Two Ways People Try to Control You

Carrot and stick.

If you show some momentum and forward tilt, some people will want to control you.  They’re not always conscious of their controlling efforts.  They’re usually people older than you, and more advanced, but people who have already peaked while your potential trajectory will surpass them over time.

How will they try to control you?

Method #1: “You Suck”

People will try to control you through fear.  They’ll berate you, warn you ‘for your own good’ that you’re doing something wrong, or dangerous.  They’ll tell you the pitfalls and dangers.  They’ll try to intimidate and crush you with anger.  They’ll try to get you to change direction at their threat, or at least apologize.  The minute you do, they have hooks in you and they get off on it.

Method #2: “I Can Do Big Things for You”

Other people will entice you with flattery then appeal to vague notions of powerful connections they can deploy on your behalf, if only you play your cards right (a.k.a. be controllable).  The minute their name-dropping or financial braggadocio makes your eyes widen, they’ve got hooks in you.

The Bizarre Hybrid: “You Are An Idiot…I Want to Invest In You”

This one is especially odd.  One minute, this person is dressing you down, hoping you cave and pander to them.  When you don’t, they’re reeling.  They aren’t able to control you with fear so they search for new footing and attempt a different power position with flattery.  “You need to get your shit together!”, they say.  You say, “Thanks for the input.”  They pause, then respond, “Hey, despite that you’re pretty bright.  I might be able to help you.”


A lot of great people can give good critical feedback.  A lot of great people can offer resources and connections.  But when they come on strong and uninvited, hoping you’ll dance to their tune – be it fear or flattery – politely decline the dance.  You don’t need them.

And if you ever encounter the control two-step that goes from harsh critique to generous offer in the same conversation, run.

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