Manipulators are masterful in using a variety of tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility by blaming others, putting them down and silencing them. Know these tactics so you can recognize that it isn’t you, and what you can do.
Notice that when a manipulator is chronically unwilling to see his or her shortcomings, they will try anything to avoid ownership and accountability. Projection is a defense mechanism used to fend off responsibility for poor behavior by attributing them to you.
What to do: Don’t project your compassion or empathy onto a manipulator or own any of their projections. End the interaction as soon as possible so you can shake off their toxic projects and validate your reality.
Nitpicking and moving the target goal
Criticism can be constructive or destructive. Toxic people who continuously criticize––citing moving or impossible standards––aren’t interested in helping you improve. By shifting the expectations, they are setting you up to fail. You can provide all the evidence that would validate your argument or actions taken to meet their request, but they’ll just demand further proof. You could find yourself feeling unworthy or never good enough.
What to do: Validate and approve of yourself. Know that you are enough and that you don’t have to feel unfit.
Threats – both covert and overt
Manipulators use unreasonable demands and then punish their victims for not living up to their impossible expectations. They enjoy keeping you down and afraid of the consequences of not complying. They use threats.
What to do: Take these threats seriously and take action by documenting the demands and what was said.
Sarcasm and a patronizing tone
Belittling and degrading others is a manipulator’s tool. Other tools are using a condescending tone of voice accompanied by sarcasm. The root meaning of sarcasm is humor masking derision. If you react to it by showing you’re offended, you must be “too sensitive.”
What to do: Don’t take this behavior personally. Practice your assertiveness and voice your thoughts and opinions. Call out the sarcasm firmly. You don’t deserve to be spoken down to, nor should you ever silence yourself.
Manipulators love to have and maintain control over their victims. A significant sign is micromanaging. These managers are poor delegators, coaches, and mentors. Manipulative colleagues hoard the most exciting and vital work so they can claim credit and feel superior.
What to do: Recognizing the positive attributes of this person’s work ethic will make working with him or her at least a little bit easier. Ask questions. The manipulator might even have some great ideas you can use, and pieces of the feedback might help appease him or her. Voice your opinion, but don’t get into an argument.