9 Habits You Don't Realize Can Make You Seem Overbearing
It can be tough to tell the difference between true assertiveness and habits that come off as too pushy, since they can both deal with getting what you want, telling people what you think, and having things go your way. But while assertiveness is a great skill to develop — and you should use it as often as necessary — pushiness can actually end up holding you back.
"When people are being assertive [...] they are expressing their needs in direct, open, honest ways while still being respectful of the other person's needs and preferences," psychotherapist Simone Sobel, LCSW, tells Bustle. "When people are being pushy [...] only their needs count, while others' needs are pushed aside, minimized, or ignored."
These habits tend to negatively impact how people see you, whether or not they'll want to work with you, or how healthy your relationships will end up being, which is why it's important to be aware of them.
"It can certainly have an impact in that others may avoid you or pull away from you," therapist Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT, tells Bustle. "[But] we can rein in these habits by practicing mindfulness and setting boundaries," as well as making a few small adjustments during everyday interactions. Here are some habits that can come off as pushy, according to experts, as well as how to balance them out.
1. Pressuring People Into Making Commitments
Whether you're needling someone at work, or texting a friend a million times until they agree to hang out, pressuring people into making commitments can easily seem overbearing.
"You may be in a time crunch and need to know if they're committing or not, but they may also need time to consider if they can make such a commitment," Williamson says.
In this situation, it's better to find fair middle ground. As Williamson says, "Make sure you ask them with enough time for them to consider their answer and give them a date you'll check in [...] if you haven't heard from them." At that point, go ahead and follow up.
2. Steering Convos Back To Yourself
While it might be tempting to direct conversations back to what you'd like to say, keep in mind that everyone should have a chance to share their thoughts first.
"People want to be able to talk about themselves without the attention being taken away from their experience," therapist Katie Leikam, LCSW, LISW-CP, tells Bustle, which is why it can help to listen more and react less.
Once you put this habit into practice, it'll be easier to tell when the conversation has shifted back to you, at which point you can share what's on your mind.
3. Being Too Quick To Respond
It's natural to get excited about certain topics and respond right away. But if you find that you're constantly cutting people off as they talk, consider taking a breath before responding.
"It will help you not only appear more thoughtful and considerate, but help you choose your words with more care (which can also be an issue with those who are described as overbearing)," counselor Jami Kirkbride, LPC tells Bustle.
4. Barging In On Someone's Alone Time
Whether it's a friend, roommate, partner, or even a coworker, encroaching on someone's alone time can make it seem like you don't respect them.
Take your relationship, for example. "It’s understandable that couples need to spend quality time together to forge their relationship, but this can’t supersede the need to develop the self," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert at Glacier Wellness, tells Bustle.
Your partner may even start to feel resentful if you continue to take away their precious alone time, so try to establish boundaries you can both respect. And stick to them.
5. Giving Unsolicited Advice
Another way to come off as overbearing — even when that's not your goal — is by offering unsolicited advice. But this is especially true if you give advice, and then don't "pay close attention to the responses you get to see if the other person was receptive or not," executive coach and leadership expert Leslie Austin, PhD, tells Bustle.
Doing so can make it look like you were just telling them what to do, instead of actually caring or listening. So again, the goal should be to truly hear them out before sharing your opinion.
"Pay attention. Slow down. Breathe. Think before you speak," Dr. Austin says. "Give some space to yourself and others in your conversations." You'll notice a big difference in how they respond to you.
6. Not Taking "No" For An Answer
If someone tells you they can't do something, it's important to respect it — instead of calling again, pushing back, or pestering them.
"If you are constantly trying to change people's minds, or negotiating, this will make you seem pushy," clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky, tells Bustle. "'No' is someone setting a boundary or letting you know their limits, so negotiate at your own risk — because it may come across off-putting."
7. Making All The Decisions
Whether at work or in your relationship, there are so many opportunities to take charge and make decisions. And you should do so whenever it feels right. But don't forget that other people may want to make the decisions, too.
"If you are someone that always volunteers to lead, you may want to take a step back," Dr. Odessky says. "While you may think that you are lessening everyone's burden by volunteering, you may actually be depriving them of an opportunity to shine."
That's not to say you should sit back or be quiet; far from it. But since it's easy to go overboard when calling the shots, keep in mind that it should be more of a 50/50 thing.
8. Planning Everything Down To The Minute
Similarly, many "pushy" people go overboard when it comes to making plans, which they often expect everyone to agree to.
For example, "when people come to town to visit, do you already have an itinerary of where to go and what to do? This can be helpful with a passive group but over time will rub people the wrong way," therapist Lindsey Huttner, LCSW, tells Bustle.
While you may love to plan, it never hurts to ease up a little. "Ask for others to come up with a suggestion for where to go," Huttner says. "Leave room for spontaneity and down time. Compromise with others and resist the need to take over control."
9. Never Asking Questions
There are so many moments in life when asking a question can show that you care, that you're connected, and that you want to help out. So if you find that you never take the time to ask others what they think, it may be time to start.
"When we ask someone a question, we are signaling to them we care about them and what they have say," Tess Brigham, a licensed psychotherapist and certified coach, tells Bustle. "An overbearing person tends to only see their point of view. When you ask questions and really listen to the other person's response, you're showing that person respect and that you value their perspective."
It's so easy to pick up a few "pushy" or overbearing habits, but often just as easy to swap them out for something that'll lead to healthier relationships, and better interactions.