Psychological Self-Help

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Here are the steps, suggested by Beier and Valens, for avoiding
"unaware control." (1) Become as unemotional as possible so you can
observe the interaction (with the controlling person) as objectively as
possible. (2) Observe the effects, i.e. note the results of your
interactions, and assume that whatever happens (especially
repeatedly) was the unconsciously intended outcome. If you got
mad...or felt guilty...or gave them a loan, assume that was the other
person's unconscious intent. Don't be mislead by the person's words or
"logic," don't try to figure out what made you respond the way you
did, just note what pay offs the other person's actions and/or feelings
lead to. (3) Disengage from the relationship--stop responding in your
usual, controlled-by-other-person way. Be understanding, not angry.
Listen, but don't rescue him/her. Become passive resistant to the
controller; then, observe his/her reaction to your non-response. (4)
Next is the key step: now, instead of giving the old manipulated
response or no response, give a new surprising response that does not
go along with what the manipulator expects (and unconsciously wants)
but does not threaten him/her either. Example: suppose a person
(child, spouse, boss) gets attention and status by being nasty and
yelling. You could start responding differently by simply saying, "It's
good to express your feelings." You give no argument, you show no
fear of his/her long verbal abuse, and you make no concessions and
don't cater to his/her whims. (5) Give him/her space--just let the
other person find a new and better way to interact with you. You
should not try to become a controller of the other person and tell
him/her what to do; instead, be free to experiment with different
styles of interacting with this person. 
How to handle difficult people
Bramson (1981) has suggested several ways of coping with
difficult people in the work setting, e.g. hostile co-workers or bosses,
complainers, super-agreeables, know-it-all experts, obstructionists,
and people who won't decide or won't talk. How to handle the hostile
person was discussed at the end of chapter 7. What about the chronic
complainers? They are fault-finding, blaming, and certain about what
should be done but they never seem able to correct the situation by
themselves. Often they have a point--there are real problems--but
their complaining is not effective (except it is designed to prove
someone else is responsible). Coping with complainers involves, first,
listening and asking clarifying questions, even if you feel guilty or
falsely accused. There are several don'ts: don't agree with the
complaints, don't apologize (not immediately), and don't become
overly defensive or counter-attack because this only causes them to
restate their complaints more heatedly. Secondly, as you gather facts,
create a problem-solving attitude. Be serious and supportive.
Acknowledge the facts. Get the complaints in writing and in precise
detail; get others, including the complainer, involved in collecting more
data that might lead to a solution. In addition to what is wrong, ask
"What should happen?" If the complainer is unhappy with someone
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