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A Handy Guide to Dealing With Manipulative People

For starters, know that it's OK to set boundaries.

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how to deal with manipulative people

Manipulative people can be found anywhere – among your friends, your colleagues or even among the people you date.

They know how to detect your weaknesses, use them against you, and convince you to do something that serves their own interests. Perhaps they’ll do it through positive tactics like insencere flattery and fake closeness, but more likely they’ll do it through more negative means like silent treatment, criticism, deception and emotional abuse.

Being on the receiving end of manipulation isn’t nice, so how can you deal with people with manipulators in everyday life? Here are some strategies you can use to stop manipulative people in their tracks and retain some of your own sanity:

“No” means no

When it comes to manipulative people, learn the power of saying “no” in a calm and diplomatic way.

You don’t need to qualify your “no” with a reason. In fact, providing a reason just gives the person information that they can use to get around your defenses and make you say “yes”.

At first the manipulative person might get annoyed and persistently try to convince you otherwise. No matter how much they push you, keep saying “no” and they’ll eventually get tired and give up.

Don’t automatically apologize

Manipulative people are very clever at turning the tables and making everything your fault, even when you know it wasn’t. They love to play the victim.

One minute you’re trying to talk to them about something they did wrong, the next minute you somehow find yourself apologizing.

Sometimes it’s tempting to just apologize to keep the peace, but you’re only giving them more control over you. Manipulators will often refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. Hold your ground and don’t take responsibility for something you know you didn’t do.

Try not to react

The more you try to defend yourself or explain your position, the deeper into their trap you go. Manipulative people want you to get emotional so they can see how you tick. They don’t care about your perspective or listening to what you have to say.

The more emotional you get, the more it makes them look like the calm and collected one. They create drama and chaos around them to make you look “crazy” and them look sane.

No matter how many accusations they throw at you, refuse to engage. Say “I’m sorry you feel that way” and walk away.

Don’t bother trying to correct them

Manipulative people can engage in all sorts of tactics. Even if you know they’re lying or gaslighting, confronting them will never result in the outcome you want. It’s highly unlikely that a manipulator will suddenly admit their behavior. By trying to correct them you’re engaging with them, and engaging with them just creates more and more anxiety, stress and drama. It’s a battle you’ll just never win.

Have clear boundaries

Boundaries in human relationships are really important, but manipulative people tend to prey on people-pleasers who have very weak boundaries.

If you have weak boundaries, try to write down things that you will and will not accept in your life. If the manipulative person keeps crossing one of your boundaries, know when to walk away and disengage. Decide ahead of time what the consequences will be if they don’t respect your boundaries.


Be clear about your perspective

Manipulative people have a habit of gaslighting, which can lead you to question yourself and question your perception of events. Before you know it, you’re apologizing and not believing in yourself. This is what they want because it allows them to have control over you. Be clear about your perspective and know that you have a right to be heard.

Take time out to make decisions

Sometimes manipulative people will demand that you give them an answer there and then. Don’t cave to pressure. If you need time to think about a particular agreement, then tell them “I’ll think about it”. This buys you time and is better than caving without thinking things through.

Keep your distance

If you can, it’s best to cut highly manipulative people out of your life and ignore them. Sometimes, however, this isn’t possible, particularly if they’re a colleague. In that case, it’s best to minimize your contact with them unless it’s absolutely necessary.

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