Home | Articles | Tongue Fu! Training Institute
  Dealing with a Critic, Control Freak or Verbal Bully?                                               Bookmark and Share  


Dealing with a Critic, Control Freak or Verbal Bully?


"Actions lie louder than words."  Comedienne Carol Wells


"If only I had listened to my instincts," Kathy sighed. "I had never been pursued so ardently. I met Steve at a speed dating event.  He asked me out that night, the next night, and the next.  By our sixth date, he asked me to marry him.  I hadn't even been thinking about getting married, but I got swept up in this whirlwind romance and his insistence that we were 'meant' to be together. He assured me he would plan everything, and I ended up giving in to his intensity."


"And he did plan everything. He planned our wedding, our honeymoon, our home . . . and the next five years of my life.   The night before we were supposed to walk down the aisle, I had a heart-to-heart with my maid of honor.  In the middle of our celebratory evening she looked at me and asked, 'What's wrong?'  I started crying and confessed, 'I want to get in a car, start driving, and never look back.'


'Stunned, she asked, 'Why?' I admitted I didn't want to get married.  My fiancée had given me the bum's rush (if I'd only realized then how true those words would be) and I had said yes because he'd had more than enough conviction for both of us. My gut was waving a huge red flag telling me not to go through with the wedding; but I thought it was too late to back out."


Does This Person Have to Be In Charge 24/7?

"I'm in favor of free expression, provided it's kept rigidly in control." - Alan Bennett, British actor


 "Over the next few years, as long as I went along with what Steve wanted, things were okay.  When I started getting a mind of my own, life started going downhill fast.  If I didn't want to do what he wanted, when he wanted, the way he wanted, he got angry.  If I questioned his opinion about something, there was hell to pay.  I went to a therapist to get some advice, and after listening to me for awhile, she asked, "Why did you marry such a controlling person?'


'It never even occurred to me,' I told her, shaking my head,  'I just thought he really loved me." The therapist told me Steve had displayed the classic signs of a controller early on, I just hadn't known it. The urgent pursuit, the pressure to commit, the handling of all the details . . . all were indications of someone who has to be in charge.


"In retrospect, there were other danger signs; I just didn't recognize them.  In that first year, he started to cut me off from the people I cared about.  He never wanted to go to my folks' house for Sunday dinner and he was always trashing my friends.


When I met him, he was really unhappy with his job and very bitter about his ex-wife.  I just thought he had a bad boss and a witch for an ex-wife.  It was only after being around him awhile that I realized EVERY manager he worked with was incompetent and EVERY woman in his life had somehow 'screwed him over.' I wish I had listened to my intuition.  When he was telling me all these terrible things about his former wife, this little voice inside me said, 'Someday he's going to be saying these kinds of things about you.' That little voice was right."


Bullies Come in All Shapes and Sizes

"A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person." - Dave Barry


This man had indeed displayed several of the ominous characteristics of a control-freak.  One of the primary signs was he hurried her into getting hitched.  He was afraid she'd "find him out" if he waited too long so he rushed her to the altar so she was locked in before she could discover what he was really like. 


Please note:  men and women can be bullies, 8 year ol d kids can be bullies; an 80 year old grandparent can be a bully.  As indicated below, bullies are people who have a pattern of abusing the rights of others to get their own way.  A bully isn't someone who occasionally loses her temper or who says something rude.  A bully is someone who intentionally mistreats or takes advantage of other people because they want to run the show.  Bullies don't want to cooperate; they want to control.  They don't want a win-win; they want to win.


If you're getting involved with someone -- or if you’re about to go to work for someone -- you might want to compare his/her behavior to the following checklist to see how s/he stacks up. 


These red flag behaviors are a warning that's something's amiss with this individual.  If the person you're dealing with regularly displays more than a few of these characteristics; it is in your best interests to get to know this person better before making any long-term commitments, whether that's accepting a job offer or a proposal of marriage.


The Characteristics of a Control Freak - Verbal Bully Checklist


1. Dissonance.  Psychologists agree that one of the primary indicators of a troubled person is incongruent behavior.  As Dave Barry pointed out, someone who is nice to you and nasty to "the help" is not who he or she seems.  Someone who makes racist remarks and then tries to laugh them off is revealing his or her true character (or lack of). Someone who says s/he loves children but seems remote or rigid when around them is displaying dissonance -- defined as "inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions."  What this means is that you cannot take this person at his or her word.  Everything they say will be suspect because you won't know when they're telling the truth and when they're not.


2. Possessiveness.  Someone who comes on strong and wants (or has!) to be with you constantly is showing a dangerous need to have you all to=2 0him or herself.  Possessiveness is defined as "a desire to own or dominate."  Bullies often don't have many (or any) friends of their own which means they grow to resent your other relationships.  Does this person pout or try to make you feel guilty for abandoning him or her when you spend time with others? Does this person want to know all about your previous partners/bosses, and somehow resent the fact that you've been with or worked for someone other than him or her? Bullies are so insecure they see everyone you care for as competition and as a threat to their dominance. This reluctance to share you with others will only get worse and become more perverse.


3. Secrecy.  People who don't want to discuss their background and don't want you to meet their family or colleagues may have something to hide.  People who refuse to reveal anything about their past are often concealing emotional baggage.  What you don't know can hurt you.  Someone who doles out self-revelations in small quantities may seem mysterious and alluring in the beginning.  In the long run, being with a private person who withholds most of himself or herself gets lonesome.


4.  Bitterness. Does this person have a lot of animosity for his or her parents, former spouse, or previous managers?   Please understand you will be reliving and working out the unresolved traumas of this individual's childhood and prior work relationships.  You've heard the Zen saying, "Wherever you go, there you are?"  This person hasn't yet figured out that his or her source of bitterness is internal, not external.  If this individual is lugging around deep-seated resentments, it is only a matter of time before s/he starts accusing you of the same "crimes" former significant others supposedly perpetrated upon him or her.


5.  Twists words. Does this person take what you say and turn it into something you didn't mean?  Do you sometimes feel on the defensive and don't even know why?  Does this person obfuscate - make confusing statements and then accuse you of misunderstanding?   Bullies often make commitments and then claim they never made them in the first place.  This is a crazy-making ploy designed to turn you inside-out so you don't know what's up.


6.  Holds you responsible for their unhappiness.  Does this person blame you for his or her bad moods?  If they're sad, it's because you didn't ask about their day?  If they're depressed, it's because you don't take them anywhere anymore?  If they're angry, it's because you said something that provoked them? There will be no pleasing this kind of person.  They essentially haven't grown up, and never will as long as they continue holding everyone else but themselves accountable for how they feel.


7.  Perfectionist.  Does this person nit-pick?  Does he or she have such high standards no one ever measures up?  Does this individual have to do things himself because anyone else would just "mess it up"?  If you're still in the honeymoon or courting phase, you may be temporarily exempt from this person's unceasing criticism.  In time though, their insistence on things being done a certain way (their way) will transfer to you and then you'll never be able to do anything right.  Jimmy Hoffa once said, "I may have my faults, but being wrong is n't one of them."  Tyrants won't admit to any faults, least of all being wrong.


8.  Pinpoints your weakness and uses them against you.  Tyrants have a talent for ferreting out your emotional Achilles Heel and hobbling you with it.  If you don't want to be considered selfish, they'll call you selfish.  If you don't want to be perceived as controlling, they'll accuse you of being controlling.  If you're unsure of your parenting skills, they'll attack your parenting skills.  This is a classical Machiavellian method of exploiting your weakness so you're impotent (lacking power or strength) and they're omnipotent (having unlimited influence or authority.) Their goal is to make you doubt yourself so you're vulnerable to their attempts to own you.


9.  Plays martyr.  Does he or she try to lay on the guilt trip by saying things like, "Go ahead and go skiing with your friends.   I don't mind. I mean, who wants to spend time with an old fogie like me anyway? I'm sure I'll find something to do."  Does this person play the long-suffering individual who's unappreciated?   Is it a common theme that s/he is the only one holding the office together and everyone else is frivolous, hedonistic, incompetent, or selfish?


10.  Hates to have authority questioned.  Does this person take umbrage if you dare dispute his or her facts or opinions?  Does s/he come across as a "know-it-all" who has to have all the answers?  Bullies can't stand to be challenged because they're afraid their "power-house of cards" could come falling down. Their "my way or the highway" communication style is based on their need to be in control and beyond reproach.


If you disagree with this person, does he or she escalate their intensity in an effort to force you to concede?  If so, it means that every conversation is going to turn into a verbal battleground.  It means this person will start disparaging your intelligence, expertise, and experience so you no longer know what you know and won't have the intellectual confidence to challenge them.


11:  Lies, Lies, Lies:  Mark Twain once commented that "Truth is more of a stranger than fiction." Does that description fit the person you're dealing with?  Does he or she self-aggrandize and exaggerate his or her achievements?  In order to win respect, bullies often claim to have been to places they've never been, boast of knowing people they've never met, and excel at things they've never tried.


In the mid 1970's, I had the privilege of working with Grand-Slam tennis champion Rod Laver at his Hilton Head Island resort.  A couple times a year we sponsored national tennis camps.  Every once in awhile, someone would blow in and we would sense that we were able to deal with a type of individual the Aussies playfully refer to as "all flap and no throttle."  These "blowhards" always talked a bigger game than they delivered. They often had the latest racquet and the fanciest clothes but didn't have the strokes to back it up.


Does the person you're dealing with display "blowhard" tendencies?  Does he or she wax eloquently (or not so eloquently) about past accomplishments?  Did this individual somehow manage in the first few minutes of meeting you to let you know how much money he made, what degrees she had, or what awards he's won?  Was she so intent on impressing you with her curriculum vitae that she failed to ask about yours?  Watch out.  Red alert.  Bully on the loose.


Is The Person You're Dealing with a Fault-Finder?

 "A critic is someone who's at his best when you're at your worst."  -Tony Pelleto


Verbal bullies do their best to make you feel worse.   They always focus on what you do wrong, never on what you do right.


Are you thinking, "Well, my partner or boss does some of these things some of the time, but so do I!   After all, no one is perfect." 


You're right.  We all have bad days. However, bullies don't have bad days once in a while, they make the people around them have bad days most of the time.  The key question to ask yourself is a) how frequently does this person engage in the above behaviors and b) is s/he willing to change? 


If you checked off many of the behaviors above, then this person is not just having a bad day -- they are knowingly throwing their weight around because it's working for them.  They probably have little incentive to change because their bully behavior is succeeding in giving them the power they crave.


Do you have any clout or leverage with this person?  Are they open to input or are they so defensive they'll dispute anything you say? 


If you have tried to reason with this person; if you have tried to be logical and fair and have gotten nowhere -- it's because bullies don't respond to reason.  They want what they want and they'll do whatever they have to do to get it. 


Dealing successfully with bullies requires a whole different approach. Kindness will be perceived as weakness.  I'm not suggesting you sacrifice your integrity and become a bully yourself.  I am suggesting that if you've suffered in silence; if you've waited for the bully to "come to his/her senses" and apologize for their inappropriate behavior; that's never going to happen.


YOU must take the bully by the horns if you want things to get better.  YOU must change the way you respond to the bully or he or she will continue to take advantage of your good nature and make your work or home life miserable. 


The good news is, there's help.


 My Take the Bully by the Horns book/CD package=2 0features a series of questions you can ask to determine whether:

*   this personal or professional relationship is worth saving

*   it is possible for this relationship to change or get better  (and if it is possible, what you can say or do to motivate this  person to treat you with the respect you want, need and deserve

*   you may need to end the relationship to save your sanity, soul and health.   


It also features specific action steps you can take so bullies can no longer run and ruin your life.  In fact, bestselling author Dave Pelzer ("A Child Called It") says my Take the Bully by the Horns system is "the perfect guide on how to avoid negative confrontations and face those who intimidate and manipulate you - without sacrificing your integrity."


As a special offer to visitors to our website, we are offering a special price for our Take the Bully by the Horns package:


Silver Package: Book/CD: 1 hour CD on What to Say and Do to Deal with Critics, Control Freaks and Verbal Bullies, plus a copy of Sam Horn's highly-praised book "Take the Bully by the Horns" which  Dr. Susan Forward, Ph.D. (author of Toxic People and Toxic In-Laws) says, "What a clear, useful book.  It's loaded with excellent strategies and communication skills to help anyone who is tied of being controlled and emotionally blackmailed by fear, intimidation and guilt."  . . . . . $29


Gold Package: 2 Books/2 CD's  1 hour CD on How to Deal with Critics, Control Freaks, and Verbal Bullies to listen to in your car or while working out, plus 1 hr. CD on Tongue Fu®!, plus Sam’s bestselling book Take the Bully by the Horns (the bully resource selected and recommended by Dr. Laura to her millions of listeners), plus Sam Horn's Tongue Fu!® book which John Gray, Ph.D. ("Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus") says, "Everyone needs this.") . . . . . $49


Platinum Package:  2 Books/2CD's, Plus 30 Days of Tips:  Everything in the Gold Package PLUS 30 tip-a-day articles which go into detail about what you can do THAT day to stand up for yourself and hold people accountable for treating you with respect.  Never be tongue-tied again. Know exactly what to say the next time a bully is mean to you. . . . . . . . . . $59



Want to Learn How to Help Employees, Students and Deal more Effectively with Verbal Bullies?


Do the people in your organization need these techniques?  Register for Sam Horn's special combined Tongue Fu-Bully Certification program so you can become licensed to teach Sam Horn’s trade-marked techniques to your clients, colleagues, and audiences. You can build a satisfying career and become a valuable asset to your company or school district by teaching people how NOT to become victimized by insensitive, uncooperative, unethical, unpleasant people.


 NEXT Tongue Fu! - Bully Training Institute will be held in Washington DC area on  August 18-19, 2009


Visit www.tonguefu.com/certification for a complete description of this program and for an application form.  


Can't make our August certification program?  Contact Cheri, Sam Horn's office manager,  at 805 528-4351 to inquire about arranging a private certification program o r to sign up for the next available Tongue Fu!- Bully Training Institute.


Do you want Sam to teach the people in your organization or school how to deal with difficult people - without becoming one themselves?  Contact Cheri at Cheri@SamHorn.com to arrange for Sam to speak at your next conference or to provide in-house training for your company.  Discover why dozens of organizations including Hewlett-Packard, NASA, Booz Allen, Boeing, the U.S. Navy and the Association of Corporate Counsel have asked Sam to keynote their conferences and share these techniques with their audiences.


Her books on the subject of dealing with difficult people have been sold around the world, have been translated into 17 languages (including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and German) and have been favorably reviewed in Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and almost every major newspaper and magazine including Chicago Tribune, Investors Business Daily and Readers Digest. 


Executive Book Summaries says Tongue Fu! "is a gold mine for anyone who deals with the public and adds to the legacy of ideas on dealing with people left by Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and Dale Carnegie."  4-time Pulitzer nominee Fawn Germer says of Take the Bully by the Horns, "If you've ever felt undermined, demeaned, pushed around, manipulated, or controlled by someone else, read this book!  Sam Horn gives you your power back and shows you how to use it."



 Click Here for a complete description of this program and for an application form.


Join Sam's Newsletter