How to Disarm a Manipulator

How to Disarm a Manipulator


A key element to a happier life is being surrounded by a supportive and influential network of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, though, we can mistake influencers with manipulators, and it can be hard to tell the difference.

It’s rare to find those who will invest time and energy into something that doesn’t have the potential for some personal gain. Like in business, we calculate the ROI (return on investment) for our friendships, maybe not in such a black and white way, but it happens.

A manipulator knows how to get what they need with little effort from themselves but at a high cost to others. They find ways to work around the system (or you) for their benefit, so even though your ROI is low, you still take the time to invest in the relationship.

Manipulators people spend a lot of time and energy creating an environment where they can control the outcome so others constantly meet their needs. The biggest problem of a manipulative relationship is that we often don’t even know it’s happening and allow it to continue.

Here are four ways to disarm a manipulator:

traits of manipulators

1 – Recognize the problem

It should come as no surprise that you must recognize there is a problem before you can solve it. The first sign of a problem is leaving an encounter with someone not feeling right and questioning the outcome. If you have questions and doubts about something you promised or agreed to, it might be time to start questioning the motives behind the request.

Here are some characteristics of manipulators:

  • Their needs take precedence over everyone else’s.
  • They expect you always to be available at a moment’s notice.
  • They are often in a crisis that requires immediate action.

Another key indicator of a manipulative relationship is when other friends notice the imbalance of the give and take with someone else. Please pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from the outside looking in.

2 – Ask the manipulator a few questions

Part of a manipulative relationship is the never-ending demands put upon us. They are usually phrased so that we should feel privileged at the opportunity to help.

Because a manipulator thrives on control, it is helpful to remove some of that control by putting the focus back on them by asking questions. The right kind of questions can help make them aware of the one-sided value of the request and can signal that you are aware of their behavior. For example:

  • I see how this helps you. Can you help me understand how this benefits me?
  • Do I have a say in how this goes forward?
  • Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?
  • Does it seem fair to you that you ask me to do?

When you ask probing questions, you shine a light on their request’s true nature. If there is any self-awareness, they will usually see the situation for what it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.

3 – Say “no” and stand firm

You can only control your actions. That is important because you will not be able to change the behavior of a manipulator, but you can stop being their victim. That happens when you start saying “no.”

We are manipulated because we allow it, and refusing to be controlled the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their responses. They are likely to say or do things that pull at the heartstrings. We should stand firm in our “no,” knowing that we are taking the first step towards freeing ourselves from their influence.

4 – Use time to your advantage

Manipulators are good at what they do and will have all sorts of responses to our objections. They also know their best opportunity to get us on board with their scheme is to get us to agree immediately. Instead of committing to the request, we can try using the time to our advantage.

“Let me get back to you.”

That one statement puts the power of the situation back in our court. It gives us the ability to assess the situation and find a reasonable and respectful way to decline if that is what we want to do.

We stay in a relationship for all sorts of reasons, but we should only stay in it if it serves us. And one of the ways our relationships do us is by us serving them. So while someone important might need more attention and help from us because of a significant life change, over time, the relationship honors the needs of everyone.

A manipulator doesn’t buy into this philosophy. Remember, it is okay to create boundaries and say “no” for our well-being. After all, we are better prepared to help others when we put ourselves first.

7 Signs of a Manipulator, According to Psychology

Manipulative people have an arsenal of tools in their belts to get what they want from others. They usually prey on the kind, empathetic people since they’re less likely to suspect malicious intent in others.

Manipulators will drain their unwitting victims of energy and dignity before moving on to their next target. They have no remorse and only see others as a means to an end rather than a human being that deserves respect.

Look out for these warning signs identified by psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, M.D., so that you don’t become snared in their clever traps.

manipulators shift blame

1.     They believe they’re always right.

A manipulator can’t view a situation from someone else’s perspective; to them, they’re right 100% of the time. They can only see the world through the lens of manipulation, so if they “win,” they see nothing wrong with their actions. Power, success, and ego are the only things that matter in their eyes, and they don’t care who they hurt in their schemes.

2. Manipulators don’t understand boundaries.

Or, maybe they do understand, but they choose not to respect others’ boundaries, feelings, and thoughts. They will trample and bulldoze anyone in their path to have their way. These people have tunnel vision, only able to focus on themselves and what makes them happy. They can’t see anything outside their limited perspective because that would involve empathy and vulnerability.

Since they lack these two traits, manipulators continually look out for #1, often at the expense of everyone else. They relentlessly pursue what they want, even disregarding physical or emotional boundaries.

3. They never take responsibility for their mistakes.

Manipulators will always blame other people and circumstances for any wrongdoings. They can never admit when they’ve made a poor decision because that would tarnish their image. They keep a guard up around people to maintain an air of aloofness and superiority. After all, if they keep their distance in relationships, it allows them to take advantage of others and move on after a while.

In a relationship, the manipulator will constantly shift blame to the other person when something goes wrong. This lack of accountability allows them to get what they want without feeling remorse.

They also don’t care about meeting anyone else’s needs because they see relationships as one-sided. As long as their needs have been met, everything’s peachy in their self-centered world.

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