Dealing With Manipulative People Part 3

Manipulators suck.

Thomas James

So, as it turns out, there aren’t that many quotes on manipulation.  Which I thought was kind of surprising, to be honest.  Luckily you have an incredibly witty host who can provide you with little gems of wisdom like the one you see at the top of this article.

If you hadn’t already noticed from the title of this article, this is part 3 (Of hopefully 3.) of a set of articles I’ve been doing on manipulation– in particular, the people who practice the art of manipulation, the techniques they do in order to further their craft and methods you can use to recognize, avoid or otherwise subvert (Lovely word, subvert.) said methods.

Part 1 is right over here, and Part 2 is here.  You’re already on part 3, so let’s waste no more time and get right to it.

7. Questions that have already been answered for you

Weird one, I know, but an effective technique nonetheless.  These are characterized usually by a manipulator guiding you towards deciding what they want you to do without you even realizing it, and pressuring you into going along with what they want.

I’ll give an example:

Let’s say that the manipulator in your life wants you to go to a concert with them.  You don’t want to go because you don’t really enjoy concerts, and you especially don’t enjoy the group the manipulator wants to see, but the manipulator doesn’t want to go by him/herself.

But when it comes time for the manipulator to ask you about the concert, they ask like this:

“There’s this really great concert I want to go to, so-and-so is playing and it’s going to be a lot of fun.  I thought that might be fun for the two of us to go, so would you like to meet up at 6:00 or 7:00 on Thursday?”

They never actually ask you if you want to go.  They assume you want to go (Even when in some circumstances they know that you don’t.) and ask you the time you want to meet, as if you had already agreed to accompany them.  This pressures you in a very simple, but effective way.  By acting like it’s assumed that you already agreed to go, the manipulator puts you in the position of going back on plans you never made in the first place. Most people don’t like to disappoint, so they go along with it.

Or, what commonly used to happen to me was that during the time in which the issue was first brought up was this:  If it was something like a concert, I was asked what time I wanted to go, and being surprised and slightly confused, I answered between the two options given to me.  After I hung up the phone or the conversation had ended, I realized I had just agreed to do something I didn’t want to do.  And that if I was going to back out now I had already made plans!

Making answering simple and requiring little thought is what makes this work.  Manipulators will usually give you a couple of options, sometimes three and ask for you to pick, assuming you want to do whatever it is that you want to do and then leave a pause after they ask.  Socially, we’re trained to answer when such a pregnant pause comes about in a conversation, so instead of taking the time to think we just answer whatever option sounds best at the time.  It’s only after that you realize you never wanted to go in the first place.

Then if you try to cancel, you can expect to be guilt tripped about it since you already agreed to go.  Now the manipulator will tell you all sorts of things about how difficult it will be to change their plans and how your missing presence is going to make the night just awful and blah, blah, blah.  Anything that will make you feel badly so that you don’t cancel.

I should mention that, rather hilariously in my opinion, this is actually a known sales technique.  It’s called ‘assuming the sale’ and representatives often use it to great affect.  Once a customer has been shown an item the representative will say something like: “Would you like that in blue or green?”  The customer answers their choice and then purchases the item, as they have already told the rep which one they want.

Here are some more examples of this technique:

“We should go out for dinner.  Would you like Italian or Chinese?”

“Have you stopped abusing your pet?” (In this situation, either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ will imply that you do indeed abuse your pet, which usually isn’t even the case.  This is used with a variety of different enders.  Just replace ‘abusing your pet’ with whatever applies.)

“Aren’t you glad that…” (Again, already assuming that the ender is true and asking you if you’re happy about it or not, indicating that whatever it is is true by your own implication.)

Ways to deal with this: If you find yourself flustered when it happens (And you probably will if you don’t recognize what’s happening right off the bat.) just tell the manipulator that you need time to think about it.  When you talk to them next tell them that you don’t want to do whatever it is they implied that you agreed to do.  Often they’ll actually tell you that you already agreed to it!  Don’t get caught in that trap.  Recite what they said and confront them with the fact that they never actually asked whether you wanted to go or not, just what time would be best or whatever the case may be.  They’ll back off pretty fast.

As always, confrontation with their behaviour is a sure fire way to diffuse the situation as the worst thing a manipulator can have happen to them is to be discovered for what they are.  It’s highly embarrassing for them and more importantly represents a loss of power over the situation.  Those types of situations are to be avoided at all costs.

8. Lying

I’m not going to go into huge detail about this because we all know what lying is and most of us have come up with various methods of detecting a lie, be it checking the source of the information provided or simply body language and tone of voice.

Be aware that manipulators will lie through their teeth in order to get you to feel the way they want you to feel or to something they want you to do.  I’m not talking the small white lies, or slight exaggerations that many of us are prone to, but massive lies that don’t even venture into the realm of truth.

As an example, I once had a manipulator make up an entire series of events involving two people I knew that had happened in my absence.  Taking this person at their word, I was upset at the news of what had happened.

Later, speaking to one of the individuals involved in these supposed events, I found out that the 45 minute conversation I had with this manipulator in which she detailed the whole situation was completely made up. I was in shock.  The story had been so detailed that I never questioned its validity.  I later discovered how manipulative the individual who had told me the story was and realized that much of what I had heard from her had been lies.

If you know someone is a manipulator or you find out someone you’ve been trusting and listening to is a manipulator, be aware that they may be feeding you exactly what they want you to hear and not the truth.  These lies can be quite detailed and involve multiple people, so don’t think that because there’s a lot of detail to the story that it’s true.  Manipulators often plan out lies way in advance of the conversations in which they spread them so that their story sounds believable.

Again, confrontation is a great way to deal with this as it puts the manipulator in a very, very bad position.  Always, always check your facts if you hear something surprising or something other than what you’ve been told from others.  Especially if this new information produces a strong emotional reaction with you.

9. Selective Memory

Selective memory is a strange beast in that I’m not entirely sure how it works, just that it does.  Often when something has happened that manipulator doesn’t like (Usually because they behaved badly.) they’ll just plum forget about it when it’s brought up a few months later.  Especially if it only involved you and them, since there’s no one to corroborate your story.

I’m not sure if manipulators do this on purpose and that they’re just lying when they say they don’t remember (Which is probably the case if it’s only been a short time.) or if the literally don’t remember.  Whatever the case, the reason they have forgotten is because they don’t want to remember.  Whether that’s a subconscious or a conscious thing doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.

While it may seem like selective memory is limited to smaller instances, like conversations, that is not always the case.  I had a situation where I paid a significant sum of money to a manipulator, and when I brought the fact that I had paid this money up two years later, they claimed it never happened.  That she had no record of ever receiving the money that she could find, so that she ‘didn’t know how that could have happened.’  At first she denied it completely, and then said she just didn’t know where the money went since she would’ve put it in such-and-such account and that she found it very unlikely that it happened.

If something like that happens to you, stick to your guns.  Most people who spend a lot of time with you will know who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, especially if they were present for the situation at hand.  Luckily for me I had several people who had seen me cut the cheque and had been present when I left to give the manipulator the money so there was no question that I had paid the amount.

If it’s something only you and the manipulator were present for, don’t bother arguing with them.  They won’t remember no matter how many details you give them about the situation, and they’ll make you feel like you’re a crazy person and fabricating things in order to make them look bad or have a situation turn out the way you want.

Again, most people around you who know both you and the manipulator will know who is trustworthy and who isn’t.  If you can, keep detailed records of things that have happened between you and the manipulator of importance (Money related issues especially.) so that if and when they decide that an event didn’t happen, or happened differently you have the paper, video, audio or photographic evidence to say otherwise.  I know that sounds extreme, but there are certain situations where you need to be able to prove your position and what actually happened.


In my experience, when you’re dealing with manipulators your best option is to remove that person from your life.  I had a manipulator in my life for twenty-two years whom I cut out and who was actually a member of my family.  Despite the fact that they were a family member, their behaviour was unacceptable, and upon being confronted with it was denied in its entirety.  She wasn’t going to change, but I couldn’t have someone pulling strings like that in my life.

Life is too short.  You can’t change manipulators– you can’t even force them to recognize what they’re doing because they have a whole host of defensive mechanisms to prevent them from rationally acknowledging their behaviour.  It’s why they continue to manipulate and why they become so good at it.  You can either be around them, or you can choose to have people you like and who care about you in your life.

I chose the latter because, as I said, life is just too damn short to waste on people like that.  They’re draining, they often get you to do things you don’t want to do even when you know they’re using manipulative techniques, they get angry when things don’t go their way and to be quite frank, it’s just generally a nuisance.  No one wants that kind of negative energy and negative personality in their life and more importantly, no one deserves it.

I know how hard it can be to cut someone out of your life, especially when you realize that they’re just surviving the only way that they know how, but it’s for the best.  Cutting them out makes your life improve significantly since you’re no longer dealing with this immense source of stress, and it tells them that you are not going to put up with that behaviour.  Somewhere in there manipulators know what they’re doing, it’s just often way below the surface and they don’t want to acknowledge it.

But they continue because the people in their lives allow them to.  They just accept that this person guilt trips them or that they’re manipulative in they try to deal with it the best they can.  That is infinitely more harmful to a manipulator than cutting them out could ever be.  By letting them continue with their behaviour and letting them treat you that way, you are telling a manipulator that it’s okay that they manipulate.  It’s somewhat acceptable– it works.

Cutting out a manipulator often forces them to re-evaluate how they are relating to people and how they related to you that made you remove them from your life.  It’s an unpleasant truth that they would normally not take the time of day to examine because it has not caused them any serious loss or harm.  In fact, all that their manipulative behaviour has done, in their opinion, is get them ahead.  It has allowed them to get what they want.

End your relationship with them, whatever that relationship may be and then re-evaluate in the future.  Give it time before trying it again– manipulative behaviour takes a long, long time to weed out when you’ve been doing it all your life, and it takes some pretty enormous personal insight and changes in order to be successful.  If a manipulator comes back to you claiming they’ve changed or that they’re sorry for what they’ve done a few months down the road, don’t fall for it.  It is, sadly, another manipulation tactic.

Good luck to those who have a manipulator in their life currently.  If you don’t end up taking my recommendation, I hope that at least this list can help you mitigate the damage a manipulator can cause to your life.  Stay strong and stay positive, but most imporantly, stay aware.

6 Responses to “Dealing With Manipulative People Part 3”

    • Edward says:

      Well written article on an issue I think most people would benefit from. I have been trying to find information like this on manipulative friends and the course of action to take. For many years (20) I was being manipulated by a cousin who is very close to me, his brother and I are great friends, his mother is my mom’s niece and his aunts and uncles are all related and tight knit with me so it took me a long time to finally realize he was/is a manipulator. Furthermore it took me a while to to cancel him out of my life. He never asks me anything he always makes his questions as statements. I never really thought of this until I read this article about how they “hide questions in statements” This relative never can see himself wrong,guilty,misbehaving,etc. When I called him out recently on his behavior and lack of respect towards me and my home he went along with it and gave me lip service and what I wanted to hear. Followed by an excessive amount of apologies which were only intended to make me feel guilty if I continue calling him out.

      Suffice it to say, I have emotionally cut him out, however he still brings up the things I called him out on.
      Here is the rundown, I moved away from home and all of our extended family and moved in with my brother. I don’t mean to brag, but the place I live is right on the beach, no parents, close to downtown. So on his first visit I explained the house rules and all that, and he was on good behavior. The second time he came down he really upset me with his comments and wants and needs. I just felt completely crappy which is what he wanted. So then the third time he came he was loud, obnoxious, making up dramatic,theatrical type stories to put me or his brother down, flooding the toilet and then accusing me because of “bad plumbing”. Funny thing is I have lived here 3 years ZERO TOILET ISSUES.

      So now after I confided his actions to a mutual friend of ours, he called to apologize. Like I mentioned at the top of this message, he apologized non stop. Finally after explaining what happened, what he has done to me, and how I feel about them. I asked him about his behavior, and all those apologies turned into moments of silence followed by excuses and blaming others for his actions.

      I am so sick of him, no joy or happiness comes to me when he is around. It was not always like this, but at the age that both of us are it is a pretty low chance he will change. His background is sales, and he meets most of the criteria for being labeled a manipulator.

      • Tom says:

        I’m glad to hear you’ve finally rid yourself of him. It sounds really harsh, but there’s no other way away from people who act like that. Your own needs come before their drama.

  1. Sara says:

    This was really good to read. I think everyone has dealt with someone like this in their life (or a few) but it’s hard to comprehend the behavior when such extreme tactics are used. It’s nice to see it laid out like this.

  2. Dr. Ed Slack says:

    Super set of articles, clear headed and very practically helpful. I’d like to read your slant on dealing with ‘public level’ manipulators (those who operate in media, mass and otherwise), in the future.

  3. Therese says:

    Thank you. My prays were instantly answered! If feels really good after more than 13 years of dealing with a manipulative person to finally be able to identify how to interpret their behavior.

    If you have any information from a reformed manipulator who could advise on what process they went through before realizing the need to change, please email me whenever it is available on line. Thank you again from the heart.

    May God bless your generosity in making and taking the time to freely share this with the world of victims of manipulators.


    • Tom says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have any information on reformed manipulators, Therese, though I would be interested to find out if there is any. The problem with manipulative people is that in order to find out if they have truly reformed from being manipulative, you have to open yourself up to being manipulated again. When someone has been extremely vicious and manipulative for as long as you’ve known them, there comes a point where it is simply not worth opening yourself up to find out, especially if they have a history of lack of change.

      In any case, I’m glad you found some solace in these articles. Thanks for reading.

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