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Thursday, March 27, 2008

How To Deal With Controlling People

How To Deal With Controlling PeopleThe first thing to do when you need to deal with a controlling person is understand that the need to control comes from a place of fear, of weakness, not of strength.  A person operating from a place of strength has no need to control others.

The fear that causes someone to be controlling is generally one of two kinds:  fear of failure (if I'm not running everything, then it will all go to pieces) or fear of showing their weakness (if I don't control this person, they will find my weaknesses and control me).  The way to treat those fears differs, although both involve letting go, but this isn't about how to fix someone being controlling, it's about how to deal with them.

Controlling people have a sliding scale along which they place each person they encounter, a scale that runs from vastly inferior to vastly superior, with the very center being those that are unknown.  People on the low end of the scale are safe to manipulate, while those at the high end are to be obeyed (and maybe even feared).

People are placed on this scale (and moved on it) based on their behavior... if your behavior shows strength and confidence, you move up the scale, but if your behavior shows weakness and uncertainty, you will move down it.  Much of this behavior is subconscious, and is even shared with many types of animals.

The girl in the picture, for instance, is clearly showing her submission... leaning away, head tilted downward, eyes raised and barely able to look at the man.  The man, on the other hand, is showing aggressive, dominant behavior... leaning forward to look down on her, teeth bared, finger in her face, etc.

There is also a place between these two extremes... your behavior can show your dominance without being aggressive.  If you stand with your back straight, confidently meeting the eyes of whomever you encounter, speaking strongly and clearly, then you will come across as being high on the scale, without having to be a jerk (though being a jerk to someone who is controlling can often place you above them on their scale, it is a temporary placement... they will not respect you, and without respect, they are simply looking for a way to maneuver around you to a superior position).

If you want to stop someone from controlling you, then, you need to adopt behavior which shows them that you are higher on the scale than they consider themselves (or so strong that you actually are off the scale, but that's much harder both to learn and to do).  You can easily figure out what that behavior is by mentally picturing someone of strength and confidence... picture them standing, moving, and reacting.  The behaviors you picture are the ones that you should aim to adopt.

When you first change your behavior in this manner, the controlling person's first reaction is often to try to drag (usually through guilt) or push (often through angry reactions) you back down the scale to where you were.  Don't back down, though... even if you don't feel the confidence you're projecting, their very reaction shows that you are having an effect, and when you understand that, and that they are indeed seeing what you are projecting, that itself can cause you to grow into that very confidence.   In people behavior and attitude are interdependent:  as your attitude changes, so does your behavior, but the reverse is true as well... as your behavior changes, your attitude slowly follows.

The new strength and confidence that you find as you change your behavior can help you across all aspects of your life, too... it may give you the confidence to ask for a raise, or the strength to do something about the state of your relationship.

So, in parting, I'll leave you with a small list of things that can help you project that image of the strong, confident person that you want to be:

  1. Stand Up Straight

  2. Meet People's Eyes Directly

  3. Speak Clearly And Strongly

  4. Don't Back Up When People Invade Your Personal Space

  5. Don't Fidget

    And a mental one:

  6. Every Time You Think Of Failure, Think Of Success

More detail on that list may be forthcoming in another article in the near future.

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