Feel Like You're Being Manipulated?

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 01-09-2016

You probably are...


Our gut feeling is a wonderful thing.  It’s a primeval safety mechanism specifically designed to keep us out of harm’s way, and yet it’s something that we so often completely override. 


I know without a doubt that whenever I’ve made a mistake, especially in my judgement of whether a person or situation is good or bad/right or wrong for me, it’s because I’ve overridden my basic gut instinct. 


We instinctively know if something isn’t right.  Yet we often choose to ignore it, finding ways to rationalise what we know deep down to be wrong.  Subconsciously, we process information on so many levels, clearly spotting incongruences and we yet we consciously choose to convince ourselves that everything is/will be fine.  This is especially true when we come to being manipulated by others.


I recently had a client whose situation clearly demonstrated this.  She managed all the household finances.  Her husband completely delegated that responsibility to her.  However, whenever she tried to talk to him about his excessive spending, he would blow up, shouting at her, causing her to retreat without resolving the issue.  It got to the point that their debts were becoming unmanageable, yet she still felt that she couldn’t raise it for fear of his explosive reaction. 


It was only when I asked her why she thought he reacted that way and what his gain (conscious or subconscious) might be for this behaviour, that she suddenly realised that he had been manipulating her.   She had a real lightbulb moment as she came to the conclusion that he blew up because he knew she hated conflict and would do anything to avoid it.  By stopping her from raising financial issues, he could remove himself from any responsibility for his excessive spending and their dire financial situation and continue in self-imposed ignorance.


Following our conversation, she calmly wrote down everything she wanted to say to her husband (including her desired outcome) and for the first time.  She decided that no matter how heated the discussion got, she wouldn't let him off the hook.  She eventually had the conversation with him (it took a couple of attempts), and whilst she found it uncomfortable  and he did try all his usual intimidation techniques, she stuck to her plan and refused to back down.  As a result, he finally gave up and sat and listened and they were able to design a plan for how they were both going to deal with their debts. 




If you find yourself unable to deal with certain situations because you think the other person will ‘blow up' or it will cause and argument or you're frightened of how they will react, it’s likely that you’re being manipulated.  The problem will not go away until you do something about it.  Others treat us the way that we allow them to. 

No matter how difficult it may be, you need to do something differently and talk to them about it.  It doesn’t have to be in a confrontational way. 


Traits of a Manipulator


  • They don’t accept responsibility for their actions. 
  • They are quick to blame other people
  • They deflect or turn problems back on to you, especially if you confront them.
  • They react negatively when you try to raise problems with them, effectively making you think twice about bringing something up.
  • They often manage to get you to do things that you don’t feel comfortable with doing and you can’t figure out why.
  • They can be charming and charismatic (at least at first).
  • They make promises that they don’t keep.
  • They quickly find out your values and use them against you (e.g. my client’s partner used her strong value of ‘trust’ against her).


How to recognise if you’re being manipulated:


  • If someone or something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.
  • If you feel uncertain about someone’s motives, dig deeper.  There’s a reason for why you feel that way.
  • If you don’t feel that a partner/friend/situation is right for you, it/they probably aren’t.  Be honest with yourself.
  • If you don’t think that someone has your best interests at heart, it’s likely that they don’t.
  • If you feel that you’re being manipulated … you probably are!


How to deal with a manipulator:


  • Confront them, this is much easier to do if you have a plan:
    • Think first about your outcome.  What do you want to achieve as a result? For example, a change in behaviour, to find out the truth, to get the person to help?  Be as clear and succinct as possible about what you want.  If you’re not clear, they won’t be.
    • Include the item(s) that you want to discuss and why they are important to you. 
    • It’s likely that you already know how they’re going to react, so include in your plan how you’re going to deal with it when they do.
    • Write down any facts that you have to back up your thoughts.
    • Ask lots of questions – dig deep.  You might want to prepare these too.
  • Don’t let them get off the hook.  If they blow up, don’t let it derail you, be prepared. 
  • If they try to turn the situation back on you or blame someone/something else, don't let them.  This is a tried and tested manipulation technique.  Go back to your plan and stick to it.
  • Do something different – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.  Think of a different way to approach the issue.
  • Don’t take what they say at face value.  If your instinct says that they are lying, ask for proof.  If you do, it’s likely that they’ll blow up and say something like, “There’s no point us carrying on if the trust has gone!”  Again, this is a tactic most manipulators use to make you feel sorry for questioning them and to throw you off guard.


Finally, once you recognise that you're being manipulated, it can give you power.  You know what the manipulator is trying to do, so you’re actually in the position of power, not them!  Stop letting them get away with it, make a plan and take action.


If you would like help with this or anything else, give us a call for a free no-obligation conversation on how we can help you. 

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