Previously I blogged about 9 common tactics of manipulators and closed by asking you to think about whether you are easy prey for manipulation.

If you answered “yes”, it’s important that you understand that you will never change the manipulator when you confront their manipulative tactics directly. They will just switch to another tactic.

So if you want to change, change begins with you.

You must recognize that someone is attempting to manipulate you.

Awareness is the first step of all change. But you are not going to change the person doing the manipulating. You are going to change you. Manipulation is only effective if it works to control you. Therefore, you must begin to identify what’s going on in you that keeps you easily manipulated by others.

The three most common reasons we allow ourselves to be manipulated are:

Fear:  Fear comes in many forms. We may fear the loss of relationship, we may fear the disapproval of others, or we fear making someone unhappy with us. We also fear the threats and consequences of the manipulator’s actions. What if they actually succeed at doing what they threaten?

We’re too nice:  We enjoy being a giver, making people happy, and taking care of other’s needs. We find satisfaction, and our self-esteem and self-worth often comes from doing for others. However, when we don’t have a clear sense of self and good boundaries, manipulators sense this in us and exploit it to their own advantage.

Guilt:  We live under a lie that we should always put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own. When we try to speak up or put our own needs out there, manipulators often exploit us and attempt to make us feel like we are doing something wrong if we don’t always put their wants and needs ahead of our own. Manipulators define love as always doing what I want/need you to do. Therefore, if we have a different opinion, need, want or feeling, we are told we are unloving and then may feel guilty if we express or want to do something different.

What you need to overcome a manipulator’s tactics:

Develop a clear sense of self:  You need to know who you are, what you want, what you feel, and what you like and don’t like. You need not apologize for these things. They are what make you you. Often times we fear that if we state what we need, feel, think or like, we’re being selfish. But it isn’t selfish to know who you are or what you want. That’s healthy. Selfishness is demanding that you always get what you want or that other’s always put you first. In the same way, when someone else demands that of you, they are being selfish and disrespectful of your personhood.

Jesus knew who he was. Because of his strong identity in the Father’s Word, he was not manipulated when people wanted him to do things the Father did not call him to do. He also was not derailed when other’s defined him as crazy or demon possessed.

The ability to say “no” in the face of someone’s disapproval.

Healthy people live in reality. The truth is, when we can’t accommodate someone else’s desires or needs, they naturally will feel disappointed. That’s human, and most people will adjust and move on. Healthy people know that they don’t always get everything they want even if what they want is legitimate.

However, when we cannot tolerate someone else’s disappointment or disapproval when we say “no,” then it’s harder for us to say it or have boundaries. Manipulators capitalize on this weakness and use disappointment and disapproval in extreme forms to get us to do what they want.

Read Mark 1:29-39 and see how Jesus said no to Peter and his friends who were waiting to get healed. Do you think they felt disappointed? How did Jesus handle that?

Tolerate someone else’s negative affect (disappointment, sadness, and/or anger without backing down.

We can show empathy for someone else’s sadness or hurt or even anger when we can’t accommodate him/her without backing down and reversing our decision.)

For example, in many of the examples of manipulation I wrote in last week’s blog, a mother was attempting to get her adult child to come to her home for the holiday. If you don’t want to be manipulated into saying “yes” when you want to say “no,” you can say “Mom I know this is hard for you and you’re disappointed and sad that we won’t be there. I hope you will try to understand it’s just too difficult for us to travel that far over the holiday with all the children.”

Remember, a healthy relationship is characterized by mutual caring, mutual honesty and mutual respect. If you are in a relationship with someone who uses manipulation regularly, as you get stronger, you can invite him/her into healthy change simply by not allowing yourself to be manipulated. This will create a crisis of sorts in your relationship.

Either the manipulator will begin to back down and respect your time, your feelings, your desires and your needs, or they will move on to another person who is more easily manipulated.

8 Responses to "Countering the manipulator’s tactics"

  • Mary says:

    This is so refreshing to hear. I’ve been married to a manipulative man for almost six years. I prayed that I wasn’t going crazy because he really made me believe it was me. He has cheated, lied, and emotionally abused me for so long. My mother use to say, “what does he have over you, do you not love yourself”. I thought about my two young kids and my spirituality when I didn’t want to give up on my marriage, and believe me, he used that as a weapon to keep me. I just recently filed for divorce, I realize this man will never see what he is doing or has donej. I just pray that God knows that I gave it all I had. Pleasing God is my only concern..

  • Ifey says:

    I’m glad I found this article. It really hit things on the nail when I read the part about finding our self-esteem and self-worth in being too nice to others. For a long time, I would attract manipulators, drama and people that were really just a waste of time and could not figure out why. But now after reading this article, I know what to work on and not to feel guilty about setting up boundaries and standards. Once a strong foundation gets established, my lifestyle through Jesus Christ will help repel those type of people. God bless you!

  • Kate says:

    I came to realize the guy I was dating is really good at this. He lured me in showering my with love, attention, gifts. I felt loved and that is exactly what I want is to love and be loved. He targeted me. I do want to believe he does love me because he does say sorry when he acts wrong but at times I feel it’s because he is caught and has to because it’s right. I realized this when I was going through a tough time. We broke up and he was responsible for what was happening with me. I shut him out and told him I would take care of it. He could just relieve himself of the worry. He switched. Text me how I was doing and made effort until I found out he was also texting a friend he slept with while we were on break. This hurt and even more when I found out she was the one. He did not tell me but his roommate did. I had asked him in the past because he was weird about her and when I found out I went to him. Told him to be honest and I knew. It took five times ending in yelling til he jokingly admitted then I had to tell him a couple more times to just tell me. He keep asking how I knew and I told him I just did. He admitted and went straight to his roommate saying I admitted to gaining knowledge from the roommate, which I didn’t. After all said and done he told me he didn’t want to hurt me about her and they are just friends. I love and care about him but I feel when I bring a problem about him he starts in about me. I told him many times to focus on what I brought up and tomorrow we can chat all day about me! Any advice because this is all new for me and I know I figured a lot out but I love him. I want to work things out but have kept my distance since because I know it’s right. Help?

  • I think you already know what to do. If you have extra money and want to be generous, then do so, knowing that you are probably being used. However, if you do not have the extra money perhaps it’s time to say no to your boyfriend and tell him the truth. That you need your money to pay your own bills. He will respect that if he’s a mature person. Also if his mom truly needs money for something specific, perhaps you can offer to purchase it for her rather than fork over more money to him. My guess is it is not going for his mother’s needs but something he wants. This pattern does not bode well for a good future. Be wise and be careful.

  • anonymous says:

    I apparently have this problem. My boyfriend is very manipulative. The thingbis, he is going through a hard time. His mom has cancer, and he can’t work because he is caring for her. However, he asked me for money. It was only $40 so I said okay. Thena few days later he asked for 50. Okay. No big deal. Then $200, I should have said no then but I was not strong enough. Now hes asking for 30 more. I love him, but I told him no. Now hes trying everything he can to get me to say yes. I don’t know what to do. I love him, and I don’t want to leave him in his time of hardships, but I can’t keep giving him money, and I can’t keep telling him no. Any suggestions?

  • Anna, it’s time to say “NO!” If a person really cares about you and not just what you give to him, he will respect your no and still care about you. If he is just using you for what you can give him, then of course he’s not going to respect your no and keep pressuring you to say yes. So if you want a relationship with someone who truly cares about you, then you must have the freedom to say no. Being easy prey for manipulators will not be good for you in the long run. Givers attract takers and if you don’t learn early on in the relationship to say no to people, you will constantly be used and abused.

  • Megan Greenfield says:

    I lost a relationship because of a guy friend wanted to help me get over my co dependency and away from manipulative people I was around.

    Why/how did my relationship get ruined?

    Because he had me to the point that he needed my car and phone and any extra money and whatevet else and if I wwbt abd did anything for me I was selfish and if I were to hang out with anyone else they were using me.

    And he is still doing this to this day..

    And by tomorrow. It will be over.

  • Annna says:

    My boyfriend is like this, he uses me to support him, what do I do?

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