on, controlling people just want you to be with them – and only them. The reason for this is because if you told your loved ones the way that person is behaving towards you, then it might blow their cover. It will let other people know of their controlling ways. And controlling people don’t ever want that to happen. [Read: 15 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend]

#4 They keep score. Just like it’s a basketball game, they will mentally take note of every “nice” thing they have ever done for you. And they will make you pay for it. Even if your score is a lot higher than theirs, they’ll never admit it.

That’s because the score card is imaginary. It’s all in their heads. It’s their own fantasy, so they can make up whatever the heck they want. And since it’s not actually written down, you probably won’t challenge them on it. It’s a sneaky tactic that works quite well for controlling people.

#5 Guilt is their primary tool for motivation. Guilt is one of the most powerful persuasive tools on earth. No one likes to feel guilty, so if and when we do, we will comply with others’ wishes just so we can rid ourselves of feeling that awful emotion.

The terrible part is that controlling people know this. They may not know it consciously, but they certainly know guilt is an effective way to control people – that’s why they do it. So, if someone is constantly making you feel guilty, then it’s a strategy to control you. [Read: 10 guilt-free ways to handle guilt trippers in your life]

#6 They violate your privacy. Does it look like someone rummaged through your purse? Or maybe you swore that you had an unread text or email, but now it’s marked as read? Hmmmm… maybe that’s because someone has already looked at it.

Nothing is private with controlling people. They feel entitled to know everything, because when they do, they can use knowledge and information to further control other people. So, that’s why they’re always snooping around and you have no privacy.

#7 They accuse you of lying. You will hear things like, “You’re cheating on me!” or “I know you did that… ” because they are trying to catch you in a lie. And even if they know you’re not lying, they want you to think that they think you are.

See what’s going on here? It’s all a mind game. When they get inside your mind and start to manipulate it, then you start to question yourself – and reality. They create immense self-doubt within you. And when that happens, they win.

#8 They won’t let you be alone. Everyone likes their alone time once in a while, but controlling people won’t let you have that. Sure, they won’t let you be with other people either, but they will allow you to be with them, and only them.

This is a power move – it’s not because they value your company. This strategy for manipulation is intimately tied with isolating you from family and friends. They want you to only be around them, and to not have any enjoyable “me-time.” [Read: How to stop being manipulated in a relationship]

#9 They say you’re worthless without them. Controlling people will make you think that you need them. They have to do that, because if you think you could live without them, then you would leave. And that’s certainly not what controlling people want.

In order to keep you around, they have to cut you down further by saying that you are nothing without them. And guess what? It’s brainwashing at its best. After hearing that for so long, you actually start to believe it.

#10 They have no empathy. Feelings? What feelings? Controlling people don’t acknowledge that other people have feelings. Do you know why? Because if they did, then they would have to face the reality of the pain that they are inflicting on them.

Overly controlling people live in their own fantasy world. And in that imaginary place, their victims have no feelings. Therefore, that’s why they are treated like objects. [Read: How to handle controlling behavior in a relationship]

What you can do if you are a victim

If you have a controlling person in your life, you don’t have to put up with it. There are steps you can take to make your life better. Here are some things you can do.

#1 Be honest with yourself. Acknowledge the fact that you are in a situation where you are being controlled. You can’t change what you don’t recognize, so the first step is to admit to yourself that it’s happening.

Just like an alcoholic can’t get help if they don’t realize they have a problem, you can’t help yourself if you don’t admit it either. [Read: How to recognize and stop selfish people from hurting you]

#2 Stand up for yourself. This is a tricky one if the controlling person is also physically abusive *which is NEVER acceptable*. But standing up to someone who is trying to manipulate you will throw them off. They won’t know what to do. Love yourself enough to call them on their mental game.

#3 Get away from them. If at all possible, remove yourself from the relationship. This is more difficult if it’s a family member, but if it’s someone that you can distance yourself from, then do it. You need to get as far away from them as possible. [Read: Emotional manipulation – 14 ways people mess with your mind]

#4 Get help. There are many people and organizations that can help you. Whether it’s a good friend, family member, therapist, or a shelter, you need to find people to help you. Sometimes it gets so bad that you can’t do it alone. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. There are always loving people there to assist you.

[Read: 12 subtle signs you’re being manipulated by your lover]

As you can see, controlling people can be destructive in your life. Some control is subtle, while others are more obvious. But either way, recognize these signs and love yourself enough to put a stop to it.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...