How To Deal with Manipulative People
by Rebecca Hieronymi
Relationships exist on a spectrum and it can sometimes be hard to tell when a behavior goes from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Have you ever had a friend, whom you love dearly, but maybe you’ve realized that they always get what they want, tear down your confidence and always play the victim? When a person acts this way, it might mean they are an emotional manipulator. So, what do you do? Here are some tips on how to spot emotional manipulation and put a stop to it.
1. Stop the Victimhood: Maybe you have noticed that no matter what happens, your friend always plays the victim. They might not actually know that what they’re doing is wrong, on the other hand, maybe they’re doing it on purpose. This is when the behavior becomes manipulative. Let them know that it’s okay to make a mistake so they can start to accept responsibility for their actions.
2. Level the Playing Field: Have you ever told a friend about a bad day only to have them tell you about the time they experienced a monsoon and an alien invasion in the same day? Manipulators get their confidence by putting others down and belittling their issues and successes. Tell them, “Hey, I appreciate you telling me your story and I’m glad you can empathize, but I just need some advice or comfort, or someone to listen.” By accepting what the manipulator is doing, you’ve taken away their power.
3. Lessen the Load: Oftentimes, manipulators will pretend to be helpless and put all the pressure on you. You can combat this by slowly putting them into positions of decision-making or power. Tell them that you’re uncomfortable with the weight they put on your shoulders. They might be mad at first, but over time they may start to appreciate and enjoy taking action.
4. Talk About It: The classic emotional manipulator is known as a “triangulator.” They will say anything to get someone on their side, even break up relationships and families by pitting people against each other. The more support they have, the more powerful they feel. The best way to stop this is to keep communication open. Keep talking to your friends and family no matter what the “triangulator” is saying, this way you are all on the same page.
5. Stand Your Ground: This can be difficult is the manipulator is someone that steamrolls over everything and everyone. Like the Hulk, manipulators can sometimes use anger and even violence to get their way. It might be scary but, keep calm, stand your ground and don’t get pushed over. Wait for them to get tired of yelling and then have a discussion. It also may be wise to walk away, especially if you feel that you’re in physical danger.
6. Maintain Healthy Skepticism: If someone always has to make it seem like their life is perfect, don’t buy it. If they say something wrong, call it out. But you don’t need to point out all of their flaws, nobody’s perfect.
7. Change Your Language: Miscommunication happens in relationships from time to time, but if you’re always getting blamed for getting the message wrong, it could be a sign that you’re being manipulated. Over time, this treatment can make you afraid to speak up. Try speaking in “I feel” sentences, so they can’t twist your words easily.
8. Know What You Want: Flirting is fun, most of us do it and usually like experiencing it. However, if someone is using flirtation to get admiration without regard to anyone else’s feelings, this is a sign it’s being used as a manipulation tactic. These manipulators use their charm and sexuality to get what they want. Don’t fall for their wit and charm, know what you want and don’t get swept away by their flirtatious attitude.
9. Stand Up, emotionally: Manipulators that are harsh, heavy, and put people down to get what they want often have insecurities themselves. Stand up to them and hold your ground. Know who you are and don’t let them drag you down into insecurity.
Sometimes a manipulator just won’t stop, in that case, we recommend you cut them out completely. If you feel like they’re too important to let go of, or if you feel you might be physically unsafe, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or CSNA advocate. If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Please contact us locally at 256.574.5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000, or at our website www.csna.org. Advocates provide free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.