Handling Controlling Behavior by Realizing Your Compliant Personality

Reading Level: Very Impassioned

By the most basic definition, a compliant person melts into the demands and needs of other people to avoid the conflicts that would arise if he stood up for his own needs and desires.

We had a post a few weeks ago in answer to readers’ questions called, “Recognizing a Controlling Person.” Since then, readers have asked for clarification on the opposite personality type/boundary problem called compliant personality/compliance. There are obviously more than 2 personality types in the world, but among family, friends, and acquaintances, these 2 types seem to be very apparent, especially since opposites attract.

A compliant personality often leaves a person feeling defenseless against the demands of others and frustrated by the lack of fulfilling his own desires. A compliant person is unable to say “No” when a controlling person’s demands are unreasonable, against his own conscience, or hindering the progress of his own goals and the fulfillment of his own needs. Controlling people recognize a compliant person and easily manipulate him to conform to whatever the controller’s demands are by the use of guilt, manipulating circumstances, or even verbal or physical abuse.

When a compliant needs to say “No” to someone, a large number of fears typically make him incapable of doing so.

This list, as well as other compliant personality descriptions, are from the Boundaries book by Townsend and Clarke that is referenced below.

A compliant fears…

  • Hurting other people’s feelings
  • Abandonment
  • Other people’s anger
  • Punishment
  • Of being viewed as unloving or selfish by the controller
  • Of being perceived as unspiritual
  • His own over-critical conscience (experienced as guilty feelings for situations he should not feel guilty for)

As a result, a compliant takes on too many responsibilities because he fears facing the above responses if he says “No” to the people’s unreasonable demands, or takes the needed steps to ensure that his own needs are being met first. Remember, controllers avoid their own responsibilities and manipulate the compliant person into doing them; the compliant uses so much of his time and energy on the controller that he doesn’t have enough time and energy left to take care of his own needs. In reality, any person who does not take responsibility for his own needs first-protecting his physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health-will eventually suffer the breaking down of those areas and not be able to effectively help himself (or others when they actually need help).

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The inability to say “No” needlessly allows evil and harm into a compliant’s life.

You may recall from other posts the term “boundary violations.” This is best described by the following mental picture. Your life should have a fence around it with a gate. This fence and gate are the protection for every aspect of your life. The gate (your decisions) should open to allow in whatever and whomever is good, loving, and beneficial to your life. At the same time, the gate (your decisions) should keep out whatever and whomever is harmful to your life. When controllers’ force or manipulate a compliant person into a decision he does not want to make, the controller is violating the compliant’s boundary. In the same way, the compliant is allowing his boundaries to be violated by not standing up for what he knows is best for his life by saying “No” to the poor or harmful decisions. This inability to say “No” not only prevents a compliant from refusing evil and harm into his life, but it usually keeps him from even recognizing evil. As a result, a compliant person frequently realizes too late that he has become involved in a dangerous, abusive relationship. He is like a military plane with a broken radar, unable to guard himself from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harm.

A compliant’s inability to say “No” usually began in childhood.

A person who has developed a compliant personality may have had parents or other authority figures during his childhood that:

(1) taught him that saying “No” to adults for any reason was bad,

(2) were so controlling that his own opinions and ideas were consistently ignored, or

(3) did not allow him during childhood to grow in making his own decisions as often as possible (Obviously, children do not have the knowledge to make many decisions accurately and need parental guidance, but whenever there are opportunities for the child to make a decision, allow him to do so. It builds his self-confidence in the decision-making process as well as establishes his personal independence-that he has the right to have feelings and opinions of his own. For example, when watching TV, a parent may need to override a child’s decision to click on a program that the parent has knowledge is violent or inappropriate age-wise for other reasons; yet, the child should be free to exercise his decision making from a variety of other age-appropriate programs.).

When a parent/authority figure teaches a child that setting boundaries and saying “No” is bad, they leave that child, and eventually the adult he becomes, defenseless from controlling, manipulative, and exploitive people.

A compliant person must have support to overcome his lack of boundaries.

Since a compliant can’t say “No’ and a controller can’t hear “No,” one can see the amount of life problems that ensue. Depending on the extent of your compliant personality, you will need consistent positive input from loving, supportive people who will remind you that standing up for yourself is right as well as remind you to reject the guilty feelings of an over-critical conscience. You may also need help from a pastor or professional counselor. In addition, gaining a deeper understanding of boundary violations that take place in your personality and the personalities of those around you from the book below will help repair in your thoughts what are correct and incorrect thinking/feelings when people attempt to affect your decisions.

In 2 Cor. 9:7, God tells people that He does not want them to ever give out of reluctance or compulsion, but only cheerfully. Giving out of reluctance and compulsion is the result of your own fears, such as the fear of guilt or rejection. You must make it a guideline in your life not to give based on fear. In Jn. 4:18, God says, “There is NO fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear; fear has to do with punishment.” If we are giving out of fear, then it is not out of love. When we are able to give cheerfully, by a matter of our own free will and decision, then we will have learned to give out of love.

Related Post: Recognizing a Controlling Person

Excerpts from pp. 50, 51, 107 in “Boundaries: When to Say, “Yes,” When to Say, “No,” to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It is an average reading level and the book gives real life relationship examples throughout to make it easy for you to identify your personality type, weaknesses, personality types of friends, family, co-workers, etc. I believe it was on the NY Best Sellers List for several years. The ISBN on the softcover version is 0-310-24745-4.

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One Response to “Handling Controlling Behavior by Realizing Your Compliant Personality”

  1. Mary Says:

    thank you for this great, insightful article.

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