Okay, first off, let me tell you that there is no way to be 100% unmanipulatable. However, there are ways to reduce your vulnerability, and this article will look at those. Ready?
Forget About Stereotypes
The first thing you need to do to reduce your vulnerability to manipulation is to forget about stereotypes. Manipulative people don’t always look or talk like thugs. They aren’t always mean or pushy. The scary thing about monsters is that they look like people. They look like your parents, the guy next door, your teacher, the preacher, and you. If you think you can avoid them by staying away from people who (fill in the blank), you’re wrong. They aren’t wearing signs that say, “I manipulate people.”
People allow themselves to be manipulated. Manipulative people search for vulnerable people to prey upon. They wait for their chance, and then they pounce. The more capable you are, the less vulnerable you are to predators.
If you know about investments and are savvy with money, you’re less likely to fall prey to someone who will steal your money. If you can take care of your own emotional needs, you won’t fall victim to someone who uses love bombing as a way into your life. People who have vibrant social lives and healthy families are less likely to become isolated by a predator.
Being unskilled and incapable leaves you vulnerable. The more you know, the more you can enter into contracts, negotiations, and relationships on an equal footing. Your choices can be informed ones.
Even the most skilled manipulator is not that slick. Most people who manipulate are actually pretty transparent. They are inconsistent, vague, and even lie. When we trust people, we can ignore this, make excuses for our person, or fill in the blanks with things that didn’t happen to make it make sense.
Humans have an inner drive to trust each other and believe what we’re told. We give each other the benefit of the doubt. This is what allows us to have functioning societies, families, and work together. We want people to be good. This desire can override the evidence of our own experience, and it’s only in retrospect that we see what was in front of our faces all along.
See it all the first time. Trust yourself the first time.
Pay Attention to How You Feel
If you feel pressured, unseen, unheard, or uncomfortable in any way, it may be because there is some manipulation in play. Relationships and transactions that are honest and above board are open, cooperative, and feel mutually rewarding. There is no secrecy, half truths, or pressure. People who have your best interests at heart won’t treat you this way. They won’t use your fears, insecurities, or weaknesses against you.
If you are wishy washy in your communication, a manipulative person can use this to confuse you. The more vague you are, the more ammunition they have. They can say things like, “that’s not what you said” or play mind games to make you think that you’re just having a misunderstanding. They will talk you out of your perceptions or make the problem your fault.
Here are two examples: Where were you last night? and I don’t want to do that. If you get an answer to the first question that goes in twelve directions, none of which answers the question, you know you are being manipulated into believing something that is not true. If you get guilt, complaining, or comparing to the second, you’re being manipulated into giving up your position.
Don’t kitchen sink it. Keep your conversations clear and focused on one issue at a time. This makes it easier to see when you’re getting off track or being conned.
Have Healthy Boundaries
People who manipulate do so because they don’t have the skills to meet their own needs, and they have the opportunity. When you have healthy boundaries, you take away their opportunity. No means no. If they meet with enough resistance, they will move on to easier prey.
Dealing With a Manipulative Person
You could take a zero tolerance policy with manipulative people and have no contact with anyone who isn’t straight forward, honest, and above board. Or, if you are skilled and want a relationship with them, you can point out the things that aren’t working for you, set healthy boundaries, and try to teach them different ways of interacting. Manipulation is typically a skill deficit, not a character deficit. People who manipulate don’t know how to have healthy boundaries, ask for what they want, provide for what they want, and get their emotional needs met in healthier ways.
If the level of manipulation rises to things like gas lighting, cruel jokes, criticism, explosive anger, and using emotional breakdowns as a means to control, this is out of your league. Trying to love someone into healing won’t work. This is abuse. It’s best to cut contact and let that consequence be the inspiration for them to get help.
Anyone with a heart is going to be susceptible to manipulation. If it happens to you, learn from it. Develop the skills listed above, and keep your heart open.
Are you someone who uses manipulation to get your needs met? Do you need to learn skills to avoid being manipulated? Check out my online course here and start your healing journey now.