By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a manipulator, chances are you’ll never forget it. You end up being put into situations you don’t like being in — and feel trapped to resist the situation or consequences. In a sense, we are all manipulated into buying something we don’t want, or being in a situation we don’t like, due to social influence. That’s normal and common. But a psychological manipulator is not normal, and it’s not healthy. Someone else is using you for his or her purpose, and in a very real sense, you are being exploited for his or her needs.
Whether you’re dating a manipulator, working for one, or living with one, you’ll feel the effects in several areas. Most manipulators share common characteristics.
* They find your weakness and use it against you.
* They know how to seduce you into giving up something meaningful to you in order to serve their needs.
* They are repeat offenders. Once they begin using you, they continue until you put a stop to it.
It is important to remember that manipulators are not psychologically healthy individuals. They have emotional issues and you can’t fix them. Breaking the cycle begins with you taking a stance and advocating for yourself. You’ll have to stand up to them and confront them to let them know you mean business.
Here are five tips that can help.
* First of all, if you encounter one of these people stay away from this if possible. Trust your gut. If you’ve seen them exploit or use others for their own good, the chances are high they’ll use you, too.
* Outsmart the manipulator. Manipulators are hard on your self-esteem and you may begin believing you’re not a good person. This is nonsense and a type of brain-washing. Don’t let them blame you for what goes wrong. Hold them accountable for their behaviors that led to the consequences they don’t like. No one has the right to blame you for unreasonable demands nor do they have a right to always get their own way or demand that you make them happy.
* Get comfortable with saying NO. Manipulators look for non-confrontational people. Don’t be that person for them. Confront them when they are being unreasonable. Going along to get along does not work with a manipulator.
* Set boundaries, and if they don’t respect them, follow through. Sometimes if the manipulator is at work that means following through with human resources, or if you’re married to the manipulator that may mean going to counseling since it is mandatory for the marriage to survive. Then follow through with what you say. Once manipulators know they can break your boundaries, they will continue to.
* Manipulators are bullies. Bullies don’t respect feelings. Keeping notes and a paper trail to press charges on a manipulator in your life may be necessary. Having a counselor to help keep you strong while you’re protecting yourself from further self-esteem damage is life changing.
Manipulators hurt friendships and relationships at school as well as in work place milieu. They can be charming and disarming, but your gut instinct is not easily fooled. If you have a bad feeling about someone, stay away from him or her. If you find yourself having to work or live with one, set firm boundaries and let them know you see them for who they are.
– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at maryjorapini.com.