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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
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
This article offers useful responses to
the behavior of someone you believe is addicted
to something. It assumes you're familiar with...
How would you define "manipulation" to an
average young teen? Remember the last time you
felt manipulated or controlled by
someone? How did you feel - resentful?
Irritated? Torn? Anxious? Disrespected? Angry?
Combative? Submissive? Numb? How did you
Let's say that "manipulation" occurs when a
person tries to get someone to do something that
the second person is reluctant to do. The direct
(respectful) way to d this is to request "Will
you do _____ for me?" That leaves the other
person free to say "No," or "Not now."
Several factors determine how manipulation
feels to you:
do you feel
genuinely respected by the other person?
is s/he open and
direct, aggressive and self-focused, or seem
dishonest and insincere?
does s/he use
guilt, desire, rank, or fear to induce you
requested or implied thing reduce your
security and/or self respect (violate your
does s/he ask
you to keep something secret from others?
genuinely listen to your response, or
discount or ignore it?
do you trust the
other person's motives and behaviors?
are you apt to
lose something of value if you say or imply
is s/he rigid,
or open to compromise and problem-solving?
is she asking
him or her (avoid something unpleasant)?
does s/he deny
any of these factors or try to justify them?
else make you uncomfortable about the person
and/or their behavior?
is your true
Self responding to the other person, or
mix of factors like these will determine how you
feel about the person and their manipulative
behavior. Most people are not self-aware enough
to reflect and identify all these factors.
Bottom line - when you decide someone
is trying to manipulate (con, deceive, or
control) you, you'll feel somewhere between OK
and very uncomfortable. When you're
"significantly uncomfortable," is there a best
way to respond? See what you think...
Each of these may take a few seconds, 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."
until they become automatic;
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 a
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, or
choose one or more of these responses as
you feel / think / want / ___________."
Remind yourself this is not
a respectful two-part
"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 with
steady eye contact. Repeat this sequence
a question, like "What do
you need from me right now?" Use
empathic listening to affirm (not agree
with) the response.
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 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.
a confrontation, 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
into a lose-lose "I'm right! <> No, I'M
right!" spiral with the other person.
your true Self
and use calm,
If your response
fills your need/s, affirm yourself. If it
doesn't, review your shared 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 that. 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 common
social behaviors. This article offers options for
responding effectively to a
significantly-manipulative (controlling) person. The options are
your true Self
clarity on your
feelings, needs, and mutual
fluency in the
relationship skills of awareness, assertion,
and empathic listening.
see response options to
dishonest or phony, distrusted,and
+ + +
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this
article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
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