How to Deal With Manipulative People – Part One

Manipulative People

Following your life’s purpose with single-minded devotion is a challenging task at the best of times. But it’s even harder when faced with people who try to impose their priorities on you in an effort to benefit from your work and manipulate your sweat equity.

In a prior Early to Rise article about Simplifying Your Life, I talked about removing those things from your life that pull you off track and prevent you from working toward your goals.

That includes those people who drag you down, who you spend time with out of sheer obligation, who prey on your good nature, or who pull you back into bad habits when you’re trying to change.

You’re going to need more support as you go forward on your journey, but not everyone has your best interests at heart. I must warn you, today’s topic is a dark one. And I’m going to be very blunt about it.

There’s another obstacle in the path to your success that can be much more difficult to deal with…

Today I want to talk about a personality type I call The Manipulator.

I’m sure you’ve encountered this character before. Not content to pursue their own path while you pursue yours, The Manipulator imposes on your time and resources to serve their own ends. They co-opt your labor, play on your emotions, and try to impose their worldview and philosophy on you.

We’ll look at several common examples of The Manipulator. And I’ll give you a few strategies you can use to keep them out of your life.

So who are these shadowy figures that hide in plain sight?

If you’ve ever worked in a company or an office, you know the type.

It starts with “I need to talk to you. It won’t take long.” And it usually concludes with an “urgent” request for you to do something to help them out. Something that imposes on your time, that takes you away from your own work, that they need you to do right now, and that adds a burden while giving you nothing in return.

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This is not the same as asking a favor of a friend. We help our friends out of a genuine desire to do something good for that person. And when we ask a friend for help, we’re reaching out to someone we know is looking out for our best interests. It’s mutual and it’s genuine.

The Manipulator’s “requests” are very different from this. They involve coercion. And with The Manipulator, if you give in you send a signal that you’re willing to do more of the same.

Before you know it, you’re working weekends and staying after hours, putting in time to further someone else’s agenda while totally neglecting your own purpose and goals. Step by step, these people take over your life. You’re especially at risk if you have a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility, or if you hate seeing work left undone.

Another major area where manipulation has been raised to an art form is, of course, the family.

I’m not suggesting that all families involve such power struggles, of course. It’s just a typical pattern when things go wrong.

The family is often the realm of the Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. This type masters such tactics as The Sulk, The Huff, and above all, Poor Me.

(I told you this wouldn’t be an easy article.)

They browbeat you into submission by making it easier for you to give in to their demands than put up with their constant level of low-grade psychological warfare.

If you’ve ever heard a phrase like, “I’ll never have any grandchildren and I’m gonna die alone!” then you’ve seen this tactic at work.

Or how about, “If you loved me you wouldn’t make such a big deal of helping me with this” —immediately placing refusal on the side of not loving or caring about this person.

Okay, the first example was a bit of a joke and an imitation of my mother at Christmas dinner. But how many unhappy couples have you seen playing out some variation of the second example?

Unfortunately, there’s no arguing or reasoning with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. They don’t respond to logic, and they change sides and arguments at the drop of a hat. Their chief goal is to get you embroiled in conflict in the first place. Swallow your reply, nod politely, and go about your work. Oh, and good music and headphones help to block out the huffs.

There are other types of Manipulator too, but they all have a few things in common.

  • They use emotion to lure you in.
  • They play on your sense of obligation or duty.
  • They’re experts at guilt.
  • And they all have an agenda that involves you doing something for them.

Once they’ve drawn you into their world, it’s very difficult to put things in perspective and see the relationship for what it is.

If you’re reading Early to Rise, then you don’t have time to waste on these sorts of games. You’ve got dreams to fulfill, projects to complete, and exciting visions to bring to reality. And unlike the manipulators, you’re doing it through the sweat of your own brow–and with the help of others who pitch in because you’re adding value to their lives.

So how do you smoke out these sneaky time wasters?

I’ll tell you exactly how to spot The Manipulator in Part Two. And I’ll give you a set of strategies you can use to protect yourself and your business. Stay tuned…

Ryan Murdock

Ryan Murdock is the author of Personal Freedom: A Guide to Creating the Life of Your Dreams. When not helping people find their own brand of personal freedom, he travels the world's marginal places as Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost magazine. His first book is called Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. He lives on the small Mediterranean island of Malta.]