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This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

I’ve committed my fair share of relationship faux pas. I wish I could tell you that I get communication right every time, but I am guilty of creating an awkward situation now and then. Studying relationships and cultivating self-awareness has helped me curtail some of my most frustrating subconscious habits. I hope that you can apply these insights to your own life so that you can have healthier and happier relationships.

Whether we’re interacting with friends, coworkers, or a significant other, there are a few pieces of relationship advice that all of us should carry at the forefront of our minds. Here are three things that we do unconsciously to sabotage our relationships.

1. Giving feedback without permission

How many times have you felt driven to give advice even when nobody asked for it?  This communication pitfall usually comes from a place of love and concern. When you love someone, you want them to be good and that’s totally normal. But our compulsion to spew out unsolicited feedback often backfires.

Just like how Ted from the movie “Ted 2” fights with his wife because his wife asked him to get some jobs. The intention is good because they really have bills to kill, but his wife ignored Ted’s stress and whether he needs this advice from her or not. Such comments with good intention ended up turning into a fight.

It happens all the time in relationships when we are so eager to help our partners to improve without thinking whether they need the advice from us. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy,” but sometimes we take it too far. If you hear yourself saying, “I think you should [x]” or “your [x] is not good,” then look out. You’re probably about to give some unwanted advice.

Imagine what happens when you make a comment about a stranger’s outfit. He or she may immediately become defensive because they didn’t ask for your opinion, and you didn’t have permission to give feedback. Most people don’t mind hearing something positive about their clothing choices, but if you are offering a criticism, you are likely to offend the person.

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The Right Approach: If you feel that it is important to give feedback to someone, you have two options for how to approach the subject. You can either ask for their permission to offer feedback, or you can find ways to assure them that they can get constructive feedback from you.

Asking someone for permission to offer feedback doesn’t always work because the person may say that they are not interested in hearing it. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, would you want to say it? Even if the outcome is not as you would like, asking saves you from offending the person.

Having someone solicit feedback from you can take more time, but it yields better results. I prefer this piece of relationship advice for giving feedback because the recipient is already primed to listen to what you have to say.

For example, imagine that your best friend just purchased new glasses. You might mention that you recently read an article about the best types of glasses for different face shapes. You note that when reading this, you realized that the frames you just pick for yourself didn’t match your face’s shape. Your comments and the knowledge that you have from researching the topic might lead your friend to ask, “How do you feel about these glasses for me?” When they ask you for feedback, they’ve granted you permission to speak your mind.

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    2. Neglecting their feelings when they need you

    Our emotions fluctuate throughout the day, and unfortunately we can’t be cheerful all the time. We may feel stressed at work, sad about something that happened, or frustrated about not getting what we want. The greatest sadness of all comes from feeling that the person who should know us best of all can’t recognize our feelings of distress.

    Imagine your partner comes home after a stressful day at work. You hear what he or she has to say, and you immediately start giving advice. You think that you are doing your partner a favor by trying to fix the problem. You might say things like, “I don’t think that is the right job for you,” or, “Your boss is mean.”

    You have not only fallen into the first relationship pitfall by giving unauthorized feedback, but you’ve also ignored your partner’s needs in that moment. There may be a time when your partner would like to have a kvetching session or problem-solve, but when he or she first comes home, they may just want someone to listen.[1]

    The Right Approach: Honor your partner’s feelings by listening to them. Use active listening techniques[2] and avoid trying to fix the problem for them right away. Even if the issue seems minor to you, refrain from trivializing their feelings. You can help him or her find perspective later, but at first, just acknowledge their thoughts and emotions.

    Instead of hopping into advice mode or trying to find the silver lining in their tough situation right away, simply ask your partner how they feel. If they’re willing to open up, listen to them. You can affirm them with nonverbal cues or by paraphrasing what they’ve told you. Resist the urge to give feedback! I know it’s hard because you care.

    You will feel emotionally better when someone ask “Are you ok?” when you are sick, than to hear “You should wear enough clothes next time.” Who wants advice when we are sick?

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    We all need time to allow emotions to calm before we are ready to handle feedback. Remember that until they have authorized feedback from you, they will not find it helpful.

    3. Failing to offer feedback at all

    Not giving useful feedback is on the other end of the relationship-pitfall spectrum. The previous problems involved giving too much information, but this piece of relationship advice is borne out of giving too little information.

    Imagine your partner comes to you to take suggestions about where to go on your anniversary. Instead of listing a few options, you respond by saying, “I don’t know,” or “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be fine with whatever you pick.”

    You think you are conveying how flexible you are, but that isn’t the message you’re sending to your partner. He or she came to you because they wanted your feedback, and you just told them that you don’t care or don’t want to take any responsibility for decision-making.[3] You didn’t have to produce a definite answer, but they wanted to see that you were willing to give some input on the matter.

    You ask for feedback because you genuinely wanted help for your problem. When you want input, you may also be working to take the pressure off yourself. When someone fails to give you feedback, they place the onus of decision-making back on you.[4]

    The Right Approach: When someone asks for your feedback, take a moment to consider their request. You don’t have to fix the problem for them, but you might be able to help them think about the situation in a new way.

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    Instead of telling your partner you don’t care where you go for your anniversary, you might say, “I’m not sure, but we haven’t had Italian food in a while. Maybe we could find an Italian place we haven’t tried yet.” By responding in this way, you show your partner that you are both on the same team, and you are willing to help find a solution.

    Remember, this isn’t even about the answer that you give to the person. It’s about your attitude toward their concerns.

    When You Start To Be Aware Of These Problems, You Will Experience Less Conflicts

    At this point, you may be cringing as you think of times when your best intentions have gone awry, but know that you are not alone. I wish that I could tell you that I’ve never given unsolicited advice, ignored someone’s feelings in an attempt to fix a problem, or failed to give helpful feedback when asked, but I have done them all.

    We can’t change what has already happened, but we can use this relationship advice to ensure that the people in our lives feel empowered by our ability to listen and provide feedback when they ask for it.

    Reference

    More by this author

    Anna Chui

    Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

    How to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives Why Hard Work is Better Than Talent It’s Okay To Be Envious As Long As You’re Not Jealous

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    Published on April 7, 2021

    6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

    6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

    Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

    While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

    1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

    Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

    If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

    In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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    2. They Make Everything Transactional

    Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

    For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

    Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

    A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

    Some statements to be wary of include:

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    • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
    • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
    • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
    • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

    3. They Criticize Everything

    One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

    However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

    Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

    • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
    • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
    • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
    • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

    4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

    We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

    For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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    This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

    5. They Socially Isolate You

    Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

    Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

    This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

    In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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    6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

    It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

    Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

    Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

    • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
    • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
    • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
    • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

    Final Thoughts

    It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

    More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

    Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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