6 Steps to Stop Being Manipulated

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Throughout life, there are times when we may come across an individual or a situation where a person is very dominant, controlling and possibly even manipulative. Sometimes it is a boss who doesn’t allow us to voice our opinions. Sometimes it is a family member who is very demanding and finds ways to get us to manipulate us into doing what they want. And sometimes, it may be a friend who is very pushy and demands that others do things their way, on their time schedule, forgetting that those around them are affected in the process.

This can frustrate us, making us feel stifled, and worst of all, powerless. And although it may come to a head only once in awhile, if we are in a relationship or friendship where this happens on a frequent basis, it can take a toll, and we can lose our sense of worth and even worse, sense of self. It can be debilitating. The only way we can avoid these feelings is to take the power back, and empower ourselves.

Let’s take an illustrative example of a friend who is perpetually late. You find it irritating and inconsiderate. Moreover, you resent the fact that her perpetual lateness causes you to be late as well. With this example in mind, here are six steps to empower yourself out of her control:

  1. Take Charge of Your Life: The only person who can really control your life is you. Start acknowledging how you feel about these situations. Start making decisions for yourself and prioritizing what is important to you. Example: Admit that your friend’s lateness bothers you. Think about the ideal situation and how you would like it to play out. Picture it in your mind.
  2. Set Goals: Setting goals allows us to stay true to what is important to us. Goals can be big or small. Whatever the case, create goals that are important to you and don’t let anyone else hurt your chances of reaching them. Example: If there is an event or function that you want to be on time for, set a goal that you will be on time no matter what.
  3. State Your Opinion/Thought/Preference: Once you have a goal in mind, state it out loud. State it to yourself and to the other person so they know where you stand. Be clear in voicing your expectation, and don’t leave anything up to the imagination by assuming the person understands what you want. Example: State to the individual who is always late that it is very important to you that you are on time for the event. Let them know you are willing to go without them if they aren’t ready in time.
  4. Stand Your Ground: Wishywashiness isn’t going to help you in these situations. Don’t back down from what you believe, feel or want. Stand your ground and follow through with your plan to ensure your goal is met. Example: If the other person is late, leave without them. If you don’t, they will continue to assume that it is okay to push their schedule on you.
  5. Stop Relying on Others for Approval: Part of what allows us to be ruled by others is that we want their approval. The reality is, if you respect yourself and stand up for what you want, then others will start respecting you more for it.  Example: If after you leave and the other person gets upset. Make it clear that you informed them you would leave without them. Don’t apologize. You did what was important to you and you stayed true to yourself.
  6. Let go: There will be times when these steps aren’t always possible. You might just find that a relationship is repetitively one-sided in consideration. Instead of getting upset, let go. Realize that the person isn’t going to change and that you have the power to not let it bother you. Find ways to ensure that you take care of yourself. Example: If the person continues to be late for everything, stay true to your priority and start going alone and stop caring. Let go of the feelings and just accept them for who they are and start empowering yourself to be the on-time person you want to be.

Empowering yourself is important. Waiting for others to empower you gets you nowhere. Have you had a relationship where you felt you had no power? What did you do to address the situation?

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  • Pam

    Just realizing my husband has been manipulating me since we met 12 years ago.
    He wants certain things that I morally disagree with and has been trying to pull me away from my religious and moral beliefs so that I will accept that there is nothing wrong with what he wants and comply. When I started speaking up he got nasty saying I was selfish and lazy and how much more religious he has become than me. All very hurtful. I am scared to leave but more scared to stay. I want to think he can change but I fear he cannot. Even if he realized it and tried changing my trust is broken and I don’t know if I want to try anymore once I break free.

    • brettblumenthal

      It sounds as though you are trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Counseling might be something worth considering.

  • Liz Vogt Mish

    My sister and brother in law, who live with me, are manipulating me. They know that I don’t want to live alone and they want to move to another state. They are telling me if I don’t move with them I will be alone and that I should sell my house and move with them. If I disagree they become mean and won’t talk to me. They are acting distant and angry because I don’t want to move but I will have to move to a nursing home if they do move. They don’t care if I do.

  • Seeking Help

    I am not being maniputated. I am just finding out I maniputate others. I am seeking any help how to rebuild my relationship after I have pushed her to the edge. Has anyone had success in thier relations stoping the manipulation that does not invole leaving the other person? The steps above is helpfull I had already thought about goals.

    • brettblumenthal

      Seeking Help – The first step is to raise your self-awareness. Think about when and why you do what you do. Understanding why you behave this way will help you to modify behaviors for the future. Also, you should speak to your partner honestly and explain why you behave the way you do so she understands..

  • chachacharlie

    Thank you! This is excellent, Just what I needed. I have been pushed around for most of my life and it’s time I stand up for myself!

  • Joan

    I am living with a family member right now. I came to live with my aunt when my father and I were going through a bad phase in our relationship. Living here as been wonderful, she has been helping me and I have been helping her with my cousin since she is a single mother. A few months ago, I started becoming very unhappy. I felt that my aunt was taking advantage of how much I was willing to do for her, but because she is family and I am living here rent free I agreed to just suck it up and accept it. A couple weeks ago, it was revealed to me that my father was supposed to be paying my aunt rent for the past 10 months. My aunt needed help with money and asked him for the rent months after I was already living here. My father planned a dinner for my grandmother last minute and didn’t invite my younger cousin. I had no intentions of going to the dinner but I was out of class early that night and stopped over to sit and eat with my grandmother. My sister took a picture of us after dinner and posted it on Facebook. When I got home and told my aunt and cousin about dinner, they both started to cry. My aunt said she felt like she had no one. And my cousin said she hated her family. After that the rent situation got brought up again. I had no clue about this agreement and since I know my father cannot afford it I offered her my own rent that I could afford since I am a full-time student. She cried and dismissed the idea saying I was just a kid and that it was very sweet of me to offer. As time went on I began to feel more and more uncomfortable in the house. Her sister sent a text to my dad asking him to pony up for the rent. I soon realized this issue was just going to grow. I sat down and told my aunt about how uncomfortable I felt in the house and how I felt like I was walking on eggshells. She started to get very upset and started to cry and said I feel like I failed you and said I have no clue why you feel uncomfortable you living here has nothing to do with money. At that point I was telling her I wanted to move out, she said she didn’t understand why I wanted to but she understood my decision. I told her I wanted to stay until the end of August so I wouldn’t be rushing out of her house and could get used to the idea I was moving out.

    A couple days later, I came in from class and my aunt was making dinner and seemed to be in a very good mood. She told me how much she appreciated my help and how my cousin and I are the only people she had. And she wished I would reconsider moving out. I told her I had been thinking about it and if she could accept my rent that I would stay. She told me not to worry about it again that we would figure it out and that she did want me to leave the “compound”. I felt really happy that we had reached a conclusion and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I stayed. I went away that weekend and came home on Sunday and she said to me you need to talk to your father about getting the rent, he won’t answer anyone of my texts or calls. My father I knew would not be able to afford the rent and was avoiding her. But I was confused because I had already tried to take my father out of the situation but offering my own rent. Once again I felt very uncomfortable in the house. I have been spending more and more time out of the house and when i came home 2 days ago my aunt told me how much my father had hurt her and how much she hated him. she also told me how much her sister hated him and wanted to sue him but how she had told her no. Yesterday my cousin and her went into the city and my aunt told me to do some cleaning around the house and then told me she didn’t want anyone at the house. Usually it was never an issue, she was so open to me having my friends there. Then last night I came home from class and it was 9:30 all the lights were off. In the entire 10 months I have lived there my cousin and aunt have watched TV till midnight in the living room. She used to make dinner for me when I came in but there was nothing there. The two dogs usually sleep in my bed but she had all the dogs upstairs with the door closed and armed the house as soon as I got in so even if I wanted to I couldn’t leave or go out. I feel so anxious all the time. Am I overreacting or am i being manipulated?

    • brettblumenthal

      Joan, you are living in a difficult situation. If I were you, I’d remove yourself from the situation. It seems clear that your aunt and father have a very strained relationship. It is apparent, she wants you there and loves you. It doesn’t sound like she’s trying to manipulate you, but it sounds like there are issues that you may not want to be part of. You have to do what is best for you. That is what is most important. If you leave, make it clear that it isn’t about her, and that you’ll visit. She obviously is fragile and wants your relationship.

  • Broken180

    My fiance’s mother is probably the most controlling and manipulative person I have ever met. I love her son with all my heart. We have been together for 3 years now. Engaged for 1 year. When I met him, he was still living at home. When I met his mother, it seemed we hit it off very well. She welcomed me into the family with open arms. Little did I know, this was all going to change. According to my fiancé, she is like this with all his girlfriends. But once they have been together longer than 10 months she decides they are too close and hates them. She demanded that he break up with me. She made false accusations against me and banned me from her home. Even told a mutual friend that she would shoot me if I ever set foot in her house. My fiancé came to live with me about 6 months later against her wishes. He asked me to marry him and we set the date. I guess he decided not to tell her about it. I rarely spoke to her, so I had no idea. Everytime my fiancé asked me to visit his family, I was greeted with, “I don’t believe this shit!” (as she storms out of the room) and his father, little brother (10 yrs old), and whoever else was present would not say a word to for fear of her wrath. She must have seen one of my fiancé’s friends posts on his fb wall, asking when the big day was about 1 month before the wedding. He called it off. Said he wanted to be engaged for at least a year. I said ok and then set about letting my whole family know that it would be at a later date. I was humiliated and hurt. He claimed it was just coincidence that he changed his mind when she confronted him about it, but that it was his decision. It has been a year since all that. She has bad mouthed me all over town. One of my co workers came to me in tears telling me that one of her clients had seen my fiancé with his mother in town and asked when the big day was. His mother immediately went into a rage saying that we were never going to be married. My fiancé just stood there. His excuse was that they were in a public place. I researched this behavior and found all sorts of articles on mama’s boys, mother enmeshed men, passive aggressive personality disorders, etc. I had him read these too. He admitted their may be a problem. Following these website’s advise, we agreed that he would limit his phone calls and visits to once a week. If she continued to bad mouth me or him, he would tell her to stop and if she didn’t he would leave. This seemed it would work. Nope. Now she manipulates other people into doing her dirty work. Friends of hers were sending him messages saying that he was a horrible son for treating his mother this way. That I’m not even blood. If he doesn’t spend every weekend at his parents, his little brother sends messages saying, “it’s sad that you don’t like to hang out with me.” (which irritates me to no end because he had been spending the night every other weekend at that time). My fiancé calls or texts his mother every morning and afternoon. Goes to see her almost every day wether for lunch or just to stop in while he should be working. If he doesn’t, then the next time he sees her, she sends a message saying how nice it was to see him, as if she hadn’t seen him in weeks. And yes. He is back to daily contact. I asked him about getting married, since it has been a year. He said, “yes. Let’s do it.” he still has not told his mother though. I’m starting to have my doubts though. I will not tolerate her dictating how we spend our free time, money, etc. I feel that he is not trying anymore. It’s easier for him to ignore the problem and keep pleasing her so she doesn’t put him on a guilt trip. I understand that it is difficult to grow up and have your own life. Is he just not mature enough yet? Or is he just manipulating me (his mother tought him and his brother well) so he doesn’t have to live with her and his fathers constant fighting. I don’t know anymore.

    • Brett

      It sounds like he is letting himself be controlled by his mother and isn’t capable of cutting the strings. You have to follow your heart and intuition to know whether or not this is a relationship that holds true to what you want and where your values lie. Before anything, you must stay true to yourself and your needs. If you don’t, no one else will.

      • Broken180

        Thank you.

  • E

    I have a Friend who I believe manipulates me when she want something, but on other times be uninterested. We are soul mates, still live in the same area, but have separated. With much to my sadness. Do I talk to her about this? It is exam period at university at the moment, so It is not the best time, and she would not change any way. But it’s odd, that we never see each other any more as we have nothing in common, one moment she is asking me to stay in her bed, the other she gets unnerved when I talk about a new boyfriend. I want some clues to what is going on, but she won’t give them to me. It’s as if she wants to watch me dance, and try to make decisions on my own. It is quite evident that here, it is a very complicated relationship, and sometimes I think she thinks I manipulate her, when clearly I have no idea what I am doing. I think she may fancy me, and this disconcerts me, she hasn’t made a move, not one I want to give her anything for. But it’s getting long, and I dont want to be her play toy any more, but I love her. Can she not just stop.

  • C

    I’m dealing with a similar situation with a person who supports me emotionally and spiritually. Although the help is good and the person is kind and intelligent most of the time within the supportiv session, the person has a chronic problem of not being on time. There are numerous times this person has been late. Oftentimes, this person is generous in giving me extra time over the 1 hour. On a few occasions, this person has ended the session before the hour is complete, eventhough it was them who started late. I have used passive comments and humourous sarcasm to indicate how it bothers me and have asked and expressed my hope for it to not happen again. That hasn’t helped. I am afraid to demand punctuality, because, this is perhaps the least bothersome thing and for the most part, the sessions are very helpful and pleasant in the end. And also, I am getting them for free. It is a ministry and not a paid counselling service. I would say 7 or maybe up to 8 out of every twelve meetings, we have started late. It bothers me, because it disregards my future plans Sometimes, I do need to be somewhere later on and must leave within an hour of our scheduled starting time. Also, when ending early, it disregards my needs for more time and help. Some times I have waited up to half an hour, some times I have left, to later on get a phone call of apology with an explanation and a request to reschedule. Normally they are very valid excuses, because this person is always busy with many commitments due to their work and ministry and somethings are unforseen.
    However, the other day I was a bit angrier with many things going on that I was a lot more straightforward and let the person know how it made me feel angry that they were not on time this time again and what I was thinking. The person smiled respectfully as they listened to me and then went on explaining how that has always been a difficulty for them to be on time.
    I don’t know, whether, this person is able to become more punctual or doesn’t want to try harder with me, since it is just me, who they are serving for free. I don’t know if walking out of the appointment if the person is late again, will benefit me in the end. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to get to my appointments, to just turn around and leave.
    I just had a sense that I was placing a value on my boundary. Then, again, the service I receive is very good. That it seems is what has made worth the wait and the inconvenience. Nontheless, it bothers me and frustrates me each time it happens.
    What can I do?

    • Brett

      C, you seem to be going through quite a lot given your comments. Understand that in service, people can’t stop appointments early, especially if they are dealing with a crisis. That said, I do think it is good of you to have raised your concern. It is very frustrating when time isn’t respected by others. If I were you, I’d either plan on the delay (don’t schedule things so close to the time of your end), or find another resource who does maintain punctuality. I will tell you in my personal experience, medical and psychological professionals always struggle with this.

  • jylisowski

    another great article!

    …alcoholism is a family disease and i’m learning we all have a part in it. it’s not just the alcoholic who is suffering. …there are 12 step programs for both the families and friends of alcoholics and for the alcoholic that are free, like alcoholics anonymous and alanon. all you gotta do is show up. (they do pass a basket and most people usually contribute a buck or two, to pay for rent of the room, but it’s not expected).

    when people are sick, they are sick. we can become sick, too. if we don’t take care of ourselves. guilt, shame, fear of financial safety and other feelings may come into play from preventing us to move on with our lives.

    sometimes we can live with active alcoholism. sometimes we can’t, or choose not to. when people are in fear, they usually manipulate and try to control. it is scary to live like this and draining. i’m glad for blogs like this to help us and know there are others who are dealing with similar issues. thanks again.

  • justin

    marilu,

    My advice would be to leave him because you hit the nail on the head. he will not change, he just tells you that he is going to so that he doesn’t leave you. i know that it is goung to hurt and give you many lonely nights full of tears, but its worth it! and believe me you will find someone better in the long run, but you have to let go of your current partner in order to find the man your looking for.

    ive seen way too many women go back to the guy that they leave because he is what they know instead of taking a risk, going out, talking to someone new, and finding the man of their dreams

    hope that this helps.

  • marilu

    I’m in a relationship just like it is described above, everytime I try to leave he shows change. But when it comes to reality I know is just talk no real change. I wanna leave for good. what should I do?

  • Kandis

    Thank you for this. I have taken most of these steps in my life after I left my ex-husband who nearly killed me on one of his drunkin’ rampages. After leaving him to save both myself and our 6 month old daughter at the time, I realized during our marriage he slowly detachted me from all of my friends and all i had left were his. These friends… when I needed support the most helped him make my life worse for the next two years during the divorce process. It wasn’t tell I realized what I give and I need to recieve needs to be the SAME. I felt empty not having anyone once I realized it was ok to let go of ppl who are toxic, however I felt a new sense of confidence, control, and self worth. Now, 2 1/2 years later, my 3 year old daughter and I are happier then ever and the journey has brought us even closer. Thank you for this blog to know it wasn’t just ME and I was handleing it right.