Book Review: Impossible to Please: How to Deal with Perfectionist Coworkers, Controlling Spouses, and Other Incredible Critical People

January 18, 2013

impossibleBook455-2TEver worked with a controlling perfectionist? Married to someone who is impossible to please, overly critical and demanding? Have a parent who makes you feel like you’re never good enough? If so, you’ve probably developed coping mechanisms and avoidance techniques, ended the relationship, hoped, wished and prayed for a transfer out of the department or even searched for a different place of employment.

Sometimes, however, there is no avoiding controlling perfectionists (CPs) so you have to learn how to more effectively manage your interactions with them. In our first Feature Book of 2013, Impossible to Please, psychologists Neil Lavender, PhD, and Alan Cavaiola, PhD, explain who controlling perfectionists are, why they do what they do and how you can respond without becoming angry or defensive.

These are not easy people to be around because you can never live up to their standards. Although they make you feel like you can’t live up to their standards, they are actually defective in their capacity for normal relationships. The authors assert that although controlling perfectionists appear to be psychologically healthy people with normal jobs and families, they have a significant impairment in the form of a personality disorder. Personality disorders create significant and potentially lifelong impediments to normal and healthy relationships, especially close relationships. They don’t know they have this problem and it won’t do you or them any good to point it out.

What is a controlling perfectionist? The authors explain that some perfectionists are driven to reach higher standards, a goal that is rarely attainable. A controlling perfectionist not only drives themselves to attempt this unattainable goal, but places the same burden on those around them – to the extreme. Everyone must march to the beat of the controlling perfectionists drum. Some CPs dress impeccably, wouldn’t dare go out without perfect hair and makeup, observe strict dietary and exercise regimes, all to attain perfection. Everyone around them must adjust to the CPs standards or bear the resulting wrath.

The authors provide an exercise to help identify controlling perfectionists. If at least four items on the12-point list, you’re likely dealing with a CP. The list includes behaviors like:

–  preoccupation with rules

– control of finances and schedules of others’ lives

– moodiness and anxiety when they’re not in charge

– excessive devotion to work and productivity

What is the cause of CP? Lavender and Cavaiola point out that most theorists look at parenting style as the precursor to developing this type of disorder – obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) – not to be confused with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Controlling perfectionists likely had overcontrolling parents and learned that positive behaviors were ignored while negative behaviors received attention. Upon entering adulthood, they are driven to control everything – at all costs. Sadly, CP’s aren’t likely to change, leaving us to adapt our behaviors if we must be around them.

Is there hope for anyone dealing with a CP? This book is written for people who must work or live around CPs. The authors provide lists of how CP’s make people around them feel – inferior, worthless, wrong, trapped, dismissed – and how it affects thinking and behavior. They offer solutions to adapt thinking and behavior instead of expecting the CP to change. Setting limits along with learning new ways to respond and communicate are methods that work.

This is a must-read book for anyone who works with or lives with a Controlling Perfectionist. It will make life with them much more bearable…..and possible.

Don’t miss my author interview on this book with Dr. Neil Lavender. COMING SOON…



About the Author

meganMegan Hunter is founder and CEO of Unhooked Books and Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of HCD’s – whether they are employees, customers, vendors, board members, or anyone in your life. Most importantly we help you ‘unhook’ from these peoples’ behaviors so that you can make the right, next decisions – cleanly and clearly. She is also the co-founder of the High Conflict Institute launched in 2007 with Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., an internationally renowned expert in High Conflict Personalities. She has been the recipient of several awards including the President’s Award by the Arizona Family Support Council (2005), the Friend of Psychology Award by the Arizona Psychology Association (2006) and the Outstanding Contribution Award by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (2010). She is a volunteer in several organizations including a member of Tanzania Project and Vice President of Personality Disorder Awareness Network (PDAN). She holds a BA degree in business from Chadron State College and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. To contact Megan about speaking engagements or to gather more information, email


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: