How To Deal With Manipulative People

How To Deal With Manipulative People


Unfortunately, not all people are sympathetic or kind.  In fact, some are aggressively predatory and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals – but they aren’t stupid.  These manipulators use behaviours outside of the social norms, things we would never do ourselves to others, but that is hard for their victims to recognise and resist.

Everyone fights, but manipulators fight aggressively, without concern for their opponents.  

We have all seen it, the subtle put-downs of others at work or social gatherings that are hurtful.  Why would someone do this?  Because manipulative people like to fight others and put them down to make themselves look better.  We even see this in relationships where one partner will do this to the person who is supposed to be the one they love or parents who do this to their children.

Manipulators are different from the rest of us because they have aggressive personalities where they will push their agendas forward without any regard for other people’s feelings, rights or interests.  They are entirely unable to see beyond their self-interests.

Most of us will conform to social rules, such as not intentionally upsetting others, but manipulators see this deference to social norms as an act of submission and will likely view these norms as threats to their self-interest, preventing them from attaining the things they want to achieve.  So they then ignore them.

A classic example is parents pressuring their children to do well at school or sports, without any concern for their child’s own needs or wants so that they have the reflected glory of success through their children.

There are two types of manipulators.  

Overt Aggressive

Overt Aggressive manipulators are openly hostile.  They don’t hide their attempts to intimidate, control or hurt others.


Covert manipulators choose to conceal the actual fighting, although they are as ruthless in fighting for what they want.  Unfortunately, covert aggression is prevalent throughout society due to its effectiveness.  For example, they might bully an employee they want to leave rather than go through the channels of HR.

So how do you stop these manipulators?


To stop a manipulator from ruining your life you first have to recognise when you are making too many excuses for someone.   According to the book Snakes In Suits - When Psychopaths Go to Work By Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare, which examines how a psychopath doesn’t wind up in jail, but instead puts on a suit and gets a job, there are two ways to deal with the manipulator.

1.    Know Your Enemy

Understand the traits of a psychopath so you can reveal who they are under their “mask” of normality.  The authors warn though that it is important not to diagnose everyone around you based on a mere few traits.  Review the two types of manipulators above as part of the understanding of their traits.

2.    Know Your Self

Learn more about you.  Do you have any weaknesses?  What makes you angry?  What makes you like someone?  Manipulators are experts at reading others and will easily spot and push these buttons to influence you.

For example, you may be shy and find it hard to make friends.  A manipulator will take advantage of this to build rapport with you to extract favours.

Try not to get sucked into their games as it is easy to be swayed into their charm.  If you feel you are bonding with someone quickly, try to critically think about your first impression of this person and how believable their stories are.

This can be difficult even if you know you are being manipulated, but we need to stop making excuses for the manipulator.  If you give them an inch, they will take a mile and exploit you.

Another example is manipulative men who have affairs who then try to guilt their long-term partner into staying together when the woman finds.  They lament that they have been together for years and she is throwing it all down the drain (not him)!  If this doesn’t work, he will then try to shame her into staying by asking what their family and friends will think of them.  The manipulator doesn’t carry the guilt; they easily pass it onto others.

Have you seen any behaviour like this in your life?  If so, alarm bells should ring.

What do you need to do?


When dealing with a manipulator, you need to be firm and assertive.  We often lack the courage to stand up to manipulators because we don’t want the fight, but we need to fight back or things will never change.  So, what is the best way?

Firstly, never put yourself in danger.  Don’t confront the manipulator alone if you feel endangered.

Speak about the manipulator's aggressive behaviour towards you when confronting them.  Ensure your focus is on their actions, not their intentions.

Communicate with them transparently and civilly by asking them direct questions and only accept immediate responses.  Answers other than “yes” or “no” might mean they are trying to wriggle their way out of the discussion.

They will often try to use sarcasm, put-downs and threats to justify their aggressive tactics.  If so, don’t take them personally; know that what the manipulator is saying is about themselves and not you.  You can only beat the manipulator by identifying yourself, inside and out.  As stated above, the more self-assured you are about you, the better your relationship with the rest of the world will be.  Aggressive manipulators will know your weaknesses even better than you, so you need to work on any low self-esteem issues you have so that you are not affected by their words.

And on a final note – listen to your gut feeling.

Manipulators specialise in deflecting, rationalising and turning the tables on those who begin to see through their deceitful tactics.  If you feel like you’re being attacked or manipulated, trust your gut and try not to be easily swayed by the person who you believe is manipulating you. 
Further reading:

In Sheep’s Clothing - Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon Jr., PhD reveals the aggressive, undercover agenda of manipulative individuals, whose hidden tactics would otherwise remain hidden. The book offers you tools to become aware of, prepare for and deal with the tricks used by manipulative colleagues, family members and friends.


Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist.  Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.

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