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9 Ways To Manage People Who Bother You

9 Ways To Manage People Who Bother You

Ever faced people who bother you? I’m sure all of us have faced such people before. It’s okay when we have to face them just once or twice, but there are times when these people emerge in facets of our life where we have to deal with them on an ongoing basis. They can be business associates, fellow colleagues, friends, or even family members and relatives. In such cases, we have to learn how to deal with them. Here are my 9 tips to handle such people:

1. You can only change yourself.

When dealing with people, always remember that it’s not about changing others, but about changing yourself. You can try to change others, but you may not succeed doing so. The best way to address the situation is to change how you perceive it and how you react to it. By changing that, everything else will subsequently change as well.

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2. Draw your boundaries.

Be clear on what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate. Then stick with it. You have your own personal space and it’s your perogative to protect your space. By drawing the boundaries, even if just mentally, you are clearer of the kind of behaviors to expect from others. If you don’t do so, it’s easy for you to be pushed over by others, especially since such people tend not to be conscious of personal boundaries. You’ll wind up shrinking in a corner and feeling miserable, and you wouldn’t want that.

3. Be upfront about where you stand.

If the person has a history of spilling into your personal space, then let him/her know where you stand the next time you communicate. People aren’t mind readers, and sometimes they may not be aware that they are infringing on your space. Giving the person some indicators will help. If he/she tends to take up a lot of your time, then let him/her know that you have XX minutes at the onstart of the conversation. That way, you are being fair by informing him/her in advance. If you prefer to communicate via email/text/chat/other channels, then let him/her know too.

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4. Be firm when needed.

If the person does not stick within the boundaries, then enforce them. Give a gentle reminder at first. If he/she still does not get the hint, then make a call and draw the line right there. I used to be very relenting in my communications. I would attend the person for however long it took. In the end it enroached on my personal space, and I wasn’t sure if all that time and energy I spent ever did anything too. As I gradually pushed back and became firm on my boundaries, I was a lot more fulfilled. I realized if I wasn’t meeting my needs, I couldn’t be helping anyone with theirs.

5. Ignore them.

Ignoring is effective in the right moments. When you respond, you give them a reason to continue their behavior. If you just ignore, they don’t have a choice but to seek out someone else. Not only that, it also hints to them about their behavior and helps them do some self-reflection.

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6. Don’t take it personally.

Most of the times, these people behave the same way around others too. I had a friend who was very negative. She always had something to criticize whenever we were together. At first I thought she had something against me, but after I observed her interacting with our common friends, I realized she was like that with everyone else too. Realizing it wasn’t anything personal helped me deal with her objectively.

7. Observe how others handle them.

Watching others deal with the same person you find annoying can be an eye-opening perspective. Even if the person may be at his/her wits-end handling the individual, just observing from a third party’s point of view can give you insights on how to manage. The next time you are with this person, get someone else into the conversation too. Take a back seat by broaching a topic that’s relevant between the two of them, then play the silent role in the situation. Observe how the other party handles him/her. Try this exercise with different people – from savvy networkers, someone you find difficult to deal with as well, someone similar to you, etc. You will get interesting results.

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8. Show kindness.

Often times, they act the way they do because they are looking for an empathetic ear. Hear what they have to say, and be empathetic towards them. Give them some friendly act of kindness. Don’t impose on them, but just be there and empathize. It might well do the trick.

There was once when I had a long talk with a client on an issue she was facing. Later in the week, I sent her an sms telling her that ultimately it boiled down to her, and as long as she believed in herself, there was nothing insurmountable. Many weeks after that, we were catching up, and she told me how the message was really encouraging for her. She normally deleted all her smses but left that one in her phone. A little kind act from you may take little effort on your part but mean the world to others.

9. Help them.

Beneath the facade is really a cry for help. Check with them if they need any help, or if there is anything you can do to help them. Sometimes, it’s possible they require help but they don’t know how to articulate it. Help them to uncover their problem, then work with them to analyze the issue and discover the solution. It’s important to still let them take charge in the situation, because the end outcome is you want them to learn to take control of the situation, and not grow dependent on you for help.

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Celestine Chua

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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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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