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07-31-2015, 05:30 PM
How to Spot and Stop Manipulators

“There are those whose primary ability is to spin wheels of manipulation. It is their second skin and without these spinning wheels, they simply do not know how to function.”

― C. JoyBell C.

Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense.

It is important to distinguish healthy social influence from psychological manipulation. Healthy social influence occurs between most people, and is part of the give and take of constructive relationships. In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda.

Most manipulative individuals have four common characteristics:

  1. They know how to detect your weaknesses.
  2. Once found, they use your weaknesses against you.
  3. Through their shrewd machinations, they convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests.
  4. In work, social, and family situations, once a manipulator succeeds in taking advantage of you, he or she will likely repeat the violation until you put a stop to the exploitation.

Root causes for chronic manipulation are complex and deep-seated. But whatever drives an individual to be psychologically manipulative, it’s not easy when you’re on the receiving end of such aggression. How can one successfully manage these situations? Here are eight keys to handling manipulative people. Not all of the tips below may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

1. Know Your Fundamental Human Rights*
The single most important guideline when you’re dealing with a psychologically manipulative person is to know your rights, and recognize when they’re being violated. As long as you do not harm others, you have the right to stand up for yourself and defend your rights. On the other hand, if you bring harm to others, you may forfeit these rights. Following are some of our fundamental human rights:

  • You have the right to be treated with respect.
  • You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and wants.
  • You have the right to set your own priorities.
  • You have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty.
  • You have the right to get what you pay for.
  • You have the right to have opinions different than others.
  • You have the right to take care of and protect yourself from being threatened physically, mentally or emotionally.
  • You have the right to create your own happy and healthy life.

These fundamental human rights represent your boundaries.

Of course, our society is full of people who do not respect these rights. Psychological manipulators, in particular, want to deprive you of your rights so they can control and take advantage of you. But you have the power and moral authority to declare that it is you, not the manipulator, who’s in charge of your life.

2. Keep Your Distance
One way to detect a manipulator is to see if a person acts with different faces in front of different people and in different situations. While all of us have a degree of this type of social differentiation, some psychological manipulators tend to habitually dwell in extremes, being highly polite to one individual and completely rude to another—or totally helpless one moment and fiercely aggressive the next. When you observe this type of behavior from an individual on a regular basis, keep a healthy distance, and avoid engaging with the person unless you absolutely have to. As mentioned earlier, reasons for chronic psychological manipulation are complex and deep-seated. It is not your job to change or save them.

3. Avoid Personalization and Self-Blame
Since the manipulator’s agenda is to look for and exploit your weaknesses, it is understandable that you may feel inadequate, or even blame yourself for not satisfying the manipulator. In these situations, it’s important to remember that you are not the problem; you’re simply being manipulated to feel bad about yourself, so that you’re more likely to surrender your power and rights. Consider your relationship with the manipulator, and ask the following questions:

  • Am I being treated with genuine respect?
  • Are this person’s expectations and demands of me reasonable?
  • Is the giving in this relationship primarily one way or two ways?
  • Ultimately, do I feel good about myself in this relationship?

Your answers to these questions give you important clues about whether the “problem” in the relationship is with you or the other person.

4. Put the Focus on Them by Asking Probing Questions
Inevitably, psychological manipulators will make requests (or demands) of you. These “offers” often make you go out of your way to meet their needs. When you hear an unreasonable solicitation, it’s sometimes useful to put the focus back on the manipulator by asking a few probing questions, to see if she or he has enough self-awareness to recognize the inequity of their scheme. For example:

  • “Does this seem reasonable to you?”
  • “Does what you want from me sound fair?”
  • “Do I have a say in this?”
  • “Are you asking me or telling me?”
  • “So, what do I get out of this?”
  • “Are you really expecting me to [restate the inequitable request]?"

When you ask such questions, you’re putting up a mirror, so the manipulator can see the true nature of his or her ploy. If the manipulator has a degree of self-awareness, he or she will likely withdraw the demand and back down.

On the other hand, truly pathological manipulators (such as a narcissist) will dismiss your questions and insist on getting their way. If this occurs, apply ideas from the following tips to keep your power, and halt the manipulation.

5. Use Time to Your Advantage
In addition to unreasonable requests, the manipulator will often also expect an answer from you right away, to maximize their pressure and control over you in the situation. (Sales people call this “closing the deal.") During these moments, instead of responding to the manipulator’s request right away, consider leveraging time to your advantage, and distancing yourself from his or her immediate influence. You can exercise leadership over the situation simply by saying:

“I’ll think about it.”

Consider how powerful these few words are from a customer to a salesperson, or from a romantic prospect to an eager pursuer, or from you to a manipulator. Take the time you need to evaluate the pros and cons of a situation, and consider whether you want to negotiate a more equitable arrangement, or if you’re better off by saying “no,” which leads us to our next point.

6. Know How To Say “No”Diplomatically But Firmly
To be able to say “no” diplomatically but firmly is to practice the art of communication. Effectively articulated, it allows you to stand your ground while maintaining a workable relationship. Remember that your fundamental human rights include the right to set your own priorities, the right to say “no” without feeling guilty, and the right to choose your own happy and healthy life.

7. Confront Bullies, Safely
A psychological manipulator also becomes a bully when he or she intimidates or harms another person.

The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. But many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their targets begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. This is true in schoolyards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

On an empathetic note, studies show that many bullies are victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses bullying behavior, but may help you consider the bully in a more equanimous light:

  • "When people don't like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.”—Tom Hiddleston
  • “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”—Paramhansa Yogananda
  • “I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It's the bully who's insecure.” —Shay Mitchell

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counseling, legal, law enforcement, or administrative professionals. It’s important to stand up to bullies, and you don’t have to do it alone.

8. Set Consequences
When a psychological manipulator insists on violating your boundaries, and won’t take “no” for an answer, deploy consequence.

The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to "stand down" a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the manipulative individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect.


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08-02-2015, 03:19 PM
Emotional Manipulation: What it is and how to deal with it

Have you ever wondered how somebody got you to do something you didn’t really want to do? Or why you ended up in a situation that you didn’t feel you chose?
If you frequently feel this way around your partner, then you may want to consider whether or not you are being emotionally manipulated.
Some people are highly skilled at manipulation. They learned it as a survival skill to get what they needed in life. But for many, manipulation becomes a habit that carries into adulthood when it’s no longer necessary.

What is Emotional Manipulation:

Manipulation is essentially the use of unclear agendas in attempts to get another person to do what you want. Both the manipulator and the person being manipulated may be unaware that this is occurring.

Let’s be clear: Manipulation is not the same as influence. We all use influence to advance our goals. This is part of healthy social functioning. Influence recognizes the rights and boundaries of other people, and is based on direct, honest communication. But with manipulation, there is a tendency to exploit others and disregard their feelings.

Who is vulnerable to emotional manipulation?

Anyone is subject to emotional manipulation by the highly skilled. But there are some common traits that people who are susceptible to manipulation share. Do any of these apply to you?

Feeling useful and loved only when meeting the needs of others. This goes beyond being nice. In this case, your sense of worth is tied up in doing things for others, to the point that you compromised your own well-being. Manipulators are drawn to this type of person.

Fear of expressing negative emotions. Do you go to any length to avoid a confrontation, or want things to be pleasant at all times? Manipulators have an easy task in this kind of relationship: all they have to do is to threaten to get upset.

Difficulty saying no. If you are afraid of the conflict that may arise when you say no, you play into the hands of the manipulator.

Weak sense of self. This means not knowing where you begin and the other person ends. Without a strong sense of self, it’s hard to trust your own judgment or to make decisions in your favor. This makes you a good match for manipulators.

Characteristics of Manipulators:

Just like people who are susceptible to manipulation, emotional manipulators also have some common traits.

They don’t care what you want. They may act as though they do, and may even think they do. But they can orchestrate the people and events around them in a way that other’s don’t notice.

They are charming so everyone will like them. They put on their best impersonation of a nice person around others. They continue this facade throughout your time together. This deception is how they make you out to be the crazy one.

They know what gets to you. They will use your vulnerabilities as ammunition. It’s your secrets and fears that they use to make you appear unstable and unreasonable.

They always seem to get what they want from others. They can do this with either outright “cons” or, more subtly, they create the appearance that what benefits them was your idea. They can also make other people feel sorry for them or use guilt to avoid responsibility.

Manipulative Techniques:

There are many techniques manipulators use to achieve their goals: positive reinforcement (praise, affection, gifts, and attention), negative reinforcement (yelling, silent treatment, sulking), or most effective: sporadic positive reinforcement. Like gambling, sporadic positive reinforcement creates excitement and anxiety. While you may win repeatedly, you lose money overall.

Another way to manipulate is obviously to lie. But this includes lying by omission. This is a subtle form of lying by withholding relevant pieces of information.

There are also more insidious ways of manipulation. While the standard guilt-tripping, shaming and blaming approach is easier to spot, these are harder to identify:
Rationalization (excuses), Minimization (“it was only a joke”), Diversion (not giving a straight answer), Covert intimidation (putting people on the defensive with veiled threats), Projection (saying things about you that you know are true about them), and Seduction (charm or flattery to lower your defenses).

Emotional Manipulation: How to Deal with it

While you may not be able to change the behavior of the manipulator, you can change your own responses to raise your integrity.

Here are some ways to handle emotional manipulation:

Be Aware. The first thing is to listen and look for the techniques I mentioned above.

Listen to your feelings. If you are feeling confused, minimized, or full of self-doubt, then you need to pay close attention to what your partner is saying and doing. No, you are not making a mountain out of a molehill. And no, you are not crazy.

Find the cause of your feelings. If you routinely feel guilty after speaking to a certain person, “rewind” the conversation in your mind and try to place where it started. It can help to write this down so you can notice a pattern emerging over time.

Notice when actions don’t match words. Don’t let words appease you. Listen to actions instead.

Know that the problem is them, not you. If you realize you’ve been hoodwinked,remember 1) it isn’t your fault and 2) they’re dealing with serious problems of their own. This provides context, but don’t misplace sympathy.

Assess Your Relationship. Weigh the outcome of addressing the issue. Anyone with the power to cause you emotional harm can make your life somewhat difficult. You may want to talk with friends first or get some reality-checks. Is the level of manipulation you experience best handled by your own inner work? Or is it worth confronting it head-on?

Assert Yourself. This starts with no longer responding to their techniques the way you used to. You say “no” if you don’t want to, or speak your mind even if they don’t like it. Work on feeling okay with how they might respond negatively. If it’s not yours, don’t pick it up.

Confront them. In this case, consider the angles before you move forward. When you point things out to a manipulator, they will rarely just admit it. Plus, you may be a little nervous and easily derailed. So be clear on what specific behaviors are bothering you and how it makes you feel. Follow up with a request to change the behaviors. When they start denying or minimizing, stick to your guns and keep your cool.

Taking power back in an emotionally manipulative relationship takes real commitment on a daily basis. It requires a little bit of vigilance at first.

But with practice, you’ll develop an inner strength that can never be lost.


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