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How to Disarm a Manipulator

A key element to a happier life is being surrounded by an influential and supportive network of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, however, we can mistake influencers for manipulators and it can be difficult to tell the difference.

It is rare to find people who invest time and energy in something that does not have the potential for personal gain. Just like in business, we calculate the ROI (return on investment) of our friendships, maybe not in such a black and white way, but it happens.

A manipulator knows how to get what he needs with little effort from himself but at great cost to others. They find ways to work around the system (or you) to your advantage, so even though your ROI is low, you still take the time to invest in the relationship.

Manipulative people spend a lot of time and energy creating an environment in which they can control the outcome, so that their needs are constantly met by others. The biggest problem with a manipulative relationship is that often we don’t even know what is happening and we allow it to continue.

Here are 4 ways to disassemble a manipulator:

1 – Recognize the problem

It should come as no surprise that you have to acknowledge that there is a problem before you can solve it. The first sign of a problem is stepping out of an encounter with someone who is not feeling quite right and questioning the outcome. If you have questions and concerns about something you promised or agreed to, it might be time to start questioning the motives behind the request.

Here are some manipulators characteristics:

  • Your needs take precedence over those of others.
  • They expect you to always be available at any time.
  • They are often in a crisis that requires immediate action.

Another key indicator of a manipulative relationship is when other friends begin to notice the imbalance of give and take with another person. Pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from the outside by looking in.

2 – Ask questions

Part of a manipulative relationship is the endless demands placed on us. They are usually written in such a way that we should feel privileged by the opportunity to help.

Because a manipulator thrives on control, it helps to take some of that control away from him by refocusing on him by asking questions. The right kinds of questions can help them become aware of the one-sided value of the request and can indicate that you are aware of their behavior. For instance:

  • I see how this helps you. Can you help me understand how this benefits me?
  • Do I have anything to say about how this is going to progress?
  • Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?
  • Does it seem fair to you that you are asking me to do …?

When you ask probing questions, you are shedding light on the true nature of your request. If there is some self-awareness, then they will generally see the situation as it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.

3 – Say “No” and stand firm

You can only control your actions. That is important because you will not be able to change the behavior of a manipulator, but you can stop being his victim. That happens when you start saying “no”.

We are manipulated because we allow it and refusing to be manipulated is the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their responses. They are likely to say or do things that pull on the heartstrings. We must stand firm in our “no”, knowing that we are taking the first step to free ourselves from its influence.

4 – Use time to your advantage

Manipulators are good at what they do and will have all kinds of answers to our objections. They also know that their best chance to involve us in their plan is to get us to agree right away. Instead of committing to the request, we can try to use the time to our advantage.

“Let me contact you.”

That single statement returns the power of the situation to our court. It gives us the ability to really assess the situation and allows us to find a reasonable and respectful way to refuse if that is what we want to do.

We stay in a relationship for all kinds of reasons, but we should only stay in it if it serves us. And one of the ways our relationships serve us is that we serve them. So while someone important might need more attention and help from us because of a major life change, over time the relationship respects everyone’s needs.

It goes without saying that a manipulator does not accept this philosophy. Remember that it is okay to set limits and say “no” for our well-being. After all, we are best equipped to help others when we put ourselves first.

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