Personal Empowerment: Make Sure You Know Who You’re Dealing With

Knowing the kind of person you’re dealing with can give you valuable insight into the types of values they’re likely to hold, their dominant attitudes and beliefs, and their typical modus operandi when it comes to dealing with other people.

We’ve been discussing various ways to empower oneself in dealings with others, especially with those of deficient or disturbed character. In prior posts, we’ve addressed how important it is to judge actions instead of intentions, to do your best to stay focused and in the here and now no matter what diversionary and evasive tactics the other person might use, and perhaps most importantly, how crucial it is to know oneself well enough to guard against an unscrupulous character using your strengths and/or weakness against you:

As important as it is to know oneself, it’s also crucial that we have a pretty good idea of the kind of person were dealing with when we engage in any kind of interaction or relationship with him or her. These days, it’s especially important to be a fairly good judge of character. That doesn’t mean you have to have sophisticated knowledge of personality and the various personality types. But it does mean that you have to have a basic kind of understanding of the principal kinds of personalities there are out there and where each of these personalities falls on the continuum of character disturbance.

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Knowing the kind of person you’re dealing with can give you valuable insight into the types of values they’re likely to hold, their dominant attitudes and beliefs, and their typical modus operandi when it comes to dealing with other people. Knowing how they’re likely to interact with you and what kinds of behavior to expect from them better prepares you for how to respond to them and how to avoid being victimized in any way.

Traditional psychology paradigms tend to see everyone as pretty much the same “underneath it all.” Further, these paradigms postulate that were it not for traumatic events in their histories, fears, insecurities, etc. and the “defenses” they’ve learned to mount, everyone would be kind, loving, and benign in their dealings with us. Because these paradigms have been around so long and been so well-accepted despite their clear deficiencies, most people operate under the assumption that the person they’re dealing with is “just like me” for the most part — motivated by the same needs and desires and prompted to certain actions for the same reasons for which we might imagine ourselves engaging in such actions. Such assumptions automatically place an individual in a very disadvantaged position when they’re dealing with a person of deficient or disturbed character.

Not everyone is alike. Besides that, persons with character disturbance are very different on many dimensions from individuals best described as “neurotic” to some degree. (See “Disturbances of Character”.) Only in recent years have paradigms become available that help us really understand the make up of these individuals. By far, the most frequent comment I receive in reviews of my book In Sheep’s Clothing [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?) is that accepting the principle that not everyone is the same, ridding oneself of preconceived notions about why people do the things they do, and learning the distinctly different qualities of disturbed characters was the fundamental means by which a one-time victim of manipulation, deceit, exploitation, and abuse empowered himself or herself and changed his or her life forever.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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