The Four Styles of Control Dramas
Tactics of Manipulation
Everyone has a natural tendency to rely on a form of control in their dealings with others. It’s within our nature to have these styles and feel inclined to use them in response to real or perceived threats.
The ugliness of this mechanism becomes clear when self-preservation stops being the motivation and a desire to shape another person’s personal progress, compromise their free will or guarantee a desired outcome, becomes the underlying reason for these manipulations.
There are three levels of personal Control Dramas:
These individuals are aware of their natural style and inclination to control, but instead make a conscious effort to use alternative ways to communicate their needs and desires in a way that supports a healthier interest for those concerned.
These individuals employ control dramas and genuinely don’t realize they are victimizing another person by doing so. There is no ill intent here as these individuals come by their styles naturally and unconsciously but may still be considered harmful or dangerous.
These individuals pose the greatest risk to those they interact with. They have an awareness of their actions but have little regard for the implications. They will rely on a combination of the following styles and tactics to manipulate and control people and situations.
1. POOR ME
The “Poor Me” is a passive-aggressive and the most secretly manipulative of the four styles. This person will portray a false sense of being a victim in order to appeal to another person’s compassion, guilt or obligation through the manipulation of their sympathies.
This person causes disharmony by creating feelings of guilt and obligation, or a need to appease or conform the person to their desires and beliefs.
Mechanisms of this drama include: procrastination, forgetfulness, stubbornness, lying, dramatizing, sulking and intentional inefficiency. These individuals consistently externalize blame onto others. They have great difficulty taking responsibility for their actions without becoming argumentative or more manipulative. Despite a false presentation of assertiveness and self-confidence, these individuals are very envious of others, resentful of their peers and partners and their self-confidence is extremely poor.
How to diffuse:
Angry confrontation is ineffective as it just perpetuates the victimization and facade by giving the “Poor Me” and their supporters more to justify and fuel to re-enforce the drama.
The best response is to avoid being thrown off balance by their ploys and avoid buying into their guilt. Keep a sense of perspective and emotional distance while maintaining priorities and boundaries. Confront their games and have a clearly stated and firm position. Evaluate the real extent, need or desire that is behind their manipulation and only give the appropriate amount of compassion.
The “Aloof” is just a less passive and manipulative than the “Poor Me,” but more secretive. The “Aloof” approach is to create a vagueness and facade around themselves, forcing an undeserved investment of energy to gain information, commitment and emotion which should normally be shared in a straight-up, direct way.
Essentially, they are “high maintenance” causing the other person to work hard at breaking through their facade in order to identify their true needs and desires.
By their indirectness, their tact, and their façade, they appeal to us but as we try to develop an intimate or collaborative relationship, they retract, become distant and unapproachable. They do this because they are afraid that their inner secrets, fears, inadequacies or machinations may be exposed.
How to Diffuse:
These are individuals who are wounded by a perceived betrayal of their expectations. They believe that essentially no one can be trusted fully. After having exchanged trust and intimacy with someone, they may suddenly turn against the very person they were getting close to. The most effective way to deal with this style is by avoiding the defensive behaviors. Indulging their behaviors will only fuel their anxieties, fears, and mistrust. The key is to call the individual on their behavior and underlying fears. Typically, the individual will either admit to the observations or they will take the extreme step of severing the relationship.
More aggressive but less manipulative than the two passive-secretive types, the “Interrogator” uses this style of drama by evaluating and asking questions with the specific purpose of finding something wrong or corrupt.
If they find something, they can evoke a sense of conscious in a person that confuses and criticizes their intent, position or commitment. If this strategy succeeds then the individual being criticized is pulled into the drama which will never resolve in their favor.
The trap lies in the individual feeling consistently judged by the “Interrogator” and paying attention to what the “Interrogator” may be thinking and feeling about them.
How to Diffuse:
Don’t be drawn into a never ending cycle of accusations and explanations with the “Interrogator”. This is a tactic meant to perpetuate confusion and uncertainty. Avoid defensive behaviors like cowering back and giving in; recognize that the questioning is a set-up to prove their fears or perceptions. Confront the reasoning or intent behind the questioning. The “Interrogator” will then likely re-frame the questioning in a way that is more genuine to what he or she really needs to know. Don’t surrender to anger or frustration. The key is to be patient, moderate and confidently firm about your integrity and character.
“Intimidators” are the most aggressive of the four types. Their presence is well stated and felt and there is a threatening air of danger conveyed from them. They are unpredictable and can threaten, use harsh words and abusive actions uncontrollably. They will demonstrate a capacity for rage or violence.
They also attack self-esteem by creating unwarranted guilt, a sense of worthlessness, a feeling of incompetence, and of course, fear. Often the “Intimidator” will also express threats publicly and boast illustrations of how they dealt with or destroyed others in the past.
How to Diffuse:
“Intimidators” often attack when others are least able or unwilling to confront them. The best response for dealing with them is to 1) name the game, 2) consider whether the accusations are right and correct and 3) refuse to be knocked “off balance”. Where possible, create distance from the individual to minimize control but stay close enough to know what he or she doing. When the “Intimidator” recognizes that the tactics can’t overcome resolution or haven’t invoked fear, the individual may get uglier and plan a more dramatic move. Patience, control and persistence will eventually outlast the “Intimidator”.
~ Liz LaSaga