How to Lead Women Without Being Controlling

March 17th, 2016 by Nick Notas 21 Comments

Healthy Leading

A lot of men are constantly worried about upsetting a girl. They’re terrified that if they create any kind of tension — they’re going to lose their opportunity with her.


They avoid all conflict. They don’t speak up for themselves. And they don’t ever lead. They think that leading is going to come off as controlling.

These guys end up being too passive and safe. They count on women to make all the decisions in their relationships. And the whole time they believe they’re being the perfect nice guy that women want.

But without that leadership, they lose some of the greatest qualities which make a man attractive. They lose the respect that leadership commands. They don’t embody the strength that leaders do. They don’t give women the sense of security they get from a man who knows what he wants.

As a result, these men get walked all over, friend zoned, and rejected. Unfortunately, because of their frustration, they turn to what they believe is the only remaining solution…becoming a controlling asshole.

What they don’t understand is that there is a HUGE difference between being controlling vs being a leader. You don’t have to compromise your values to be an attractive man who isn’t afraid to take the lead.

What it means to be controlling

My definition of being controlling is:

This is what I want and you have to agree or comply with me. What YOU want is irrelevant. I will do everything in my power to coerce or convince you to see that.”

Controlling men…

  • Manipulate. They guilt trip and make a woman feel bad for disagreeing or disobeying them. They use gaslighting techniques to make a girl feel stupid or crazy for not seeing things their way. They are passive-aggressive and harbor resentment.
  • Threaten. Instead of discussing or compromising, they shut down and try to force a woman to agree to their ultimatums. They imply that they may just leave and go find someone who does listen to them.
  • Persist endlessly. Even after a woman rebuffs or challenges them, they don’t give up. They see backing down as losing. They persist until a woman feels like she has to accommodate them.
  • Intimidate. They raise their voice and act pissed off to get their way. They may use their physical presence to scare others. They might even hint at self-harm to push a woman to give into them.

Being controlling comes from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem. It stems from the fear that an independent woman will be more likely to leave or find someone better. So controlling men incorrectly believe that they must have a tight grasp to prevent those things from happening.

And sometimes it works — everyone’s seen the overbearing asshole with the attractive girlfriend. Especially if it’s early in the relationship or the woman struggles with low self esteem, she might put up with it for a while. She may be willing to overlook your control issues because she’s interested and attracted to you. She might even think that she can change you.

But eventually, the charm will wear off and all that will be left is your controlling insecurity. Any self-respecting woman will eventually fight against it. It’s human nature to seek personal freedom.

She’ll realize you’re treating her as an inferior and you’re not actually a strong, confident individual. And she’ll do exactly what you feared in the first place — find a real man who treats her better.

What it means to be a leader

My definition of a leader is:

This is what I want and you are entitled to what you want. I am going to communicate my needs or ideas and see if that works for you. If they don’t, I will accept that and see if we can compromise.”


  • Motivate and inspire. They let their passion do the talking and they often lead by example. Their ability to express their ideas with confidence and enthusiasm draw people in. People naturally come to their side and want to follow their lead.
  • Set healthy expectations. They express what they want while remaining positive and even playful about it. They are assertive, not aggressive in enforcing their boundaries if they’re feeling challenged or don’t want to do something. They allow a woman to set her expectations as well so they can both have their needs met.
  • Respectfully challenge other people’s opinions. They don’t force their beliefs on others, but do try to help people understand where they’re coming from. They’re willing to debate about different viewpoints without getting defensive or resorting to verbal attacks.
  • Know when to stop leading. They will lead with what they want. If they face hesitance, they may wait and then try again. They express their opinion but don’t mind following a woman’s lead, too. And if they’re willing to admit the error in their ways if need be.

Leaders understand who they are, what they want, and what it takes to go after that. And they fully accept that a woman is an individual with her own needs. They respect that and treat her like an equal.

They lead with their intentions and give a woman the opportunity to follow that lead or suggest something else. They don’t tiptoe around their desires or constantly ask for permission. They recognize that she has a voice, too — and let her use it. They understand every adult is personally responsible for speaking up.

When leading, you communicate your thoughts and feelings on a subject. You’re willing to engage in a conversation about your differences and have a healthy debate. And in the end, you know it’s completely up the other person whether or not they follow your lead.

And after this healthy debate, you’re able to compromise, change your mind, or recognize that this woman isn’t a good fit for you. Because you have high standards for yourself and aren’t desperate to settle, you don’t endlessly chase after someone just for the prospect of sex.

As a leader, you’re secure in your abundance mentality. Women sense that and are more willing to work for you and follow your lead. They also trust you more because they know you have their best interests in mind.

Because of all this, attractive women appreciate your value. They still maintain their independence while knowing they have a strong man. They don’t feel the need to escape or try to find someone better because they already have everything they desire.

Examples of being controlling vs leading

She saw her ex while you were hanging out with her and her friends. She went to talk to him and forgot about you for an hour.

Controlling: “Don’t you ever do that again, do you hear me?” “I don’t want you talking to him. You’re with me.” “Why don’t you go sleep with him instead?”

Leading: “If you want to talk to him, that’s fine. But it’s not cool to leave me alone with your friends who I don’t know after you invited me out.” “If you got caught up, I would’ve at least appreciated you letting me know. I felt disrespected and like you didn’t consider me at all.” “That guy used to treat you like crap and I just don’t think you should even give him the time of day.”

A guy hit on your girlfriend while you were out together. He was very forward and she didn’t tell him to stop or address your concerns. You want to talk to her after…

Controlling: “You’re not allowed to do that.” “Why didn’t you fuck him right there — that’s what you wanted, right?”

“You saw that I was physically uncomfortable and I don’t feel like you were there as my partner. I understand that you may have wanted to avoid confrontation but you could’ve talked to me. I’m upset that you didn’t address how my feelings or even offer to leave the situation.”

She’s been spending an unfair amount of time with her friends.

Controlling: “You’re going to need to stop hanging out with your friends so much, okay?” “Do you even give a shit about me?”

Leading: “I know you love hanging out with your friends and I’m great with that. We just haven’t spent much time together and that’s important to me in a relationship.”

You want to address something which she hasn’t been contributing to.

Controlling: “You just leave your shit all over the ground.” “If I see your clothes here one more time I’m going to throw them all in the trash.”

“I get that you’re tired when you get home but seeing clothes everywhere overwhelms me when I’m tired, too.” “I want to keep our place clean. It’s not fair that I have to pick up your clothes and I would like you to pitch in.”

You feel she has been talking down to you when you had a fight.

Controlling: Screaming, “You better not talk to me like that again or else!”

“You can be upset all you want but I am not going to tolerate talking to me like that.” “The way you’re speaking to me is unacceptable.”

You don’t appreciate that she talks about your relationship woes to her friends and not to you.

Controlling: “How about I go tell my friends everything bad I feel about you?” “You’re crazy, I don’t want you talking to them again!”

Leading: “Those issues are personal and I don’t feel comfortable with everyone knowing our business. If you feel we have a problem, I would prefer you come to me so we can figure it out together.”

You want to try something new and she is hesitant. That could be to go to a social event or try something like kayaking.

Controlling: “Stop being such a chicken.” “I won’t put up with a girlfriend who’s scared of every little thing.” “Kristine (my ex) was never afraid of putting herself out there.”

Leading: “I know it’s scary but I know you’re strong enough to handle it.” “It’s normal to be nervous your first time but I’m going to be right there with you.”

You disagree on an opinion or idea and want her to understand your side.

Controlling: “You’re wrong.” “That’s stupid.” “So you think I’m an idiot then?”

Leading: “I can respect your opinion but I think…” “I don’t agree with that because…”

You’re trying to have sex with her for the first time. She’s nervous.

Controlling: Pouting or acting cold to guilt her into sleeping with you. “If we weren’t going to do anything, why’d you invite me in?” You keep pushing her even though she’s told you she’s not ready, “C’mon, let’s just try it. Trust me you’ll have fun. You know you want to.”

Leading: “I just want you to feel incredible and I promise to only go as far as you’re comfortable with.” “You look amazing and have nothing to worry about.” “Just relax and enjoy yourself. You let me know if you want to stop at any point.”

You want her to get more healthy and in shape.

Controlling: “You clearly don’t care about our relationship if you’re willing to let yourself go.” “If you don’t get in shape, I’m going to find a girl who is.”

Leading: “Let’s try that Yoga video you liked — I’m excited.” “We should go for a hike together later.” “I’m going to put on some music and we’re gonna dance our asses off!”

If you need absolute control of someone, you aren’t a leader. A true leader incites people to follow them of their own free will.

  1. Peter Doyle on March 17, 2016

    I lost an ex because I was controlling. I worked a lot on myself to feel more secure and stop being so overbearing. This is a great reminder for any time I feel like I’m slipping back to my old ways.

    • Nick Notas on March 17, 2016

      I went through the same thing. And while I feel terrible about the way I acted, realizing how much of an asshole I was became a huge catalyst for changing myself.

  2. Cody Sayre on March 17, 2016

    As Peter said this is a fantastic reminder, I used to be a ‘nice guy’ and being controlling was a huge issue of mine. The examples of both sides are really what make these articles great for me.

    One minor note under the ‘You feel she has been talking down to you when you had a fight.’ section you appear to have left some placeholder text under the Controlling section that just says ‘Another example’.

    Awesome work as always Nick!

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Yeah, I’ve been trying to include more and more specific examples with everything. People really love being able to see the theory in context.

      Thanks for the heads up man. “Another example” definitely wasn’t an example of being controlling haha.

  3. Lavinia on March 17, 2016

    Nick – I agree in principle with what you are saying, although there are instances where despite mentioning it should be a partnership, you say that he needs to lead and to convince. Nobody needs to convince anyone else of anything – this sounds as if a relationships should be about whose opinion/idea wins over the other one’s.

    A true partnership should be about enjoying your time together not about doing or convincing anyone of anything – it’s not a battle of wills! If one starts looking at a relationship from that angle,it’s doomed, partly because partners are going to start keeping score. With most matters in life, decisions, ideas, opinions, there is more than one way of looking at things and the partnership should reflect that. Decisions that incorporate both parties’ wishes, insights and ideas will be better off because of that, and the partnership more successful for it. Try it, it works wonders if you’re open to it.

    Women/partners are not something to be coerced into doing whatever it is that you want them to. Even if you think that is what you need/want and find a partner who reflects that, you’ll eventually get bored with it. At he same time, if you are not a strong individual, and still want to walk the thing line of control, but not making it look like control (ie coercion), you need to be a strong man (ie strong AND a man). Otherwise you’re better off choosing the plain girl over the complicated one, boredom and all.

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Lavinia, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. I never use the words convince or coerce anywhere on the leading section. In fact, I specifically use those in the controlling section. I go out of my way to state allowing full independence of the other person as a leader:

      “This is what I want and you are entitled to what you want. I am going to communicate my needs or ideas and see if that works for you. If they don’t, I will accept that and see if we can compromise.”

      “They fully accept that a woman is an individual with her own needs. They respect that.”

      “In the end, you know it’s completely up the other person whether or not they follow your lead.”

      I also specifically say we should try to find solutions, compromise, or find ways that fulfill both parties:

      “They allow a woman to set her expectations as well so they can both have their needs met.”

      Basically, we’re arguing the same point.

      Lastly though, I do think at times it can be important to express or challenge why you’re ways or ideas may be more healthy. Especially if it’s in the best interest of the other person or relationship.

      A connection is about growth. There are many times where I had an opinion about something and my fiance (or vice versa) lead with what they believed to be right. That leadership helped me the other person see how their thoughts may have been less healthy or constructive and inspired positive change. Nobody coerced anybody but rather motivated them to make the adjustments themselves.

      • Lavinia on March 18, 2016

        Might be, although my point was referring to the entire idea of leadership, especially these instances:

        “…whether or not they FOLLOW your lead.”

        “Women sense that and are more willing to WORK FOR YOU and FOLLOW your lead.”

        When you expect someone to follow, whether a ‘leader’ or not, it’s simply about control, no matter how it’s phrased. I just cannot identify with ‘leadership’ in a relationship, a term borrowed from the corporate world, which I don’t think fits into the context of a partnership.

  4. Seymoure on March 17, 2016

    I absolutely agree with the part about being assertive and outspoken of your wishes with no fear of what effect it may have on your chances to have that woman. As a matter of fact in 99.99% of the cases it will increase your chances as women always admire a man who stands his ground, speaks his mind and is assertive yet kind and caring. Being a pushover, weak and indecisive is the death sentence to a good interaction with women. Those men who are controlling and attempt to control every aspect of a woman’s life – and you know who you are – are ultimate losers with no self esteem.

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Right on Seymoure. You have to respect yourself to get respect.

  5. Lavinia on March 17, 2016

    Seymoure – agree with you on everything you’ve said. In fact my (lengthy) comment is awaiting moderation, reflecting exactly your point. Especially indecisive men, signal to a woman that she needs to run the other way! It takes a lot of self-knowledge and maturity for a guy to be kind and caring, emotionally giving, yet strong – ultimately a man.

  6. Ben on March 17, 2016

    Great content, Nick. I think this gets to the heart of conflict resolution in any context. Being demanding or accusatory pales in comparison with speaking from a “I feel” or a “Your actions made me feel” perspective. Since feelings can inherently be neither right nor wrong it’s much harder to react defensively to a person who comes at it from that perspective.

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Thanks Ben. Yeah, so many people avoid conflict because they think it’s wrong. But I think it’s great to indulge in healthy conflict. It resolves issues, promotes growth, and brings people closer together.

      There’s a great book called Crucial Conversations which covers the topic extensively.

  7. Swapnil on March 17, 2016

    Hey Nick,

    Every word is true man! I was controlling freak in past and it hurt a lot in my personal and professional relationship. Sinice last 1 year I started taking steps towards becoming a leader and it’s creating wonders in my life. In nutshell I am getting totally comfortable in my own skin even when approaching to new girl , talking with my friends( girls) . Or even with my girlfriend.

    It’s totally worth to follow because at the end of it. You ll fall in love with yourself.

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Glad the words resonated with you. I’ve been there too and what matters is that you have the courage to admit that. Because now you can continue on that path towards leadership and become even stronger from your past.

      Congrats on taking the right steps and starting to love yourself.

  8. Osioke on March 18, 2016

    Why isn’t there a like button on this post so I like the hell out of it.. Wonderful work as always Nick.. The examples were spot on and really helpful 🙂

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      Thanks Osioke, happy the examples helped. There should a Facebook like button at the end of the post.

  9. Leah on March 18, 2016

    This is great advice! It is all true. Men who lead like you outlined are sexy and attractive on a deeper level. Thank you, great post!
    And, thank you to the men who have made the shift from controlling to leading!

    • Nick Notas on March 18, 2016

      You’re very welcome and thank you for being a reader. I wrote this because I made the shift myself years ago and have seen how much healthier it is for myself and the people close to me.

  10. SG on March 24, 2016

    Would you say emotional intelligence is a highly relevant factor?

  11. Seymoure on March 24, 2016

    I believe women under no circumstances and in no situation should ever be placed on a pedestal. They should be treated with respect and dignity but never placed on a pedestal. I don’t know and have never heard of any woman who even respects a weak low confidence man who acts as though he’s lucky to be with her. Be strong, firm, decisive, stand your ground and speak your mind without fear but always kind and fair. She will respect you for it. In my humble opinion.

  12. Andrew on April 23, 2016

    seems like 20’s is the decade people date and have relationships, sex the most