Do people often describe you as overbearing? Does no one want to be your partner in work or school projects because you tend to dominate everything? If you want to stop being bossy, then you have to learn to give up some control and to have faith in the people around you. If you want to know how to stop being bossy and to learn how to work with others in a mutually-beneficial and productive way, then see Step 1 to get started.
Working Better with Others
Be patient. When you’re used to being in a leadership role, it can be excruciating to step aside and wait for someone else to step up, and even more torturous to watch them fumble at a task that you can accomplish so quickly and easily. But what’s the rush? Will it really be the end of the world if things don’t go as smoothly as planned? Relax. Take a deep breath. Wait. You’ll find that if you just have patience, everything will get done without you having to fight for it.
Plus, if others sense that you’re being impatient, they’ll be much more likely to rush and not to get the job done as well as you’d like. There’s a difference between applying gentle pressure and stressing people out.
Give people manageable deadlines that they can work with instead of asking for everything to be done in a ridiculously short time frame.
Let go of perfectionism. Sometimes we’re bossy because we want things done right, and there’s nothing wrong with striving for a job well done, is there? The thing is, there’s more than one way to achieve a good result, and just because your way is the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B doesn’t mean it’s the best way. By assuming your way is the best way, you lock out the creativity of others, and you also chip away at morale. Both of these things are limiting factors in the long run, and that’s not a good result.
If you’re really having a hard time doing this, tell yourself that being a perfectionist is actually imperfect. It’s better to expect the best but not want things to be done exactly the right way, in your eyes. If this is always what you expect, then you are bound to be disappointed.
Stop micromanaging and trying to control every stage of a process. You’ll never be able to work with others this way, and you’ll never be able to get any sleep.
Invest in people. Many bossy people focus their attention on incompetence, and they fail to notice potential and progress. Try to be more alert to people’s individual talents. Give positive feedback. Lots of it. Don’t just see people as tools, as a means to an end, as machines. In order for people to think for themselves, they need to learn, and in order to learn, sometimes we need to make mistakes. Trust them, and give them a fair margin of error. Let them know that you’re there to help, but don’t watch over their shoulders or take over their tasks.
If you notice that a person is doing well and are impressed with the work that person is putting in, then you should praise that person for a job well done. Letting a person know that you’re not only looking out for the negatives can help you build a strong relationship and will also help you be less bossy.
Improve your communication skills. Many times it’s not what you say that comes off as bossy, it’s how you say it. Your tone and phrasing can make a person feel like an incompetent cog in a machine, or it can make them feel like you’re inviting them to reach a worthwhile goal with you. It’s important to pay attention to your timing, your wording, and the examples you use when you try to ask a person to get something done or to offer feedback. The smoother your communication, the more easily you’ll be able to get things done without breathing down anyone’s neck.
You may feel like people will only listen to you if you’re mean, demanding, or intimidating, but this will actually be quite discouraging and will make people less likely to succeed. They will be much more likely to do a good job and to get their work done if you have a strong relationship than if they despise or fear you.
For example, if you learn how to give a feedback sandwich, then you’ll be able to communicate room for improvement while making a person still feel positive.
Strive for consensus. Nothing fosters team-building likeconsensus-building. Even though it’s more time-consuming than democratic voting (i.e. majority rules), the consensus process is more likely to result in all parties reaching common ground. You can be a facilitator, ensuring that everyone’s opinion is heard, and that a decision is made that is satisfactory to everyone involved. If it’s just your way or the highway, then people are much less likely to feel like they are in a supportive, beneficial environment. You may think that laying down the law is the best way to get things done, but it will actually make people much less happy to get to work.
Besides, hearing what everyone has to say can help you find new approaches for getting work done. If you feel like your way of doing things is the only way to get things done, then you’ll never learn anything new.
Ask for honest feedback. Ask for it honestly, not simply because it is a good idea or makes a good impression. Explain to people that you know you can come off as bossy or domineering sometimes, and you’d like to change your style. Ask them to let you know when you’re coming off as bossy, whether by pulling you aside, or even by sending you an anonymous note or e-mail. Be humble and request their help. This shows that you are eager to grow and that you aren’t wedded to your idea of doing things.
If you’re a manager or a boss, making a habit of taking regular anonymous surveys about your performance can shed a lot of light on areas where you have to improve. If many people are telling you the same thing, then you may need to work on changing your game.
Adjusting Your Mindset
Learn to admit when you’re wrong. A big part of being bossy stems from always thinking that you’re right about everything. If you let this go and admit that you’re just as fallible as the next person, then you’ll learn to work with others and to see that they have knowledge and experience to offer you as well. The next time you made a mistake, whether it was at work or with your circle of friends, swallow your pride and admit it. Say that you did what you thought was best and it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. People will appreciate this behavior, instead of you pretending that everything was someone else’s fault.
If you admit that you’re wrong, then people will respect you more, and will feel like they can help you and give you feedback in the future.
If you’ve made a mistake, consider how you could have avoided it. Would it have been better if you had listened to someone else? If that person had a sound idea, you could tell him that you wished you had listened. This won’t be easy, but it can help you avoid the mistake in the future.
Accept things the way they are. If you’re bossy, then the hardest thing in the world can be to accept that some things will just be the way they are. This can include the weather, your coworkers, your friends, or really anything that you can’t completely control or boss around. Though there are some things that are worth changing or improving, there are others that you simply cannot change. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll be on your way to being less bossy and having a more calm, restful mindset. Of course, if something really isn’t working in your environment, then wanting to change it is admirable and a meaningful task. But you can’t change everything. Learn to accept the things that don’t matter as much to you instead of wasting your time being frustrated or irritated about things you can’t control.
Know that giving up control can be as rewarding as taking it. You may think that giving up control means admitting failure and giving up your perfect vision of whatever you want to happen. However, in reality, giving up control can actually be a gratifying experience. Not only will you be improving your relationship with others by allowing them to gain responsibility, but you’ll also be relieving your own stress, and allowing yourself to have more time to do the things you enjoy doing (and that doesn’t include bossing other people around). At first, you may find it unpleasant, but the more you do it, the better it will feel.
Start small to ease into this. You shouldn’t give up all responsibility of your main project or stop making any decisions at all. Just give up some minor control at first, whether you let another coworker proofread a report or let your friend choose where you want to eat. You’ll see that it’ll get easier and easier.
Let people be who they are. Bossy people often want the people around them to be someone other than who they are. They may want them to be more committed friends, harder workers, or more efficient people, and they may try everything they can to make these people change. Now, there are many situations where a person has room for improvement, such as a messy roommate or a coworker who is always late, and those problems are worth addressing. But you can’t expect a person to change completely or you will be sorely disappointed.
For example, if you have a messy roommate, you can certainly ask the person to do his share of the dishes, to take out the trash more often, and to clean up his or her own space. You can do this and hope the person doesn’t have to be reminded, but you can’t expect the person to keep everything spic and span 100% of the time.
There’s a difference between having high expectations and unreasonable expectations. Sure, you can expect the people who work under you to pick up the slack, but you can’t get them to double their pace unless they really have a lot of room for improvement.
Work on your self-esteem. A lot of the reasons that many people are bossy have to do with their lack of self-esteem. You may feel like people won’t like you or they won’t listen to you unless you’re bossy and rude and tell them exactly what to do one hundred times. Instead, you need to recognize that you’re a person who is worth listening to, and that you don’t have to put the pressure on so much to have others hear you out. Work on doing the things you love, addressing the flaws that can be addressed, and realizing that you’re a person who is worth listening to — the first time around. Many people think that bossy people have too much ego, which is why they insist on barking orders. However, many people bark orders because they have low self-esteem that makes them think it’s the only way people will listen to them.
Giving Up Control
Be more flexible. People who are bossy are not very flexible people because they don’t leave room for any X Factors and hate the sound of the term “Plan B.” However, if you want to stop being bossy, then you have to learn to be a bit more flexible instead of expecting everything to go a certain way. Maybe you’ve been excited about your dinner date with your best friend for weeks and have been craving Mexican food, while your friend has a hankering for sushi. Maybe your coworkers asked for an extra day to wrap up their report due to some last-minute changes. Learn to recognize that it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go your way and that you can still make it work. One way to be flexible is to start planning a bit less. If you have your week programmed down to the second, then it’ll be harder for you to go with the flow if something changes.
Manage your anxiety. A lot of people are bossy because they can’t handle the thought of something not going exactly as they planned. They get anxious at the thought of someone arriving five minutes late, of a project to not be written exactly as they want it to be written, or of going to a new place they have never seen before instead of the place they insist on going. If your bossy behavior comes from the worry that something unexpected will derail your day, then you need to start learning to put your anxiety aside. If you suffer from severe anxiety and find yourself staying up nights worrying, shaking because you’re so worried, or finding it hard to focus because you’re obsessing over all the things that can go wrong, then you may want to see a mental health care professional.
If your anxiety isn’t very severe, you can take many measures to reduce it on your own, such as doing yoga, meditating, cutting back on caffeine, and making sure you get enough sleep.
Of course, some people are just more anxious than others. If you make a habit of monitoring your anxious behavior, then you will slowly begin to find patterns and will think of ways to solve them. For example, if you get really anxious whenever you’re late to work and stuck in traffic, see what a difference leaving the house 15 minutes early will do.
Let others make the decision. To truly bossy people, this can be the scariest thing of all. But once you try it, you’ll see that there was nothing to worry about. Start with the little things. If you’re hanging out with friends, let them pick the movie you’ll watch or the restaurant where you’ll eat. If you’re at work, let one of your coworkers decide on how the report should be formatted, or which person in another department should be included in the conversation. If you see that it really doesn’t make a difference, then resist the urge to make every decision and let others have a chance. If you’re known for being bossy, then people will be pleasantly surprised and will really appreciate it when you give them a chance.
Just take a deep breath and say it: “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” You’ll see that it wasn’t as bad as you thought.
Be more spontaneous. Bossy people tend to be about as spontaneous as a bowl of fruit. Your job is to counteract the fact that you’re a creature of habit and to find a way to live outside of your usual routine. Take a last-minute road trip with your friends. Take up a completely new hobby you never even considered until last week. Learn a new form of dance. Suddenly burst into song. Do whatever you don’t normally do and relish in the novelty of it. Soon, you’ll realize that you won’t have to be so bossy if your life is so unpredictable.
Spending more time with spontaneous people who don’t plan the future very much can also help you be spontaneous yourself.
See what happens when you leave your weekend open instead of planning it down to the minute. You may find that a new exciting adventure falls into your lap.
Delegate. Another thing you can do to stop being bossy is to delegate some of the tasks that you need to get done. If you’re planning your own wedding, instead of yelling at everyone in your orbit, ask one friend to help you pick the flowers, ask another to help make the invitations, and so on. Don’t put everything on yourself and then start yelling at everyone to do everything at once; instead, be careful about who you want to do what, and you’ll find that delegating is much better than bossing people around.
Delegating is a key task in an office environment. You’ll get far more done if you delegate people you trust to do different tasks instead of micromanaging all day and getting nothing accomplished.
Stop giving advice when it isn’t needed. Another thing bossy people tend to do is to tell people what they should do or how they should act when that advice is not solicited. If your friend is asking for advice, that’s one thing, but if your friend is just minding her own business, then you shouldn’t tell her to dump her boyfriend or that she should get a haircut. Be sensitive to the needs of others and only give advice when people ask for help or when they really need help, instead of acting like a know-it-all who thinks that her way is always the best way.
Of course, there will be situations where you really feel like you do know the best way to do something. If that’s the case, then speak up in a calm, non-confrontational manner and say something like, “You know one thing that’s really worked for me?” so you don’t sound like you’re positive that you know everything.
Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and count to ten. Let yourself relax, and more importantly, think, before you speak or take action.
Being bossy does not necessarily means it makes you become a good boss. Following the steps in How to Be a Good Boss does.
Think of others. When in a team, there are other people who have feelings about the job too. Just be patient and try to understand their feelings. Listen to them. Think about their ideas; even if you don’t agree, make it clear that you have heard them and considered them, at the very least.
In some cases, when you stop being bossy, you may find that people who once seemed to like you no longer do so. This is not because you are in any way less appealing, but simply because you do not frighten them any more. Give up bossiness at your own risk.
Sources and Citations