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. Just 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 great 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 their needs are constantly met by others. The biggest problem of a manipulative relationship is we often don’t even know it’s happening, and we allow it to continue.
Here are 4 ways to disarm a manipulator:
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 quite right and questioning the outcome. If you have questions and doubts around 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 on 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 start to notice the imbalance of the give and take with someone else. Pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from the outside looking in.
Part of a manipulative relationship is the never-ending demands that are put upon us. They are usually phrased in such a way that we should feel privileged at the opportunity to help.
Because a manipulator thrives on control, it is helpful to take away 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 to 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 are asking me to do …?
When you ask probing questions, you are shining a light on the true nature of their request. If there is any self-awareness, then they will usually see the situation for what it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.
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 manipulated is the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their response. They are likely to say or do things that pull at the heart strings. We should stand firm in our “no,” knowing that we are taking the first step towards freeing ourselves from their influence.
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 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 really assess the situation and allows us to 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 is serving us. And one of the ways our relationships serve us is by us serving them. So while someone important might need more attention and help from us because of a major life change, over time the relationship honors the needs of everyone.
Needless to say, 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.