Home » Pro » The Recovery Expert » Protecting Yourself from Manipulation

The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Protecting Yourself from Manipulation

Manipulators are everywhere – in homes, schools, churches, the work place. You name it; manipulators can be found wherever people are.

What are some of the tactics manipulators use?  Some are blatant; others are less obvious:

  • Bullying. This is the strong-arm approach, and not so subtle. The underlying message is, “If you don’t do what I want, you’ll wish you had.”
  • Sense of Obligation. This tactic involves “shoulds:” You should do this in order to be a good person. You should meet my needs. You ought to ________________. You owe me…

    The underlying message is that if you don’t do what you “should” you are mean, unreliable, disloyal, a bad _________________ (wife, husband, son, daughter, friend, etc.)

  • Sarcasm or Cutting Humor. This comes in the form of a joke, and when you call out the other person he claims, “You’re too sensitive. Can’t you take a joke?” The underlying message is loud and clear: “Be who I want you to be or I will jab you with my words.”
  • Play the Victim. The manipulator who constantly has “pity parties” and acts so forlorn that you once hurt him again (because after all, you are a heartless villain). In order to not feel like a heartless villain you need to do/be what the manipulator wants.
  • Sighing/Slamming/Banging/Driving Erratically. This blatant manipulative technique is designed to punish you. The underlying message to you as your loved one slams the door, storms away, steps on the brakes angrily, is, “My expectations have not been met by you so I will not speak with you directly, but rather, express my contempt for you through my actions.”
  • Guilt trips. Statements such as, “Wow, how lucky you are!” or, “So and so’s mom lets him stay out as late as he wants. I wish you weren’t so controlling.” The guilt trip manipulator knows exactly how to push your buttons. If he senses that you worry about being mean, he will run that one into the ground for all its worth.
  • Showering Sentiments. This type of manipulator tries to buy you with gifts and/or by giving excessive compliments. Underneath his generosity are strong strings of obligation, and if you don’t reciprocate as expected, there will be hell to pay.
  • Silent Treatments/Sulking/Pouting. These tactics are passive-aggressive means of punishment for the wrongdoing you have done. This manipulation is so painful that the victim will do whatever he can to avoid them.
  • Intentionally Stalling. Do you ever have to wait forever for your loved one? Is he constantly dragging his feet?  Then, most likely, you are dealing with a person who wants to control you and the situation, but is doing it in a covert way.

This list is not exhaustive, and the methods for manipulating someone are as varied as individuality. Suffice it to say that manipulators can tailor their manipulation specifically to the individual at hand.

Why do manipulators manipulate?  The two main reasons are:

  • To control the relationship and/or situation
  • To avoid personal responsibility

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a manipulator, do not lose heart, there are ways to protect yourself and take care of yourself in this type of relationship.  The key component to self-protection is to understand one basic premise:

Stop needing the approval of others.

A sub-premise is, do not let others define you.

The only way manipulation can work is if you allow it to. Your manipulator has studied you and knows your weaknesses. He knows you want to take care of him, be the hero, be forgiving, be sacrificial, etc. He will use his manipulations to exploit your weaknesses (and your strengths) to his advantage.

The only way out of this type of relationship dynamic is to stop caring about whatever the implied message he is trying to convey to you.  Here are some interventions to use on yourself to help mitigate the manipulator’s power over you:

  • See the manipulative ploys for what they are – strategies to control you.
  • Stop needing the other person to change. Simply allow him to be a manipulator if that is his desire. After all, you can’t control the other person any more than the other person should control you. Accept and surrender.
  • Stop defending yourself. If you start noticing that you feel defensive, stop talking and walk away.
  • Nullify the manipulator’s control over you. Stop needing to meet his needs.
  • Expect the manipulator to use different methods to control you. Once you stop giving in to his manipulations, he will up the ante. Be prepared.
  • Resolve to stop being a people pleaser. Let the other person remain “unpleased.”
  • Stand firm. Do not be moved by the pressure.

If you would like to receive my free monthly newsletter on the psychology of abuse, please email me at [email protected].

Protecting Yourself from Manipulation

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


5 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). Protecting Yourself from Manipulation. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2020, from