Not everyone takes immense pride in their ‘skills’ of emotional manipulation, but you’ll find that once someone finds out they’re good at it, they may do it, even without thinking. If you’re not the manipulative type, or you’re perhaps a kind and trusting soul, you might inadvertently find yourself as the target. It can happen in all walks of life, from work to relationships to anywhere else that you frequently deal with the same person.
Any form of emotional manipulation is rarely good for the person on the receiving end, and it can cause you to make decisions and take actions that you otherwise wouldn’t. We’re big believers in being in control, and you can avoid being set up for something you don’t enjoy with these tips.
1. Stand Up to Those Who Deny Something They Said
One of the first signs you’re likely to notice about an emotional manipulator is that they’ll often say something and then deny it if someone else calls them out on it. It’s tough to do something about it the first time it happens, as you have no evidence – and they know it. They thrive on confusion and are often skilled liers. While you can’t do anything about it in the first instance, your goal should be to avoid it happening again. They might just be forgetful rather than manipulative, but it’s your early warning sign that you shouldn’t take what they say at face value.
2. Don’t Fall for Their Willingness Always to Help You
It’s never a nice thing to say about a person, but not everyone that appears willing to help will follow through or really means it. By giving off an air of trust and confidence in their helpfulness, they’re actually attempting to build credit for if and when they need your help in the future. We speak more later on the fact that actions speak louder than words but try to wait until you see what they do when you need assistance before you prioritise lightening their load.
3. Learn to Manage Guilt
Guilt isn’t an ideal emotional response at the best of times, but it can be even worse when someone tries to weaponise it against you. The people you need to watch out for rarely talk about their feelings, preferring instead to leave people to draw their own conclusions based on the signals they give off intentionally. Ideally, you’ll be able to handle any guilt you feel, but if you find it stemming from a single source, it can be best to stay away from them.
4. Focus on Avoidance Rather than Criticism
Whether at work or home, if you’re in regular contact with an emotionally-manipulative person, the chances are it might not be your role to call them out on their actions. You’d rather not let them affect others as they affect you, but criticism can serve as another opportunity for them to turn it back around on you. Unless you’re ready for the ensuing battle, make a point of steering clear rather than confronting.
5. Don’t Try to Interfere with Their Emotions
The people we’re talking about in this feature have an uncanny ability to make others around them feel the same emotions they do. Indeed, some of the greatest leaders in history consider emotional manipulation as an integral part of their toolkit. Again, it’s not your job to change how they feel, and we’d refer you back to tip #4 if you feel like you’re in danger of being caught up in it.
6. Don’t Accept that Your Problems are Less Important
These people are often self-centred. We have no major issue with this, as we often feel like people don’t put themselves first enough. However, you need to do the same and recognise when you spend more time thinking about their issues than your own. Some will try to embellish their problems to make them sound like a priority, but its best to let them tackle them alone until you’ve solved yours.
7. Believe Actions, Not Words
Talk is cheap, as the old saying goes, and once you’ve identified someone that likes to manipulate your emotions, your first reaction should be a greater inclination towards actions rather than words. It’s not difficult to say you’ll do something – whether that’s complete a task, change their ways or anything else – so reserve your judgement and trust until they make things happen.
8. Be Careful About Trust
We’ve already mentioned trust on a couple of occasions, but we wanted to take a whole tip to make it clear that it shouldn’t come cheap. Whether you prefer to trust someone until they breach it or prefer being distrusting until they earn it, keep an eye out for the warning signs and hold these people to higher standards.
The trickiest part will be that these people specialise in making it seem like they trust you. It’s another part of their repertoire in most cases, so don’t adjust your demands just because you feel like you owe them.
9. Keep an Eye Out for Fake Negotiation
Not everyone is a savvy businessperson, and if you don’t need to use negotiation in your day to day life, the chances are you won’t be particularly good at it. Manipulators seemingly have inherent negotiating skills and the first tell-tale sign is when they decide what they want from you and start much bigger. Let’s say they want to borrow your car for a morning. They might open the negotiation by asking to borrow it for a week. That sounds ridiculous – so much so that the thought of lending it out for a morning feels like a great compromise. Don’t fall for it.
10. Recognise the Signs of Aggression
If there’s one thing manipulators hate more than being called out, it’s not getting their own way. When the ‘nice’ and ‘smiley’ approaches don’t work, it’s not uncommon for the mood to change. They attempt to scare and intimidate people more directly than usual. If possible, stand up to it and don’t show fear – it often leaves them with no further options. If you are scared, and there’s nothing wrong with that, get away from the situation before you find yourself seceding to their demands.