Manipulative People:
How to Deal with Them?

Manipulative people are not obvious because they act in a sneaky way. When someone is openly aggressive, at least we know what is happening and can react accordingly. But when the aggressiveness is hidden, we know something is wrong but we can't pinpoint what it is. We find ourselves on the defensive and we tend to hate ourselves for it because we think we are making up things. However, usually our feelings are right: we are being manipulated.
manipulative people, liars, cheat

If you are being manipulated, it is time to do something about it. First, type your name:

In the box below, make a commitment as of today, . Type your own resolution, such as "I refuse to be manipulated any longer!" or any statement that is right for you.

To help you deal with your specific situation, here is a partial list of manipulative behaviors, and how to respond to each of them. Keep in mind there are many more. Also, be aware that most - if not all - of us belong to this group of manipulative people at one time or another!

a. A question disguised as a statement
b. Making a personal statement and pretending it is someone else's
c. Guilt trips
d. Confrontational statements
e. The "silent treatment"
f. The "no way out" question
g. Lies

a. A question disguised as a statement

Manipulative people hate asking questions because it means they may loose control. So they may use a disguised question.
"I am wondering why you..."
"Perhaps you could..."
"I wish you could..."
"I suppose you are going to..."

How to deal with it:
When dealing with manipulative people, answer questions only, not statements. Train your ears to recognize the difference. You must learn to ask the Yes/No question, but not get tricked by a disguised question. Repeat the last 3 or 4 words of the statement back to the manipulator, forcing him/her to admit it was a question.

b. Making a personal statement and pretending it is someone else's

This allows manipulative people to put the blame on someone else, therefore not taking responsibility for his or her opinion.
"We were wondering if you..."
"They said you..."
"She thought you..."
"Everyone thinks you..."

How to deal with it:
Ask who is "we", "they", or "someone" and ask for the manipulator's own point of view.
manipulative people

c. Guilt Trips (Also check the article Guilt trips: Is guilt one of your tricks?)

Manipulative people use statements to make you feel guilty about doing or not doing something. You don't expect it and it blinds your ordinarily good judgment.
"Don't you care if...."
"If you loved me..."
"Everyone knows that..."
"Every decent person would..."
"I just knew you would say that!"
"Can't you take a joke?"
"You could never do..."
"I thought that's what you wanted"

How to deal with it:
Recognize the manipulative statement. If you can, minimize your exposure to the statement because it is like glue and it sticks to you. When you hear it, just say "No". Ignore manipulative people's words and be aware of the fact that you may want to reply to their question or statement. Don't do it, it is bait.

d. Confrontational Statements

Those statements are used to put you on the defensive. If you play the manipulator's game, you will end up in a fight without knowing how it started.
"Why do you always..."
"Do you expect me to..."
"I can't believe you would..."
"I thought we were going to..."
"Why should I have to..."
"I've been told that..."
"How could you..."
"Why don't you..."
"Did you hear me?"
"Well, does that mean that I have to..."
"I thought you..."
"Don't you think you (we) should..."
"Are you telling me..."
"I thought we agreed..."

How to deal with it:
Let things slide. Don't respond to bad behavior. Don't reply defensively and avoid saying "I'm sorry but..." You can choose not to fight by using one of the following replies:
"That's my decision"
"I know you're unhappy, but that's the way it is"
"I'll have to think about that"
"You seem upset"
"We'll talk later when you aren't so upset."
"We don't always have to agree."
"I prefer it that way"
"You're right" (and drop the subject)

e. The "Silent Treatment"

Manipulative people may stop talking to you altogether and want to find out how long it will take before you crack. This is how they get control.

How to deal with it:
Simply say "Let me know when you feel like talking" and nothing else. Act like it is no big deal. Get busy with something else and put a smile on your face. If you "crack" now, manipulative people will use this tactic again and again. Be aware that sometimes people need time to think things out, especially when they are angry. Taking some time out may not be a manipulative technique, just a way to deal with a problem. However, if the silence lasts longer than the time needed to reflect, it may be a manipulation tactic.

f. The "No Way Out" question

You are being asked a question and you think you are given a choice, but the answer has already been decided by the manipulator. The question shouldn't be the time of the appointment, but whether you want an appointment at all. After such a question, there is a pregnant pause and, since you are programmed to respond to a conversational pause by offering to help, you jump in and do whatever the manipulator wants you to do.
"Would you like an appointment at 6:15 or 6:30?"
"Do you want the red one or the blue one?"
"Don't you think that...?"
"Aren't you happy that..."
"Have you stopped beating your wife?"

How to deal with it:
Be prepared to use one of those replies:
"I'll let you know"
"I'll have to think about that"
"No, I don't want to"
"I disagree"
"Sorry, I am not interested"

g. Lies

Here, we are not talking about little white lies once in a while, but about compulsive liars who lie to manipulate you.

Here are a few ways to see whether someone is lying to you (For more detailed articles on liars, read Signs of Lying and Pathological Liar on this website):

- The person is adding unnecessary details to an explanation.
- When you ask for an explanation or a clarification, the person stops and thinks, even though he/she should know the answer right away.
- The person pretends not to know something that he/she obviously knows.
- The person may be laughing nervously.
- The person is not looking at you while speaking, or is looking at you too insistently.
- The person may change the topic of the conversation.
- You feel something is wrong and your body is reacting. Maybe your eyes are squinting and your head is tilted.

How to deal with it:
There is no quick and easy way to deal with a compulsive liar. Asking a question to a liar is inviting more lies. Fearing loss of control, the liar reacts aggressively to avoid answering. He/she may start asking questions to put the focus on you, may start accusing you, may be evasive saying "Oh well that all depends..." "I'm not sure...", or may change the subject completely.

With a compulsive liar, you have to document and confirm all responses. Avoid asking questions. Avoid any agreements, including legal ones. Don't ask a liar for anything and don't do anything for him/her either. Be self-reliant and financially and emotionally free. If your partner is a compulsive liar, you may need professional help to cope with him/her.

You are now finishing reading this page, which is full of advice, ideas and resources to help you deal with manipulative people. Which ones are you going to use to improve your life?

A Word of Caution

Remember that manipulative people are often unaware of their behavior. Actually, we are all manipulative people to a certain extent (read the article Manipulative behavior: Am I manipulative?) Therefore, identifying manipulation can be instrumental in improving relationships of all kinds. Refrain from judging and just be aware!

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