You’re feeling vague resentment, but you’re not sure why. Your friend seems to ask more of you, expect more of you, than you’re willing to give. You’re feeling guilty for not capitulating to your friend’s request. You find yourself wondering why you’re doing something when you really don’t want to. If so, maybe you’re being manipulated.

Usually manipulators want to have power and control or attention and sympathy-more than their share. They probably noticed you were in a vulnerable situation-new in town, feeling insecure or shy. Maybe you’re struggling with self-esteem issues of your own. That’s when they move in to take over.

It’s hard to identify manipulative behavior because there are so many ways to exploit someone else, and some of them are very subtle. Manipulators ease into a situation and exert more and more control over time, and you may not notice until it’s gotten way out of hand. The key is to be alert. Ask yourself how they benefit from their behavior. When their purpose is not in your best interest, you have fallen prey to a Master Manipulator.

How can you identify and deal with a Master Manipulator? Here are some examples:

MM: I don’t see how you can go on your camping trip and leave me to deal with this project all by myself.

You: I have planned this trip for a long time, and you knew about it. I have already contributed my part to the project.

The MM is trying to make you feel guilty, or worse, trying to get you to stay home and do his work on the project for him.

MM: Jennifer told me she thought you weren’t really contributing as much to the project as other people.

You: I hope you told her that I have done my part, but I can’t really be concerned with what Jennifer thinks.

The MM is trying to use a third party to get you to do what the MM himself wants.

MM: I’m worried sick that this project will not turn out well and my reputation is on the line. I literally feel sick with worry, and you know how my blood pressure is.

You: My reputation is on the line too, which is why I’ve planned ahead and done my part. Now it’s your turn to do your part.

The MM always needs more tender loving care than anyone else, and will use guilt to get the attention he wants.

MM: Okay, go on your camping trip while I stay home working all weekend on the project.

You: Great. I’m glad you’ll have time to work on it. See you when I get back.

The MM tried one last time to get you to feel guilty, and played the martyr. But you called his bluff, held your ground, and cut him short. Good for you. It’s simply not a good idea to engage in mind games with a Master Manipulator. The best thing to do is call them on their behavior and be direct and straightforward. Manipulation is a subtle form of bullying, and to stand up to a bully, you need to be calm and polite, but very firm.

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