“True love is built on free will and free choice, not control and manipulation.” – Ken Poirot.

In our daily interactions, we may encounter individuals who use manipulative techniques to influence our actions. Recognizing and avoiding these tactics is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and personal well-being. This article will delve into some of the most common manipulation techniques and provide practical advice on how to counteract them.

Making You Feel Guilty

One common manipulation tactic is guilt-tripping. For instance, a colleague might ask you to cover their workload, and when you decline due to prior commitments, they make you feel guilty for letting them down. Remember, it’s essential to set clear boundaries and not feel obligated to say yes to everything.

For example, if you feel guilty for saying no, a simple way of responding could be, “I understand that you need help, but I have already made a commitment to something else and I can’t break it.”

However, sometimes people may need help and it is our duty as friends, family, or colleagues to be there for them. After all, life isn’t always a smooth journey – sometimes you just need a bit of someone to help you get over the bumps in the road.

As the famous American writer Elbert Hubbard once wrote: “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”

Flattery as a Manipulation Tool

Another manipulation technique involves using flattery to make you more compliant. A person might compliment your skills or appearance right before asking for a favor. While it’s great to help others, it’s also important to recognize when flattery is being used insincerely to manipulate you.

For example, if someone you don’t know very well compliments you on your looks before asking to borrow money, it’s likely they are using flattery to try to get what they want.

However, there are also times when compliments are genuine and not given with ulterior motives. For example, if a coworker compliments you on a job well done, they are likely being sincere in their praise.

We can tell the difference between compliments and flattery by looking at the context and the relationship between the sender and receiver. Compliments are usually specific and come from people who have no hidden agenda. On the other hand, flattery is often general and comes from someone who has something to gain from the interaction.

Pushing Your Buttons

This form of manipulation is particularly insidious as it’s often perpetrated by those who know us well. These individuals target our vulnerabilities to provoke a reaction, then use our guilt to manipulate our actions. Cultivating resilience and the ability to let hurtful words slide is key to dealing with this form of manipulation.

It’s important to remember that our reactions are our responsibility and that we can choose how we react. It’s also valuable to practice self-care such as setting healthy boundaries and taking time for yourself to manage stress. Lastly, it’s important to remember that we are not obligated to please anyone and that only we can define our own values.

For example, if someone has hurt us, it is important to recognize that we do not have to forgive them unless we choose to do so. As Elizabeth Parker put it: “The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there’s always at least one person who will remain unhappy. You.”

Putting You Down

Sometimes, manipulators use negative comments to provoke a reaction. They might say you’re incapable of doing something, hoping you’ll do it just to prove them wrong. Recognize this trick for what it is and don’t feel compelled to prove anything to the manipulator.

Instead, focus on yourself and your own goals. Don’t let someone else’s comments define your identity and actions. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone; strive for your own success and be proud of it.

For example, instead of comparing yourself to your peers, focus on your own progress and celebrate your own accomplishments.

Research suggests that as much as 10% of our thoughts may involve some form of self-comparison.

Moving the Goalposts

This technique involves the manipulator constantly changing their demands or expectations. They might ask for your help with a task, then pile on more work once you’re done. It’s important to remember the original agreement and not be afraid to challenge the manipulator when they move the goalposts.

It is important to stay firm and assertive when dealing with a manipulator. Speak up and don’t let them take advantage of you. If they refuse to listen, it may be best to walk away and find another solution.

For example, if a peer is trying to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do, it is okay to say “No, I’m not comfortable with that,” and walk away. But if they don’t take no for an answer, you could always try, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t do that. I’m a professional.”


Manipulation is a pervasive issue that can affect various aspects of our lives. By recognizing these techniques and learning how to counteract them, we can protect ourselves and maintain healthier relationships. Always remember to set clear boundaries, question insincere flattery, and stand your ground when someone tries to manipulate you.


Practice what you read with our case study analysis and response post.

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