By Carolyn McFann: Though I’m not a therapist, my experience in the subject of controlling, critical and aggressive people comes from thirty years of counseling, due to needing to deal with this issue from very early in life. I used to blame myself for others’ bad behavior, until I learned the truth of the matter. It was a freeing experience.
Here is a summary of years of advice from professionals, who helped me to deal with the effects of abuse suffered in childhood at the hands of an angry and controlling family member. I harbor no ill will against that person, and now am quite sensitive at reading and reacting to difficult people as a result. It is possible to have peace; here are a few ways I use to achieve calm during a “storm”.
When people you know are really hard on you for no good reason, judging everything you say or do, please realize that it is not your fault that they behave this way. It is their problem, their upbringing and insecurities showing. They may have been mistreated as children, and as a result may harbor deep needs to control things. It’s their way of trying to make things “right” in their minds, after past problems they were unable to control. This is sad, but true.
So, what do you do to deal with someone who targets you for harsh judgment, anger, or control? Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells when around a difficult person? It is a lousy feeling to feel trapped in the radar of someone who is hard to relate to. You say one thing, they say another. Or, you do it your way, and they tell you it’s all wrong and needs to be done their way. It can be a blow to your self-esteem to tolerate poor treatment like this on a long-term basis.
If you are constantly being told everything you do is wrong, or blamed for things unjustly, how can you feel good about yourself? The best thing to do is to consider the source and don’t take anything said to you personally. Don’t let the troubled person define you, remember, you define yourself. Quietly know that you are the one in control. Don’t argue.
The other person wants to affect you, but can’t unless you let him. Leave your emotions out of it, just look at the situation for what it is: you are emotionally stronger than the other person. You don’t force your will on others, or try to make them do things. You know better.
First of all, don’t dignify tirades of rudeness or temper tantrums with anger back. Let the offending person own their problems by not letting them engage you in a battle. You don’t have to play their game. If you react negatively, they’ve “won” and will feel even more powerful over you.
To keep your power, the best thing to do is put up boundaries, or rules to what you will or won’t tolerate. This must be done calmly, and without emotion. To be effective, you must maintain this demeanor, no matter how hard the controller tries to evoke a reaction from you. If they try to make you do something you don’t want to do, tell them so and then walk away.
Be a broken record, by continuing to repeat yourself calmly if they keep bugging you, if necessary. You owe nobody an explanation; so whatever you do, please don’t explain yourself. Just remove yourself from the situation, quietly. Your silence and calmness get the point across. If they follow you and want to continue the discussion, tell them you will talk to them later, and that you are to be left alone until then, then say nothing else.
Just separate yourself from the situation and wait until they are more rational and calm if the discussion needs to be continued. Keep emotion out of the conversation by maintaining composure. Remember, you have a voice, and your opinion matters. When dealing with someone who is being aggressive and controlling, you are maintaining control of the situation by not fighting with the person.
Your coolness may unnerve and anger your aggressor. They want a reaction from you. Some aggressors will up the ante by threatening, insulting or getting physical. Don’t tolerate violence; if you feel like your life is being threatened then leave for awhile. It pays to think ahead during high-tension situations, for safety’s sake. Maintain peace by keeping your boundaries and not fighting. Eventually, the aggressor will tire of pushing the issue and back down or go find someone else to hassle.
It is possible to co-exist with controlling people but from a distance if at all possible. Have your own opinions, live the life you want to live without apology. If you are picked on, keep cool and maintain your own individuality.
It takes a lot of personal energy to defend oneself, so don’t. Keep that energy for yourself. Remember, it is your life, nobody else’s. Be at peace with yourself and others. I still have relationships with those who try to control me, but I limit my exposure to them.
They have been “trained” by my lack of willingness to fight or argue, yet they still try on occasion to rile me up. It doesn’t matter to me because I choose not to engage in the conflict. I believe in myself and won’t surrender my personal power to anyone.
Be positive and believe in yourself. Your opinions and thoughts are important and they do count, so don’t let the critics get you down.