Most of us want to believe the best about other people. It’s hard to identify the unhealthy behaviors when we want to believe (and love) someone; but you can learn to spot, and deflect, manipulative behaviors.
Spotting Manipulative Behavior
We are ALL manipulative to a certain extent, and usually we are completely unaware of the behaviors. The extent to which a person is manipulative is a product of how they learned to get what they wanted as children. In short, manipulative behaviors worked then, so they must work now… and usually they do, since the tactics have been perfected over the years. We all fight, in one way or another, for what we want and need. Some people are direct, and others are subtle. However, manipulators put everyone else’s needs beneath their own. Their behavior exhibits an inability/unwillingness to see your side or be sensitive to your needs and wants. The manipulator is completely focused on his or her own agenda!
Try not to be judgmental. Instead, be compassionate while standing firm on your values. Sometimes, recognition of manipulative behavior helps you deal with it.
Beware – the intentions are quite aggressive, even if the methods are subtle and seemingly benign (even disguised as caring and nurturing)!
Covert aggression is the most common tactic (as opposed to overt aggression, which is a power struggle that is open and sometimes physical). Covert aggression is subtle and emotional. Anyone can be vulnerable to psychological tactics. We all have insecurities and weaknesses and if someone recognizes your “buttons” and learns to push them, they can get their way most of the time.
If you’ve ever seen a child harassing parents with incredibly persistent manipulative tactics, you might wonder how it’s possible that the parents don’t know they’re being manipulated and how it’s possible they allow such obnoxious behavior from their child. Manipulators are quick to go for the weak spot – and the victim is often unaware of their own “buttons.”
Listen to your intuition. If your gut tells you that someone is trying to have their way or gain power over you, you unconsciously go on the defensive. Be aware of the way your body communicates – it always lets you know when something feels wrong, even if you try to rationalize it!
The problem is, the manipulator’s methods can be so gentle that you second-guess your instincts and give in. It’s easy to doubt and blame yourself for daring to believe what our gut tells us. Learning to listen to, trust and act on your intuition will help keep you from being victimized by a manipulative person.
Develop your intuition, self-mastery and self-awareness using the Silva Method techniques. Do you know your ‘buttons’? Do you have the self-esteem to say no when your intuition waves red flags? Do you recognize destructive relationship patterns?
You do not have to apologize for saying NO. You must uphold your boundaries. No means no! The message to the manipulator is, “I said NO. Have a tantrum if you want but no means no. Deal with it.”
The answer from you is always NO if the request violates your personal boundary, no matter how good (for you) the manipulator makes it sound. If you intuitively feel that it’s wrong, the answer is NO. No apologies. Just NO.
The only way to get the behavior to stop is to train a manipulative person that manipulation don’t work on you. It will stop when the manipulator realizes they’re trying to manipulate a brick wall.
Manipulative people are used to getting their way. They often react with anger or drama when you say no. You can deflect anger by telling them you’ll give them an answer later. Later, the answer is still NO.
Spotting manipulative tactics means training yourself to look beyond the questions, baiting, misdirection and disguised attacks.
1. Confrontational statements intended to start (and win) an argument:
- How could you…?
- I thought we agreed…?
- Why do you/why don’t you…?
- I thought you said you would…?
These statements are worded to immediately put you in the role of the troublemaker and the manipulator in the role of the victim. You can deal with this effectively by NOT allowing yourself to get dragged into a fight: “Let’s talk about this later when you’re not so upset.”
2. Guilt trips. You’ll get accused of doing or not doing something; again, you’re portrayed as the aggressor and the manipulator as the victim:
- If you loved me…
- A decent person would…
- Don’t you care if…
- I can’t believe you would…
Deal with this by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or, say nothing, or deflect until later.
3. Questions that don’t offer you a way out – you think you have options, but you really don’t. Unscrupulous salespeople often use these tactics that don’t give you an option to say, “no thanks”:
- Would you like the 10-day program or the 20-day program?
- Shall we make the appointment for 9 or 10 tomorrow?
- Would you like to add anyone to this policy at a discounted rate?
Deal with this by deferring your answer to later: “I need to think about these options.” or, be direct: “No thank you, I’m not interested.”
4. Lying is a skill many manipulators have perfected. Listen to your intuition! It can be hard to spot a lie but you can trip up a manipulator by asking direct questions; if you get hesitation, evasive answers, diversions, anger or quick defensiveness, you’re probably dealing with a lie.
5. Manipulators love to play the victim. They project themselves as the do-gooders and the protectors, yet they always put YOU in the hot seat when something doesn’t go their way. They go from knight in shining armor to damsel in distress to dragon in a heartbeat… all the while using tactics such as covert intimidation, shaming, guilt-tripping and blaming YOU.
The tactics are not always easy to recognize. Trust your intuition. Heed the intuitive red flags. You’ll have more self-esteem, confidence, and a better ability to spot and deal with manipulation.