Dealing with Manipulation

I don’t know about you, but experiences around this issue leave a bad taste in my mouth. So I thought I need to deal with it, as I am not sure I have a satisfying strategy to deal with manipulation and manipulators. Please join me in thinking through this toffee.

To start off, what is manipulation? A definition is: “To change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose.” In a sense we all manipulate. We manipulate our budget to pay all our bills; we manipulate our appointments to fit them into a day. What I am referring to is the interpersonal manipulation.

My current thoughts around this topic start with an understanding of boundaries. My experience is that manipulators do not have or respect boundaries. Not their own or other people’s.

Boundaries are healthy. Because we set boundaries we can build the life we want. Take a brick for example – at the start it is a fluid lump of clay, but it is baked into a solid form. No house can be built with unstable clay, but baked it can stand for years. The simple difference is boundaries have been established.

Not referring to psychopaths, which is a totally different story, but normal manipulators very often do not want to take responsibility for their own life and try to get what they want through other people’s lives and effort. In essence they are too lazy work for what they want. (This is not the same as using others strengths in a team effort).

I have also experienced that manipulators do not have the ability to delay gratification. They want their needs met with the least bit of effort from their side.

The ability to say no to yourself and others closely links with healthy boundaries. The simple ability to say no is the start of delaying gratification. For most of us, to deny yourself immediate gratification in order for a greater future benefit is probably one of the most difficult things to learn. This influences everything, from our eating habits to the way we spend our money and especially in our relationships. It seems manipulators have no desire to learn this lesson.

It reminds me of the two year old maturity that thinks the world exists to gratify their needs. This is acceptable in a two year old, but not in an adult. The truth is, we are part of the world and we need to contribute our uniqueness to create the greater good.

This links very closely to our understanding of power. Manipulators crave power over other people. But they miss the liberating truth that power is no were else but in ourselves. When we seek it from others it turns into might and force. Two inter-human dynamics that often evolve into parasitic systems. This also accurately describes a manipulative relationship.

I know I group manipulators under the tic category (aka parasite). In nature parasites have a useful function. They are supposed to kill the weaker specie (Unfortunately they can also kill the strong). So although I would like to deal with them more efficiently, I also acknowledge that they constantly kill my weaker boundaries and challenge me to exercise my personal power to say no to them. But I suspect there is more to it. What do you think?

To find our own inner power is a wonderful journey on its own. I have touched on it in my blogs “The authority of decisive mistakes”. It might help to also understand that this inner power is not something you must deserve or must find. It is something you must unleash. Your mental map around your own power needs to be created (or recreated) in such a way that your given genius can come to it full right. No one will do it for you. It is your responsibility.

Dealing with manipulators then seems to stands on two very strong pillars.

  • Healthy boundaries and
  • Knowing your own inner power.

The question then is, do you know your inner power and have you set your boundaries and do you keep them?

Useful sites I came upon are:

I hope it helps.

Still exploring


6 thoughts on “Dealing with Manipulation

  1. Thanks for this post, it seems that we need to be reminded constantly about setting our own personal boundaries. It does not come natural to me, I do not know about others? I respond to this post, because I do not agree with you that manipulators are too lazy to work for what they want. In fact, their work differs from what we perceive as work. They use a lot of energy to get what they want and that is the power over someone else. They will use every bit of energy they have to manipulate another person, in order to convince themselves and the outside world that what they are doing, are perfectly acceptable and that they act out of love or care about others. My own personal experience forced me to think and try to understand the mind of the manipulator: I believe that for them, it is all not losing control, being needed and loved. Really sad….

  2. My recent experience in this field is that people often mistaken the real manipulator for their very good friend! I sometimes think it works as follows: The extremely jealous person might be the one standing behind the door, the judgemental person might the the one who judges the most and the real manipulator might be the one who accuses everyone else of manupulating… So my thoughts are to rather see the good in people and focus on that, because we all might have a bigger, darker secret and in no position to label and judge others. Please note I am not saying manupulating, or any other bad habits people have is correct and right, just that I prefer to not focus my attention on these things.

  3. I have an entirely different take. Yes, we all feel victimized, embarrassed, and angry when a manipulator gets the better of us. However, I experience most manipulation as the person (or animal’s!) effort to get what s/he wants. It is not power for power’s sake.

    The Manipulator is part of the Trickster Archetype which is in turn a face of the Shadow Archetype. An emotional response to the Trickster may be an indicator that we have not embraced our inner Kokopelli/Coyote. One gift of this Shadow figure is the command to look at how we get what -we- want. Maybe we don’t stoop to manipulation, but do we really have the moxie that Trickster does? We need that moxie.

    Beverley Kane, MD
    Horsensei Equine-Assisted Learning & Therapy
    California USA

    • Beverley, you bring in a very interesting view. I like it.

      I strongly believe that in our shadow is the source of our own personal power. What I hear you say is that the manipulator is actually giving me a gift. Showing me a way to my own Kokopeli (I like the word), that part of me that helps me get what I really want in life.

      Marvelous thought. I am going to chew on this one. Thanks.

  4. I’m amazed at the positive responses about Manipulators….! Personally I would just put them very quickly and securely back where they belong…out of my life and my bussiness. I don’t have much time for people who work hard at manipulating others[parasites], because they are lazy to work out or do things for themselves. Usually they have very little real friends and their loved ones also avoid them, because of this very behaviour. I don’t have much sympathy, because they brought it on themselves. Actions always have consequences and the wheel eventualy turns to give you what you deserve!

    I get really irritated when these manipulators are always targetting persons who are not able to defend or stand up for themselves, and like a mother bear with a cup, I would pounce on them quickly to get rid of them….growling to make sure they don’t to come back, because I will be waiting!

    The only time I feel it is fair to manipulate is when you are doing it to help another person without any personal gain, purely altruistic…when this person doesn’t want to do the right thing by others, after you tried to negotiate such behaviour from him/her.


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