Using Mind Control With Difficult People

mind control

Have you ever wanted to have the power to control minds? I know that I often think to myself: “Life would be so much easier if everyone would just listen to me and do what I tell them.” I doubt that I’m the only one who’s ever thought this way.

We often find ourselves trying to change others. Trying to change what they do, what they say and even how they say it. Fundamentally, we are trying to change how they treat us.

  • That guy at work.
  • That family member.
  • And especially that one person… you know – yes that one!

You’ve probably heard this line before:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I would like to offer a slightly different version of this:

“Insanity is dealing with the same person over and over again and expecting them to act differently this time.”

Yes, people can and do change.  Yes, it is worthwhile to discuss things with one another in the spirit of debate. And yes, sometimes people actually do change.

The insanity part happens when you expect them to change – or worse, you insist that they change.

Taking Control

People will do what they do.  And they’ll do it when they do it – not a moment sooner.  Just because something is the right thing to do, or the logical thing to do, or what any reasonable person would do in the same circumstances, or what you would do… doesn’t mean that everyone will do it that way.  This is where the mind control comes in!

(Lean closer… here’s the secret…) The only mind over which you can ever have guaranteed control… is your own.  The sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we will have peace of mind. People are far less frustrating, disappointing, and upsetting once you release them from the expectations that you’ve placed on them to behave the way you want them to.

Now I’m certainly not suggesting that you need to accept their actions or compromise on your ideals. What I’m suggesting is that your energy is better spent on controlling your own mind – controlling your expectations and your reactions.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that my friend and I need to discuss plans for an upcoming party. She tells me that she’ll call me at 10, but I’ve known her for years and past experience tells me that she’s never on schedule.

By 10:30 I haven’t heard from her. Then it’s 10:45 and still nothing.

When she finally does call at 11:00, I have a choice…

A) I can discuss our plans for the upcoming party.


B) I can use our phone call to discuss (calmly or otherwise) why she didn’t follow through on her promise to call me at 10:00. I can explain the impact that her tardiness had on me and how it messed up my morning plans.  I can recount the last five times she has been late and how much that upsets me and makes it difficult to deal with her.  I can talk about the complete lack of respect that she shows by not valuing my time and for thinking that she is more important than I am. I can….  You get the idea.

Either way – we still have to discuss our plans for the party.

Avoiding The Trap

Now you might be saying: “But if you choose Option A, then your friend ‘wins’ and will never learn to change her ways.”  If you’re saying that, you’ve just fallen into the trap!

I’m talking about the trap of convincing ourselves that people will eventually see things our way.  We just need to do explain it to them more effectively.  Or more repeatedly. Or more loudly. Or more forcefully.

If I feel that I absolutely must talk to my friend about her inability to be on time, I can choose to bring this up with her later, as a separate discussion.  This is likely going to be a more productive conversation than if I try to address it when we need to be discussing the party plans.

In situations like this, I always remind myself of a great quote from author Byron Katie: “If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark.”  This puts the ball back in my court.  When I approach the situation this way, I can choose to either accept my friend’s issues and adjust my expectations accordingly; or if I’m unwilling to change my expectations, I can choose to simply limit the amount of interaction that I have with this person.

Either way, the choice is mine because the only mind that I can control is my own.

Photo by mastrobiggo

25 thoughts on “Using Mind Control With Difficult People”

  1. Very cool article. I like how you turned it around from what the title would originally have you think.

    Huge believer of changing yourself instead of waiting for others to change. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid the people who upset us. When you are in those situations I find it helpful to be super nice, friendly, and engaging. It’s usually not what they expect and they tend to change the way they behave in reciprocation.

    Even if they still are jerks no harm has been done on your part.

  2. Wonderful post! We can spend so much time and emotion on trying to get others to do what we want them to do, when, as you say, the only person we really have control of is ourselves.

    And there’s nothing worse than having someone else impose their standards and wishes on you. I grew up with a father who had (and still has) his own ideas about how we, his children, should live our lives and I have never felt so small and demoralized as when I capitulated to his wishes.


  3. Hi Patrick,
    I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been thinking about this topic lately. You are absolutely right when you say the only mind we can control is our own. We need to think about our thoughts and question if they are doing us good or bad. When we get a handle on our thoughts, we can control our behaviors so much better. When we gain emotional mastery we become better in dealing with the people in our lives. Thanks.

  4. Thanks Bryce, Melinda and Dandy for adding your voices to the discussion!

    I wanted to add another point to think about… In addition to helping keep you sane, allowing others to ‘do what they do’ gives you a tremendous feeling of freedom. I feel so much more free when I don’t try to take responsibility for how others act, speak and behave. (Melina – hopefully your father will know that freedom one day.)


  5. Oh so very true, Patrick. We are in control of two things in this world–our mind and our actions. When we combine that power, we relieve enormous amounts of stress. A couple years ago, I suffered an accident that confined me to bed for 6 weeks–I only got to leave the bed for 2 doctor visits. People around me asked me how I kept from going out of my mind. I told them I’d be going out of my mind if I was pushing against the situation, trying to change it. By accepting it, I was able to look for the good parts of it. I practiced meditation. I savored the view of the trees out my bedroom window. I enjoyed having my husband cook for me for 6 weeks. It’s all a matter of where we point our attention.

    Your post is especially powerful because you described an excellent example (the friend’s late call) that shows our reactions are our own, not caused by others.

    1. Great comment, Ande. Thanks. The difference is where “you put your attention”. I guess meditating has helped you a lot for this also. Accepting what we cannot change and taking new situations like a great opportunity to see other aspects of our daily life help.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Bryce’s comment (and your post too, Patrick!) Treating others as you would have them treat you doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll reciprocate, but they might. Regardless of how they act in the future, whether they change or not, you’ve conducted yourself in a way that does not hinge on their behaviour. And that, I would imagine, is far easier than teaching a cat to bark. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  7. So what you’re saying is not to expect anything from others ? According to my experience ‘I’ll have to agree with what you said . Expectations are often futile , nothing one gets out of expectations. The example which you gave above is so original , I can relate to it . Instead of blowing at the friend whose not punctual with time , one must learn to adjust with her/him , by expecting them to behave in ways we want them to behave is actually weird and will only bring about frustration .
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    1. Hi Kim:

      You can still have expectations of others, just don’t allow your happiness or sanity to hinge on whether or not they meet those expectations.

      The other thing we need to remember is that it helps to clearly communicate your expectations to others. If they don’t know what you expect, they will have a hard time giving it to you. Then – if you’ve communicated clearly and they refuse to meet those expectations (whether they refuse outright or just don’t follow-through) you can choose to either give up those expectations or move towards people who are willing to give you what you need.

  8. Great post. I enjoyed your example. And I have found that focusing on my responses to situations has changed my life. I realize that I can either focus a lot of energy on trying to change a situation, which when I come right down to it, isn’t likely to change. Perhaps I’ll influence someone to change a little bit in my direction, but that makes me dependent on their changing for my peace and/joy. On the other hand, when I decide to choose a response that is uplifting, I win. And why wouldn’t I want to feel good, even if the situation isn’t initially to my liking.

  9. I agree, we have control over our actions. I’ve chosen to let go of trying to help people, especially family. They aren’t ready to wake up. I’ve chosen to let go of trying to have others (family) see things from a different perspective. I’m done — it’s too exhausting and time consuming.

  10. This was a great post. But what I want to understand more of is WHY it’s difficult for most people (including….actually especially myself) to accept the fact that we can’t really impose our expectation on others.

    Obviously, if it were easy, this post wouldn’t have to be written.

    My ex-girfriend and I had this problem the whole two and half years we were together. The thing is, we never actually realized it. It was sub-conscious.

    About a month after we broke up, we had a really long discussion about our actions and our feelings, and we had so many ‘aha’ moments mostly about this very topic. She would impose expectations on me and I would do the same to her, but when we inevitably ran into problems and making many mistakes, we didn’t understand why.

    And it frustrated us.

    But when we came to the realization, I started wondering why it’s so difficult for us to accept the fact that we can’t control others. That in reality, we can only adjust our own perception of things.

    Is there some sort of cognitive trigger in our brains that goes off when something like this happens and we can’t figure out right away?

    I don’t know.

    I read this post and got really alert, only because my break up was just a mere 3 months ago, and I guess I’m in that state where I want answers.

    Thanks Patrick for this post.

    1. Hey Brandon – I think that imposing expectations on others is just part of the human condition. It’s natural for each of us to assume that we’re “right”, therefore we expect that everyone should share our perspective. (They should have the same opinions, preferences and reactions as we do.) The big shift comes when we realize that there is no “right” and we allow ourselves to drop the expectation that others will think the same as we do.

  11. Bravo Patrick!

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read on the Internet, and I’m not just saying that.
    I’ve read a lot.
    Keep up the great, humane, caring, helpful, uplifting work.

    Well done.

  12. Reality is people’s core habits generally don’t change. They change, and then revert back to the old habits. Limiting interaction is the best way (indirect force, they’ll try to understand.. what happen suddenly?) push towards minimum change. (we should not expect the major change.)

  13. Reminds me of what my dad used to say: “Everything begins with a thought … So, watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become action. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny …”, i.e., Garbage In = Garbage Out! (Words to that effect). Thanks! Very inspirational..

  14. I’ve had to face this fact finally, myself. It’s been very difficult but I feel I’m making progress.

    My mother is bipolar and I have spent my entire life trying to control her environment, her moods, and her life to make her as stable as possible. I’ve used logic, explanations, and platitudes to try to help her see why her actions are illogical and insane. And nothing has worked.

    Instead, she has repeatedly twisted my words back on myself and made me feel as though I’M the crazy one who can’t do anything right. And my step-dad is just more of the same. Only he’s just extremely narcissistic, not bipolar.

    Have you ever tried to explain your viewpoint to narcissistic or bipolar people? It doesn’t work. And since I have always had the viewpoint of seeing things from everyone’s perspective, and my family knows that, they’ll twist me until I see things their way and no compromise or change is made on anyone but me.

    And I have to stop this cycle. For my own mental health.

    I started about a year ago. And the going has been extremely tough as I can’t afford to move out of my parent’s house. Neither in a monetary or emotional way (my mom gets suicidal at the mere thought of my leaving). But I have made some progress.

    My mom hates it when I don’t tell her what I’m thinking. She doesn’t understand that I’ve learned that saying what I think and feel when I’m upset doesn’t help me or her. It just gives her ammunition to use against me and she never sees the point. But if I wait until the moment is right and approach the subject in the right way, she just might listen and compromises are eventually made.

    By changing my approach and my actions, and learning how to say no when I should, I have changed my relationship with both of my parents a lot. I can’t say it’s completely healthy, but it’s certainly less toxic than it used to be!

    Thanks so much for the great post! I’ll definitely be using these tactics in my own thinking from now on. You have no idea how much I need them! Have a good day!

  15. Hi Kyla – It sounds like you’ve been on a tough road. The good news is that you’ve got the right attitude! Changing ourselves to please others can be exhausting – especially if we’re faced with people who simply will not be pleased with anything. It can be a real challenge to let go of the need to meet the expectations of others, but in the end, we need to be true to ourselves. Hang in there!

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