Do you find yourself repeatedly doing things you do not want to do and then feeling resentful?
Do people seem to know how to push your buttons so you will feel guilty, by reminding you of what they have done for you in the past?
Do those same people say things to you such as, “I knew I could count on you,” or “I don’t know what I would do without you”?
If this sounds familiar, try not to be too hard on yourself. You might be the target of manipulation.
The first step in putting an end to manipulation is to do an honest self-examination. Try to identify the personality characteristics in yourself that might be making you an easy target.
For example, do you have a need for all A’s (approval, admiration and acceptance)? If you do, people might see you as a people pleaser who will do whatever they ask.
Do you have high expectations for yourself and strive hard for success in all you do? If so, you might be a perfectionist. Perfectionists drive themselves so hard that they often do not even notice when something is not their responsibility.
Are you a person who dislikes conflict? Do you say “yes” to tasks primarily because you do not want others to be angry with you?
Once you have completed an honest self-examination and are better able to see what gets you hooked, the next step is to come up with some go-to responses for when this happens.
The broken-record technique works well when someone keeps trying to get you to change your mind. It goes like this. The person says something like, “I know how good you are at this, and I know I can count on you.”
If you feel you are being manipulated, try saying, “I’m sorry, but I am not going to be able to do that.”
If the person continues to pressure you, repeat, “I’m not able to do that” as many times as necessary until the person gets the message.
Sometimes it helps to give yourself some time so you do not agree to something you will later regret. “Let me get back to you on that” is a good response.
Take the time to figure out if it is something you want to do or are able to do. Get back to them when you have that clarity.
Humor can be a good tactic as well. Try smiling as you say something like, “You wouldn’t be trying to manipulate me, would you?”
A simple formula that can be useful in many cases is, “I understand ________________ . But the fact is ______________________. Therefore_____________________.”
It all comes down to this: say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.
Mary Bieda, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Old Town Bluffton.