While some may think of manipulative people as monsters, the truth is they are usually the people who are closest to us -- our in-laws, our friends and even our children. Most people have a desire to get their own way, and many won’t hesitate to zero in on your weaknesses to convince you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. If you’ve recognized these behaviors in the people in your life, you’re on the right track. Now you can concentrate your energies toward effectively extinguishing them.
Trust Your Gut
Listen to your gut feeling about the person who is trying to manipulate you, advises psychologist George Simon, in his book “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People.” Manipulators are experts at using almost undetectable techniques to get their way. This “covert aggression” is at the heart of most manipulative behavior, says Simon. If you suspect someone is searching for your weak spot so she can take advantage, pay attention to that feeling so you can put a stop to the behavior. For example, if your teenage daughter is sulking, and you suspect she wants to make you feel guilty for saying no to a weekend slumber party, follow that feeling and refuse to give ground.
Refuse to Play the Game
Set very clear boundaries with people who are always on the lookout for ways to exploit your good nature. If your coworker often asks you to correct his reports because he is “not good at writing,” let him know you will help him one time, and if he needs further help, you can recommend a good editor. Detachment is always a good way to deal with difficult people, says Deepak Chopra in an article on Oprah.com. You need not participate in the game of life the way they play it. Letting manipulators know you mean business is a very effective way to put an end to their behavior.
Ditch the Guilt
If you feel guilt when you set boundaries with a manipulator, know that the feeling will dissipate as you begin to behave in a self-affirming manner, says therapist Susan Forward, Ph.D. in her book “Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You.” Stick by your guns and refuse to give expression to feelings of guilt when your sister-in-law says, “I guess family isn’t very important to you,” after you’ve told her that you won’t be able to babysit while she attends a girl’s weekend in Vegas. After you’ve refused to give in to a manipulator a few times, the process will become much easier.
Don’t let the manipulative people in your life make you feel as though you must abandon your happy-go-lucky personality and turn into a Grinch to avoid being taken advantage of. The key to dealing with such people is simply recognizing what they are up to and not allowing yourself to be taken in by their manipulations. For example, you can still enjoy shopping with your mother-in-law, even if she persists in trying to guilt you into using your savings to put your child in a private school. Just thank her for her concern and ask her if she thinks the designer coat you just found at 50 percent off would look good with your new boots.