manipulative people, dealing with difficult people 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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7 thoughts on “Strategies to Cope with Manipulative People”

  1. This is a big problem. For many people, this scenario, “Oftentimes it happens under your nose” and you don’t realize it happened until after the fact, is all too common. How do you deal with something you don’t realize until the moment is over? Your article points out this fact so that people understand what’s happening, how and why it happens, and can prepare in advance to prevent it from happening to them again.

    1. That’s a really good question. It varies from situation to situation. However, the same person may repeat the process. That’s the part about being prepared. Thanks, Eva!

  2. I am my own worst enemy in these types of situations. I am now on the receiving end of a cold breeze from my coworker because I went to my management and complained. I then feel bad and blame myself and feel guilty. But I do now recognize I have to work on NOT blaming myself or feeling guilty. Now I find myself in the mode of preparing for further manipulation from the coworker. I’m telling myself to be calm and keep things on a professional level and working on “saying no,” and “not getting involved” anymore than I have to.

    1. Great work, Rebecca. It sounds like you set some boundaries to care for yourself. It sometimes feels a little odd but self care is so important and will help reduce stress. Thanks so much for posting!

  3. I am getting a pretty negative attitude towards other people and now construe everyone as being manipulative just because they always want something. I live alone but work outside the home. I dislike the phone to righ because someone will want something. At work, I dislike seeing most people come into the office because they all want something. How can I get a better attitude?

  4. In fact, that is why I found this website–because of my view of manipulative people. Not only do I need to know how to deal with them, the people above me need to know because they obviously are losing the battle and making this place pretty dysfunctional. THerefore, I am seeking advice for me and the people above me at work..

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