The main key to self-empowerment is simple: keep your attention, time, and energy focused where you have power. (See also, Personal Empowerment Basics.) Knowing the specific ways to accomplish this provides the all of the other keys you will need.
Now, I’ve said the key to self-empowerment is simple. And that’s true. It is simple. However, that doesn’t mean the way to accomplish it is easy. The path to personal empowerment may be a straightforward one. But it’s daunting nonetheless. How do you do it? You stop trying to manage people, circumstances, and things over which you inherently have no power. Instead, you concern yourself only with the actions you can to take to protect yourself and advance your interests.
Relationship partners of manipulators and other disturbed characters can easily find themselves in a one-down position. And this generally happens for 2 reasons:
- They tend to be conscientious and accommodating types. So, their good nature is ripe for exploitation. Moreover, manipulators play on your sensibilities, and often, your conscience. Partners of manipulators are often inherently too agreeable. So, in the face of their manipulator’s power tactics, they too easily doubt themselves and defer their better judgment.
- They tend to have invested all their time, energy, and attention where they didn’t have power. Perhaps they tried and tried to “understand” their partner’s behavior. (See also, Abuse Victims Try Too Hard to Understand.) Or, they repeatedly tried to get their partner to “see” the error of their ways. Maybe they even tried to “fix” the other person. At the very least, they probably spent a lot of time obsessing about what the person might do or how they might respond to things they say or do. And by focusing so much attention and energy externally – futilely, they only become frustrated, angry, and eventually, depressed.
Some General Empowerment Rules
My book In Sheep’s Clothing outlines several specific self-empowerment tools. (See pp. 110-162.) But there are some general rules for personal empowerment in our character disturbed age. They are:
- Know the general character of the person you’re dealing with. That means:
- You have to look beyond the veil of any masks a person might wear and judge only their behavior, especially, patterns of behavior.
- You must reckon with the attitudes and ways of thinking about things that must necessarily predispose those patterns of behavior. People will tell you all kinds of things. Talk, is cheap. And it’s often dishonest. Behavior says it all. It’s the single best indicator of what a person really feels and believes.
- Know the tactics people commonly use to manipulate and control others. Folks use these tactics not only to get their way but also to look good doing so.
- You must refuse to allow your behavior to be governed by someone’s tactics. Rather, you must let your own inner truth guide your actions. Taking assertive action on your own behalf is where you have ultimate power. (See some of the specific ways to do this listed below.)
- You have to rid yourself of harmful misconceptions derived from outdated, erroneous notions. For example:
- Don’t assume your manipulator doesn’t know what they’re doing. And by all means don’t make it your job to help them realize.
- Don’t assume that fear, insecurity, unhealed wounds, etc. necessarily unconsciously drive everyone’s behavior. It’s an old axiom that only hurt people hurt people. But plenty of folks who’ve been hurt themselves don’t hurt others. And in our cultural climate, all sorts of pampered folks feel entitled to do as they please without due consideration for the welfare of others.
- Don’t buy into the notion that you must share some of the blame for someone else’s inappropriate behavior. Besides, when it comes to a response that’s inappropriate, the reasons for it are simply irrelevant. Keep the weight of responsibility where it belongs: on the person misbehaving.
Some Specific Self-Empowerment “Tools”
In Sheep’s Clothing outlines 12 specific “tools of empowerment.” (See pp. 145-159). Among them are:
- Accept no excuses. As mentioned above, when someone acts harmfully, the reasons they give for it are irrelevant. Therefore, you mustn’t let someone’s attempted justifications sway you.
- Take action, and do so quickly. Most relationship partners of disturbed characters are too understanding. They endure slings, barbs, and other tactics until they can’t take it anymore. Real self-empowerment involves moving quickly to re-define the “terms of engagement.” It’s setting reasonable expectations and holding others to account. And it’s having a plan for action in the face of betrayal.
- Confront twisted thinking and hurtful behavior directly but benignly. Don’t threaten or chastise. Just call out the behavior. And more importantly, enforce appropriate boundaries and limits. Make the message clear: “We can’t engage at all unless you heed these rules for a respectful, constructive interaction.”
You can find more helpful information on today’s topic in all my books and in several other articles here on the blog.
A new Character Matters pilot broadcast will record next week. Look for a link to the podcast here.