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This is one of a series of brief articles on how
to respond effectively to annoying social
behavior. An effective response occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
This article offers useful responses to
the behavior of someone you feel is too
manipulative or controlling.It assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web site and the
This YouTube video summarizes the requisites for "effective" communication:
Social "manipulation" occurs when a
person tries to get you to do something that
you're reluctant to do. It differs from
"persuasion" in that manipulation is inherently
disrespectful. For example..::
you may have
already declined to do the "something," and
the other person ignores that (you). This
implies that their values and need/s are
more important than yours;
may subtly or overtly use guilt or threat
(fear) to get you to do what they want. This
is dishonest as well as disrespectful. And/or s/he...
may say or hint
that you're not able to do the "something,"
to get you to "prove" that they're wrong
*("Well, you probably couldn't finish
the bathroom by noon anyway...").
"Controlling" ("Norma's a control freak") occurs
when another person tries to dictate your
behavior or priorities ("So you're going to
take me shopping at 10:30.") They assume
you'll comply, and may feel irritated, offended, and
resentful if you don't.
By definition, manipulators and controllers are
fakse selves who primarily focus on
their own needs. Most (all?) are
psychologically wounded and unable (vs.
empathize with some or all other
people. They seldom know how to communicate
effectively, and will indignantly deny and/or
rationalize their behavior if confronted
opposite of manipulation and controlling is
making a direct request of you and respecting your
you please do _____ for me?" If you say
"no" or "not now," the next best option is
problem-solving. . .
can you respond effectively to manipulating and
These options work best if your true Self is
guiding you and you're fluent with the 7
skills. Each of these
options may take a few seconds to compose, and will
become automatic with practice...
and mentally acknowledge that you're
feeling manipulated or controlled.
Avoid blameful thoughts like"You're
trying to manipulate me."
accept that the other person doesn't know how to
approach you honestly because of some fear
that you're not responsible for
attitude about the other person. If you feel
and compassion, go ahead. If not, suspect
false self is controlling you, and lower
yourself of your personal
as a dignified, worthy person, and these
and become aware of your thoughts and
outcome you seek from your response - to
inform, to vent, to set a boundary, to cause
choose one or more of these responses as
you feel / think / want / ___________."
Remind yourself - this is not
a respectful two-part
''I'' message. "When you (factually
describe their behavior), I feel
Expect "resistance" (like excuses,
protests, denials, blame, etc) and
acknowledge it calmly with a hearing
check. Then restate your assertion
steady eye contact. Repeat this sequence
a question, like "What do
you need from me right now?"
empathic listening to affirm (not agree
with) the response.
or you can...
a factual observation,
like "Seems like you need me to
_______________."If you get an
affirmation, you can (a) say nothing or
(b) respond - agree, refuse,
problem-solve, vent, question, etc. If
you get "No, I need _____." use empathic
listening, and then decide what you need now.
ask permission - "(Name),
are you open to some personal feedback?"
Most people will say "OK" out of
curiosity or politeness. If they say
"yes," give them a respectdul
confront the person, like
"(Name), feel like you're trying to get
me to __________, and you're not able to
be honest and direct about owning that.
When you choose not to be direct, I lose
respect for / interest in / patience
with you." Expect "resistance/s,
and respond with calm hearing checks as
If your response
fills your need/s, affirm yourself. If it
doesn't, review your
communication process, and
decide what to do differently the next time.
Stay aware that many
manipulative (wounded) people are unaware of their covert need to
control others, and will probably deny it. Other people
are aware of trying to deceive or control
you, and will vigorously deny it because doing
so is socially shameful.
Can you think of a manipulative adult or child
in your life now? if so, recall how you usually
respond to them. Then mentally role-play
responses like those above, and imagine (a) how
they'd react, and (b) how you'd feel.
yourself and maybe trusted others if you
ever seem manipulative or controlling. If
so, that's probably due to a well-intentioned
controlling you. See
This is one of a series of brief articles
suggesting effective ways to respond to
social behaviors. This article offers options for
responding effectively to a
significantly-manipulative or controlling person. The options are