Personal Empowerment: Make Viable Agreements

In the course of human relations, we frequently make agreements with one another. Because disturbed characters are not reliable, trustworthy, or prone to play fairly, making any kind of agreements with them can be a risky business indeed.

I’ve been posting a series of articles on things you can do to be more empowered in relationships, especially if those relationships are with persons of deficient or disturbed character. Some of the empowerment tools already discussed include never accepting excuses for inappropriate behavior, making judgments about people based on their patterns of behavior as opposed to what you think the reasons for their behavior might be, knowing yourself well enough to be alert about the aspects of your own personality that unscrupulous characters might use against you, and becoming a better judge of the character of others:

In the course of human relations, we frequently make agreements with one another. Because disturbed characters are not reliable, trustworthy, or prone to play fairly, making any kind of agreements with them can be a risky business indeed. For these and other numerous reasons, you should make only agreements that are truly viable, practical, verifiable and enforceable. Because they seek the advantage in most of their encounters with you, and because their own welfare is their main concern, it’s very important that you keep your own well-being in mind every step of the way when negotiating with those of deficient or disturbed character.

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Making agreements with the aggressive personalities can be an especially delicate matter. (See “Understanding the Aggressive Personalities” and “Understanding the Aggressive Personalities, Part 2”.) Because they view most encounters with you as a “contest” that they are determined to “win,” finding a way to get what you need or want in any kind of negotiation with them is a real challenge. From the aggressive personality’s standpoint, any situation can only have four possible outcomes:

  • “I win, you lose” (which is the outcome they prefer),
  • “I lose, you win” (which is the outcome they will fight against vehemently,
  • “I lose, you lose, too” (which is the spiteful outcome they will try to engineer when they face the real prospect of loss or failure), and
  • “You win, I win, too” (which they find not as desirable as the first option, but will settle for if they must)

That’s why I recommend in my first book In Sheep’s Clothing [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK](?) giving a fair amount of attention to crafting solid “win-win” scenarios.

It’s also important that you don’t make agreements you really don’t want to make. Sometimes, individuals in abusive or exploitative relationships will agree to certain things primarily to appease the other party or with the thought that making the agreement will necessarily prompt the other party to behave in a more reasonable or considerate fashion. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve witnessed situations in which one party in the relationship reluctantly agreed to something, thinking that they would be better off — only to realize later that they had been taken advantage of once again, sometimes in a worse way than they could have imagined. So make agreements you really want to make. Calculate all of the potential costs involved. Then, make sure the costs don’t outweigh the benefits you hope for.

Sometimes it’s the best course simply to have no dealings with persons of disturbed character. But that’s not always possible. There are situations at work and in daily life in which you just can’t escape some kind of relationship with a person who’s main purpose it is to exploit, abuse, manipulate, or betray you. Because such situations are impossible to avoid altogether, and because disturbed characters are the kinds of individuals they are, it’s important that you be as empowered as possible in your dealings with them.

Making only viable, verifiable, enforceable agreements is a powerful personal empowerment tool.

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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