How to Handle a Forceful Person

How to Handle a Forceful Person

You know the person I am referring.  They can be quite direct and in your face about what they want to see happen.  They have a goal in mind, and nothing is going to stop them.  They are a force to be reckoned with as they exercise power.  “Forceful” is a strength that can trigger many people to fear and to hide.  You may be married to someone who has this strength or work on a team with someone like this.  You may have given birth to a child who demonstrates this strength! We all from time to time are confronted with the challenge of working with forceful people.

You might be asking the question, “Can ‘forceful’ be considered a strength?”  Afterall, so many times when a person is being forceful it causes conflict and broken relationships.  Before we look at ways to work with someone being forceful, let us examine briefly why being forceful can be a strength that is needed.  Maybe I can convince you that forceful is a strength.

The pursuit of a goal sometime requires a fierce determination.  The goal is worthwhile and important.  Perhaps the future depends on achieving that goal.  In order to overcome obstacles that are in the way it might take maximum force.  Like a Coast Guard cutter ship breaking up ice to allow a passenger ship to pass through a frozen harbor, a forceful person can open up possibilities that otherwise might be lost.  President Lincoln was forceful in his pursuit of freedom for all peoples.  There were people who stood in the way and fought against him, but he didn’t back down.  His cause was just and good.

Sometimes being forceful is what is needed and necessary.  Usually this strength is employed by those who are motivated by achievement and performance.  They want to get things done and find that being forceful is helpful in reaching their goal.  But they are not the only people who use “forceful”.  People who are motivated by care for others also use this strength.  Let’s say a person who is motivated by performance is using “forceful” to achieve their goal and the changes being made are hurting someone you know, you might decide to use “forceful” yourself!  You might use it to push back on the decisions that are being made.  Why?  Because you value that person and don’t want to see them hurt.  “Forceful” is a strength, and one that can be used for many different reasons.  A person who is more quiet, and reserved and otherwise dispassionate might use “forceful” when a process is not being followed or a regulation is being broken.  A person who is motivated by considering all options before making a decision might exercise “forceful” when their voice hasn’t been heard or is being ignored.

I don’t know if I convinced you that “forceful” is a strength and not a weakness yet.  Perhaps that is because “forceful” when overdone can perceived by others as domineering and dictatorial.  When this strength is overused, it can feel like there is a bully in the room.  It might feel like there is no room for discussion and that the person will win at any cost.  People who use this strength often may be seen by others as a bull in a china shop, charging through without regard for others.  For those of you who use “forceful” often, you need to be aware of how others may perceive you.  If forceful is used too often, or displayed to strong or out of context, you may get the opposite results than you are looking to achieve.  People may yield just to get away from you.  Or you may be a trigger for rebellion and conflict.  Be aware of when you are employing “forceful”.  You may want to lower the pressure so people can bend and not break.  You also may want to use another strength to get the result you want.  For instance, you could use “option oriented” and brainstorm different ways to get to the results you desire.

If you see “forceful” as only bad, you will find yourself in conflict with those who are attempting to achieve goals that may be important.  In order to work in greater harmony, consider asking the question, “Why is this person being so forceful?”  Understanding why they are using this strength, rather than reacting to the strength might give you some insight into what is happening and how to address that goal.  You might also want to look at yourself and ask yourself why “forceful” is so difficult for you to experience.  It may be that you see force as threatening and evil because you are fearful of other people being hurt.  Or perhaps you have had a past experience of someone forceful hurting you and you want to avoid seeing it happen again.  You may need to seek out healing from past wounds.  Our understanding of “forceful” and why it can be a strength may help you relate more effectively with others.  If “forceful” feels like bullying, give the person the benefit of the doubt and consider if perhaps they are simply trying to reach an important goal.  Try to understand what that is rather than reacting to it immediately.  Yes, there are bullies in the world.   But often they are being forceful about something important to them.  Their intent might not be to hurt, but to help.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.