Psychological manipulation is any action that’s designed to help someone accomplish their own agenda through deceptive or otherwise shady tactics. It usually involves creating a power imbalance within the relationship or interaction — and isn’t all that uncommon. It’s not always easy to spot, but when you do, you can practice techniques to stop the manipulation and own a sense of self
Set limits that preserve your safety.
Often, manipulative people can express rage or aggression, so developing a plan to maintain your well-being is important. Psychologist Dr. Loren Soeir, Ph.D., says “Be prepared to let an angry partner or family member know that you cannot communicate while being screamed at and say you will leave until he or she calms down. If you need to disengage, be sure to set physical limits: leave the room, exit the apartment, or lock the door. Stop the car or refuse to drive with the other person. Spend time with the person only when a third party is present.”
Usually, manipulators try to exploit your insecurity and try to make you feel inadequate or guilty. As a result, you may even blame yourself for not satisfying the manipulator. In these situations, it’s important to remember that you are not the problem. Take a moment to re-evaluate the situation objectively. Ask yourself: is this person treating me with respect; are they making unreasonable demands; is this person taking any responsibility for their action at all? Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll get a different perspective and realize the manipulator’s intention and can shift your mindset from self-blame to being objective about the situation.
Tell them when you are and aren’t available and what you can and cannot do. For instance, if your co-worker stops by your desk to “have a chat,” let him or her know you’re in the middle of something or have a hard deadline and that you’ll find them later to connect. If your “friend” is asking you to do them a favor in an unreasonable timeframe, you might tell them that you’re happy to help but given everything on your plate right now, timing is a problem. Provide them resources they can use themselves.
Remember Your Goals and Priorities
Manipulators only look out for themselves, so they will do everything in their power to try to change your dream or discredit it. Especially at work, this can include everything from overtly telling you you’re not going to succeed to pressuring you to take on projects that don’t align with your chosen path. Clarify for yourself what your goals and priorities are and the purpose each task serves for you so that the manipulator can’t convince you to shift course. This focus will keep you from getting too negatively emotionally invested if the manipulator creates logistical or relationship difficulties for you, as well.
The experience of manipulation centers on helplessness and confusion, so it’s important to learn that you can respond to this behavior in effective ways. As Dr. Soeiro puts it, “not every controlling move can be neutralized, and not every manipulative person in your life will respond to each technique,” but in general, taking action to prevent the manipulation will help you to hold on to your sanity and regain a sense of control and self-respect.