Manipulative behavior can sometimes be tough to detect when dealing with difficult people. Oftentimes it happens under your nose, realizing it took place after the fact. Anxiety can rise, leaving a stressful situation in relationships. Some manipulations are a little less subtle and become more noticeable when you increase awareness of another person’s communication pattern.
I was working with a client once, we’ll call her Chloe. Chloe was experiencing a great deal of stress with a relationship with a close friend. “I just don’t know what happens. Before I know it I am doing something that I don’t want to do. I just say yes to her without thinking it through.” Chloe was in a coping skills group, learning to say no to manipulative people in her life. Through her continued work, Chloe began to define what she liked and wanted in her life. She began to become aware of how pervasive this behavior pattern was throughout work and home, and how closely it was tied to her anxiety.
Do you know of folks in your life that fit this description? If so, here are more strategies in dealing with manipulative people:
The Guilt Button. Using guilt is one of the most common forms of manipulation. Playing a martyr role or using self-pity can push your guilt button. An example is when you are setting boundaries and saying no to a co-worker or family member doesn’t honor your request. The manipulation begins when the other person pushes you to say yeas instead. Self awareness can prevents you from being placed in an unwanted situation. Be prepared to stand your ground.
Control is the Goal. People who use manipulation can be aware of weaknesses or soft spots. Manipulators have developed this skill as a way to coping with their own problems or frustrations. They may resort to tactics that trigger you respond in a vulnerable way. For example, if the manipulator brings up a situation in which you may have hurt them. This action can certainly knock you off guard. It won’t serve you to constantly beat up on yourself. Forgiveness of self and others is the key.
Who Can Change the Relationship? The manipulator has to be willing to change how they approach relationships. Just like any other behavior, admitting there is a problem and being willing to change is the beginning of a better relationship in this case. What if someone doesn’t have insight or wants to change at all? You then have choices to make, depending on the circumstances of your relationship.
First, understand the relationship dynamics. Be clear about what happens to you when you are in a manipulative encounter. Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you want to keep peace and agree? Be aware of your behavior, because that’s the part you can change. Trying to change someone else is futile.
Limit your exposure to the manipulative person. Honestly, there can be so much anxiety just anticipating being around someone you feel uncomfortable with.
Lastly, you may choose to confront this person but be aware of possible backlash. Be prepared for possibility of blaming, denial and rationalization responses. Make sure you have adequate support in preparing for confrontation from health professionals, especially if it is a deep rooted issue.
Be aware of your own patterns and how you respond to manipulators. You hold the choices to change the situation at hand.
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