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Managing Manipulation

When people close to us are being manipulative, it's never easy to handle. We feel torn between the love and respect we have for them and the unreasonable and often inappropriate expectations they place on us.

We're all manipulative in some sense. We all find ways to get what we want. But, don't confuse being persuasive with being manipulative. Fine line, I know.

Whereas being persuaded leaves your free will in tact, being manipulated destroys it. It eliminates your options and leaves you no (apparent) choice. You walk away from such an encounter with feelings of being treated unfairly, feeling angry, guilty, confused, and afraid.

People who do manipulate wouldn't see what they're doing as manipulation. The action of manipulation is shrouded in entitlement. They've convinced themselves that their request is justified, usually based on something they've done for you. You owe them, so now they can place this unwanted burden on you.

Manipulation is also an effective defense tactic - a way for someone to force love or acceptance - a sad way to fulfil their needs yet not realising their behaviour is really having the opposite effect. It brings them a false sense of security and approval.


The person speaks in hyperboles. This simply means that they're exaggerating the issue and the role you'll be playing to alleviate the situation or to meet their need.

TIP: Listen out for the emotionally-laden expressions and sometimes even outbursts.

The person sets an ultimatum. They make it out to be a time-sensitive issue. You HAVE to help them BEFORE then, or THIS will happen!

TIP: Notice when urgency arises in their tone and language.

The person instills fear. They use scare tactics to force you into action. They shift your focus from things being reasonable to things being inevitable. There is a danger in not meeting their needs, either for you, or for them. It's a crisis!

TIP: Notice your specific emotions and feelings that arise during the conversation.

The person is self-centred. As they speak you soon realise that their focus is skewed towards themselves. They do not realise the unreasonable, unrealistic, and even inappropriate demands they put on you.

TIP: Notice if you feel that your will to choose is being limited or eroded.

The person has pressure of speech. This means they talk way too much in a frenzied and urgent manner. They jump from one concept to another, using the tactics outlined above to coerce you into meeting their expectation. They leave little or no room for you to respond.

TIP: Notice the way the person is speaking, if there's an urgency and pressure with which they're communicating.

The person sets you up. They take lead in the conversation, directing your thoughts by reminding you of what they've done for you in the past. They direct your emotions in the same way. They're brilliant in setting up the entire demand in such a way that, by the time they're finished, all that's left for you to say is, 'okay, sure I'll do it'.

TIP: Notice the setup before, or at least while it's happening. Always remember you have a right to be treated respectfully.

The person is flattering. Most of the time, but not always, the person will be charming and flattering. They'll use specific words and create an emotional state to direct the conversation to their advantage.

TIP: Watch out when you're feeling flattered by someone.

How to effectively manage manipulation


Being in the right mindset will make all the difference when encountering a manipulative person. Sometimes it comes as a surprise when someone is being manipulative, other times we know exactly what to expect. You can set your mind, before, or even during the encounter. In stead of your mind being set by the other person, you have the incredible power to choose, for example, in stead of having a mindset of feeling powerless, you intentionally choose to be resilient and understanding.


Every time you say 'yes' to something, you say 'no' to something else. Or, put differently, every time you say 'yes' to a manipulative person, you say 'no' to yourself and your own free will. Boundaries fix this problem. Decide beforehand what you're willing to do or not, give or not, say, or not. Boundaries protect you, and also the other person.


Your focus will direct the flow of your energy. Decide what you'd like to focus on. For example, in stead of focusing on being manipulated, you could decide to focus on the outcome of the situation: I will walk away from this feeling respected and clearly understood.

Self Talk

This is part of establishing a strong mindset. Asking yourself questions help you to become objective. For example, you could ask yourself: what does this person really want / need? You can also tell yourself: let me stand back and take a look at what is happening here - something doesn't feel right.


In the heat of the moment you have the power to change your physiology. You might feel conflicted, have sweaty palms, feel anxious, breathing shallow and quickly, shoulders drawn in with a bowed posture. You can change this. Sit, or stand up straight. Take a deep breath. Keep on breathing deeper and slow it down. Relax your shoulders. Relax your hands. Feel how your emotion shifts from being manipulated to being resilient and in control.


Express your feelings and how what the person has said is making you feel. For example, 'I can hear that you need help with this but the conversation has left me feeling anxious and as if I have no say in the matter'.

Respond, don't react. Responding is thoughtful and controlled. Reaction is more instinctual and defensive. Using your mindset, boundaries, focus, and self talk, you can decide how you'd like to respond to these demands.

Be clear in stating your boundaries and saying no. Help them to clearly understand that you're not able to fulfil in their specific need or demand.

Take control back of the situation by asking them what could be another way for them to achieve what they want or the outcome they're looking for.


Remember, you don't have to give anyone an answer in the moment. Diffuse the situation by telling them (not asking them) that you need time to think about their request.


Don't be afraid to confront the person when you feel they're transgressing your boundaries. Tell them directly, 'you're overstepping my boundaries now and I don't feel comfortable with this'. Confrontation might lead to conflict. Conflict leads to clarification of boundaries.

Danger signs

Be aware when things get out of hand. Hopefully in most cases it won't, but manipulation can also play out as obsessive love, repressed aggression or even someone stalking you - in person or online.

Maturity is the ability to absorb someone else's immaturity

Mostly, manipulative behaviour stems from immature ego needs, In the same way a small child might cry or tantrum to get attention, a toy or something sweet, many adults employ the same way to get what they want. See manipulation for what it is. Someone looking for love and attention in an unhealthy way.

Part of being mature is understanding how important it is to protect yourself and to love yourself.

From that place, manipulation has no more hold on you.

You are free to be.

Free to love.

Free to help.

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