7 Smart Ways To Handle Manipulation

Easy Strategies To Stand Up For Yourself Against Manipulators

To handle manipulation, postpone your answer to give yourself time to ponder, question their intent, look disinterested by not reacting, establish boundaries and say no firmly, maintain your self-respect by not apologizing when they blame you for their problems, and apply fogging to acknowledge any mistakes and end the conversation.

If you have a good nature, pleasant and are easy going it is quite likely you are often a victim of manipulation without even knowing it. This doesn’t mean you should stop being a caring and nice person. It just means you need to protect yourself from intended or unintended exploitation from others.

If you don’t understand what manipulation looks like then it is harder to identify when it happens to you. When someone uses a manipulative technique on you and they get what they want, they will most likely use the technique again and again on you in the future.

The manipulator often doesn’t understand he or she is behaving manipulatively. Often it is not even manipulation but natural human behavior that may result in you acting against your interests.

On the other hand, you might not be aware when you are inadvertently manipulative with others. These behaviors are not necessarily the reflection of bad nature of the other person. However, it is our responsibility to establish our personal limits and to stand up for ourselves.

The Trojan Horse teaches an important lesson on identifying manipulation.

The Trojan horse is a famous Greek story about how Greeks manipulated Trojans to win the war.

The war between Trojans and Greeks had been going on for a decade and the Greeks were not successful. But then the Greeks had an idea.

Since horses were sacred to Trojans, the Greeks built a large beautiful hollow wooden horse made from a wood that was considered sacred to the Trojans. They left the horse outside the gates of Troy as a peace gift to admit defeat to the Trojans and give an offering to Athena, the goddess of war. Some of the Greek army men hid inside the horse while others pretended to leave the area.

The Trojans found the horse and took it inside city gates as a symbol of their victory over the Greeks. They celebrated and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, the Greek army emerged from the Trojan horse, killed the guards, and opened the doors to the guarded Trojan city so that the rest of the Greek army could come in. They massacred the Trojans from inside their city and finally won the war.

The term “Trojan horse” is now associated with deceptive subversion introduced from the outside, like manipulators often do.

The lesson of the Trojan horse myth is to be suspicious of large random gifts from people you don’t have a good relationship with. It could be an attempt to manipulate you into their goals without your consent.

How to know if you are being manipulated.

The first step to stop being manipulated is to identify when it happens.

It can be hard to know when someone is trying to manipulate you (intentionally or not) because they excel at getting people emotionally involved in their narratives and stories.

Here are some signs to watch out for.

  • The interaction makes you feel disempowered, guilty, or helpless.
  • They blame you for making their life worse.
  • They give you gifts for no good reason and then expect something in return.
  • They pressure you to respond to a demand quickly.
  • They create drama and put you as an actor in the middle of it.
  • They accuse you of being a bad person or doing bad things.
  • They behave aggressively, threaten, or disrespect you.
  • They don’t take no as an answer.
  • They try to confuse, overwhelm, or destabilize you by exposing you to your weaknesses.
  • They give you the silent treatment, ignore you, or play dumb.

7 smart ways to handle manipulation.

One of the best ways to handle manipulation is to avoid manipulative people. However if you can’t do that, here are 7 strategies to help you disarm and deflect the manipulator’s attempt to control you.

These strategies reduce confrontation and help you protect yourself.

1. Postpone your answer

Don’t give them an answer on the spot. Give yourself time to ponder even if they pressure you. For example say, “I’ll think about it get back to you later.” Remember the tight timelines are their problem, not yours.

A professional was pressured by a colleague to give him an exception letter for a personal need he had. He called and emailed the professional several times that day saying that the letter was urgent and that it had to be done that same day otherwise he’d be negatively affected. The professional needed to consult with other parties first and he had other priorities.

So, the professional calmly and firmly said that this colleague had to wait 1 week if he wanted the letter and that it was not their obligation to do it for him. At that point, the colleague stopped forcing his personal timelines on to the professional.

2. Question their motivations

Manipulators often hide their real motivations because they don’t like to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors. Therefore, a great strategy is to force them to reveal their real motivations by asking them clarifying questions like “what do you mean by that?” or “what is your objective with this?”

Their response will usually be to back off because they don’t want the spotlight to be on them. If they try to put the spotlight back on you with blaming or other tactics, then repeat your clarifying questions.

3. Show disinterest

Manipulators are fueled by people’s emotive reactions. They thrive and motivate when they realize that they can control your emotions because that is how they know they manipulate you to do what they want.

They lose interest in you and when you look bored and don’t react. Don’t express emotions like anger, fear, nervousness, impatience, hope, or excitement. Keep a neutral demeanor, calm voice, and look uninterested in their game.

4. Impose boundaries

Have a fluid and firm “no” without any verbal or non-verbal hesitation. Smiling calmly while you say no also put you in power position relative to the manipulator.

Manipulators are known to not take a “no” as an answer. In this case another useful technique is to use the broken record of repeating your “no” as many times as needed. You don’t need to change your “no” or dress it up differently every time. Be persistent, consistent, and calm.

5. Keep your self-respect

Don’t apologize when they blame you for their problems. Understand that you are not responsible for other people’s issues and that they need to take responsibility for their own problems.

Mature people don’t blame others. Instead, they own their problems, they seek advice, and they ask for the willing support from others.

Don’t allow anyone to disrespect you. You always have the option to simply walk away without any explanations. Your action will speak for itself.

6. Apply fogging

Fogging technique helps cope with aggressive criticism from others by cutting the conversation short and moving on without any agreements or reducing the heat of the moment which allows for a more reasonable conversation afterwards.

The goal of fogging is to calmly acknowledge part of the criticism without making any commitments to change. For example, you could say, “I agree that …” or “You are right in that …” without making a big deal about it and then exit the conversation.

7. Learn assertiveness

Assertive communication is a skill that helps you speak up for yourself in a calm, respectful, and anxious-free way. It helps you communicate boundaries, handle conflict, and protect your interests in an effective and mature way.

Assertiveness teaches you not only useful scripts to stand up for yourself in difficult situations, but also the confident and assertive mindset to give you the courage to speak up.

You don’t have to accept trojans or trojan horses. Learn how to identify manipulation and how to protect yourself, your time, and your energy so that you can live your days with purpose, joy, and prey-free.

Want to learn how to advocate for yourself effectively and respectfully in a calm natural way? Then learn assertive communication skills!

Get started today with any of our free assertiveness resources here, including a 35 min free assertiveness training that has changed the lives of more than 10 thousand people and that is now available for free here.

Ivna Curi is the founder of AssertiveWay.com, empowering professionals at work. Don’t give up on your dream career until you learn this: bit.ly/getrecognized1