One variety of human beings we tend to have too many of in our lives (too many as in, more than zero) is controlling people. Considering the stress they can create, knowing how to deal with controlling people effectively is serious business and it requires a key set of people skills.
Controlling People Explained
Fundamentally, controlling people have a powerful need to control others (doooh!). This need is reinforced by their belief (conscious or subconscious) that they can bend the will of other people to their own and use others to get their way.
Having lots of practice, most controlling people are real masters of pressuring and manipulating others. They often have very good people skills (the bad kind) and may initially come off as very charming.
The basis of beingable to deal with controlling people effectively, from my perspective, is making them understand that they cannot pull your strings. Thus, you are shaking one of their core beliefs and you have the best chances of them backing off.
4 Principles for Dealing with Controlling People
Starting from this basis, there are 4 key people skills principles I encourage you to apply, in order to deal successfully with controlling people:
1. Distinguish pressure from persuasion. When someone presents facts and logical arguments for doing something, while allowing you the freedom to choose, that is persuasion.
When someone uses lying, exaggeration, manipulation, drama and tries to take away your freedom to choose, that is psychological pressure. “If you care about me you’ll help me, nobody cares about me, oh poor little me” is not a persuasive approach, it’s a manipulative one, often used by toxic people.
Practice analyzing how people try to influence you and what methods they use. You will sharpen your skills of distinguishing pleasure from persuasion.
2. Say “No”, “Yes” and “Fuck you”. Firm personal boundaries are often set using firm, strong words. It may not sound polite, but trust me, when you are dealing with controlling people, this is how to get the job done. Honesty and directness in communication have a mesmerizing power to convey confidence and create results.
Practice saying “no” when you don’t really want to do something instead of trying to bail out subtly. Practice saying “yes” when you want to do something other’s don’t want you to do, and learn to tell people off sometimes.
3. Do not submit to pressuring behavior. When they can’t pressure you with words, controlling people will resort to pressuring behavior. The logic of the game is simple: whenever you don’t play by their rules, they withdraw a certain positive behavior or insert a negative one.
Controlling people may stop talking to you, helping you, doing their chores, having sex with you etc., in an attempt to get you to play by their rules. If you submit, you lose. There are only two ways to deal successfully with this kind of behavior: either not reacting, or withdrawing a positive behavior yourself.
4. Do not seek the approval of one person. We all need to be approved and loved by people. It’s a human thing. However, we never, truly, really need the approval of one specific person.
One important attitude lesson I’ve learned is that no one person is irreplaceable in your life. Realize this, let it sink in, and you have the freedom to piss off a controlling person without feeling bad. Thus, they lose their major source of power over you.
Learning how to deal with controlling people usually requires at least some serious self-coaching. In all this process, if you find it hard, keep in mind that you are improving a set of people skills with a positive influence that stretches into many areas of your life.