A dominant personality involves traits like proactivity, assertiveness, and often, extroversion. Agression and manipulation are also possible.

That assertive co-worker pushing you to your limits might be a team asset and goal-oriented, but a dominant personality could be challenging to handle.

Not all people with a dominant personality behave in the same way. You could find a self-assured friend who always seems to lead the way or a peer who doesn’t hesitate to use intimidation to get what they want.

In general, some of the traits associated with this power-oriented personality type can be challenging to navigate.

A dominant personality is a personality type that often leads themselves and others into action. It’s primarily defined by an overarching motivation for power and a sense of pride.

This doesn’t mean dominant personalities are always eager to obtain power or behave like tyrants. Instead, it may mean some of them can behave in ways that are persistently:

  • confident
  • assertive
  • unrelenting

Dominance across many species is often associated with patterns of behaviors that involve intimidation, coercion, and aggression. But when it comes to humans, this isn’t always the case or if it is, it doesn’t always have a negative connotation.

In 1928, William Moulton Marston proposed a human behavioral model of emotions now known as DiSC, which categorized human behaviors into four quadrants:

  • dominance
  • inducement (influence)
  • submission
  • compliance

Under the DiSC model, dominant personality traits include:

But, according to Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, a board certified psychiatrist out of Houston, being dominant isn’t solely about the negative, controlling behaviors. This would be one end of the possibility spectrum of dominant traits.

“A person with a dominant personality type is assertive, courageous, proactive, and self-reliant,” she says. “They are focused and goal-oriented as well. These individuals carry themselves in a manner that is socially impressive and emanates positive vibes to others.”

She adds that dominant personalities often have high self-esteem and confidence levels.

Other characteristics Gonzalez-Berrios says may come with a dominant personality include:

  • dedication to hard work
  • strong leadership abilities
  • high positivity
  • stoicism
  • self-control
  • confident body language

Dominant vs. influential personality

Under the DiSC model, dominant personality is associated with results or reaching a goal. It’s about “leading the way.”

Influential personalities can also be leaders, but under DiSC standards, they do so by working with those around them, cultivating relationships, and focusing on social recognition rather than achievements.

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Gonzalez-Berrios explains dominant personalities are not usually strong with social skills.

Instead, as goal-oriented, driven individuals, they can be challenging to sway with compromise and may be rigid in their processes and thoughts.

“As far as empathy and compassion are concerned, it is usually less than others,” she says. “They do not
like to follow but prefer to lead.”

Being dominant in relationships may come naturally to some people. Dominant personalities like the challenge of leading others, for example, or they feel empowered when they take charge.

A dominant personality in a relationship may want to make decisions for you, but they could also encourage and motivate you to action.

In some cases, dominant tendencies may lead someone to engage in abusive and toxic relationship behaviors.

But abusive behaviors in a relationship, which are always about power and control, can be signs of a mental health condition and not only a personality type.

A 2012 review into dominance behavior found dominant personality traits often overlapped with mania and narcissism.

Psychopathy has also been associated with dominance and power seeking, though a 2017 study found this framework of dominance was linked primarily to gaining social standing and not personal achievement.

To deal with a dominant personality in your life, Gonzalez-Berrios recommends the following tips.

Changing your communication style

“You need to be commanding and clear about your needs with them,” says Gonzalez-Berrios. “They are not interested in finding out hidden stories.”

Gonzalez-Berrios suggests:

  • avoiding small talk
  • steering clear of nit-picking
  • focus on facts and outcomes during a conversation

Accepting them for who they are

A dominant person’s behavior isn’t a reflection of how they feel about you. Most likely, they aren’t targeting you — they treat everyone, including themselves, this way.

They may not use sweet-talking or display a friendly attitude, says Gonzalez-Berrios. Instead, they may come through as bold, straightforward and to-the-point.

Most of the time, they expect the same from you.

Staying one step ahead

Gonzales-Berrios suggests keeping up on new skills and efficiency routines that may help you appeal to the problem-solving nature of a dominant personality type.

If you’re one step ahead, it can be difficult for them to feel the need to direct you.

Setting boundaries

Accepting dominant personality traits doesn’t mean you have to put up with inappropriate behaviors or with attitudes you don’t feel comfortable with.

Setting clear boundaries can be a way for you to protect your physical and mental well-being. It can also provide a standard and a way to say “no” without needing a list of reasons or excuses.

While a dominant personality is often associated with negative traits of aggression and manipulation, there are many positive traits to be recognized, as well. Dominant people can be strong leaders, dedicated, and goal-oriented.

If you’re finding it challenging to co-exist with a dominant personality, changing your communication style and setting clear boundaries can help.