Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Manipulative people: 5 strategies to deal with them

So... What we can do? We could know perfectly the Psychoananatomy of a manipulator but if we don’t have the right weapons to deal with him/her we’re very likely to end up falling into his/her net.

Below I summarize five strategies which not only allow us standing up in front of a manipulative person but also contribute to personal growth and psychological balance.

1. Express what you don’t like and how you feel

One of the techniques mostly used by manipulative people, consists in criticizing. When we criticize the behaviors, attitudes, decisions, skills ... of a person, that individual usually feels less secure and more likely to meet the demands of the manipulator. On other occasions, that person adopts a defensive attitude, almost aggressive, I would say, directed to counteract all the arguments that would bother him/her. On the first hand, manipulation is performed by managing our self-confidence, on the second hand, passes through the control of our emotions. One way or another, we are at the mercy of the manipulator.

What we can do?

Express your ideas simply and clearly. It is imperative that the other person realizes that there’s no chance to affect our judgment or reflective capacity by manipulating our self-confidence or emotions. Discussing aggressively the other's arguments, which often don’t even have a solid base, only leads us to sustain a useless argument where there is no possibility of mutual understanding.

We must always remember that our goal is not simply "not to be manipulated in any form" but to change the situation. Why this goal? Because the person trying to manipulate us somehow signifies something to us, and we are interested in reaching a positive agreement, either to maintain a good interpersonal relationship or to achieve the prosecution of some activity together. So, it is essential that our message will not only be understandable but also received with the minimum resistance from our partner.

We have to remember also, that expressing how we feel about something or someone, is a highly effective technique, if done correctly and respecting the other individual. When the counterpart hears us talking of our moods has the perception that communication flows, that is open and honest. And also, acting this way we "force" him/her to take our place, to be empathetic with our experience and think about the effects of his/her manipulative behavior.

2. Express yourself in first person

Quite often, the manipulative person takes the conversation to no man's land, using criticism without personalize, from a not compromising position, always leaving an escape hatch in case someone asks who’s referring to.

The best defense against this communication strategy is to customize, personalize, and customize again... we always have to talk in first person and seek clarification. An example might be: "It seems to me that you're referring to ... is it so? ". "Forcing" these persons to assume responsibility for their criteria usually disarms manipulators and ends their strategy.

3. Delineates responsibilities and assumes errors


Another of the techniques used by manipulators consists in stimulating the sense of guilt in their victims, making them feel responsible for everything they do, for what is happened, what happens or even what might happen.

Of course, sometime we have certain responsibilities, but our share of "fault" cannot tend to infinity. A very effective strategy is to define our responsibilities and even recognize our mistakes. We may be wrong, but nobody has the right to take advantage or lacerate our self-image because we made a mistake.

Recognizing our share of responsibility shows that we are mature, responsible for our actions and therefore less vulnerable to manipulation.

However, there remains one question: how to practice the three points above?

4. Express yourself firmly, with serenity and confidence

We already referred to one of the favorite weapons of manipulators, which is playing with the emotions of others. Therefore, it is essential to establish a dialogue from a confident, calm and steady posture.

We should note that the manipulative person does not care for a meaningful discussion but only wants to achieve his/her purpose, so if we advance some logical argument to contradict their ideas, probably they’ll resume their opinions and rethink them all taking profit from our arguments. Remember that even the best idea can be seen from different perspectives, and manipulators are very skilled in playing with possibilities.

Then ... What we can do?

Recognize that his/her ideas are valid, do not critiques his/her position directly, but even try to assume those ideas, for example with the phrase: "I understand your views and respect them, yet I think... " or perhaps, "Your perspective is appropriate; however, still exists the possibility that... " This way we put a pattern in conversation: the respect of each other's opinions and, providing value to his/her ideas, we confer value to ours.

Neurolinguistic programming experts also advise changing the annoying "but... " with phrases like “however, still ...” that are less antagonistic and better accepted.

Using this approach, although it works not like a wand, will undoubtedly help us controlling our emotions and transmit a serene image of us.

5. Feel free to refuse

If we have a solid base to refuse the idea proposed to us, then... denying is not a sin. Of course, we should not introduce banal excuses or explain our denial in a form which attract guilt on us. We have the right to express our disagreement and this allows us to set our limits and show them to people around us.

Accepting external demands, only to avoid a discussion, normally means give up a part of our individuality surrendering to manipulation. So just be congruent and say "No" every time it is appropriate.


The decision to fight manipulation is not an easy path to take, and for sure we’ll encounter many obstacles on it. Many times, the fight to manipulation involves separating from comfortable positions we have been assuming throughout our life, whether at work or in the family, but undoubtedly, it will allow us to be more congruent with ourselves and provide a way to achieve emotional balance.

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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books

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