The Friendship Doctor

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How Do I Handle a Pushy Friend?

When you’re dealing with a pushy friend, you need to set some boundaries.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

Help, I have a sister-in-law who is also somewhat of a friend. She tends to monopolize everything and always has to run the show. When she is with my friends and me, she monopolizes the conversation and I can't get a word in edgewise.

She always invites herself and I'm having difficulties dealing with her overbearingness and pushiness. Any good pointers? Help, I'm having difficulties dealing with this situation.

Signed, Melissa

ANSWER

Hi Melissa,

Granted it isn’t easy to make a pushy friend less pushy—and it’s worse when that person is a relative whom you can’t risk alienating.

But relationships always involve two people. Every person with a pushy personality is enabled by a withdrawing person who allows her to go too far—more than is comfortable.

A few suggestions:

  • You may need to set limits on how often you invite your sister-in-law with your friends, especially if they aren’t mutual friends. If she asks why she wasn’t included, just say you hadn’t seen X for a long time and wanted to catch up.
  • Hopefully, when she’s in a group, other people will be the ones to interrupt and curb her pushiness. Try not to be the one who takes on handling this problem in mixed company.
  • Given her overbearing personality, you may need to leave your own comfort zone and simply interrupt her by saying something like, “I want to say something”…and then proceed to say it.

Although you are sort of friends and relatives by marriage, you may need to back off the relationship a bit because she isn’t the type of friend you would choose on your own.

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Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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