Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are you dealing with a manipulator?

How do you know when you are dealing with a manipulator?  After you have determined that you are dealing with a manipulator how do you handle the situation and protect yourself?  Many of us do not know how to spot manipulative behaviors in others until it is too late and we have already been sucked in and taken advantage of.

Manipulation is all about one thing: control.  They want to control either one area of your life or your entire life, whichever it is; you need to learn to spot the traits and signs before they completely drain you. 

In my opinion manipulators are not just general control freaks.  Manipulators only try to control those that they think they have a fairly easy chance of actually controlling.  Control freaks in general try to control everybody, whether it seems easy or not.  I also think that there are those out there that are manipulative without even realizing it sometimes.

Tristan Loo, Synergy Institute, tells us, in his article “How to Identify a Manipulator”, of the four main tactics used by manipulators:

*  Appealing to your love

*  Appealing to your sense of guilt

*  Intimidation

*  Fake Flattery

Any and all of these tactics can be applied by anyone, regardless of the type of relationship you have with the person.  Co-workers, family, friends, romantic relationships, etc are all subject to manipulation.  Family members and others that are very close to you are better at it and it may take you longer to recognize because they know you better, and know which buttons to push to get you to do what they want.

These tactics can be applied very subtly.  Most of us have at one time or another had a friend that could always get money out of us, even when we are close to being broke ourselves.  They may have just casually said something like, “ I was going to go to the store to get some milk for the kids but I don’t have the money.”  Now they haven’t come right out and asked for the money, but they have played on your sense of guilt or love (or both) because they mentioned the kids. 

Each time we realize this has happened we say to ourselves we are not going to fall for it again.  Yet the next time it happens we do anyway.  There usually is a next time, because people who are good at manipulation are also good at spotting their victims.  They know which tactic to apply to which situation to get what they want from you and thus control you.

Have you ever had a friend that wanted to phone or visit after you specifically told them that you were busy, and you end up ruining your plans because they come up with some emergency?  They were in control of you at that moment, because you ended up doing what they wanted rather than what you wanted, regardless of how big or small the emergency turned out to be.

Once you recognize the manipulations for what they are the next thing is to determine how you are allowing this.  This may be harsh to think of that way, but we allow ourselves to be manipulated to a certain point, because if it were not working the person would move on to someone else.

Several different things could lead to you being a target for manipulation.  Some of those things are:

*  You can’t say no

*  You need acceptance or approval

*  You are afraid to express negativity

*  You feel useful only when taking care of others

Since you can not change the behaviors of others you can try to change what you are doing that is allowing others to have control over you.  Trying to discuss, with a manipulator, how being manipulated makes you feel can back fire and they may use this against you in the future.  Skillful manipulators generally lack the empathy to care how their actions are affecting you.  If you choose to try to talk it out, be careful and guard your words if you think there is anyway for your feelings to be used against you later on by this person.

Once you realize that you are being manipulated you need to take an assessment of how important this relationship is to you.  In most cases the relationship is not worth your own health and happiness and you can make the decision to think about putting your foot down and saying no or ending the relationship.  In situations where that is not feasible you may wish to seek professional counseling or therapy to help guide you in your decision.

Depending on the dynamics of the relationship you can usually spot a manipulator also by the fact that they will switch from flattery, to affection to anger and back forth; depending on your reactions to their requests.  The anger they display can be an intimidating anger or the passive-aggressive type anger.  Please be aware of this and protect yourself in situations where caution is warranted.

Really the only way to deal with a manipulator is to take back control of your own actions.  Recognize the tactics they are using for what they are, and refuse to be party to them.  Be confident in your decisions.  Manipulators try to get you to use your feelings as a gauge rather than your logic, take back that power.  Make your decision based on what you KNOW not how you FEEL.


  1. Thanks for this information! I think this will be very helpful, and will remember this is here for further use if I need a refresher while dealing with a manipulator. While working in the DV Field, unfortunately some Survivors learn the tactics of manipulators, and while trying to help, have to remember to be firm and say no. Thank You, I do feel that this information will help me be able to in the future deal with the tactics of a manipulator, wherever they may come from...

  2. That is awesome, and I need to definitely work on this area. Cause I know there are a few areas I need to work on. Thank you for the information it will be wisely put to use.