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Manipulators and Your Role in Their Game: How to recognize & remove manipulation PART 2

Updated: Mar 21, 2022


In the last episode we broke down and defined manipulators, along with the tactics often used to make you acquiesce to their blatant and/or subtle demands. In review, classic manipulators are often people we know personally and/or who are in position of power. Their main objective is to manipulate others to get what they want by a number of tactics to identify weaknesses, take advantage of them, and use it to get others to do something that serves their best interests. The type of people who engage in this kind of behavior may have a number of known or unknown causes including, but not limited to:

  • Interpersonal dynamics

  • Personality characteristics

  • A dysfunctional upbringing

  • Attachment issues

  • And mental health conditions

Whether you are the manipulator or the manipulated, being able to recognize the behavior is imperative for your personal growth and for the health of your relationships. Today we will not only learn how to address manipulation, but we’ll break down 6 immediate ways to recognize it and what to do when a person refuses to acknowledge and/or change their behavior.


 

The list of tactics used by manipulators is rather lengthly, but I’ve pin pointed six specific ways to be unequivocally sure you’re dealing with a manipulator. The first is one that many overlook, and that is:


Your intuition and Gut: How do you feel around this person? If you consistently feel like you’re being mistreated, you probably are. How a person makes you feel is a strong indicator of the health of that relationship. Do you feel drained, fearful, powerless, doubtful, frustrated, or unheard? These are all red flags that your body signals to your gut that this relationship doesn’t feel positive or healthy. The second is:


Withdrawal and the Silent Treatment: A manipulator may choose to take away their attention, respect, love and affection until you behave and do what they want or until you break down and apologize for something you didn’t do, just to appease them. They ignore you and purposely create distance as a means to control the relationship. The third immediate way to spot manipulation is:


Isolating Behavior: With this tactic, a manipulator attempts to dominate your time and alienate you from your support system. They typically don’t like you to have friends or associates, especially ones that they don’t know, and are overly demanding of your time. Manipulators use this tactic as a means to make you dependent on them. When you feel like they are your only option, you cling closer to the very thing that is hurting you. As a manipulator becomes more emboldened and or desperate, their tactics become more intense and malicious. The fourth way to spot manipulation is:


Guilt and Shaming: Using your mistakes and/or weakness as a means to guilt you into behaving or not behaving a certain way is a classic move of a manipulator. As a way to hide their intentions and achieve a desired result, they make you feel guilty and play the victim. A manipulator will usually start to make you feel guilty for simply raising concerns. They take on a disproportionate defensive approach and divert the blame on you in order to avoid taking responsibility or to justify their actions. The fifth happens to be my personal pet peeve, and that is:


Gaslighting: This tactic is used when a manipulator attempts to twist reality so you second-guess yourself. They may lie, blame, or minimize your feelings. Their goal is to make it seem as if you misunderstood or misremembered, which allows them to deny any wrong doing and get away with something that would otherwise be inappropriate. This tactic is particularly dangerous because it is an attack on your mental health; making you start to think the mistreatment isn’t so bad, or that it’s “all in your head.” The last immediate way to tell if someone is manipulating you is especially serious because it has to do with physical safety:


Threats and Coercion: Using any forceful means whether emotional or physical to get a desired outcome is not only manipulation, but abuse. Whether a person threatens to hurt you or themselves, threats of violence, blackmail, etc are unacceptable and not to be taken lightly.


 

It’s important to set boundaries in any relationship; especially if someone is being manipulative. If one of more of these behaviors persist in your relationships, here are some helpful ways to address the behavior, and how to set boundaries when a person refuses to acknowledge and/or change their manipulative behavior. As cliche as it sounds, effective communication is key.


Plan to set aside a time to have a discussion with the person about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t according to how you wish to be treated. When you do so, it’s imperative that you remember to be calm and keep your tone to a non-threatening level. When someone is yelling or irrational, the best way to defuse the situation is to be in control of you by speaking rationally and calmly.


Resolving manipulation can be tricky—especially if one or both parties have a tendency to avoid having honest discussions. Because we know manipulators rarely if ever take responsibility for their actions, you’ll need to have specific examples of how their behavior effects you.

Don’t get caught in a back and forth. Try your best to stick with “I statements” to avoid critical or blaming language. It’s sure to put them in a defensive state of mind rather than a receptive one. Instead, focus on framing your conversation in terms of how you've been affected by their behavior. Anyone who claims to care about you should also care about your emotional well being. They should be willing to listen to your concerns whether the behavior was done directly or indirectly.


If they aren’t you must be willing to set specific boundaries to protect your emotional and mental health.

For example, if the person denies there are any issues in the relationship and that you are “crazy,” “overreacting” or "too sensitive," you might say, "I won’t continue our conversation if you continue to choose to ignore what I'm saying.” If they become angry, defensive, and unwilling to listen, you need to ask yourself if you want to stay in relationship with this person. Be sure to set specific consequences if boundaries crossed as well. For instance, if the person continues to gaslight or use any of the tactics discussed, you need to communicate that you can no longer be accessible to someone who chooses not to honor your feelings and treat you with respect. Being a good listener is also helpful. When you keep calm, don’t interrupt, stay honest, give clear examples, and don’t minimize your concerns, you can communicate how you feel in a productive way.


It’s important to realize that you can’t control anyone but you can limit their access to you. When manipulation persists, a therapist can help you decide where to set healthy boundaries and how to know when to walk away from a manipulative person if necessary. Manipulation might seem like an easy or "natural" way to deal with a difficult issue or to get things to go the way you want them to, but it is hurtful and damaging to your relationships. Honest, vulnerable communication is the key to any healthy relationship. If you are experiencing manipulation in a relationship, don't minimize the behavior. Take steps to address the behavior before it becomes worse. Discuss the issues with the other person, seek help from a mental health professional, create boundaries, follow up those boundaries with clear consequences and most importantly, treat yourself with care and compassion. You deserve to have healthy relationships and that starts today!


If you need someone to talk, anonymous, confidential help, is available 24/7. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233




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