Seven Tips to Avoid Being Controlled by Manipulators
Leaders who repeatedly complain about the same issue want affirmation, not resolution.
Every suggestion you offer to a manipulator is inadequate.
Never take up the sword for someone who’s standing on the sideline.
Manipulators love to explain why solutions won’t work.
Tip #1: Stop offering suggestions after the second off-handed rejection of advice. Instead ask, “What would you like to do?” (And stop talking.)
When you ask a manipulator what they would like to do about their concern, they come up with things OTHERS should do.
Tip #2. Listen for excuses and blame.
Manipulators want support, not solution.
Manipulators talk about the offenses of others so you will feel offended for them. “Injustice” is a weapon to rally the naïve into a battle that should be avoided.
When people refuse to confront their own issues, they want you to do it for them.
Manipulators explain how others have injured them. When you take up the sword FOR a manipulator, you end up cutting yourself.
Manipulators use fear and offense to bring ruin on others.
Tip #3. If you leave a conversation offended FOR someone else, you’re bound for ruin in an issue that isn’t yours.
Tip #4. Never do someone’s dirty work for them.
Manipulators fabricate evil motives. It’s amazing how much insight a manipulator has into the secret thoughts of someone that offended them.
Tip #5. Beware the offended person who uses “concern for others” as a weapon to weaken your relationship with others.
You’ve been manipulated if you dislike someone because of someone else.
Tip #6. When you confront manipulators, they’ll laugh it off. “Oh, I didn’t really mean it. I was just upset.”
When you suggest solutions to manipulators, they keep on babbling. Their goal is to get you to agree they’ve been wronged.
Tip #7. Be cautious with the person who pretends to seek advice.
What manipulation techniques have you seen?
What suggestions do you have for navigating the minefield of manipulation?
How Manipulative People Use These 7 Tricks to Control You (Forbes)
Manipulative People: How to Spot them, How to Manage Them (BizNews)
How to Work with a Manipulative Person (HBR)
Good morning, Dan! Thanks for a simple to read, easy to understand, yet hard to overcome article this morning. You gave me great insight into reading other people and their motives. I will put your advice into practice and start to really listen for cues of manipulation.
Thanks Lisa. Sometimes a leader can be sincere and naive. That can be dangerous for individuals and teams. Best wishes.
The ironclad indication that someone is actively manipulating is when
they accuse others
(or you, in a personal/power relationship)
of doing something that they themselves are doing
(see: hypocrisy, ideological disputes, etc.).
The point made about insight into the minds and motives of others is dead on
(See Pelosi, Schiff, et al on impeachment – they’re not wrong … but …)
“Thou doth project too much, methinks.”
Thanks Rurbane. Accusation is an important tool for manipulators. Thanks for adding it. When I think back over organizational life, some of the most skillful backstabbers used accusation to garner sympathy.
Tip #4. Never do someone’s dirty work for them.
Anybody who’s a leader/manager/troubleshooter/fixer for any organisation is pretty much doing somebody’s dirty work by definition! Does the fact that you are being overtly told to do this dirty work make it less undesirable than being manipulated into doing it?
Thanks Mitch. You would hope that the challenges of middle management don’t include intentionally misleading/manipulating others.
You bring up the interesting conversation of the difference between influence and manipulation. A partial answer is transparency and intention.
Dan, that depends who you’re working for. I’ve worked for a lot of people who took their cue from Lyndon Johnson and what he said about Macy’s window…
For those who don’t know, the quote is, “I want real loyalty. I want someone who will kiss my a** in Macy’s window, and say it smells like roses.”
This is so true. Not just about leaders but about people – students, members of my church, community members, etc. Thank you for the reminder NOT to take up their cause or to take on the problem of another. That’s emotional bondage, whereas it’s freeing to leave the problem with the person who can actually effect change.
Thanks Pete. You got me thinking about the difference between caring for people and solving their issues for them. The latter is important, the former is dangerous.
Today’s blog reminded me of a particular experience with pathological manipulation. It was very challenging to say least. Tip #3 and ”manipulators use fear and offense to bring ruin on others” spoke to me most. It seemed that everyone who crossed their path seemed to be in the line of fire. After I was either or offended, I feared for the people – I could not just sit by and observe what was going on which launched me into that same line of fire. Manipulators can create unhealthy to toxic environments that degrade morale and ultimately, the team.
As you pointed out, it was someone else’s fault and people “did not understand.” It becomes more dangerous when these type of people rise to senior executive positions.
Thanks Kishla. Sadly, organizational life sometimes includes these painful experiences. My goal today is to consciousness about this issue. Best to you in your schooling.
Thanks for this Dan! Now I need to make sure to be mindful enough to notice the triggers so I can follow the tips and not fall in their trap!
Thanks Gabe. I suppose we don’t want to walk around expecting manipulation. That feels cynical. But, many have experienced manipulation. Cheers.
Dan, worse yet, I may have some of these tendencies myself! How best to course correct?
Thanks Scott. I know what you mean. We’re often making decisions about being transparent. The other issue is that it’s sometimes difficult to wish the best for people that irritate us.
For me, the ultimate question is How can I best serve others. I find that sometimes there’s choice between self-service and what’s best for others. It’s not always easy.
The best suggestion I have right now is monitor motives/intentions.
I rarely add to the conversation, however, this one hits home. I plan on re-reading it several times and also the links. THANK YOU.
#1 (and stop taking) – real hard to do.
#5 particularly “the offended person (with a dog in the fight) who uses concern for others as a weapon…”
…time to dust of my Dale Carnegie book.
Thanks Ian. It seems that silence begs to be filled. Sadly, the words we use to fill silence might be better left unsaid. Glad you jumped in.
I’m re-reading Stephen R. Convey’s 7 Habits and interesting how the “Scarity Mentality” relates to this topic.
Thanks Bob. I hadn’t thought of that connection.
wow I have learnt so much today. Thank you Dan
I have watched people use manipulation repeatedly in my laboratories. I have actually met people who automatically did not like me because of things that other people have told them before they could even meet me, and I thought “how weak minded of this person to be mentally controlled like that.” I have several guys that are trying that same method with me right now and I am so thankful that I can see right through it. Since I am in a new management position, I have learned to listen a lot more and it makes a huge difference. It’s good to know that I’m on the right track because the manipulation attempts are pretty darned thick at my job. I’m not falling for it.
Enjoyable. Insightful. Thanks
So dead on! SOme of these ponts proved to be true for me. Thanks for the insight.
Love this article
@Shannon – Yes, I would intervene; because I don’t want to work in a group where peers are are treating others poorly. I want to foster a culture of respect. Therefore, I’m intervening on my behalf.
Great article! I generally agree with the statement “ If you leave a conversation offended FOR someone else, you’re bound for ruin in an issue that isn’t yours”. However, what if one of your direct reports is legitimately treated poorly by another employee who is the organizational level as you? Doesn’t this issue by default involve you and require some intervening on your part?
It might not always be easy to determine when we are being manipulated. Manipulation can be insidious and come from unexpected sources. Nonetheless, there are multiple cues that we can learn to identify.
1. Notice, accept and acknowledge the red flags
2. Pay attention to the dialogue and look for inconsistencies or contradictions
3. Listen to the way they frame situations
4. Notice the changes in your own mindset or views
5. Acknowledge when you are losing self-control
6. Address the situation or remove yourself from it
The sooner we can identify manipulation, the easier it is to address it. The longer we remain in the situation, the more power we give the manipulator and the more complex the situation gets. It is important to remain grounded, particularly when we are intimated by power or status. However, we have the right to always be treated with respect and to make our decisions with free will.
Manipulation in the workplace can be particularly harder to address. For this, it is important to have a good understanding of your job description so you can know what you are expected to do and more easily recognize when you are being coerced into doing something that is outside of your job duties. Communication is key to prevent being taken advantaged of.
What can be the intention of a person who pretends to seek advice? Can someone explain.
Perhaps they are creating a way to give their own opinion. Sometimes people ask for advice so they can give advice.
Perhaps they are just being polite. They don’t really care.