6 ways to shut down a manipulator without losing your cool

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No one deserves to be manipulated, right?

Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but it can happen to anyone, at any time. I found this out the hard way. 

A few years back, I was being manipulated by a close friend. It took me a while to realize it and to accept it but looking back it was as clear as day. 

The best thing you can do with manipulators is avoid them at all costs, but sometimes it’s not that simple. It might be a work colleague, friend, or even a family member. 

Although my experience with manipulation wasn’t fun, it taught me how to handle manipulators and how to take their power away from them. Without that power and influence, they can’t hurt you. 

Today, I’m sharing 6 ways to shut down a manipulator without losing your cool to make sure you’re ready to protect yourself if you do encounter a manipulative person. 

Let’s get started.

1) Educate yourself on their tactics

Manipulation is about using emotional control to gain power or influence over someone. A manipulator’s “intent is to have power and control over others to get what they want.”

I can tell you from firsthand experience, that when you’re going through it, it’s pretty difficult to see because you believe this person cares about you. You trust them and you don’t expect them to hurt you like that. 

But what I’ve realized more recently is that everything my friend did to manipulate me was textbook manipulation. There are typically 4 stages to manipulation and she hit every single one of them. 

If I’d known the signs of manipulation to look out for, chances are I’d have been able to spot it and put a stop to it a lot sooner than I did.  

The first thing you can do to be ready to shut down a manipulator is to know their tactics. 

2) Set clear boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is important for all of your relationships so this should just be standard practice for you. But setting boundaries with a manipulator is especially important. 

Here’s why: the ultimate goal for a manipulator is to have unlimited control and influence over you. Boundaries throw a spanner in the works because they’re clearly defined limits about what you’re willing to accept. 

Setting clear boundaries does two things to shut down a manipulator: 

  • They make it more for them to manipulate you because if you uphold the boundary, it’s very difficult for them to gain any control over you
  • They allow you to see very early on in a friendship or relationship that someone might be a manipulator. Most people will simply respect your boundaries so you know you need to be extra cautious of the ones who push against them.

As outlined by PsychCentral, there are lots of signs someone is violating your boundaries but “A main sign that someone doesn’t respect your boundaries is if they don’t stop their actions after you’ve expressed discomfort,” says Quinelle Hickman, a licensed individual and couples therapist in New York City.

By setting strong boundaries and looking out for signs that someone is actively trying to overstep them, you’re more likely to catch a manipulator in the act and the earlier you identify it, the easier it is to put a stop to it. 

3) Stay calm, and emotionally detached

How easy is it to stay calm in an emotionally charged situation? 

It’s not easy at all, which is why this next tip for shutting down a manipulator without losing your cool is really hard but also really important. 

Manipulation only works if you’re emotionally invested. The manipulator goes to a lot of trouble, in the beginning, to build trust with you and create what feels like a deep bond of friendship or maybe even love. Why?

It’s simple really: once you trust them, you’re more likely to give them the control they want over you. That’s why it’s common for manipulators to project blame and guilt-trip their victims. 

Doing these things causes you to have an emotional reaction. It’s like you want to prove to them that it’s not your fault or you feel guilty so you agree to whatever they want.

But here’s the kicker: without your emotions of feeling guilty or having something to prove, the manipulator’s got nothing. If you stay calm and emotionally detached they just can’t get to you, they can’t control or influence you. 

Staying calm and keeping your emotions out of it is key to shutting down a manipulator.

4) Surround yourself with a solid support system

This one hits home for me as having a solid support system was the reason I finally recognized my friend was manipulating me. 

Isolation is the second stage of manipulation. It’s where the manipulator gradually tries to disconnect you from people who truly love and support you. 

Taylor Draughn, a licensed professional counselor, and marriage and family therapist, explains “The goal is usually to separate you from people who might spot the manipulation”.

My ‘friend’ bad-mouthed my other friends and tried to tell me they weren’t good for me. And always made me feel guilty for spending time with them. Luckily, I didn’t lose ties with them and in the end, it was their friendship that helped me to walk away from the manipulation. 

By surrounding yourself with a solid support system of friends and family, it’s hard for someone to manipulate you. You’ve always got people to look out for your best interests, even when you can’t do that for yourself, and call out manipulative behavior when they see it. 

5) Don’t act on impulse; pause, slow everything down

Look: it’s no secret that emotions cloud our judgment. As outlined by psychotherapist and executive coach Moshe Ratson MBA  “Strong emotions can impair our judgment and make it challenging to think objectively and critically”.

This is exactly what manipulators want. They want to create an emotionally charged situation that plays on your emotions and forces you to act on impulse. 

That’s why one of the red flags of a manipulator is making you feel pressured into doing something. 

But if you just slow everything down and resist the temptation to act on impulse, you give your emotions a chance to calm down a little, and you can think more clearly again. 

One of the most effective ways to shut down a manipulator without losing your cool is to pause, slow things down, and avoid acting on impulse. It’ll prevent you from making any big mistakes that give the manipulator power, and it’ll frustrate them like crazy. 

6) Stick to facts and document everything

When it comes to manipulators, you’ve got to stick to the facts and document everything. If you don’t, they’ll probably try to use one of their favorite tactics on you; gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the manipulator tries to distort reality to make the victim question their sanity. They’ll try to make you think you’re going crazy by suggesting things didn’t happen the way you remember. 

This is very confusing and dangerous as you trust this person, so if they’re telling you something, you want to believe it even when it conflicts with your thoughts deep down. The only way to defend yourself against this is to stick to the facts. 

I’d go as far as to keep a record of factual things that have happened and that have been said so that when they try to make you question yourself, you’ve got a record and you’re sure about what happened. 

If they can’t make you question yourself and they can’t distort the facts, then it’s pretty much impossible for them to gaslight you successfully and get what they want from you. 

Final thoughts

Manipulation is a cruel and selfish act where the manipulator is hurting you for their personal gain. 

Although it’s never your fault if it happens, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to protect yourself against it and put a stop to it as soon as you can. 

If you suspect you’re being manipulated and you want to shut it down without losing your cool, then follow these 6 steps and you’ll disarm your manipulator in no time. 

When they realize they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll move on to somebody else. 

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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