June 28, 2011 -- A woman wrote me recently asking why certain people are so bossy and what she can do to better tolerate the behavior.
My 10-year-old son asked the same thing last week, and I thought it myself just recently. What is it that makes a person feel they can tell others what to do so often and so consistently?
In answer to my son's question, my daughter actually replied, "Why does your friend Sam boss you around? Because he can, you let him."
Out of the mouths of babes, and she is absolutely right. Even as adults, we allow bossy people to do their thing.
Some of us couldn't care less, as we're happy to have someone else do the thinking and delegate. Others seethe on the inside while we reluctantly do as we're told. Then some of us refuse, or stand up and say something about it.
What exactly can we do to keep a bossy person in line? It depends on your investment in the situation.
Certain bossy people appear to be simply born that way. Other bossy people seem to choose their times, and to whom they are bossy. Whether it's vying for control, power, self-importance or habit, the behavior can be anywhere from annoying to infuriating for the rest of us.
If we break it down into different scenarios, we might notice that the way we deal with a bossy boss, or co-worker or person of authority, is quite different from how we might handle it with a friend, a spouse or a person we love.
In general, most of us seem to prefer the path of least resistance, which can tend to make us feel like a victim when dealing with a bossy person.
My first suggestion for a better approach to handling a bossy person in your life is to keep in mind that many bossy people back down immediately when confronted.
Isn't that interesting?
They seem so powerful and mighty in their commands, but the moment you calmly say "no" or state that you disagree, you will likely find that more than half will, without discussion, immediately acquiesce.
Further, if you fulfill their command but tell them you don't like the way they asked, again, they might immediately apologize.
So, by all means, give this a try.
For the more challenging bossy experience, if we think about what bothers us so much, it is often the sense of entitlement the person is displaying and, perhaps, the lack of disrespect we feel when spoken to in such a way.
The shocking part of all of this is in the idea that if we really wanted to, we could curb all bossy behavior.
If we stepped up every time and said something in response to a bossy behavior, even for those who don't get it the first time around, it would make a difference.
If we stepped up and demanded that the behavior stop, it would, indeed, ultimately stop. It's about setting a precedent.
For those who believe they get bossed around more often than others, it's common they would also feel that people around them see them as particularly kind and giving, and less likely to say "no."
These are the personality types who need to be the most wary around bossy people. Their desire to feel like an accommodating, easy person makes them serious bait for those who are not so accommodating.
We have to make choices in order to feel more in control and less a victim of bossiness, even outside the office, from people like a neighbor or a shop owner.
We don't want to be doormats and we don't want to be bossy. We want to be in charge and cognizant of the way we are communicating.
By staying in the truth of what we feel and telling people as such, our lives can be that much less complicated. The next time someone you know bosses you around, try acknowledging their behavior out loud.
The next time someone you don't know bosses you around, try speaking up about how you wouldn't mind doing whatever it is they've requested, but that their manner of asking feels abrupt. See what happens.
And the next time you decide not to do anything about it? Remember, that is your choice.
But for a little push in the right direction, remind yourself that if you stay silent in the moment by not pushing back against the bossy behavior, only to seethe about it later, you are prolonging the negative experience for yourself, while also enabling the bossy boss.
So, give it some extra thought.