In a perfect world, none of us would ever have to deal with difficult people—but unfortunately, we all do. They may be co-workers we see at work, acquaintances who are friends with our friends, or even family members we’ll have to see at get-togethers and holiday parties. Sometimes these people just have strong personalities, and sometimes their behavior is indicative of underlying mental issues.
On the surface, controlling and aggressive people may come across as hostile, demanding, confrontational and possibly even emotionally abusive. They are not pleasant to be around, but with some intelligent communication you can learn to cope with these people and even earn their respect. If there is a period of time coming up, such as the holidays, where you will have to be around controlling people, ask your psychiatrist at a counseling center for tips on how to stay rational in their presence.
Most controlling people fall into one of these categories:
- The condescending controller. These people have an answer for everything, including any objecting you might make. They believe their knowledge, expertise and logic are infallible.
- The deceptive controller. These people will belittle others, spread rumors, omit facts and mislead others in order to maintain control. They are good at protesting when confronted.
- The volatile controller. These people are the more aggressive controllers—if they don’t get what they want, they lose their tempers.
- The passive-aggressive controller. They control by saying yes when they mean no or by playing the victim.
Here are some tips for dealing with aggressive and controlling people:
1. Consider why you comply. Is it easier to take the path of least resistance and give controlling people what they want? If you feel as if your strings are being pulled, think about who is pulling them and why. If you have been giving in, ask yourself why.
2. Maintain your composure. One of the most common characteristics of aggressive and controlling people is deliberately upsetting you in order to push your buttons and create an advantage over you. This puts you in a position of being controlled. The best way to break the pattern is to keep your cool. The less reactive you are, the better your judgment will be.
3. Believe in your abilities. These people will try to undermine your confidence. People who lack self-confidence typically will not question someone else’s authoritative stance. Remind yourself of your strengths.
4. Depersonalize. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment. Imagine what it is like from their side. This is an effective coping strategy. It takes practice, so if you deal with a controller on a regular basis, seek help from behavioral health services.
5. Set consequences. When an aggressive, controlling person repeatedly violates your boundaries, set consequences. The ability to identify and assert consequences is one of the most important skills you can muster to “stand down” a difficult person. Let them know you will not be intimidated.