Personalities Who Won’t Take “No” for an Answer

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Aggressive personalities hate taking “no” for an answer, and when they encounter one of life’s roadblocks, they invariably want to tear it down or somehow get around it.

Some personality types are resolute fighters by nature. Some of these personalities are so feisty they simply refuse to conform to society’s major rules. These are the “unbridled aggressive” personalities I’ve written about before and who professionals have often been labeled as antisocial or sociopathic. They’re aggressively self-concerned and self-advancing and care little about others. And because they pit themselves so solidly against the social order and the common good, they often lead lives of crime. But researchers like Theodore Millon and Robert Hare have known for some time that there are more aggressive personality types out there than the common criminal. I have written extensively on these various types in my books and in several articles on this site. The various aggressive personality sub-types have their distinct features and differences to be sure. Some are brazen in their aggressive tendencies. Others are more subtle, cunning, and covert. But one thing all the aggressive personalities have in common is they hate taking “no” for an answer. These diehard fighters among us simply want their way. And they’re often determined to have it regardless of the human cost and regardless of what they feel they have to do to have it. When they encounter one of life’s roadblocks, they invariably want to tear it down or somehow get around it. And that’s where the problem comes. It’s precisely because they won’t allow themselves to be deterred — even when it would be in their best interest to do so — that they fail to learn the important life lessons that would actually help make them a better, psychologically healthier person. There are some “nos” in life that are well worth heeding. Accepting them can be both instructive and self-advancing in the long run. But aggressive personalities won’t stand for this, and that’s one major reason why their lives are so often a mess.

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Aggressive personalities can do some pretty crazy things when encountering the various inevitable “nos” in life. The other day I was driving along a four-lane boulevard when an an aggressive driver going about twice the speed limit came up just behind one driver (who was going right at the speed limit) and predictably tried to quickly switch lanes to pass. But just before they switched lanes another car had turned into the other lane and hadn’t yet come up to full speed, so they switched back. Frustrated because their tailgating didn’t prompt the driver ahead of them to increase their speed, they again switched into the other lane only to find the other person going only the speed limit as well. So they slammed on their horn, stuck their arm out the window, made a vulgar gesture and pitched quite a fit about being denied those extra few minutes they’d planned to shave off their driving time. Aggressive personalities just don’t take no for an answer.

Unfortunately, the kinds of fits some aggressive personalities are likely to pitch when they feel denied go far beyond the typical antics of the aggressive driver. Folks who’ve been in toxic relationships have often had to learn the hard way what the aggressive personality is capable of doing when limits and boundaries are firmly imposed. And if emotional or physical abuse has been involved in the relationship, things can get dangerously out of hand when the victim finally says “no.” Aggressive personalities often have attitudes of “ownership,” and the more violent aggressors use terror and abuse as way of asserting that ownership and maintaining power and control over their relationship partners. So when their victim has finally had enough and sends them a loud and clear “no more” message by deciding to leave, all hell can truly break lose.

Sometimes a person’s aggressive personality characteristics are hard to see at first. But all folks with aggressive personality characteristics have problems with “no,” so it isn’t long before their character is revealed. Several years ago a man called to ask me for some help in dealing with his “difficult” wife. But when I had a chance to observe the couple interact, it didn’t me take long to realize who was actually the more aggressive personality. I made some interpretations about the kinds of interactions I witnessed between the two, and that’s when the man took issue with me. He was determined to “correct” my perceptions and have me see things his way. After all, he contacted me to help get his “difficult” wife to see the error of her ways. So when in effect I gave him a firm “no” not only to siding with him but also to his relentless attempts to convince me that he had it right all along, he wasn’t happy. Nor was he willing to at least try out my suggestions for a different approach. My firm “no” would eventually get me “fired” as the couple’s counselor. But a few years later, the woman showed up at my door to thank me for calling to the fore what she’d long sensed in her gut about her now ex-husband’s character. And she wanted some guidance as to how to better screen for the essential character qualities of a future relationship partner, so we had a few sessions and she soon went her way feeling both enlightened and empowered. Interestingly enough, her ex-husband also asked to see me some time later. He’d been thinking a lot about the encounter we had years back, and having gone through two unsuccessful relationships since his divorce was beginning to consider that there might actually be something in his approach to things that needed to change. We inevitably had a discussion on the necessity and benefits of sometimes accepting “no” for an answer if someone is to develop solid character. Fortunately, he eventually proved fairly willing to do so. Unfortunately, there are many aggressive personalities out there — all wreaking tremendous havoc in relationships — and far too many of them simply won’t hear of it when anyone or anything in life tells them “no.”

For more on several facets of these topics, see my earlier articles as well as my books:

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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