Are Manipulators Messing with Me?

Have you ever felt pressured, controlled or questioned what you are thinking or doing by another person? It may be a sign that manipulation is at play.

What is Manipulation?Puppet and his Master

Manipulation is defined as the exercise of ‘unscrupulous’ influence or control over others. Rather, then asking for something in an upfront, direct, truthful and clear manner, manipulators (those doing the controlling), may use different techniques to create an imbalance of power in order to entice others, to satisfy their needs and wants.

Manipulators may use techniques such as guilt, comparing, denying, judging, lying, blaming, complaining, mind games, gaslighting or pleading ignorance/ innocence as ways to create this imbalance of power to take advantage or control over their victims for their own personal benefit or at their victim’s expense.

Manipulation is about getting someone to act or behave in a certain way, and so whilst it can happen in various circumstances, it is most common amongst close or casual relationships where there is some knowledge of what makes the person ‘tick.’ This knowledge can help the manipulator sway a person’s emotions to get them to feel or act a certain way.

Signs of Manipulation

Man and a Women Talking

Manipulation isn’t always all bad. There are times when it can be somewhat harmless such as a salesperson selling you a product in a store, or a friend trying to get you to come to a concert with them. However, there are other times where manipulation can really start to make you question yourself, your rational thoughts and put at risk your own needs, wants and in extreme cases your safety.

The first question you must ask yourself when trying to spot signs of manipulation is…

Is this person making me feel or do something I don’t want to feel/do? Am I feeling/doing it out of fear, guilt or a sense of obligation?

Manipulators will often use techniques such as

  • Using your insecurities against you (through judgement or comparison)
  • Exploiting your weaknesses or fears
  • Convincing you to give up something that you value or that is a priority for you
  • Make you more dependant, reliant or entwined with them
  • Take you out of your comfort zone
  • Lie, distort, withhold facts
  • Blame others
  • Use language of generalisation or exaggeration
  • Favours with “Strings attached”
  • Gaslighting i.e. Making you question yourself, reality, thoughts or memories
  • Repetition of the manipulative behaviour

How to Escape

A Couple Fighting

Identifying manipulation goes a long way to escaping it.

If you think you are in an abusive or toxic relationship speaking with a psychologist, counsellor, 1800 RESPECT hotline or even someone with whom you trust who is not associated with the relationship in question, may help you to understand whether you have been conditioned to accepting manipulative behaviours.

Understanding when manipulative behaviours are not normal and knowing how to deal with them is the next step.

  • Spend time developing your own self confidence and identifying your own values, priorities, needs and wants
  • Establish boundaries – Often manipulators have poor boundaries and so ensuring yours are clear and firm will go a long way to protecting yourself from manipulative behaviour
  • Take time to reflect before responding – Don’t commit or respond straight away. Listen and observe then pause… Think and reflect before you respond the way the manipulator wants you too. Do I want to do this? Am I being influenced by fear, obligation or guilt? Is this my responsibility?
  • Tell the manipulator that their behaviour is not appropriate and how it makes you feel
  • Try not to take on other people’s feelings and emotions, you are not responsible for them
  • Try not to take manipulative behaviour personally
  • Communicate in clear and direct ways

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