Personal Empowerment: Don’t Threaten, Just Act

There’s no need to “red flag” action that you’re willing to take if the disturbed character won’t change. Don’t threaten, just take action.

I’ve been posting a series of articles on how to be more empowered in any relationship, especially in relationships with persons of deficient or disordered character. Some of the “tools” of personal empowerment we’ve discussed already include staying calm, collected and focused when dealing with a person that would otherwise mislead, unnerve, or distract you ; knowing yourself well enough to be aware of the traits you possess that a manipulator might use against you; and becoming a better judge of the character of others:

Another way to remain empowered in your relationships is to avoid threatening to do things while simply taking assertive action on your behalf.

It’s very common for people to fall into the trap of trying to control the behavior of someone else. This is especially true if the person you’re in a relationship with is of deficient or disturbed character. Conscientious people are generally exhausted from all the effort it takes to meet all their responsibilities and to make things work in their relationships. The last thing they want is another burden. They hope and pray that the other person will carry their fair share of the load. And, when they don’t, they might try and coerce them into behaving better by “threatening” some action or to leave the relationship altogether. This might result in a temporary manipulation, and the other party might act more responsibly for awhile. But in the end, old patterns generally return and the person easily finds himself or herself back in the same old spot.

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The tendency to try and coerce another person into right action also has its roots in the common but inaccurate belief that disturbed characters “just don’t see what they’re doing.” So, a person can become deluded that if they simply maneuver someone into behaving more appropriately, they will eventually “see the light” and change their behavior more permanently. But the fact is that disturbed characters know full well what they’re doing and how others want them to behave. They know exactly what values and standards persons without disturbances of character hold. They simply don’t want to accede to those standards. So there’s no need to “red flag” action that you’re willing to take on your own behalf if the disturbed character won’t change. Your responsibility is to take care of yourself, purely and simply. So, don’t threaten action. Take action. Such action doesn’t always have to be drastic, but it has to be firm and in your interest. The other party will always “get the message” that you’re not about to be abused, exploited, or manipulated.

Sometimes overly conscientious people equate acting in their own best interest with being “selfish.” Nothing can be further from the truth. Selfishness is self-absorption, self-seeking behavior that either disregards the rights and needs of others or tramples them deliberately in favor of personal gain. Taking the time and care to tend to your own legitimate wants and needs while not unnecessarily inflicting harm on others (i.e., self-assertion) is perfectly healthy and desirable. That doesn’t mean that a good manipulator won’t try to convince you that you’re somehow doing wrong to take care of yourself. But in your heart, you should know the difference between mistreating someone else and simply taking care of yourself.

So, if you find yourself dealing with a questionable character, remember your first and foremost responsibility. Take care of yourself. That usually means action. Don’t threaten, cajole, or try to manipulate, just DO. You’re more likely to gain the respect of others as well as to increase your own self-respect if you’re willing to take assertive action to secure your legitimate needs.

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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