How to Deal with Emotionally Manipulative People

Manipulation involves any form of emotionally controlling behavior that people experience in relationships or casual encounters. All manipulators have an agenda and that agenda is control. Manipulation is a defense mechanism used to conceal a deep sense of insecurity or inadequacy. Reasoning with manipulators or having an honest conversation with them is ineffective because they don’t want to give up the power they have or are trying to have over you. Sometimes, people become manipulative if they feel that they’re always taken advantage of by others. The need to manipulate comes from fear. Manipulators hate rejection and will try to revenge if they experience rejection. Manipulators hate being around other manipulators because they want to avoid the power struggle. There are four major ways of dealing with a manipulator.

  • Set reasonable and personal boundaries– This cannot be overemphasized. You must know your value to understand how you should be treated. Never let anybody cross your boundaries no matter the excuse. This will prevent anyone from manipulating you to get whatever they want. Do not let your kindness be seen as weakness. Note that if you set unreasonable boundaries, you will only confuse yourself in this process. Insist on your boundaries even if they play victim. Whenever they get angry at your boundaries and try to threaten you, revenge, or use your insecurities against you, stay calm and ignore them. Whenever they go against your boundaries, set reasonable consequences.

  • Withdraw or avoid them completely– If someone who is significant in your life is manipulative, be careful what you share with them and distance yourself from them except when necessary. It is not your job to change them. Involving them in an honest conversation will only drain you as they will only use that as an opportunity to prove themselves or play victim. If you are friends or in a relationship with a manipulator, let them know the truth about what you feel and then end the relationship immediately. Don’t feel guilty about it. It will only keep you under their control emotionally and mentally.
    If a manipulator threatens to hurt themselves to keep you from leaving, discuss the issue with any of their close friends or family so that you won’t feel obligated to carry the responsibility of keeping them from self-harm.
    Some manipulators will promise to change or may later tell you that they have changed. You have to be sure they are taking proper steps to change or show proof of change. Till then, keep your distance.

  • Never give in to their unreasonable demands– If a manipulative co-worker makes unreasonable demands, question his/her reasoning behind such demands. Such a person will feel exposed and back off. If they demand that you give in to their request immediately or expect that you give an urgent answer, simply insist on buying yourself some time so that you will not give in to their immediate influence then later decline their request respectfully but firmly.

  • Don’t get carried away– Whenever someone showers you with excessive gifts or compliments, find out the reason behind it. If the reason is very much inversely proportional to the reward, be on alert. Remember that it is okay to reject gifts. Never get carried away with their words but listen to their actions. Focusing on actions will prevent you from making excuses for their actions.
    If a manipulator tries to bully you by embarrassing you in front of other people, stand up for yourself. If they try to laugh off the situation, don’t play along. Keep an indifferent countenance and be the one to change the topic of conversation. Do not let them get the idea that their actions affected you emotionally. If they later come up to you and try to defend themselves, ignore them.

If you are a manipulator or you’re aware that you manipulate others knowingly or unknowingly, learn to come to terms with your vulnerabilities. Understand that other people’s choices are out of your control. Confront the fear that people you love may leave you if you fail. Understand that you are sufficient in yourself no matter who stays or leaves. See the openness and sincerity of those around as an opportunity to form healthy relationships and to contribute something to their lives not as an opportunity to control them. You cannot be displaced by anyone because you’re unique in your purpose and you have a space nobody can take. You also cannot displace anybody because they are unique too and they have a space that you cannot take.

5 thoughts on “How to Deal with Emotionally Manipulative People”

  1. After reading your previous post on how to spot manipulators, I was hoping you’d release one on how to deal with them. My secret wish was finally granted. Thanks a lot for this post. Very detailed, practical and insightful!!


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