“Corner People” and How To Get Out Of Their Corner

Person in a cornerDefinition of “CORNER PEOPLE : Those individuals that seem to push you into a corner to get what they want. They are relentless and have no regard for the responses of the other person, until they get exactly what they want. Corner People “appear” to be oblivious to the responses that do not fit their own agenda or desire. Regardless of what you say or try to defend or explain, it seems to have no effect. They always have a “comeback” response to your answers or requests. Corner People seem to “logically” defend their position, but it always seems to benefit them more than the other person.

I call them “CORNER PEOPLE” because they seem to back people into a corner through their persistence, changing their approach, using guilt or by verbal bullying. Sometimes they just wear “good people” down. They are not bad people usually. They have learned or believe that the only way to get what they want is to “corner” someone and pressure them to do what they want. Another tactic sometimes used is for them to become emotionally upset, so that a good person would feel guilty and responsible for the Corner Person’s feelings. However, we are never “responsible” for how someone else feels. How we feel is a choice.

Corner people come in all sizes and shapes. They can be our parent, friend, sibling, coworker or boss. It is more challenging when it is a family member or someone who is in a position of power. However, this in no way means that you can’t get out of the corner in most cases.

This is true even when the Corner person is in a position of power. For example, let’s take a situation at work. Let’s say it is your boss who has a habit of asking for things from you at the last minute or at the end of your work day. You can agree to do it, but can also ask your boss to work together to find a way to organize his or her priorities that will result in less “last minute” requests. Perhaps you can suggest that it will allow you more time to invest in the quality of your assignment. This way you will appear cooperative, but are also trying to shape the manner in which you are given assignments.

Let’s look at the Corner person as a parent. As parents age and now have adult children with their own lives, it can be challenging for both parties. The parent values the relationship of their adult child more and more. It is not uncommon for the parent to become more of a Corner Person than when the child was much younger. This is because the parent often feels less needed and fears losing the child as their friends and family become more important. The parent can use guilt with the adult child, saying. “You are too busy doing ‘important things’ in the world to make time for us”. This puts the adult child on the defense. They must defend their position for the Corner Person to back off. It usually results in the Corner Person getting what they want because the cornered person felt they had to prove the statement to be untrue.

Before we talk about HOW to get yourself out of the corner here is a very important point to first understand: Good people who are cornered often feel they are being aggressive or unkind when they are pushing back at the Corner person. Here is the truth: Just because it feels more aggressive does not mean it is wrong. Being more assertive does not make you a bad person. You are being more assertive than you would normally need to be with someone who is not a Corner Person. This is why it is so uncomfortable. With normal people we don’t need to be assertive in a stronger way than usual. How many times would it take someone to ask you to try to be more on time with them before you begin to make the effort? Now this example is more challenging for some than others. But wouldn’t you still hear the person and try to at least be “less late”? A Corner Person would not make that effort.

WAYS TO GET OUT OF THE CORNER:
  1. Be clear with what will not work for you about their request.
  2. Make a suggestion that will work better for you and possibly the Corner Person.
  3. If the Corner Person is relentless you will need to be more assertive, which is uncomfortable but not wrong or unkind. It is necessary because it is the only way out of the corner.
  4. Give them options. Do not let them choose their own options that don’t work for you. Instead, offer them options A or B.
  5. Remember, this is a very uncomfortable feeling because you are not a Corner Person. You are not doing anything wrong. It is just that it is uncomfortable.
What to do if nothing changes after several attempts to work it out
  1. In general: Be a wall to resist their pushing. Be a broken record. Continue to state your desired options. This is presented as a matter of fact, not in anger. If necessary, just politely end the conversation.
  2. With a boss: You may want to consider seeking consultation with HR or the next level up in management. But this is only after you have documented all your attempts to discuss this first with your boss.
  3. With a family member: Try writing them a letter. Begin with something positive about the relationship and what it means to you as best as you can do without being insincere. Then tell them that you would like to improve the relationship and what would make it better for you. Try to include something they also have voiced wanting from you as well. Sometimes it is easier to really hear someone when they are not present and not needing to be on the defense or offense.
  4. With a family member: You may want to suggest family counseling with a professional. This would mean that you value the relationship and don’t want to let go of it.

For further reading:

Assertiveness: How To Stand Up For Yourself and Win The Respect Of Others by Judy Murphy

When I Say NO, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith

Next Blog: Do Your Decisions Come From Fear or Avoidance or Desire?

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on YourTango.com and on MSN.com.

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