Having a group of friends and loved ones whose support and judgment you can count on is essential for a healthy, happy life. They are your sounding board, your moral compass and, at times, a shoulder to cry on. But sometimes our affection for these key people in our lives prevents us from spotting the manipulators among them.
We’ve all mistaken a manipulator for a friend with great influence on us at some point. The line between the two is often blurred and easy to miss. But if you assess the relationship objectively you will spot telltale signs. To a manipulator, every relationship is like a business deal – it’s all about maximizing return on investment. He or she can glibly talk others into doing things their way, or for them. You regularly go out of your way to indulge them, even when it isn’t convenient or doesn’t feel right.
The surprising thing about such a relationship is that the person being manipulated is often not even aware the problem exists and therefore does nothing to change the dynamic. Perhaps it’s worth taking a step back and assessing our relationships, gauging whether we’re investing way more in them than we ever get back. If you suspect there’s someone manipulating you, here are four simple ways to deal with it:
1. Identify the problem person. It’s the logical first step. A big red flag is if you find yourself coming away from meeting a friend with a sense of disquiet, especially if you’ve committed to doing something you aren’t entirely sure you should have. Think back to other interactions with that person. Does he/she demand their needs take precedence over those of all others, including you? Do they expect you to drop everything and attend to them every time they call? What do other friends make of your equation with this person? Speak to them because they often see the imbalance of give and take that you might miss.
2. Start questioning motives. A manipulator’s main motive is to get others to do things for them, and they do so very cleverly by trying to make us feel privileged just to be asked. Next time the manipulating starts, lob the ball back in their court by asking the right questions. “Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?” will let them know you’re on to them. “Can you help me understand how this benefits me?” will make it plain that you feel they’re being selfish.
3. Say ‘no’ and stand your ground You needn’t set out to reform a manipulator. All you need to do is stop yourself being victimized. Saying “no” is the best way to put an end to this abusive dynamic. When refused, they will come at you with every emotionally manipulative trick in their book. But you must stand your ground. Saying no to their unreasonable demands is the only way to break free of their control.
4. Play for time. A manipulator’s favorite ploy is to panic or emotionally maneuver you into instantly and impulsively committing to do his or her bidding. Playing for time with a “let me get back to you” will take that power away from them. When you take the time to mull over a request, you’re more likely to do what you think is right.
Every good relationship involves an equal measure of give and take. If you’re not getting back nearly as much as what you’re investing in it, you’re caught in an unhealthy relationship. Breaking free of a manipulative friend’s control is important for your self-esteem. It’s okay to create boundaries and say “no” for your own well-being.