From Pushy People to Non-Conformists

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”Pushy People – Why So Dominating?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

I enjoy being around outgoing, friendly people, but the other extreme, pushy, aggressive people, are a real turn off. Why are some people so dominating?

Not Impressed

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Not Impressed:

While I agree that dominating, defensive behavior is not healthy, I have equal concern for those who have difficulty dealing with such conduct. In such instances, increased assertiveness is invariably needed. People who fear domineering personalities may have experienced criticism during childhood from a domineering parent. This can instill fear in such children to the point that when they are confronted by an aggressive person, they feel blamed or threatened about being wrong. They may even feel guilty for their existence, and even if they have done nothing wrong, they tend to take the blame for it anyway.

”Conformance – Must I Give Up Me?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I am 16 and my mother keeps nagging me about conforming to society’s rules and also at school. I feel like this means always going along with what other people believe and say. How can I be me if I just go along with the status quo?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Me:

Conformance is applicable to all walks of life. If we don’t have rules to live by, there is likely to be chaos. Such conformity need not deny us our uniqueness or the right to express ourselves and our individuality. However our uniqueness must still be expressed within the parameters of society’s rules and norms. To me, this is one of the factors that makes our country and its people great — we have the freedom to be unique and independent without violating the rights of others.

But yes, there are certain behaviors that we do have to mirror back to each other, and there are other behaviors that are socially unacceptable. Just take a trip to the mall and it is not difficult to see why conformance is necessary.

One reason why some people resist conformance is that they fear being wrong. To combat this, they build a defense which may include taking an aggressive stand, verbally or physically, to avoid being controlled or dominated by another person’s ideas. An alternative, a concept which some have identified as positive submission, is actually a very positive aspect of the personality. Although many people interpret submissive behavior as weak, this is not necessarily the case. The type of submission I am referring to offers the impetus to step back and assess another person’s stand, so we can evaluate a reasonable approach to the situation.

Also, sometimes waiting or even allowing another person to think that they are right can avoid conflict or even protect us from harm. Positive submission encompasses moving toward a situation with an acceptance that nothing that can be changed or done about the issue at that time. This is not the same as giving up, giving in, or allowing someone to walk all over us. It is a tool that can support constructive behavior and peace of mind.

Dear Readers:

Today’s answers can be supplemented with excerpts from “Yesterday’s Children” (Q1: pp. 24-25; Q2: p. 27) written by psychologists Marti Barham, R.N., Ph.D. and Tom Greene, Ph.D. For more information visit

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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