For change to be properly promoted and reinforced, problem behaviors must be reckoned with at the very moment they occur. Toward that end, over the years I developed worksheets that both individuals with character impairments and their relationship partners have used to confront and correct dysfunctional behaviors, thinking patterns, and attitudes.

Some folks are charming in the most benign and appealing way. They are not only sincerely well-mannered but also genuinely positively regarding of others. The very way in which they conduct themselves and the authentic respect they have for others is “attractive” in its own right. But there are those characters whose display of charm is a farce, part of a calculated use of seduction to take advantage of others.

While it’s tempting to fault ourselves for being duped, the tactics covertly aggressive and other character-impaired people use are inherently powerful manipulation tools because they throw us on the defensive while simultaneously concealing obvious aggressive intent. And universally, folks familiar with my work reported that merely adopting the different perspective I offered about how to view their manipulator’s behavior was key to them putting an end to future victimization and empowering their lives.

Recognizing manipulation tactics and knowing how to respond to them is the key to personal empowerment.

In the moment the disturbed character engages in their dysfunctional thinking and behavior patterns, you know they’re also resisting the idea of accepting and internalizing the values and controls necessary to change. That’s why they’re almost certain to repeat the same problem behaviors unless they are more reliably confronted and corrected.

One of the most effective ways for impaired characters to victimize others is to conceal their malevolent intentions while simultaneously prompting their “target” to accede to their desires. Manipulators win by using clever tactics like “gaslighting” to get the other person to back down or give in.

In order to judge the character of others objectively and accurately, you also have to know yourself pretty well.

Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, explain yourself, and question your judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in.

A new article will feature an expanded discussion of the important issues and will include even more examples that illustrate how you can know for sure that most manipulators know exactly what they’re doing when they engage in their tactics. Look for it in the next couple of days!

When it comes to understanding and dealing effectively with disturbed characters, it’s hard for helping professionals who still embrace traditional models of viewing human behavior to get things right. And those who’ve been in relationships with disturbed characters and sought help through counseling often ended up feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and not validated. Even worse, sometimes, the “monster” they dragged into therapy is so good at impression-management that the therapist appeared swayed. Seeing the disturbed character’s behaviors and tactics for what they really are is a prerequisite for facilitating real change.

Many of the things we were taught to view as defensive behaviors are more rightfully viewed as habitual responsibility-avoidance behaviors and tactics of impression management, manipulation, and control.

When it comes to gaining the skills to empower oneself – and especially when it comes to overcoming character deficiencies – perhaps nothing is as important as confronting, correcting, and ultimately replacing dysfunctional behavior patterns.

Once you’re intimately familiar with all the tactics they habitually employ to: 1) get the better of you; and 2) look good while doing it, you can be more sure of your judgments about your manipulator’s character.

Rather than openly assert power over you, covert-aggressors use subtle tactics that not only blind you to their real nature and self-serving agendas but also have the power to bring you to submission and control you.

When disturbed characters make excuses, they’re really making a very conscious attempt to cast themselves in a more favorable light while manipulating others into seeing their point of view.

2012 was a banner year for consultations. And I owe a big “thank you” to everyone who contacted me. I can truly say that I got as much if not more out of the experience than I trust those with whom I visited did.

Disturbed and disordered characters are very different from your average neurotic person, especially with respect to their level of awareness about the nature of problems.

If someone’s behavior is wrong or harmful, the rationale they offer for it is totally irrelevant.

Shrewd manipulators not only combine tactics sometimes but also have an arsenal of techniques that is virtually endless.

Character-impaired individuals do their best to shift responsibility elsewhere. Your job is to keep the ball of responsibility solidly in their court.