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How to Handle Controlling People

controlling peopleCan controlling people be successfully managed? It depends on the type of behavior and the willingness to try several tactics. A controller can be a friend, neighbor, boss, co-worker, spouse, or parent. Here are several ways to effectively deal with them.

  1. Identify the type of controlling behavior. There are many ways a person can be unscrupulous. They can tell lies about the victim’s family members or friends in an attempt to create a dependency on their opinion. They can embarrass, humiliate, or shame to make the victim feel small. Or they can deliberately set up scenarios where the victim explodes so the controller can justify their domineering behavior.
  2. Don’t believe the lie. Controlling behavior is not about the victim, it is about them. They are the broken ones who feel the need to manipulate. A domineering person insists that the reason for their cunning behavior is because of the victim’s attitude, actions, tone, or body language. This is a lie. There are many ways to confront a person in a healthy manner without the use of serpentine behavior.
  3. Recognize the triggers and patterns. A controller often uses the same pattern of dysfunctional behavior over and over again in a variety of environments. It is far easier for them to repeat familiar offenses than it is to discover and test out new ones. Once recognized, this becomes an easy way to identify the possible triggers. Knowing the spark, allows time to either plan an appropriate response or an escape route.
  4. Carefully choose a response. Do not directly answer a control tactic. This is precisely what the controller wants and most likely they have planned out responses to whatever is stated. Their goal is to incite the victim to a defensive subordinate position so they can overshadow. Instead, choose from one of these responses.
    1. Ignore and walk away. When the controller seeks out secret information about the victim and uses it later as a tool for embarrassment, this is a good moment to ignore and walk away. Indulging their historical revisionism will only increase the humiliation as the victim responds defensively. Stepping aside politely and quietly will highlight the dysfunctional behavior for anyone else who might be around.
    2. Distract or change the subject. When hour long explanations are given for simple issues in an effort to wear the victim out, distraction is the best method. Usually the controller has an almost rehearsed speech so when interrupted, they can’t easily return to where they left off.
    3. Ask a question. When the controller fails to see shades of grey making an issue either their way or a complete opposite extreme, this is the time to ask a question. Preferably a question which reinforces the concept that there is more than two options available. Do not ask “Why” questions however or the controller is likely to become defensive and react in a verbally aggressive manner.
    4. Apply logic to the statement. When a guilt trip is given such as “I gave birth to you therefore you have to …,” this is a great time to apply logic. Counteract the guilt with reason, never emotion. “You taught me that I don’t ‘have to’ do anything,” is an appropriate response instead. Have a couple of statements prepared ahead of time for use.
    5. Answer the fear. When the controller is jealous of the relationship between the victim and another friend, respond to the fear of abandonment. Actually say the words, “I hear that you are fearful I will leave you for someone else.” Then only speak about that topic, refusing to divert back to the obsessive envious comment.
  5. Try, try again until done. When one method fails to work, try another one and if needed, another after that. But at some point the relationship might have to come to an end. As the Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler goes, “Know when to walk away, know when to run.” A controller who resorts to more extreme forms of manipulative behavior is not worth the trouble of having a relationship.

 

How to Handle Controlling People

Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

Christine is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor by the State of Florida with over fifteen years of experience in counseling, teaching and ministry.

She works primarily with exhausted women and their families in conflict situations to ensure peaceful resolutions at home and in the workplace. She has blogs, articles, and newsletters designed to assist in meeting your needs.

As author of the award winning book, The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook, Christine is a guest speaker at churches, women’s organizations, and corporations.

You can connect with her at her website Grow with Christine at www.growwithchristine.com.

 


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2017). How to Handle Controlling People. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 11, 2018, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2016/01/how-to-handle-controlling-people/