Family, Self

4 Ways To Be More Assertive & Respond To Overly Controlling People (Without Being Rude)

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4 Effective Communication Tips For How To Be More Assertive When Dealing With Difficult, Controlling People

Learning how to deal with difficult people is never fun. Controlling people can set you off and ruin your chances of effective communication.

Overly-assertive people may push their wants and needs on others without realizing that it comes across as controlling. But when it comes to dealing with someone like this, knowing how to be more assertive in your communication can help make dealing with difficult people like this much easier. 

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Pushy people seem to push you into a corner in order to get what they want. They are relentless and have no regard for your feelings and have no problem using controlling behavior and aggressive, assertive communication to keep you under control.

They "appear" to be oblivious to the responses that do not fit their own agenda or desire. Regardless of what you say, try to defend, or explain, they always have a comeback response to your answers or requests.

Pushy people also seem to "logically" defend their position, but it always seems to benefit them more than you.

You can also call them "corner people" because they seem to back people into a corner through their assertiveness or persistence, changing their approach, or using guilt or verbal bullying.

And, sometimes, they just wear good people down.

Now, pushy people are not bad people, usually. They simply learned or believed that the only way to get what they want is to corner someone and pressure them to do what they want.

Sometimes, they will adopt another tactic and become emotionally upset, thereby making you feel guilty and responsible for their upset feelings. However, no one is ever "responsible" for how someone else feels. How we feel is our own response.

Pushy people come in all sizes and shapes — they can be our parent, friend, sibling, co-worker or boss — a controlling relationship can literally be with anyone.

They are more challenging to control when they are a family member or someone who is in a position of power. However, if you are strong and take the correct steps, you can almost always get out of the corner and push back.

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Here's how to deal with difficult people and how to be more assertive in two specific situations:

1. When the pushy person is in a position of power

For example, let’s say your boss at work has a habit of asking you for things at the last minute or at the end of your workday. You can agree to do it, but can also ask your boss to work together to find a way to organize their priorities that will result in less "last minute" requests.

Perhaps, you can suggest that it will allow you more time to invest in the quality of your assignment. 

This way you will appear cooperative, but are also trying to shape the manner in which you are given assignments. This type of communication technique will help you learn how to be more assertive while still maintaining respect for your boss.

2. When the pushy person is a parent

As parents age and their adult children begin building their own lives, both the parent and the adult child face new challenges. It's not uncommon for the parent to become more of a pushy person than when the child was much younger.

The parent values the relationship of their adult child more and more because the parent often feels less needed. They fear losing their child as other people become more important.

The parent may use guilt with the adult child, saying, "You are too busy doing ‘important things’ in the world to make time for us." This is not a great communication skill because it puts the adult child on the defense.

They must defend their position for the pushy person to back off and it usually results in the pushy person getting what they want. This is because the cornered person felt they had to prove the statement to be untrue and make more time for the parent.

People who are cornered often feel they are being aggressive or unkind when they are pushing back at the pushy person.

But here's the truth: Just because it feels more aggressive, does not mean that it is wrong. Learning how to be assertive does not make you a bad person. You are just being more assertive than you normally would be with someone who is not pushy.

That’s why it’s so uncomfortable. With normal people, you don’t need to be assertive in a stronger way than usual. Being assertive means "being self-assured and confident without being aggressive." It might be uncomfortable for you to assert yourself against a pushy person, but it isn't a bad thing.

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How many times does it take someone to ask you to try to be more on time with them before you begin to make the effort? This example is challenging for some more than others, but wouldn't you still hear the person and try to at least be less late? A pushy person would not make that effort.

Now that you're aware you can push back against a pushy person, you're ready to take the 4 steps to get out of the corner and become more assertive.

1. Be clear about what will not work for you about their request.

2. Make a suggestion on what will work better for you and, possibly, the pushy person, too.

3. Give them options. Do not let them select options that don’t work for you. Instead, offer them options A or B.

If the pushy person is relentless, you will need to be more assertive, which is uncomfortable but not wrong or unkind. Remember, this is a very uncomfortable feeling because you are not a pushy person. You are not doing anything wrong. It is just that it is uncomfortable. It’s necessary because it’s the only way out of the corner. 

But, what if nothing changes? What do you do?

1. In general: Be a wall to resist their pushing. Be a broken record and continue to state your desired options. Present this as a matter of fact, not in anger. If necessary, just politely end the conversation.

2. In a romantic relationship: This is challenging because you have feelings for your partner and you may be invested in this relationship. But it doesn't change what is healthy and what is unhealthy. You need to speak up to your partner without blaming. Focus on how you feel when you feel pushed into a corner and that you don't believe he is aware of this happening. Tell him what will work better for you. If this pushy behavior continues you may need to reconsider your options, such as seeking professional counseling together. Remember, these skills are not taught in school.

3. With a boss: You may want to consider seeking consultation with HR or the next level up in management. But only take this step after you have documented all your attempts to discuss this first with your boss.

4. With a family member: Try writing them a letter. Begin with something positive about the relationship and what it means to you as best as you can do without being insincere. Then, tell them that you would like to improve the relationship and what would make it better for you. Try to include something they also have voiced wanting from you as well.

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Sometimes a pushy person can only really hear someone when they are not physically present and are not prepared to engage in a fight. You may want to suggest family counseling with a professional. This means that you value the relationship and don’t want to let go of it. 

This may seem uncomfortable to do. However, your only other option is to be pushed into a corner, doing what you don’t want to do.

Pushy people are intrusive and aggressive in their approach to get what they want.

Normal people don’t do this. Normal people are kind and considerate of others. But you can’t act the same way when you are dealing with someone who is this aggressive.

Nice people can be assertive without being "pushy" because aggressiveness and pushiness are not the same things.

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Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT, is a marriage and family psychotherapist who has been practicing in-person and online in the South Bay of the Los Angeles area for over 20 years. Susan is passionate about helping couples and families learn healthy communications skills. 

This article was originally published at Life And Relationships 101. Reprinted with permission from the author.