Workplace Bullying Emergency Kit: Seven Strategies To End Emotionally Aggressive Behavior

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Therapeutic Life Coach and Organizational Consultant at ChainFree Living Coaching and Consulting Services
Rebecca C. Mandeville is a licensed psychotherapist, therapeutic life coach, educator, and author specializing in emotional healing and living authentically as one's true self. She is the founder of ChainFree Living (http://chainfreeliving.com), an online hub offering free resources and community peer-support to people who wish to consciously experience their innate wholeness. Her book, 'You Are Already Whole: On Discovering and Being Your True Self', will be published in 2017.
Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Seven Strategies For Effectively Dealing With Workplace Bullying

In this article I discuss some of the unique traits that emotionally manipulative adult bullies exhibit; the various kinds of damage such bullies can cause to others who are exposed to them for any length of time (the emotionally sensitive, conflict-avoidant person, especially); and my strategies for dealing effectively with the adult bully at work.
Definition of Bully: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. -freedictionary.com

Workplace Bullying Harms

Bullying doesn’t just happen to children. It can happen to adults as well. I created the term Emotionally Manipulative Adult Bullying to describe a very specific kind of bullying behavior that can occur both in and outside of the office, yet often goes unrecognized and unaddressed. This form of bullying, whether it occurs between bosses and employees, colleagues, spouses, or in any adult relationship, can cause traumatic stress that is toxic to one’s emotional well being and overall health in cases where the energetically aggressive bullying behavior is repeated and chronic.

 As hard as it is to imagine, these types of emotionally manipulative, aggressive adults are usually oblivious to how their actions upset and negatively impact the people around them – especially those they may specifically and intentionally be targeting. Often the ‘target’ is an emotionally sensitive person who has trouble setting clear boundaries and will do anything to avoid or reduce conflict, which allows the emotionally manipulative bully to act out aggressively or passive-aggressively in an unimpeded manner. In fact,these types of bullies usually see themselves as the ‘victim’ if someone sets a boundary and refuses to tolerate (and/or call them out on) their egregious behavior.

Examples of bullying behavior

 

The ‘Accidental Bully’

Unlike the types of workplace bullies described by self-help websites such as workplacebullying.org, the typical emotionally manipulative adult bully is often completely unaware of the distress and confusion they cause those around them. Based on my years of working as a licensed psychotherapist, and now as a Therapeutic Life Coach, it is my experience that an emotionally manipulative adult who chronically exhibits disrespectful, overbearing, intimidating behavior is likely suffering from one or more personality disorders (e.g., borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder) and as such, can be very difficult for even a trained mental health professional to effectively relate to and work with, for the following reasons:

Emotionally Manipulative Adults Tend To:

  • Abuse positions of authority and power
  • Frequently dish out undeserved criticism
  • Use sarcasm and jokes to disguise their emotional abuse of others
  • Hold others to unrealistic standards based on their needs and wants
  • Use overt insults and covert threats to control others
  • Are completely oblivious to the fact that they abuse the rights and dignity of others while demanding that they themselves be treated fairly at all times
  • Play by their own set of ‘rules’ and use guilt, martyrdom, threats, and other forms of covert or overt intimidation (e.g., passive-aggressive behavior) when others fail to comply and play the game their way

The Negative Impact Of Being Bullied By An Emotional Manipulator

Intimidating behavior causes workplace stress
Intimidating behavior causes workplace stress

As stated above, It has been my experience in my work as a psychotherapist and coach that the people who seem most negatively impacted by the emotionally manipulative, bullying behaviors are those who describe themselves as being ‘trusting’, ‘highly sensitive’, ’emotionally aware’, ‘intuitive’, ‘caring’, and ’empathic’. This is likely due to the fact that these more sensitive personality types have difficulty recognizing, then standing up to, the extremely manipulative and emotionally and energetically aggressive behaviors being displayed toward them by the bullying adult. Such caring, empathic types may even feel bad or sorry for the person bullying them, and will often engage in codependent behaviors in their misguided attempts to calm the bully and keep the peace for the sake of everyone on the team and/or in the office. Unfortunately, such intense one-on-one exposure to the aggressor not only can make them a target of the bully’s focus in the workplace, but has additional repercussions for the person trying to help.

Chronic Adult Bullying and Emotional Manipulation Can Cause:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss of trust and confidence in self / Poor self-esteem
  • Compulsive worrying and ruminating over just what is happening and why it is happening, and who to tell and what to tell in an effort to get help (especially true when the bully is one’s boss)
  • A pervasive sense of fear and hyper-alertness
  • Various losses from missed work (financial losses due to lack of attendance; loss of credibility; disappointed team members; loss of one’s job)
  • Sleep disturbance and/or full-blown insomnia
  • Paranoia / Fears of “going crazy” or being seen as “crazy”
  • Mysterious aches and pains with no known cause
  • Stomach upset / Digestive disturbances, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Seven Strategies For Effectively Addressing Bullying Behavior In The Workplace

Ignoring the emotionally manipulative adult bully in the workplace won’t help, and will simply result in the egregious behavior continuing. While direct confrontation of the person bullying you is not always possible, effective, or even recommended, if the situation is not addressed in some manner the bully will simply continue to act out in an emotionally aggressive manner, to the detriment of all concerned. If you are an especially sensitive person, you may even become physically ill and/or rush to quit your job to get away from the harmful behavior. Instead, try these seven strategies I designed that have helped many of my therapy and coaching clients successfully put and end to bullying behavior experienced at work:

  1. Awareness is the first step. Acknowledge that you may be the victim of workplace bullying and that you may need help and support from others to arrange for an intervention of some kind to end these negative exchanges.
  2. Realize that emotionally manipulative bullying is sometimes not obvious to others if you are the one being specifically targeted. This is why it is especially critical that you document the bullying behavior as well as you can in case you need to go to higher levels of authority for help, such as human resources or an appropriate authority figure. Once you have reported the bullying, it is their job to assist you in finding solutions to what could be a complex situation (e.g., the bully is your boss); if the authority figure you approach says that they cannot help you, ask them who can. Do not accept ‘I don’t know’ for an answer. You shouldn’t have to handle this on your own.
  3. Are there people around you at work who witness the emotionally manipulative bully engaging in inappropriate behavior, such as harassing you or putting you down? Consider asking them to act as your witness. Ask if they are willing to document what they observe in case you do decide to seek help from those in a position to intervene.
  4. Release the idea that you did something to deserve this poor treatment. Emotionally manipulative bullies often target sensitive, kind, empathic, and helpful people. Remind yourself that you did nothing to cause the bullying, and you can’t control the bully’s behavior. Nor is it likely that you will be able to put a stop to the aggressive behavior on your own, or that the bully will just stop one day without intervention. Get help as soon as possible.
  5. Recognize and accept that you can not ‘help’ the bully to become a reasonable, nice, sensitive, and caring person. Remember, even specially trained and licensed healing professionals are challenged to help these types of emotionally manipulative and aggressive individuals.
  6. Decide if you are up to confronting the person bullying you – but never confront without a witness. If you decide that you would like to directly address the situation and confront the person you are having difficulty with, it is imperative that you do so with the support of an appropriate third party authority figure at work – Especially if the bully is your boss, or a team member you must work with regularly. Do not ever attempt to confront the bully on your own!
  7. If you’re not getting the support you need from an appropriate authority figure at work, consider seeing a therapist, life coach, or employment consultant who specializes in bullying in the workplace for further suggestions and ideas. You should not ever have to quit your job in order to escape being bullied in the workplace. If you decide to work with a therapist, counselor, or coach, make sure they have a good understanding of organizational systems and have experience in helping people address workplace bullying and dysfuncational organizational dynamics.

Bullying happens when authority figures are weakIMPORTANT NOTE: In extreme cases, you may feel you have no choice but to quit your job if appropriate help from an authority figures is not available. Although no state has as of yet passed an anti-bullying law, that doesn’t mean bullying is legal in every situation. Therefore, prior to quitting your job due to somebody else’s inappropriate, manipulative, and possibly even abusive behavior, you might consider contacting The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and/or a local Labor and Employment Attorney to find out if the kind of bullying you are experiencing is illegal due to violating federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment.

Some Final Thoughts

Documenting is critical!
Documenting is critical!

Whether you are the one behaving inappropriately with others in the workplace or the one being emotionally and mentally harmed by someone else’s bullying behavior, it is important to recognize what is actually happening and take steps to stop it. If not, the distressful dynamics will continue to fester and grow, affecting the emotional and perhaps even the physical well being of anyone who must have sustained and repeated contact with an emotionally aggressive bullying personality, as well as negatively impacting the overall productivity of the office.

Remember, the authority you seek out for assistance in ending the bullying will depend on your particular situation. Check to see if there is an Employee Handbook. It is the Human Resources department job to identify the best person at your workplace to help you put an end to the emotionally manipulative bully’s destructive and toxic behaviors, and to intervene on your (and others) behalf, if warranted.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, is a licensed Psychotherapist, Transformational Life Coach, Author, and former High-Tech Executive Employment Consultant. You can learn more about her ‘Whole Person’, ‘Whole Life’ Coaching practice by visiting her at ChainFree Living.

 

Ten Strategies For Discovering and Being Your True Self

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Therapeutic Life Coach and Organizational Consultant at ChainFree Living Coaching and Consulting Services
Rebecca C. Mandeville is a licensed psychotherapist, therapeutic life coach, educator, and author specializing in emotional healing and living authentically as one's true self. She is the founder of ChainFree Living (http://chainfreeliving.com), an online hub offering free resources and community peer-support to people who wish to consciously experience their innate wholeness. Her book, 'You Are Already Whole: On Discovering and Being Your True Self', will be published in 2017.
Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Article By Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MFT

If you find yourself continuing to act out old patterns and roles that no longer serve you, this is more than likely interfering with your ability to create mutually rewarding, respectful, and reciprocal relationships. Below are my ten strategies for getting in touch with your true self so as to create an integrity-based and emotionally rewarding life.

The True Self Lost In Childhood

Although living as one’s true self in an emotionally honest manner might seem like a natural and easy thing to do, those of us who grew up in a family system that did not support our uninhibited and natural expressions may have gradually disconnected from the truth of who we were, i.e., our core essence, so as to be accepted by those we were dependent upon to meet our most basic and fundamental needs. As described by various experts specializing in dysfunctional family systems, it is often the case that children who grew up in these types of chaotic, unstable environments find some semblance of identity and emotional security by taking on one or more family roles, such as ‘the hero’, ‘the scapegoat’, ‘the rebel’, ‘the caretaker’, or ‘the clown’. But in unconsciously disconnecting from our true self in order to emotionally survive, we may later find ourselves as adults people-pleasing others and hiding behind a facade, with no idea how to express and live our truth.

The Truth Doesn’t Care If You Like It Or Not

“The Truth doesn’t care about consequences. It’s concerned with the Truth. It doesn’t care if you’re liked or not liked. You won’t always be liked for it, and sometimes you will be disliked for it. As long as you’re acting in the world based on what you like or don’t like, or what others like or don’t like, you’re not in the realm of Truth. Truth insists that we not only be truthful, but that we act truthfully. It’s not enough just to know the Truth. You have to be it – to act it, and to do it.”~ Adyashanti

(From ‘The Impact of Awakening’)

Are You Hiding Behind A Mask?If I were to ask you right now, “In what situations, or around which people, do you feel most yourself, and most creative, free, and alive”, what would be your answer? Alternatively, if I were to ask you, “In what situations, or around which people, do you not feel like your real, authentic self and/or less than who and what you sense or believe yourself to be?,” how might you respond? Contemplating these questions can be provocative, to say the least, and there may be no obvious or easy answers at first. In addition to considering these questions, you might also like to to answer a few questions included in a brief quiz I created that will help you determine if you are hiding behind a mask and/or struggle to live as your true self.

How To Live and Speak Your Truth

If you feel ready to shed anything about yourself that feels false and fearlessly live from a place of emotional honesty, personal integrity (inspired by your principles and values), and a direct knowledge of Self, the ten strategies I designed to assist my psychotherapy and coaching clients will aid you in this courageous quest. If you are not already seeing a competent therapist, counselor, or coach who can support you in your efforts, you might consider engaging such services before implementing the strategies listed below.

My Ten Strategies For Discovering and Being Your True Self 

  1. Recognize You Have A True Self Nature: Each of us enters the world possessing an innate, core, true self. Each one of us is an ‘original model’, and as such we all have unique gifts to offer to the world.
  2. Remember And Reflect On When You Felt Happiest As A Child: Think back to when you were young. When did you feel most free, happy, and alive? Take a few minutes after reflecting on what caused you to feel joyful in your youth, going back to your earliest conscious memory. Then write about the people, places, things, and activities that brought you the greatest joy while you were growing up. This simple ‘remembering and reflection’ exercise can put us deeply in touch with the innocent purity of our original true self nature.
  3. Make A Commitment To Recover And Reconnect With The Joyful, Innately Pure, Authentic Essence Within: In a certain sense, recognizing and consciously reclaiming our own unique, true self nature is a paradoxical process of finding and embracing what we never really lost. It is an excavation project, of sorts, i.e., it is a process of uncovering, discovering, recovering, and consciously reclaiming who (and what) we in fact have always been, and will always be – That which is most true, honest, expansive, and alive within ourselves, yet constant and unchanging.
  4. Make A Decision To Release All That Feels False And No Longer Serves You: Becoming authentic and emotionally honest requires that we be willing to release the parts of ourselves that we were conditioned to become by the various social systems we have been immersed in like a fish swimming in the sea, from our family-of-origin to the cultural and social systems we currently identify with, and everything in between. Ask yourself if you feel ready to begin doing that. If not, I encourage you to explore what might be inhibiting you from living an emotionally honest and authentic life. Change is never easy. It’s never too late to “get real”!
  5. The Process Of Letting Go: I often ask my clients who are engaged in a process of true self recovery and reclamation, “Is this (person, place, thing, behavior, situation) serving you at the highest level today?” Whatever is not serving us at the highest level is more than likely not serving others in our life at the highest level either, regardless of how it may seem. It ultimately serves no one when we allow ourselves to remain small, diminish our internal light, and hide our truth from others (and perhaps even from ourselves.)
  6. The Only Way Out Is Through: It is often during this process of letting go of all that now feels false that long-buried emotions unconsciously repressed in childhood may surface, resulting in our possibly becoming sad, anxious, angry, and even genuinely depressed. At times such as this it is imperative that a person feel he or she is not alone in the valiant task of facing any painful feelings and memories that may arise head on, versus avoiding the challenging, difficult work of genuine transformational growth; therefore, this is a time when the help of a trusted therapist, counselor, transformational life coach, and/or a psychoeducational peer-support group can prove to be invaluable to a person engaged in the task of reclaiming and authentically embodying his or her true self.
  7. It’s Okay To Experience And Release Old, Pent-Up Feelings From Childhood: It is also not uncommon for a person whose true self nature was shamed and dismissed in childhood to find they are experiencing feelings of intense anger, even rage, during this critical transformational time of inner self-exploration and excavation. This can especially surprise those who strived to be ‘nice’ their entire lives to avoid upsetting others and risking conflict. I like to remind my clients during such times that the word ‘courage’ includes the word ‘rage’, and successful passage through the dark night of the soul is ultimately brought about by processing these more difficult feelings and emotions that society labels as ‘negative’. Those who were victims of neglect and/or other forms of abuse in childhood are especially prone to finding themselves overwhelmed with these darker, extremely intense feelings; thus, working with a licensed psychotherapeutic professional and/or abuse recovery network such as Adult Survivors of Child Abuse can be especially critical during this phase of recovery, healing, and growth.
  8. Pay Attention To Your Dreams: I have also learned from both personal and professional experience that this is a time to pay attention to one’s active imagination, dreams, and fantasies, as suggested by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, for these signs and symbols emanating from deep within our unconscious invariably reveal important keys to a given individual’s growth, including acting as an inner wise guide, when one understands how to begin to interpret the personal and universal symbols contained therein. A book that I often recommend to clients for such creative dream work is Jeremy Taylor’s Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams.
  9. Release The Limiting Views Of Others: This is also a time when a person might report to their therapist, transformational life coach, or support network that they are feeling increasingly uncomfortable around family members, colleagues, and friends if those relationships were dependent on their being a certain way -A way that now no longer feels authentic, embodied, or emotionally true. This is especially the case when one has knowingly or unknowingly been playing out a particular role within a given relationship and/or system (e.g., hero, rescuer, ‘black sheep’, enabler) and/or been an unwitting recipient of another’s psychological projections (a process whereby humans defend themselves against their own unpleasant impulses by denying their existence while attributing them to others). At some point you may have no choice other than to make it clear that you are no longer willing to distort or hide your true self in order to protect the feelings of others, and that you simply will not accept being manipulated into living out old, familiar role(s) in the dysfunctional system’s ‘script’ (typically one’s family-of-origin) so that the status quo can be maintained.
  10. You’re Not Obligated To Play By Other People’s Rules: If it wasn’t clear before, once you commit to live your life authentically it will quickly become evident that every system has it’s ‘rules’, be it a family system, a work system, a political system, etc. This is a good time to remember that whatever the system can’t change, control, and/or accept, it will attempt to diminish, label, reject, and even (in extreme cases) ‘eject’. And this is why I see each and every person who is engaged in a sincere process of true self recovery and reclamation as being heroic, for it is no easy task to realize the truth of who and what one is while attempting to maintain relationships with others who may be demanding we “change back” (whether overtly or covertly) so that they might feel more comfortable, in control, and secure.

Living As Your True Self

As illustrated in the above ten strategies, remaining committed to an ongoing transformational process designed to further our personal and professional growth, enhance our relationships, and increase our overall sense of confidence and well being is not always a simple or enjoyable task, especially in the beginning. And yet, those who decide to do what it takes to live from a place of emotional integrity and fearless honesty invariably discover that it is worth the effort required, for it is by courageously committing to recovering the ‘lost child’ within that we are able to become the true self we were always destined to be. And what could be better than that?

A Book About Wholeness…

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ChainFree Living Book

What if we were to embrace all of our emotions as welcomed guests, recognizing them for what they are: Wise guides that seek to lead us toward the experience of genuine transformation,’true self’ liberation, and a felt-sense awareness of our innate wholeness?

In her book, You Are Already Whole: On Discovering and Being Your True Self, Rebecca C. Mandeville, a licensed psychotherapist and transformational life coach, shares the unique 11-step pathway she created to assist her clients in their efforts to heal and transform at a deep, core (root) level. To embark upon this pathway, we are challenged to expand beyond the commonly held view that emotions are either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, instead re-envisioning even our most painful feelings and sensations as being health-seeking signals emanating from an infinite intelligence that innately lives within us all; signals that, if paid attention to and mindfully followed, will eventually lead us toward the experience of emotional freedom and sustained well being that is grounded in a direct knowledge of the true self.

 This Book May Be Especially Helpful For People Who:
  • Feel ‘imprisoned’ in an old family role (e.g., ‘scapegoat’; ‘hero’; ‘clown’; ‘caretaker’; ‘rebel’)
  • Grew up in a distressed family environment
  • Feel they must hide their real self behind a mask at times
  • Struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or codependency 
  • Repeatedly find themselves in unhealthy, ‘toxic’ love relationships
  • Have difficulty asserting themselves and setting appropriate boundaries
  • Consider themselves to be a ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP)  
  • Are on a spiritual path and/or participate in a 12-Step program

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I appreciate your interest in remaining informed.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Visit Rebecca at her ChainFree Living website to learn more about how you can live in an authentic, emotionally honest, energized, and enlivened manner beginning today, as well as access free resources, including an online support forum and community bookstore.

Are You Hiding Your True Self?  TAKE THIS BRIEF QUIZ

 

Ten Tips To Help You Stop Being A People-Pleaser and Start Taking Care Of Yourself

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

Therapeutic Life Coach and Organizational Consultant at ChainFree Living Coaching and Consulting Services
Rebecca C. Mandeville is a licensed psychotherapist, therapeutic life coach, educator, and author specializing in emotional healing and living authentically as one's true self. She is the founder of ChainFree Living (http://chainfreeliving.com), an online hub offering free resources and community peer-support to people who wish to consciously experience their innate wholeness. Her book, 'You Are Already Whole: On Discovering and Being Your True Self', will be published in 2017.
Rebecca C Mandeville, MA

If you’re a people-pleaser, you likely avoid conflict as much as possible in your interactions with others, and will deny your own truth in an attempt to make those you feel dependent upon and/or care about comfortable. But in reality chronic people-pleasing serves no one in the end… Article by Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Are You A People-Pleaser?

People-pleasers (also referred to at times as ‘codependents’) seek validation from others that they are acceptable and worthy of being liked or loved, and can be so ‘other’ focused that they often have no idea what they really feel, think, want, or need. People-pleasers are typically individuals who learned early on in life that their true self expressions were not acceptable, and that their self-worth must be extracted from those around them in a never-ending quest to feel okay, accepted, liked, and loved.

If you’re a people-pleaser, you likely avoid conflict as much as possible in your interactions with others, and will deny your own truth in an attempt to make those you feel dependent upon and/or care about comfortable. You’ll do anything you can to ‘keep the peace’, even if that means abandoning yourself by repressing your own preferences, thoughts, and needs, which in turn deprives you of the ability to negotiate on matters important to you, whether personal or professional. In fact, you may be so focused on tending to the wants and needs of those around you that you have lost touch with who you really are at the most basic, fundamental level, to the point where you might be feeling depleted, angry, and exhausted much of the time without ever realizing it is because of your chronic people-pleasing ways.

Why People-Pleasing Serves No One In The End

Get ready for a good hard dose of reality: Subservient, ingratiating behavior that results in your feeling like a doormat isn’t really helpful to anyone, ever, no matter how much you may like to believe it is. By surrendering control to others and abandoning yourself, you are allowing yourself to live a lie – And lies serve no one in the end. And remember, you also may be attempting to control others via your people-pleasing ways by making them dependent on you. A healthy adult relationship requires that the two people involved create a relational environment that is reciprocal, truthful, respectful, and interdependent. Hiding our true selves and pretending we are something other than what and who we actually are is ultimately dishonest and far more damaging to a relationship than voicing a truth that might result in heated discussion or out-and-out conflict.

My Ten Tips To Help You Start Taking Care Of Yourself And Stop People-Pleasing Others

Although it takes courage to practice new behaviors, people who live authentically find that the freedom they experience in being themselves makes risking conflict worth it. Below are some tried and true methods to help you stop people-pleasing others so that you can live a happier, more emotionally honest and fulfilled life:

  1. Recognize that you may have learned early in life that your self-worth depends on what others think of you (adults who grew up in abusive environments are especially likely to believe this).
  2. Acknowledge that your self-worth does not belong in the hands of others – Nobody should have that much power over what you think and how you feel about yourself.
  3. Decide that you will no longer play the ‘People-Pleasing Game’; it will take time, dedication, and commitment, but it is possible to change.
  4. Check in with yourself during interactions with others, especially when communicating with those that you tend to people-please the most. Focus on what feels true and right for you during these conversations, even if you are not yet ready to risk conflict by expressing a differing view, feeling, or need. Write your thoughts and feelings down in a journal after such difficult or uncomfortable interactions. Get to know yourself and become curious about what you really feel and think.
  5. Determining your values, identifying your priorities, and defining your beliefs are three of the most effective ways to build a strong foundation from which to speak your truth when communicating with others. Take time to be with yourself and even write down your priorities in life and what is most important to you. This will help you to develop your ability to agree or disagree and say “no” or “yes” (and mean it), no matter what the situation is.
  6. “My decision is final”. Once you determine your values and better understand what is best and most right for you, plan on saying “My decision is final” if you anticipate that rejecting or denying a request will not be well received. Role-play with your significant other or a trusted friend, if needed, so you can get used to saying this one simple phrase. These four words will go a long way to ensure that any doors that might allow you to be manipulated by others, especially people who were able to take advantage of you in the past, are firmly closed and will save you much grief down the road.
  7. Use empathic reflection when asserting yourself with others, including recognized ‘authority figures’. Here’s an example from my own life: I recently saw a doctor for a minor physical complaint. His recommended intervention was unacceptable to me for various reasons. My response was to say, “I understand why you might be recommending that, and if I were in your shoes I imagine I would too. But that route is not one I wish to go down. My decision is final.” After saying this and dialoguing a bit more, we went on to find a remedy that we both felt comfortable with, and the treatment was ultimately successful.
  8. Choose your battles: If you sense or suspect that your honest expressions are going to result in a conflict that you just don’t feel ready or equipped to deal with, it’s okay to acknowledge the truth to yourself and choose not to express it. Some things matter more than others. Talk to a trusted friend, journal your thoughts and feelings, or consider seeing a licensed Psychotherapist, Counselor, or Transformational Life Coach to help you sort out what really matters most to you and what doesn’t. Remember, some people will not be able to hear or compassionately receive, much less respect, your truth if they find it personally or professionally inconvenient or threatening. Remember, not everyone is looking for honest, reciprocal relationships or interactions; such people may even attempt to judge, shame, or blame you for speaking your truth – Or even try to convince you that your truth is a lie.
  9. Don’t explain yourself in an attempt to justify your position. This is a real trap that people-pleasing types fall into repeatedly. You’re entitled to have your own thoughts, feelings, experiences, needs, and preferences, just like everybody else. The fact that some people in your life don’t agree with you or respect your truth doesn’t make them right. Trust yourself and your perceptions.Sometimes our “gut feelings’ can tell us far more about a person or a situation than anything that is being overtly presented to us.
  10. Remember the power of choice: Adults who learned to people-please in childhood are often genuinely unaware that they have the ability to choose how they will conduct themselves in a relationship. If you are tired of feeling like a door-mat, then maybe it is time to get up off of the floor.

It’s Never Too Late To Cultivate Authentic Relationships And Start Caring For Yourself

Living in a truthful, emotionally honest manner requires courage, patience, practice, and commitment. There are many books written on people-pleasing and codependency designed to help break the people-pleasing habit; Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others And Start Caring For Yourself is the one I most often recommend to clients, along with. Susan Newman’s The Book of No: 250 Ways To Say It – And Mean It And Stop People-Pleasing Forever. Working with a therapist or life coach who understands codependency and/or attending a free support group such as Codependents Anonymous that focuses on developing healthy relationships and communication can be very helpful as well.

Take Small Steps Every Day

Once you feel ready to begin risking conflict in your personal or professional interactions, consider choosing one person in your life that you can practice being completely honest with; ideally, someone you trust and feel safe with but are not always completely authentic with. Then say exactly what’s on your mind and see what happens. Think of your values, take deep breaths, and stand your ground. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that any fear encountered in being authentic in your relationships is temporary, and that the rewards of living in an emotionally honest, integral, and values-based manner make it more than worth any temporary discomfort.

A word of caution: If you believe that you are genuinely not safe in a relationship and that speaking your truth could result in a threat to your personal safety, I urge you to contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline to receive support, information, and guidance.

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA, MACP, MFT, is the founder of ‘ChainFree Living Transformational Life Coaching & Guidance Services’. You are invited to take her free brief quizAre You Living As Your True Self? to see how you might be hiding your own thoughts, preferences, and needs in an attempt to avoid conflict and please others.