I was having a discussion with a friend the other day and was telling her how excited I was to rediscover the value of eating for my blood type. I told her I had been looking for ways to improve my digestion and increase my energy, and it seemed like an effective way to approach it. She replied, “That’s ridiculous. That can’t possibly work. Your blood type has nothing to do with your digestion. There’s no proof of this. You are so gullible, buying into every new diet that’s out there.” After a few seconds of silence, I said facetiously, “I had no idea you had done research into blood types and diet, finding there was no proof.” She laughed and said, “If I say an opinion strongly enough, you have to believe it.” She and I have talked about how she becomes dismissive when she doesn’t know something, and she now expects I will flag it for her as she hasn’t yet built awareness of when she does it.

It’s not uncommon for certain personalities to believe they are the smartest person in the room. But being in a relationship with someone like this is exhausting. It is very easy for someone who knows nothing about a subject to dismiss what you say. Those who use the Dismissing Codependent Strategy do it all the time, and if you don’t know how to deal with their arrogant, condescending behavior or take it personally, you end up believing they know better than you do. Not surprisingly, those in a relationship with a Dismissing Codependent become fatigued by their arrogance, condescension, and superiority. And when they try to confront it, the Dismissing Codependent simply disappears behind their wall, unreachable and untouchable, making people in their lives even more furious.

Dismissive Codependents create psychological safety for themselves by acting independently within their relationships. These people want to be left alone to do their own thing and are afraid that if they engage too much with people, they will get bogged down unnecessarily. They keep themselves emotionally isolated for fear of being hurt, rejected, or devalued. While the Dismissing Codependent wants to be in a relationship, they don’t share themselves with their partner, nor demonstrate any interest in what their partner wants to share, which can lead to resentment and further relationship problems.

Dismissive Codependents primary relationship is the pursuit of knowledge and expertise with relationships taking second place. They spend more time in their inner world than in the external where we, of course, engage with and relate to others. They don’t see the point of putting energy into relationships in an area where they don’t feel competent.

Dismissing Strategy #1: Dismissive of Emotions

The Dismissive Codependent has an aura of arrogance that makes getting close to them seem improbable. They are detached, act superior, and are argumentative for no other reason but to stop others from expressing feelings or to keep them at a distance. They express their negative opinions about the ideas of others directly and, at times, forcefully. Should one get upset at their use of ridiculing or dismissing them, they’ll make a joke, tell you you’re ridiculous for being upset and reject the notion they have done anything wrong. They do this because Dismissers have little curiosity about what they are experiencing emotionally or how things affect them personally. This leaves them with very, very low emotional intelligence and even less relationship intelligence.

Dismissing Strategy #2: Intellectually Arrogant

Because Dismissers live disconnected from their experience and dismiss any emotion they have as irrelevant or not useful, they expect their partners and others around them to do the same. They maintain this impersonal stance, rarely exhibiting interest in what others are doing or experiencing. The question “How did that make you feel?” is met with a scowl when asked of them by their partner. Likewise, it would be rare for them to be curious of their partner and ask this question of them.  While the Dismissing Codependent wants to be in a relationship, they don’t share themselves with their partner, nor demonstrate any interest in what their partner wants to share. They share facts, what they are doing (if they feel it’s relevant) or something they think their partner might need to be informed of.

Dismissing Strategy #3: Rebellious, Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Protecting themselves by living life in the comfortable state of separation by the wall they construct to keep them safe, Dismissers convert a simple request to do something as pressure to connect. Something as simple as “Can you do the dishes while I am getting the kids ready to go?” may be met with “Sure, honey” while they continue with whatever it is they are doing. They make a show of compliance and use passive resistance as a way of maintaining distance and not letting anyone touch them. Being told that they have to do something a certain way, or must conform to what others expect, causes them to be rebellious and oppositional. They are rebels without a cause, living a disempowered emotional life.

You may have recognized one of the above strategies as your own or your partner’s behavior. If so, here are a few tips for making sure you dismantle this codependent dysfunction in your relationships.

Tip #1: Know yourself and your codependent strategies

For every submissive codependent, there is a dominant counterpart. If you have the tendency to shift to compensate or rationalize the behavior of the Dismissing Codependent because well, it’s just easier, you need to make a commitment to yourself to stop enabling them for the sake of the relationship or so you don’t show frustration or irritation at them for not being in step or in alignment. Being dominant and compensating is a temporary fix and doesn’t work for either of you in the long run. The pattern of getting angry and confrontational, feeling guilty and making it better, repeat is where dominant codependents get stuck with Dismissers.

Tip #2: Manage your expectations

The Dismissing Codependent has undeveloped social skills and low emotional intelligence. That means they need to be taught, with the loving ingredients of acceptance, patience, and compassion. Getting angry at them or taking their disinterest in your emotions to mean they don’t love you is a personalizing defense and is about you, not about them. Remember, if your relationship goal is to help each other grow and develop, it will only be done by applying loving ingredients. Accept the fact that you are much better at interpersonal relationships than they are. That doesn’t give you license to be condescending or embarrass them for not being empathic or for not having read social cues. It also doesn’t mean that you let them off the hook when they are dismissive.

Tip #3: Don’t take it personally

Dismissers act as if they know everything, so even the simplest comment, like “You have ketchup on your cheek,” is met with “it’s not ketchup, it’s tomato sauce. I know.” If you say, “It’s only going to be 8 degrees today,” they will check their weather app and state, “No, you’re wrong. It’s going to be 9.” You have to make sure you aren’t pulled into their dismissing any information you offer and not taking it personally. Their agenda isn’t to make you wrong; it is self-validating and positions them safely behind the wall. While this behavior can be irritating to others and trigger power struggles, we can make a choice not to engage with this and other inconsequential topics. Say something like, “seems important to you to have that degree of accuracy around the weather,” validating their need, should you want to engage them further.

You have the power to decide how to feel and how you will continue behaving in your romantic, personal, and work relationships. Becoming aware of the behaviors you need to shift from is the very first step that leads you on your way to becoming your authentic self and living the life you are meant to live.

Curious to Learn More?

We invite you to learn more about the Codependent Dismissing Strategy and how to overcome it on Episode 49 of our podcast, ‘Dismantling Dysfunction’:


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What Can I Do If I Am in a Codependent Relationship?

We specialize in helping clients identify codependent and other dysfunctional behaviors in relationships. We have several counseling approaches we take – individual, group, couples – to help individuals break free of the dysfunctional codependent behaviors that are destructive to relationships. Contact us for a consultation to find out how we can help.


Anne and Heather are organizational and leadership development experts at Caliber Leadership Systems, a boutique consulting firm specializing in dismantling of dysfunction in organizations.  They are dedicated to empowering individuals, leaders, and organizations to achieve their potential by leveraging their expertise in the neurobiology of human development combined with a system thinking approach. They wear many hats – Consultants, Executive Coaches, Trainers, Speakers, and Authors – adapting their expertise and solutions to meet the needs of their clients. They bring a unique depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that gives clients the benefit of all of our disciplines to help them achieve their goals

As experts in human development and behavioral change, leadership and organizational transformation, interpersonal dynamics, and the achievement of potential, Anne and Heather have worked with thousands of leaders and individuals from around the world, been featured in dozens of publications, spoken at professional conferences, and written several series of books on personality type and the brain based on the Striving Styles® and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

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