Emotional Manipulation

Drives you crazy

Wears you down

Makes you sick

“I’m confused, frustrated and angry!”

“He makes me feel really bad!”

“The more I bend backward the worse it gets!”


How manipulation works?

The manipulator induces guilt, shame or anxiety and illustrates the behavior you should use in order to avoid it.


a.) A representative tells a story and he indicates that if you don’t give money for the poor then you are greedy. He states that your donation will transfer immediately to XY charity. He continues by emphasizing that the best way not to feel greedy is to give him your money.

b.) If you don’t spend the whole Thanksgiving at your parent’s house, you’re a thankless child. To avoid this guilt, you spend the holidays there although all of your friends are at the mountain enjoying a day of skiing.

c.) Your loved one tells a story about your third neighbor who behaves so kindly and tolerantly with her abusive, alcoholic husband. The whole scene has some phony tone in it. The arbitrary rules: “A good wife/girlfriend doesn’t complain or bitch around her abusive partner.” If you want to be assessed as a “good wife/girlfriend”, you should not stand against your abusive partner. (So he can torture you without consequences.)

What are the manipulative hooks?

A: Something that is very important to you! Either some unfulfilled need for which you are willing to do anything to acquire – it can be love, appreciation, acceptance, belonging, safety, security… anything. Or some very painful feeling: guilt, shame or anxiety which you really want to avoid.

What are the manipulator’s tricks?

Tricks can be anything that makes you feel guilty, ashamed or anxious.

Some of them:

guilt trip – “If you loved me you would…” “If you knew what I have been though…”

silent treatment – withdrawing communication or emotion

reasoning – you have to do this because…

threatening – physically or mentally

covert badgering – constant criticism

pretending to be ill

authority – using orders, directives, commands


charm – gift, favor, service – doesn’t evoke negative feelings, but can be given for certain effect.

How can I disarm manipulators?

A: Figure out what he wants you to do, recognize what tactic s/he uses, and resist doing it until s/he uses this tactic – maybe even after that.


1/ If someone yells at you, you can say: “I understand that you want to convince me doing the laundry by yelling but this tactic doesn’t work for me anymore: I don’t accomplish requests asked by yelling.”

2/ If someone treats you with the silent treatment: “I see you don’t want to talk to me at the moment. I will go and do my homework (housework, exercise, walk…), you can tell me when you want to talk to me again!

3/ When someone gives you the guilt trip, you don’t have to argue with him/her because you just get deeply involved in the topic. Stay calm, and say no. If you really need to reply, you can say: “I understand that you want me to go to the Sunday mass, but I am not going  this Sunday.”


 How to disarm a manipulator at work?

It might be tricky if your manipulator is your boss and your career depends on him/her. It’s not strategic simply to resist his/her requests. Your action also depends on what tactics they use.

First and foremost, you need to understand what’s going on.

Do you get constant critique just to motivate you to put more effort, work longer hours without overtime? – Then you don’t need worry about that: it’s not about your quality but it’s a tool in his/her hands to motivate you. You do what you think is right to the extent what you think is right. For example: if your work day lasts till 4 then you leave at 4 no matter how much assignment remained unfinished. You better not adjust your work hours to unrealistic expectations. Do your best; fulfill the requirements of your job description and that’s it! No more undertaking!

Do you have people who triangulate and make alliances against others? Be aware of this tactic and don’t bite onto it when you hear new gossip about your adjacent colleague. S/he is no better or worse than anyone else, only the manipulator wants to turn you against him/her. Don’t do that favor for the manipulator! You and the others all will have your turns. Look for symmetrical, cooperative connection with the ones who don’t use manipulative tactics.

Does one of your colleagues use his/her attractiveness to get what they want? – Don’t get involved.

Generally, not getting involved emotionally helps a lot. If you realize that they use those tools to make you feel a certain way, you can easier detach from the feeling. It’s not about your qualities, it’s about their wants.

Does assertiveness helps against manipulators?

Definitely! Manipulation works through arbitrary rules: “The Good Wife”, “The Good Citizen”, “The Good Child”, “The Good Colleague” behaves this or that way. Notice! There are no universal rules for those roles! What you are supposed to do is always what the manipulator wants at the moment, but refers that as well known rules followed by millions. (S/he doesn’t take the responsibility that s/he wants you to…)

Here comes the assertiveness.

Be aware of your rights!

Establish boundaries.

Be aware that you are the only judge of your behavior.

Be clear about your wants and needs!

Represent your wants and needs in a calm assertive way.

Then you can answer for the manipulation in a calm assertive way: (No matter what a good wife, friend or citizen would do). “I don’t go to the movie tonight.” “I stay until 4 in the office today.” “I don’t contribute to this charity right now.”

What is manipulative criticism?

Any criticism can be used with a manipulative edge. If you feel judged, belittled, inferior, it’s most likely manipulative. Lots of times the criticizing party needs to feel his/her superiority at the expense of the others.

It motivates in two ways: One; you most likely will follow the criticizer’s lead to avoid the critiques. Second; you are expected to over-compensate for your mistakes.

How can I not let manipulative people affect me emotionally?

Set yourself free!

It proceeds gradually and gets better and better with practice, but at first it is really a difficult task.

First of all: the rightful indignation stays forever, and it is completely normal as someone violates your rights. This feeling is even necessary because from there you know that your rights are violated.

But probably you ask how you can not react with intense emotions to the guilt-shame-anxiety producing process. Be aware of what’s going on. They induce that painful feeling not because you are truly that bad, dumb, guilty, thankless, and immoral or you truly lack something, but they are using this emotion to motivate you. One of the most important steps is to realize that it has nothing to do with your true nature. It is a tool in their hand; therefore you must not take it seriously or personally.

Learn to withstand the remaining inconvenient feelings. Yes, sometimes we have doubts that we could do more, or even less. Sometimes we are not sure who is wrong or who is right. Until you sort it out, learn to live with a little bit of guilt, shame or anxiety. Feeling is feeling. Not more and not less.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *