His or her goals are simple: to fulfill their needs at your expense, which can end up costing you dearly.
Paul said, “I can’t do want I want to do. Every time I bring up a topic, my father gets angry, and either cries or sulks for days.” Paul believes he is trapped by his father’s demands and requirements. “In our family, we understood a long time ago that in order to have peace, we mustn’t argue with him”, he added.
So now nobody contradicts the father, and the family members have also forgotten their own needs. In fact, after a lengthy discussion with Paul, it became clear that the whole family is under the influence of a master manipulator.
A manipulator is an unbalanced person. Manipulators have little or no self-awareness. They perceive themselves as being much better than they actually are. They think highly of themselves. They deny things and forget their lapses very quickly otherwise they would hate their self-images. Manipulator’s goals are simple: to fulfill their priorities at the expense of others. Their interests and needs always come first.
How can you protect yourself against somebody like this? The first thing you must do is to be aware of the harm the person is causing (self-doubt, loss of self-confidence, isolation, inability to fulfill your needs without feeling guilty, etc.). Then you must ask yourself what you want in life. Finally, you must assert yourself over and over again. But in order to become assertive, you must also be prepared to deal with the consequences.
For example, when Paul told his father that he would no longer tap the sugar maples because he had too much work to do and that he had never liked it, his father stopped speaking to him and wanted nothing to do with him for a month and a half.
When Julie politely told her mother to stop telling her how to raise her children, she began yelling, stormed out of Julie’s house and did not invite her daughter for Christmas.
In some instances, in order to survive psychologically, you must terminate a toxic relationship, because a manipulator will not accept it when you assert yourself. There is a price to pay to liberate oneself from a manipulator, but doing so is nowhere near as costly as remaining under his or her influence.
Here are some of the characteristics of a manipulator*. The more of these characteristics a person exhibits, the more likely it is that he or she is a manipulator.
- He makes others feel guilty in the name of family, friendship, love or professionalism.
- He places responsibilities onto others.
- He doesn’t clearly communicate his requests, needs, feelings and opinions.
- His opinions, behaviour and feelings change depending upon the person or the situation.
- He makes others believe that they must be perfect, never change their mind, know everything and respond immediately to requests and questions.
- He challenges the qualities, abilities and personalities of others. He criticizes them insidiously, belittles them and judges them.
- He knows how to play the victim and how to get people to pity him.
- He makes subtle threats to people or openly blackmails them.
- He avoids or finds a way out of conversations and meetings.
- He counts on the ignorance of others and makes them think he is superior.
- He lies.
- He is self-centered.
- He can be jealous.
- He cannot tolerate criticism and denies what is obvious.
- He flatters people in order for them to like him.
- He makes people feel uncomfortable and trapped.
- He makes people do things they would normally not do of their own accord.
*Source : Les manipulateurs sont parmi nous by Isabelle Nazare-Aga, Editions de l’Homme.
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach