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Old December 30th, 2007, 07:10 PM
1dilwhosreal 1dilwhosreal is offline
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Dealing with explosive personalities...

This is a question that seems to come up quite often: How do we deal with those difficult people that throw tantrums when they don't get their way? When their behavior is addressed, they escalate and make everyone sorry for saying anything.

Do you just keep quiet to keep the peace because you are afraid of the repercussions? Or do you draw the line and say you won't tolerate that behavior?

What advice would you have for someone planning to draw the line?
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Old December 30th, 2007, 10:55 PM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

I believe in giving chances. I would tell them that how they react is hurting my feelings and therefore hurting our relationship. I have a supervisor at work who is just like that and at times she can be the nicest person in the world but when she gets stressed out she yells and screams and then eventually explodes. But back to the point....

I would let them know that they are hurting our relationship and give them and opportunity to stop. If they don't stop you know they don't care about how much they hurt you and frankly, you don't need anyone like that in your life.

Just my opinion...
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Old December 31st, 2007, 04:50 PM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

Well, it's kind of like dealing with a toddler who is having tantrum issues. You have to know going in that they're not going to like it when you tighten up on the discipline, so you're not shocked. And, however mad they get, you remain calm, but firm and clear.

More words is never the answer for tantrum-throwers. People in tantrums are not listening anyway. You have to be prepared to back up your words with consequences (like leaving, hanging up, refusing contact--DOING it, not talking about it).

Let's say you tell the 3 year old "no candy bar" and then when he starts screaming you say, "No because it will spoil your dinner" and he naturally ignores your explanation and keeps screaming. Do you say, "OK, obviously I haven't made myself clear or you would agree with me. Let me give you a detailed explanation of nutrition and simple sugars/empty calories vs. complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein, look I have charts!" Nope, you say, "I can see you're mad about not getting the candy but your behavior is not ok. You can calm down or you can go to your room." Then you make him go. You don't keep talking yourself blue in the face hoping that he will be persuaded by your brilliant logic.

It's the same thing with grownups who do this. You explain the rule/boundary, and give them a chance to honor it, but then they get the consequence. I believe in giving chances, but not over and over and over.

Also, people around the tanrum thrower will often blame the resulting unpleasantness on YOU. Not because it really is your fault, but because if you are a reasonable and considerate person, it's probably easier to get you to change your behavior. But if the boundary you are setting is reasonable, you have to remind yourself that the unpleasantness is the responsibility of the tantrum thrower, not you for "causing" the trouble. They choose not to control their behavior.

It's the same with a toddler. What mom hasn't been tempted to slip the kid a cookie or candy bar in a store to get him to shut up, since people are glaring at you with your kid making a scene? It's in the kid's long term interest to ignore his fit and not let it get him anything, but the other people in the store don't care about his long term interest, they just want it quiet. They think you should "make him" shut up and they don't really care how you do it. But a good parent has to learn to ignore glares in the store, or soon you will be raising a monster (or you will never have food or toilet paper and other essentials in your house). So, go into it knowing you are likely to get "glares from other people in the store", so to speak, and that you just have to ignore them and pursue the course you know to be right.
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Old January 1st, 2008, 08:38 AM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

Also, once you set a boundary don't backslide- ever!!! That will encourage the person to continue with the bad behavior even longer & more agressively. This is due to the message that your (giving in) behavior gives them..."I'm weak, if you keep it up long enough, I'll give you what you want."

Once they have learned you mean what you say they will still occasionally test you (or have what's called an "extinction out-burst"). DON'T think it won't hurt this one time & give in - you'll have to start all over.
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Old January 1st, 2008, 12:26 PM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

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Originally Posted by snafu View Post
Also, once you set a boundary don't backslide- ever!!! That will encourage the person to continue with the bad behavior even longer & more agressively. This is due to the message that your (giving in) behavior gives them..."I'm weak, if you keep it up long enough, I'll give you what you want."

Once they have learned you mean what you say they will still occasionally test you (or have what's called an "extinction out-burst"). DON'T think it won't hurt this one time & give in - you'll have to start all over.

Oh yes, excellent advice!

I think on Gavin de Becker's website there's something about stalkers (or maybe it's that stalking website)...either way, it says that if your stalker calls you 30 times and then you answer or respond (in your mind "just this once"), then what he's just learned is that it takes 30 calls to get to you.

There is no such thing as "okay but just this once" with nutty people.
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Old January 7th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

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Originally Posted by HisHeathenHoney View Post
Oh yes, excellent advice!

I think on Gavin de Becker's website there's something about stalkers (or maybe it's that stalking website)...either way, it says that if your stalker calls you 30 times and then you answer or respond (in your mind "just this once"), then what he's just learned is that it takes 30 calls to get to you.

There is no such thing as "okay but just this once" with nutty people.
I agree totally with this and snafus "don't ever backslide."

You really do have to draw the line and yes it is scary. But that is exactly why it needs to be done otherwise that 'fear of repercussions' becomes a thing of its own, living in your life like the pink elephant on the couch dysfunctional families never talk about.

Before my hubbie and I went to talk to his mom (there were a couple weeks between the time we decided to do it and our actually sitting down with her) he and I both had severe stress symptoms when ever the subject of MIL would come up. That 'explosive personality' had an effect even when she wasn't in the room. His decades of experience with her and my few years made us afraid of speaking to her directly about a lot of things. And that took a tole on our relationship. We were very afraid of confronting her about her way of getting what she wanted but it had to be done.

My advice is to have support for yourself and write down what you need to address before hand. Keep your points simple and try to present them in as non shaming away as possible. If the point is to better the relationship don't just let lose with the long list of what you hate about them and how they need to shape up 'cause your not going to take it anymore.

It was very hard for us to make the time to go and speak to his mom privately and to figure out what few things were most important. She was angry before we ever got there and was not interested in speaking to us. She had wanted us to bring the kids as a way to keep us from addressing any of the issues. I would not have that kind of conversation in front of children. My husband had to ask her to turn the tv down. She had turned it way up as though to block us out, but she did let us in.

One main point we ended up addressing was her use of manipulation to try to get hubbie to buckle and do what she wanted. She had escalated her behavior beyond the usual tantrum and demand strategy. (Which happens when you stop responding to their 'normal' level of demand.)

She had claimed to be seriously ill and was saying she would not see a doctor until hubbie came to her and promised to be at her beck and call from then on. Hubbie was working 12 hr days and I was hugely pregnant with a one and three year old to care for. Let me say MIL worked at a hospital and was working during this 'life threatening' chest cold. She is only in her early fifties and her own dear mother is still alive and doing this same kind of thing to her.

It did not go well. But we did our part. We we said we wanted to have a better relationship and told her specifically that the kinds of demands she was making were getting in the way of that. Threatening to not get care for a medical problem unless hubbie did just what she wanted was not appropriate. We did not use the words 'tantrum' 'childish' or 'manipulation'.

She just repeatedly insisted that we would do what she she wanted because he and his siblings owed her...because she had done for them for the best years of her life. (We owe all our parents that debt of gratitude but we would be totally dysfunctional if we responded to threats and intimidation with happy compliance. Not exactly the kind of example we want to set for our kids.)

In the midst of this after hubbie said clearly and calmly 'no' she turned to me and began to explain how close she and 'her son' were. Had I been trying to have that conversation with her alone it might have worked but it kind of lost its impact to have her say that in the same breath she had been angrily threatening him in.
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Old January 11th, 2008, 06:23 AM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

I'm not sure what the best way is of dealing with them. The explosive personalities I know (MIL, FIL & FSIL) seem to hear something completely different when you try to reason with them and will have a tantrum if you don't tell them what they want to hear. I find the constant drama exhausting, and as such I distance myself emotionally and limit the time I spend in their company, basically wind back my involvement with them if trying to reason and compromise fails (which it typically does with explosive people). I don't know if this is the best way though, it seems to antagonise them further and they continue to up the ante to try to provoke a response. Despite the temptation to explode in return, I have been responding with a dignified silence and withdrawing further. I don't know if it's the best thing in the long run, because they are getting worse, but it's the only way I can deal with them without giving a response they will use to justify their own behaviour ('see, I told you she was horrible'). And I don't know if they think they are managing to bully me into submission because I'm not standing up to them directly.

I don't know, I withdraw and cut people off emotionally. It's hard with the in-laws because they are always going to be there to some extent (I've had explosive friends/boyfriends before - too much drama and I usualy just walk away, and leave them to get on with their own lives. It really bothers me that I can't just walk away from the current explosive people in my life!). I don't know how it's going to work out in the long run, but so far it's keeping me about as sane as I can manage.

Last edited by Grace; January 11th, 2008 at 06:24 AM. Reason: To add a thought
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Old January 11th, 2008, 07:59 PM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

Grace, if don't know if you have time to take or audit a class, but see if youcan fit in a class in behavior management (usually a special ed. teacher course).
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Old April 15th, 2008, 04:45 AM
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Re: Dealing with explosive personalities...

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1dilwhosreal View Post
This is a question that seems to come up quite often: How do we deal with those difficult people that throw tantrums when they don't get their way? When their behavior is addressed, they escalate and make everyone sorry for saying anything.

Do you just keep quiet to keep the peace because you are afraid of the repercussions? Or do you draw the line and say you won't tolerate that behavior?

What advice would you have for someone planning to draw the line?
I just try to keep away from this type of people. But if I have no other option than to deal with them I do make my best not to notice his/her behaviour if it's needed on business, but if that is personal issue - I'll immediately bring that person down a peg or two & let him /her know that I will never put up with that type of behaviour towards me.

As for the advice - I think it's better to stop that person right in the beginning otherwise it might have a tendency to go on this way next time you meet or that person in low spirits.
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