In so many cases, these behaviors that push people away are due to a deep belief that the offender feels unlovable. They say, “I’ll show you. You won’t ignore me.” That is their motivation for verbal or physical violence. It is a search for significance gone terribly wrong.
So, if someone you live, love or work with is habitually difficult, defensive or destructive, take note now. They likely won’t grow out of it, nor will they likely change unless they are open to positive, immediate and effective help, and, maybe not even then.
You have to do things differently because:
1. They think everyone is a potential danger to them emotionally.
Recognize that their pain is within themselves. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t take it on as your fault, no matter what they say.
Yelling, belittling, or abusing others is their desperate attempt to get some respect and release the pain that they feel. That pain was likely inflicted in childhood, emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual pain. It is not about you.
2. You avoid confronting them and their behavior.
You need to do your own internal work. If you think or feel that the poor ways someone treats you is because you deserve it, you’ve got work to do.
No one has the right to treat you badly. So, get yourself some relationship help—work on your relationship with yourself, your self-esteem and self-confidence. Gain some good communication, conflict management, and negotiation skills, too.
3. You are NOT a doormat.
You must set boundaries and maintain them. If by chance, you have been a doormat, it’s time to stand up, brush yourself off, and never place yourself in that position again. Do this in a positive way, demonstrating love, concern, and empathy for them, but clearly explaining the specific behaviors that have to stop.
Keep in mind: You want to talk about the behavior that has to stop, not about the person. You want them to know that changing that behavior will get them more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. Set clear boundaries and limits, along with their consequences. Then, maintain them no matter how difficult that is.
When you don’t maintain your boundaries, they don’t trust or respect your word.
4. These behaviors are episodic.
They’re all over the place, but you need consistency. Being with these folks is like a roller coaster ride. They can show love and regret when threatened by potential loss, and then be equally mean and belligerent when they feel they are not getting the respect and attention they “deserve”.
You must remain true to yourself, live by your values, beliefs, and purpose all the time, not changing who you are to accommodate them, to make them happy (nothing does) or to make them like you more (you’re only going along with what they want).
5. You think that offering negative feedback helps.
You must change this belief when dealing with these folks. Negative feedback confirms how they feel about themselves, and makes your comments real; it can scare and enrage them.
Reduce and remove emotional threats. Deal with specific behaviors and what could replace them that will help you feel more engaged and positively responsive.