One of the most difficult things to navigate in life, I have found, are disruptive people. They use all manner of tactics to implement their disruption. There are those who become involved in building something together, allowing you to depend on them and then withdraw, often without explanation and if one is given it is to assign blame on your part. Then there are others who will belittle and criticise your efforts to develop and grow, either covertly or sometimes even overtly. And then the ultimate disrupters are those who create obstacles and barriers to slow down your progress or even halt it. The latter would be referred to without question as bullying, but belittling also has an element of bullying and so does the use of withdrawl in terms of creating an uneven power balance and the effect of disrupting progress.
The key to managing disruptive people is to remove the effects of their tactics. A strong sense of self is required to move ahead without taking personal objection to these tactics. It is common for these tactics to work because of our social structure and high dependence on others for validation. It can literally break us down when we don’t have enough sources of validation. Disruptive people themselves are often seeking validation but they do not use a healthy means of attaining it through merit and mutual support. Instead they want to shortcut the process, usually because of some form of entitlement, and gain validation through means of power over others. Gaining power over others in an unhealthy way is by diminishing others to gain status, rather than earning status by gaining respect.
Typical traits of people who are disruptive include:
- lack of empathy
- excessive needs for admiration and being treated as special
- difficulty with attachment and dependency
- seeing their needs as priority and failing to acknowledge others needs
- fixed mindsets and envy
The most effective way of removing the effects of their tactics is to remove the disruptive person themselves from your sphere of orbit. Often times disruptive people will play on the use of pity to enable them to repeat their process again and again. They will also use tactics such as gaslighting, a technique that denies and twists the perspective in order to cause you to doubt yourself. For example, giving a cruel message and then saying it was a joke. Another example is blatantly denying something happened. Blameshifting is another tactic that disruptive people use in order to avoid responsibility and accountability for their actions. They will often have a severe reaction to your reaction to their initial behaviour. For example, a disruptive person may fail to show up for something important, and then instead of apologising they get annoyed or withdraw when you bring up your disappointment, as well as include reasons for their behaviour that were because of you. “You didn’t tell me….” etc.
In circumstances when you have to deal with disruptive people, it can only be said that you need to get VERY THICK SKIN. Disruptive people try hard to disrupt and it can feel like an onslaught and a never ending battle. Often these people will be very conscious about hiding their disruptive behaviour and their external image will be well crafted to look saintly. Some ways to address it can be to give them minor or few responsibilities so that they do not have the ability to disrupt important things. You can also accept their need for superficial recognition by providing flattery and compliments in higher quantities (as cheesy as that sounds). Ask for their opinions (where you may be able to follow their guidance) and be sparing about offering your opinions to them. From their perspective, their opinion is the only one that matters, so don’t get caught in a trap of giving out information that will be later used against you. The most important factor is not to give up on your goals. Look for ways around the disruptive person to reach your objectives. Eventually, they will tire of disrupting and move onto an easier target.
See the light at the end of the tunnel and keep moving towards it!