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Five Things to Do When You are Being Manipulated

What do you do when you discover that someone’s been pulling your strings? Here are five ideas to help.

People will attempt to manipulate you at many times in your life. Some people will argue that certain types of manipulation can be positive, like using reinforcement and behavior modification to reward positive behavior. Parents and teachers make good, generally beneficial use of these techniques to turn newborn babes into functioning, responsible adults during childhood. However, there’s no doubt that some people use manipulation to achieve selfish, sometimes evil aims. Flattery, deception, coercion: these tools are the dark side of manipulation. For the rest of this article, manipulation will refer to the practice of using people to do things for selfish or evil goals.

What do you do when you’ve figured out you’ve been manipulated? Can you break this cycle of oppression and coercion? There are five alternatives that you need to examine when you understand what’s been happening to you.

Ignore and continue onward

This is a sad situation, but sometimes there isn’t much more that you can do other than grin and bear it. You may be stuck in this scenario if your options are limited to survival. This is one of the worst scenarios to be in. However, the manipulator might not be worthy of attention if they don’t have a huge impact on your life. Chances are that they will eventually grow tired of you and they will try to pick a new target that can help them advance their own agenda.

Confront the manipulator

Sometimes it’s necessary to confront the school bully and call him out. Sometimes it is best for you to tell the manipulator that you know what they are doing. Tell them to stop trying to use you because you aren’t going to permit them to continue. When confronted, sometimes the manipulator will back down, not unlike a bully. Sometimes they will either deny what is happening or else refuse to stop.

Ask for help

If the manipulator won’t stop what they are doing, it’s a good idea to seek advice and get help, either from a trusted supervisor or colleague. Sometimes objective advice from an outsider is more helpful. Your confidante might have some influence to stop the manipulator. They might have some good suggestions on how to handle the situation and they might have valuable information that can help you.

Threaten to expose or discredit the manipulator

If you need a stronger weapon, you might have to build up a dossier of evidence, like a lawyer, and use the evidence to stop the manipulator. You might have to threaten to divulge the evidence to a superior, their peers, or their clients. Be prepared to go ahead and expose them if they don’t back down. Your evidence must be solid in order for this to work. It also helps to have at least one other person who knows the situation and will back you up. This will frighten off most manipulators.

Bail out

Sometimes the manipulator is too strong to be stopped by the means that we’ve noted in this article. At this point, take stock of your situation. If the manipulator is making your environment intolerable and you can’t get them to stop, sometimes you need to cut your losses and leave for a new job or a new city. In many ways, this is the least desirable outcome. Avoid this scenario unless you have no choice, but remember that it’s an option.

Taking Control Back

Being manipulated can be a humbling, humiliating experience. All of us value freedom of choice and free will in general. The manipulator sometimes strips that freedom from us, occasionally without our knowledge. But take heart: there are things you can do to battle manipulation. Sometimes it takes courage and skill to break free of this cycle, particularly from the more skilled manipulators, but try to keep your mind open to possibilities and understand the situation. Chances are good that you can find a way to improve your situation, if not break free completely.

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User Comments
  1. Elmer Thomas

    On November 12, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Good read. Check out “48 Laws of Power” for a comprehensive study on the techniques of manipulation.

  2. Mark Dykeman

    On November 27, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Hello Elmer. You must be thinking seriously (!) about the subject.

  3. Alexa Gates

    On December 22, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Great suggestions!

  4. Ruby Hawk

    On December 30, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    You have given us something to think about,and some good options.

  5. Majupra

    On May 5, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    “Five Things to Do When You are Being Manipulated”

    1. Ignore and continue onward.
    2. Confront the Manipulator.
    3. Ask for help.
    4. Threaten to expose or discredit the manipulator.
    5. Bail out.
    6. Take control back.


  6. jhenz

    On May 6, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Nice article. I think I’ve been in such situations and among the options you’ve given, I did chose the Bail out. I simply quit the environment I had before and moved on. :D Now, I’m happy I did it.

  7. Jen

    On May 6, 2008 at 4:46 am

    You might want to change the title to “Six things to do when you are being manipulated”

    Otherwise, good article. :)

  8. Ronald Marbles

    On May 6, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Very interesting read. This should be passed on to many people as possible. Unfortunately there are a lot that are being manipulated especially children and women.

    On to a lighter note, change the title…and I absolutely love your name, Dykeman :D

  9. Marlene

    On May 6, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Great article. Amazing when you are at your wit’s end in a situation that you come across an article such as this. I am trying to cope with a 93 yr old mother….Manipulative!! she is the queen of manipulation!! Thank God my wonderful friends give their great advice and with the help of Ducene, I can just about get through!
    Move to another City?? I’d love to !!. Thanks again for this article, I feel I am not alone that others have been there too, very helpful.

  10. skeith

    On May 6, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I liked the article.

  11. Nanie

    On May 6, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Good article

  12. Rachel

    On May 8, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    good reminders. :)

  13. Tilottama

    On May 9, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Very good article. I enjoyed reading it. The best thing to do is to avoid the manipulative, but sometimes it gets important to confront him and make him aware of his doing eventhough we know he is bound to repeat.

  14. Andrew

    On May 10, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I like your article and I would recommend a seventh thing to do especially when the manipulating is happening at work. Write down events and quotes and share this with your supervisor.

  15. Mark Dykeman

    On June 15, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Much to my surprise, this article seemed to get a “second wind” in May 2008, almost six months after it was published! Thanks!

  16. Sharon

    On July 6, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I loved this article. It’s nice to know that a lot of people can easily get caught up in a manipulator’s “web,” …and to not be so concerned that there is something one is doing to attract it. It seems very skilled manipulators can “con” just about anyone and possibly the key is to catch on as quickly as possible.


    On February 7, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Gentlemen there are millions of such induviduals in this world they are usually in politics but sometimes in business. I have spent my life as a contractor and the customers do not realilze most of the time that they are trying to manipulate my workers. My manipulaters are trying to gain the power position in the contractural relationship between them and the worker so that they then can control the billing. Sometimes I have to pull my man out of the situation then face the custoner and let them know that we will not work for them any more. Fortunately I have the power play at this point. I pay my men full job fees and let the offender know that their name is red flagged with my company. I also let them know that within this area and this industry I have the power to let others know of their offensive ways. It has been amazing to realize that these people have tried in vain to baadmouth our company and come back ready to pay extra fees to get their work done for we now have baecome the manipultors. It usually fails for I feel it is like a drug – they have to do this. I have even seen one customer brandish a weapon trying to get the work done, still did not work and the police are the final controllers. It reaslly took many years to realize what was being done and what the solution was. Pick up the tools and leave. A lot of men seem to really jealous of the contractor or workman being more “Manly” than they are, then the fight is on to be the big stud that can do this work, hardly. I
    ‘ve had people knowingly lose thousand of dollars to in a vain effort ot bully or control the situation. I have a secret understanding I keep in mind “Thugs try to control and most of the time they do”. All salesmen are manipulators, and who is silly enough to trust a car salesman, RE agent or even the doctor

  18. ana

    On January 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

    what if you are in too deep? i couldn’t not bail out coz hubby did everything in his sleeves to keep me where i am including suicide scare and children being scarred forever…..

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