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Coping With the Personality Impaired

June 26, 1997|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Do you work with someone who's a control freak? Is your father-in-law a backstabber? Does your best friend turn into a green-eyed monster whenever you get a new significant other? Is your new neighbor a sponge? Want to learn how to live with these people instead of tearing your hair out? Les Parrott III has some advice for you in his new book, "High-Maintenance Relationships: How to Handle Impossible People" (Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1996).

The psychology professor and co-director of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University has come up with 15 difficult personality types. He offers some analysis, then gives advice on understanding and coping with them. (Much easier than hair replacement.)

Here are looks at several:

The Gossip spreads rumors and leaks secrets. "Talkative, pseudo-secretive, negative, intrusive, deceitful, vicious, superficial and self-righteous.

"Behind serious gossip is unkind motivation. . . . Rarely is gossip inspired by a consideration to save an innocent bride from a brutish bridegroom. Often gossip is fueled by malice or a warped sense of pleasure in someone else's discomfort.

"Sometimes it's not easy to be calm and cool with gossips. . . . Say nothing and keep on walking. Sometimes simply refusing to take part in garbage is better than uttering insipid words that stick in your throat."

"Control Freaks have one way of doing things--their way. And they can be as inflexible as a drill sergeant in trying to force their methods on you. Their exacting instructions for mowing the lawn . . . are not to be questioned.

"Control freaks, without knowing it, step over the line from taking charge to being compulsively in control. They can't relax because they always feel at risk of being criticized or shamed for making an utterly human error. . . . Control freaks are driven by feelings of extreme vulnerability and low self-esteem. They are not nearly as self-assured as they appear.

"Remember that in most cases control freaks are trying to protect themselves, they are not trying to hurt you. Don't feel responsible or try to make things better when they get upset. Accusing them of being controlling will only make them more fearful and controlling. Instead, try explaining to them how the behavior makes you feel."

The Flirt imparts innuendoes, which may border on harassment. "They smile too much and move too close. They respect no boundaries and do not know when to back off. They see people of the opposite gender as trophies.

"Flirts are not necessarily looking for an affair or even some fleeting fun. Oftentimes they are acting out of a deep insecurity and a need for attention.

"One of the best protections against flirts is a preventive practice. Solving the problem with flirts before it even begins will save you a lot of emotional turmoil. . . . Don't allow yourself to be caught alone with flirts."

The Wet Blanket is pessimistic, automatically negative. "Wet blankets treat the possibility of a happy ending with distaste and mild contempt. A free trip to Tahiti means only jet lag and mosquito bites.

"Negativism is a learned response. Most deep negativism is not inborn--it is learned from parents, teachers, Little League coaches.

"Warning: The wet blanket virus is highly contagious. Just like the flu, negativism can unwittingly be transmitted. . . . Once we are infected with negativism, it becomes a natural way of relating. . . . Just as you need to counter negative self-talk with realistic positive messages, you also need to learn to come back at wet blankets with an expression of your own optimism."

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