Sometimes we mistake a person’s boundary busting pestering for tenacity, when they’re actually being persistent at doing the same thing and expecting different results. What they’re also doing is trying to bulldoze or act like a battering ram until they achieve their goal. They’re forceful and it’s important not to mistake it for assertiveness. Aggressive people try to own other people’s behaviour and their feelings, but not in the same way that a People Pleaser does. What they do is try to change a person’s feelings or behaviour with force so that they can get what they want, need, and expect. A People Pleaser just tries to please their way to change.
When we mistake a person’s persistence with tenacity, we forget that for it to be the latter, they would actually have to be paying attention to ‘feedback’ from their own responses as well as the other party and the experiences, so that they could adapt their behaviour and thinking. In a situation where they’ve already treated us without love, care, trust, and respect, by being persistent pests, they’re not learning from the insights that they would have gained, if they weren’t so busy being single-minded while possibly claiming that it’s in our interests.
I’ve had a few people remark on the ‘tenacity’ of their exes who like a cockroach that survives a nuclear bomb, they’re still ‘there’ circumventing blocks and in some instances, disregarding restraining orders. Sometimes we mistake a person’s pestering as flattering and ‘determination’. We don’t recognise that as a basic, that person has boundary issues and lacks empathy, operating with a sense of entitlement that can be staggering at times.
With a very persistent, pestering person, it may feel like an almost full-time occupation to keep them at bay or to re-explain yourself.
It’s exhausting to be in a situation where no matter what you say, no matter how stressed or upset you appear, no matter the past evidence, that person, now that it suits them (and possibly because they’re rattled by not being in control and you’re resisting complying), that person is persisting in trying to get your attention and to do what they want. What do they want? What does this all mean? They’re trying so hard and I feel so mean, we wonder.
But focus on something: They’re persisting at trying to get what they want. You don’t have the same goals and if you mistake what they’re doing for tenacity, you will cave because you will assume that their actions represents a mutual goal that they’re going about in a cack-handed manner.
Their behaviour doesn’t make a good audition tape for having mutual interests. You could stamp their application with, Does Not Respect Boundaries and Pursues Their Aims By Any Means Necessary…Even At The Expense of My Wellbeing. Maybe even, Restraining Order Needed. Even if your goal is peace and to move on, theirs isn’t.
When they show you a pattern of blowing hot and cold with their efforts, if you plotted it on a timeline and noted what they do each time, you’d see that they’re doing the equivalent of trying to figure out which key to use or which code to press so that they can bust through. They reason that even if you blank them twenty times, that if you respond in some way on the twenty-first occasion, the bottom line is that you will respond and that if they pull the same move again, then you will again. This is where many slip up because they think they’ll get the person to back off or that if they’re nice, that the person will do as they want. The ‘pesterer’ just reads the response as having been successful. Then it becomes a gamble and a game, even if they don’t admit it or lack the self-awareness to recognise their behaviour for what it is.
Their goal is to win and to get their own way, even if it means that you lose your peace of mind in the process. That’s not love, care, trust or respect.
The thing is, being persistent is a positive quality in certain contexts. If you have a goal and you’ve identified what it is that you need to do and are not giving up, knock yourself out. The question to ask though with persistence, is whether the means is the appropriate or best way to go about it.
As children, we learned how to ride a bike and we had to persist even though we may have found it tough and scary because by persisting with the technique and self-correcting, we knew that we’d eventually learn to ride it. Yes, there are circumstances where we shouldn’t or don’t have to take the first no as the final answer, such as when we’re working in sales. In those situations and in fact in any situation where another human’s needs, wants, expectations, opinions, and feelings are involved, we have to be willing to recognise that person’s position and whether there’s a level of interest in what we’re putting forward, as well as where we may need to positively adapt. That’s also where the tenaciousness kicks in.
When a person is persisting by any mean’s necessary and in fact, their means are far from appropriate, that is pestering and it’s not going to result in a mutually respectful interaction. Even if they try to change things up to meet their goal, their ‘tenacity’ represents finding new ways to bulldoze and play battering ram in order to achieve their goal when the old methods don’t work. Yep, still a pest, and as anyone who has ever had an ex who was abusive, hunting them down and professing all sorts of change and remorse, pretty damn manipulative too. In these situations, we must be careful not to forget that this person is effectively looking for new ways to meet their own needs, expectations, and wishes at the expense of ours. The way that they go about it may appear to have changed which we can confuse with them actually having changed, but the shady goal has not. Don’t try to please them because just like they’re not the boss of your feelings and behaviour, you’re not going to change them by complying. Take care of you first with boundaries (and law enforcement if needed).
PS I made my monthly appearance on my local community radio station last night and you can listen to the show here.