How to Avoid Being Manipulated by People

In aiming to please others at your own expense, you risk being set up by less scrupulous persons who wish to take advantage of your good (or gullible) nature. Avoiding being manipulated by other persons is a skill, a skill of noticing when people go beyond accepting your help and care and begin to actively cultivate it in order to avoid having to do things for themselves or in order to get financial, emotional, intimate or other benefits from you. In order to avoid being manipulated in any such way, have your wits about you and a willingness to let go of persons who continue to take advantage of you.


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    Have the courage of your own convictions. If you live life scared, believing what you believe or that speaking up for what matters to you will result in a loss of family or friends, then you risk being manipulated. If you become a people pleaser rather than someone willing to express your feelings, wants, needs and interests clearly, then some people may feel it's okay to use you and sway you to their bidding. Instead, trust your own opinions and ideas and be willing to voice these when it is appropriate. Don't be ready to replace your core values and ideals; while it remains important to listen and learn from others, this should not be done at the expense of who you are and what drives you.
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    Realize that relationships are not as brittle as you might think. Fearing a loss of relationships is a commonplace concern but the reality is that few people will ever rupture a relationship so permanently as to never see or speak with you again. Such a person is the rarity and not someone you really want in your circle anyway, as clearly such a strong-headed person will be the one who ends up isolated and alone for casting off others so easily. Be aware that some people, especially in intimate situations or situations where the relationship is uneven, can try to use this fear to control you but on the whole, it's a bluff. If it should happen, there are many other people in the world who will love and support you without manipulating you in this way.
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    Notice controlling tendencies when you come across them. Some people learn very early on how to control others through emotional blackmail, tantrums, sulking, acting moody and questioning loyalty. Each of these acts is pure selfishness and is designed to keep another person on a tight rein. It is not healthy behavior and it is unkind. The sorts of things to watch out for include:
    • The person fails to understand your side of things, and always appears to "not get" your explanations. This is controlling because it allows the other person to insert their understanding rather than accepting your perspective.
    • The person sees life in black and white. Either things are terrific or terrible. It becomes impossible to find a middle ground with such a person and it's a way of controlling the perspective as well as the outcome.
    • You are often on the end of silent treatment, moodiness and possibly tantrums. Each of these behavior styles is aimed at controlling you by making you attempt to open up their shell and be nice to them again, to smooth over any potential for confrontation. You end up doing all the work, feeling all the anxiety and running after them.
    • You might find yourself asked a lot of questions, including ones intended to cause discomfort, wound you or embarrass you. Constant questioning without allowing the same in turn is about control.
    • The person relates every situation to generalizations understood to be accurate in general. The problem is that while this gives an aura of authority, it's a misuse of facts and figures, applied wrongly to the context and yet aimed at making you feel that the person must know what he or she is talking about because it sounds so true. Once again, this allows the person to control the situation and leave you reeling.
    • The person acts personally attacked whenever you discuss things that he or she isn't keen to open up about. This fake hurt can be really manipulative, as it is aimed at making you run around and make amends even though you've done nothing other than tipped over their own personal sacred cow in the most general of ways.
    • The person asks for help but then criticizes your efforts. When this happens constantly, it's about controlling, not needing help.
    There are many other traits of the controlling personality. Read Recognize a Controlling Person for more details on such a person.
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    Deal with your own uncertainty and any damage from being manipulated in the past. Childhood experiences of being manipulated by controlling parents can leave you more vulnerable to being controlled as an adult. Early adulthood experiences of controlling relationships can also have a similar impact for future relationships. It is important to repair the emotional damage and the confronting effects. This is about working out the ways in which you are primed to give in to controlling personalities and learning to put up boundaries that prevent such persons from triggering your over solicitousness.
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    Figure out what you need and want out of life. Then go for it. Respect the fact that you are an individual in your own right and you have the right to your own freedom and choices. You do not need another person to validate, accept or support these decisions about your personal direction in life, no matter how much pressure you may feel to conform to their preferences.
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    Be aware that there is a breaking point. If you continue to bow down to people, it will make you resent them more and more. Eventually, like the simmering pot left unattended, it will boil over and be far less easy to mop up than had you attended to your anger, frustration and resentment in a timely manner, well before things worsened. By acknowledging that it's impossible to live a lifetime in servitude to another's moods, intimidation and manipulative behavior, it can be easier to realize and accept that your own personhood matters as much as anybody else's.
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    Let your opinion and voice be heard. Be strong enough to admit when you're not happy with the way you are and the situation you're in, and to change it. No matter how much someone professes to love and care for you, if they're manipulating you at every turn, it's not healthy for either of you. Guilt, feeling bad, feeling ashamed and disliking yourself are not the "norm" for how you should feel all of the time; they are signs that you're being controlled and need to break free. Are you living the way that you want to or are you living according to someone else's preferences? Realize that they are living as they wish to, so why should it be any different for you?
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    Find your inner strength. No matter what happens when you make changes to stand up for yourself, you will thrive without manipulative persons. Either they will change to accommodate your stronger self or they will leave, but either way, you will be liberated to live life according to your own values and beliefs. Change is frightening but it's also healthy because it disrupts bad patterns that are in need of realignment. Know that you have the strength to forge ahead without being manipulated into relationships that stunt your own growth and maturity.

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Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions