Coping with Manipulators

by | Aug 16, 2020

If you have a relationship with someone who is a manipulator, it is not easy to change your situation. Because that manipulator wants power over you—wants to control you and use you for his benefit—he is unlikely to give it up. And how does he achieve that power? He does it by exploiting your weaknesses.

Coping With Manipulators Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Say, for example, that you have a deep need to be liked. A manipulator will somehow hone right into that and withhold his love unless and until you do what he wants. He uses you to serve his own self-interests. And once you comply, why should he stop using you? So you find yourself in a situation where you are vulnerable to mental, emotional, and perhaps even physical, harm.

But you have the right to a happy, healthy life. You must create that life by dealing with people who manipulate you.

The most direct solution is to avoid this toxic person. This may be difficult if the manipulator is in your family or an important person outside your family, like your boss. You must decide if the relationship is worth the suffering you endure. If not, extricate yourself and do not see this person. Because you cannot change him and you cannot save him from himself. He is the only one who can do that.

When cutting ties to a manipulator is not practical, here are some ways to cope:

  1. Refuse to feel bad about yourself. This is what the manipulator wants, and he will say things that trigger your most negative thoughts. He wants you to feel bad so that in your vulnerability, he can control you. He can get you to surrender your power and your rights as a human being. Do not allow this. Let go of negative thoughts about yourself instead.
  2. Don’t acquiesce to unreasonable demands. A manipulator will twist the truth and try to talk you into things that are for his benefit only. Some manipulators are very skilled at this, making you do things that not only do nothing for you, but also may be to your detriment. Before you allow him to exploit you, ask what’s in it for you. If the answer is nothing, resist.
  3. Turn the tables. Ask the manipulator in your life if he would do the same thing for you. Sometimes this is enough to get him to reevaluate his treatment of you. But don’t expect this to work all the time because some manipulators and deliberately using you and they just don’t care what you think. They still want to get their own way, no matter how reasonably you demonstrate that they are taking advantage of you.
  4. Practice saying no. If you are being manipulated, part of it is probably because you find it hard to say no to people. Practice how you will refuse when a manipulator tries to get you to do something you don’t want to do. Rather than just saying ‘no,” sometimes it’s easier to expand the sentence. As in, “No, I’m just not going to do that.” It makes you sound decisive and firm. Which you must be. Do not say you’re sorry because that indicates you feel guilty for saying no. And manipulators will use your guilt against you. Stay strong.
  5. Confront him with his behavior. That’s right. Speak the unspeakable. Tell the manipulator that he’s bullying you and you won’t stand for it any more. Call him out on his behavior and tell him how you expect him to act instead. You may have to do this repeatedly, because it takes time for people to change, but keep at it. Be vigilant and persistent. Otherwise, you may have to reevaluate your relationship and ultimately let him go.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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