Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation

April 25, 2008 by  

(Photo by cobalt123)

One of the major challenges of living fully is the mind manipulations from people around you.

People – including your loved ones, unfortunately – will try to hold you down where you are by various forms of manipulation. When we aspire to live fully and make changes in our lives, we need to be watchful of these manipulations and learn how to dodge them.

I don’t mean those who manipulate are bad people. Manipulation is typically based on fear, and they are only trying to keep things at status quo because they themselves are scared so much. Nonetheless, manipulation is very harmful to your growth.

Do you recognize these manipulation techniques?

Some manipulations come in such subtle and seemingly innocent forms. My list here is only a partial list of so many variations of manipulations. . .

1. Pointing out potential problems


“You want to start your own business that resonates more with who you are? Oh, that is wonderful. I wish you luck. So many startup businesses fail within five years, the statistics says, though. . .”

Does he really know what the stats mean? Is he with you to better the chances? Or is he just afraid himself, and wants you to be afraid, too?

This manipulation often utilizes statistics or failure stories they heard somewhere. It sounds realistic, practical – and uninspiring.

A variation of this approach is to point out the negative side effects. They may admit that the change you are trying to implement is positive, but also point out the potential negative effects.


“ You want to start your own business? Are you aware how many hours self-employed people have to work a day?”

Some even imply you might lose your relationship. . .

And they often add this line,

“I just don’t want you to get into trouble.”

2. Direct put-down disguised as a joke

“It should be illegal for non-MBA’s to start businesses – what the heck do they know, lol, look at the failure rate (add demeaning body language here)! Hey, I didn’t mean you! Cheer up.”

It’s supposed to be unsociable not to understand jokes, and they utilize this social conditioning. They say something really un-nice, and when your feeling is hurt, they treat you as naïve.

Here is my acid test for jokes: Does it make you feel light and warm or does it leave you a nasty taste in the mouth? This test works for all kinds of jokes, whether it is aimed at yourself or others. Watch out the fake jokes.

3. “Count the blessings” you already have

“We are happy as we are. We should be. Look at what you’ve earned – and there are lots of less fortunate people out there, you know. . .”

This is a twisted logic. Of course, we, each one of us, are blessed as we are. But it doesn’t mean we should stagnate where we are. Don’t feel guilty for seeking more.

4. “What is the point?” apathy

“Well, you know it takes so much work to be successful in business. . . Do you really want to do that? You are ten years from comfortable retirement. . .”

From their perspective, the glass is always half empty, no matter what you do. They don’t even point out potential problems. They don’t pretend to be content. They are, in effect, half dead and want you to be the same.

5. Acting out

You talk with your family about your decision to go back to school. Everyone seems happy. So you start the application process. Suddenly, out of the blue, there is a surprise in the family – some kind of crisis – like your spouse’s car breaks down and you need a chunk of money to buy a new car. Then you find out your brother is checked in for rehab and he and his family really need some moral support. And . . .

I don’t mean they cause the crisis on purpose. It just happens – one after the other – until you are completely distracted from your aspiration, or you figure out “It’s just not the right time.”

How to cope with manipulation

You don’t. Coping only encourages more manipulation. Dodge them, and just do what you have to do.

Just do it.

I took the extreme route and moved myself across the Pacific Ocean. This was not just to dodge manipulation from my family but was in line with my dream to complete college education and build a new life. Nevertheless, it ended most of the subtle and not-so-subtle manipulations. Prior to my migration, they tried to change my mind by counting the blessings of the comfortable life in my home country. They even tried to bribe me. . . “Do you want a new dress? We can dine out at nice restaurants if you stay around. Are you aware you will be financially stressed if you go to America?” They also threatened me that I’d be robbed and murdered in America – very realistic-sounding potential, but somehow I have happily survived for 13 years – and counting. Oh, and they tried to dampen my dream. “Why do you need to complete your education in the US? What would you get for the time and money you invest?. . .”

I’m not recommending you to move thousands of miles to dodge manipulation. But do know action – the action toward your aspiration — is the antidote to manipulation. I don’t think talking back or reasoning things out work really. Nor reactions to manipulation.

“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. ” Albert Einstein

Is manipulation from your family and friends an issue for your personal growth? How do you deal with it?

Thanks to Lexi for including this post in Creative Growth Carnival, to Peter for inclusion in the Change Carnival.

Do you find this blog inspiring?

Please check About page to learn more about this blog and the author, Akemi Gaines.


40 Responses to “Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation”

  1. melanie on April 25th, 2008 12:16 pm

    Akemi, this post totally resonates with me. I am starting a new venture and find my family and friends pulling some of these very things. You are so right, coping doesn’t just have to stay on task! :)

    I am so enjoying your blog. i look forward to every post!

  2. akemi on April 25th, 2008 12:23 pm

    I am so glad this blog is of help for you. It is hard when your loved ones are not quite with you, especially when you are starting something new — which by itself stressful even when it is a good change.
    If you are new in business, be sure to check the Interview With Successful Entrepreneurs series (in category “Interview”) — these are real life-sized people who overcame various difficulties and built profitable businesses.
    I learn a lot from them myself!

  3. Andrea Hess | Empowered Soul Blog on April 26th, 2008 5:50 am

    Very true! Luckily, if we stick to our guns, those people tend to either turn their attention elsewhere (because, you know, otherwise they’d have to admit they were “wrong”!) or they seem to disappear from our lives …

    You are totally right – engaging with these manipulations and trying to convince people to get behind us is a total waste of energy. Instead of trying to gather support where there is none to be gained, our resources need to be pulled inward so that we can forge ahead.


  4. kirsten - circe's kitchen on April 26th, 2008 9:40 am

    I think every entreprenuer/self-starter/freelancer/professional creative has heard at least one of these! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard the “this % of businesses fail within the first 1- 5 years” (the numbers always change a little) It’s become something of a negative mantra.

    Dealing with these attitudes is like being an athlete who trains by running through an obstacle course–you learn how to deal, how to get stronger, savvier, when to swerve, when to run straight ahead.

  5. akemi on April 26th, 2008 2:41 pm

    Sometimes the social emphasis to keep peace with the loved ones gets too much that we forget that self-love is the first love we need to value. . . and that is so counter-productive. Even though my parents may not be all that happy with me so far away, I think they’d be more unhappy if I stayed around wasting my life.
    The stats is very misleading. We are not stats. We make stats with our actions. Don’t spend too much energy “dealing with” the negative people — it is not ours to change them — use your energy to do what you have to do.

  6. Goal Setting College on April 26th, 2008 9:25 pm

    Awesome take, Akemi! I personally think #3 is a lethal and yet silent dream killer as it usually disguises itself as discontentment or ungratefulness. In truth, that’s totally the opposite! It’s precisely because you appreciate and acknowledge the essence of life that propels you to undertake and live it to the fullest by going after your dreams/goals!

    I’ll like to share a quote I heard from somewhere, “You cannot determine the length of your life but you can decide on its breadth and depth.” By going after your dreams regardless of the odds and naysayers, you’re well on your way towards the latter.

    Thanks for the great article!


  7. Lexi of Creative Energies on April 27th, 2008 6:08 am

    I agree that you do not have to move thousands of miles to dodge manipulations. Speaking from personal experience, a few hundred miles will often do quite nicely!

    Glad you took your leap and kept going. It sure is threatening to people to see someone move ahead when they are afraid to go themselves, and dealing with their feeling-threatened behavior gets really tiresome.

    Let’s all just move more and more into the positive expression of our dreams!


  8. akemi on April 27th, 2008 7:34 am

    That’s a great saying! Thank you for pointing out the loving nature of seeking life’s potentials. I feel empowered!
    Lol, I also just moved from Nashville to Portland, Oregon. . .
    Geographic move works for some — I’m a migrant.

  9. Cath Lawson on April 28th, 2008 8:07 am

    Hi Akemi – I know exactly where you’re coming from. I’ve been subject to such manipulations for many years from my family but some are not so subtle. This played a big part in my decision to emigrate this year. It wasn’t my only reason but I know the absence of these interferences will make a huge difference to my life.

  10. akemi on April 28th, 2008 7:47 pm

    Oh, another migrant here! My best wishes to your move — are you moving to Australia?

  11. Barbara Swafford on April 28th, 2008 11:49 pm

    Hi Akemi,

    This is a great topic. In years past, some have used guilt on me, humor, and the “why would you want to do THAT?”. When I believe in something, I will hold my ground. The only time I didn’t was when I wanted to join the Peace Corps and my mother begged me not to. She said she would be worried sick, and I knew she was telling the truth. I couldn’t do that to her. She wasn’t a manipulative person.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..NBOTW Finds Harmony

  12. akemi on April 29th, 2008 7:38 am

    You bring up a great point! Yes, our family may have genuine concern that could conflict with what we want to do, and then we have to decide which to choose. That is not manipulation. Sometimes the distinction is hard. . . For example, have you seen the movie The Big Blue? Did you wonder how she could let him go when she had very valid concern for his safety?
    I am glad you made a conscious decision.

  13. But …Maybe You Should Button It? | Catherine Lawson on May 1st, 2008 11:50 am

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  15. Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. on May 17th, 2008 12:04 am

    Manipulation and discouragement from my family (except my mother) was present at a very early age. I grew up learning that some people didn’t deserve to be privy to my dreams and aspirations, so I didn’t share my plans with folks who weren’t supportive.

    In spite of achieving success in my career and life, however, I realized recently that my experiences from childhood still affected me in a way that surprised me. I would play down my smarts and hesitate to disclose my educational level and career in new settings. I would feel uncomfortable being “too smart.” It stems from being teased by my sisters for liking school, reading and writing. Thank God I’ve gotten past that too.

    I learned to be grateful for my gifts and abilities, and share them generously with others. My happiness results from taking responsibility for making changes in my life and refusal to accept responsibility for the people who aren’t willing to take risks and make changes.

    I believe that the 5th form of manipulation–acting out–is quite intentional. The crisis these family members or friends set in motion is a result of the choices they’ve made. Even though it may be below their level of conscious awareness, they do expect their crisis to bring a halt to your foolish plans to make positive changes in your life. If you don’t get caught up in this sometimes subtle manipulation, you can count on getting accused of being unsupportive, uncaring, anti-family, ungrateful or whatever ammunition they can dredge up. The one thing you can count on from these types is that there will always be another crisis and another. Your decision to help or not to help won’t change that.

    In my role as a teacher, parent and business owner I offer consultation, strategies and encouragement. My experience has made one thing clear: some people will get the lesson right away, some will get it eventually, and some will it get it when they come back as a frog.

  16. akemi on May 17th, 2008 6:12 am

    Wow, thank you for your thoughtful sharing! It is tough to stand up to our own standard when our own family members are not supportive . . . I admire your courage.

  17. Guest Writing: Accepting and Loving our Uniqueness | Yes to Me on May 23rd, 2008 4:47 pm

    [...] True Life Purpose Goes Beyond The Illusion Of Self Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation [...]

  18. Yes to Me Month Three & Four Review | Yes to Me on June 1st, 2008 10:05 am

    [...] Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation The enthusiasm and wisdom shown in the comments of this post indicate this is a real challenge for many. When we aspire to live our purpose, to live more fully, we often encounter resistance or even manipulation. What do we do when our loved ones disagree with our chosen path? How can we stay true to ourselves despite the putdowns? And when the table turns, how much “advice” can we give to our loved ones when they are up to something we don’t agree or don’t understand? Read on. [...]

  19. Retirement on August 20th, 2008 9:03 pm

    Thanks for the informative post.. and thanks for adding our comment to the blog. I am subscribing to your feed so I don\’t miss the next post!

  20. Joy on October 14th, 2008 3:01 pm

    I thought I was alone, but reading all your comments, I can see manipulation of this kind is widespread.

    When I was younger, I recall friends telling me I would not be able to do this or master that so why should I bother to try. In my forties, I went to university to study for a new career. When I finished the course, one friend said to me she had believed I would never stick it. Then after not being able to get a job in the profession she gleefully said, well you have failed so you will just have to find something else on a lesser salary. The decision to pursue this career is mine not hers or anyone else’s. Later when a law academic suggested I covert my degree into a law degree through further studies as he thought I had the capabilities, this same friend said ‘He does not know you’, meaning she thought I would not be able to do it.

    When I spoke to this same woman of still believing I could find love, she replied that people of our age were passed it and would have found someone by now if we were going to, and that she has no intention of trying to find anyone – because some man let her down and she knew many other women who had been let down too. Many men have let me down, but I still hope and believe there is one in the world who will not.

    When I reminisced recently about a man I loved 20 years ago, a male friend tells me not to dwell on it and to move on. This same male friend cried on my shoulder over the failure of his marriage and then another relationship, saying there was no one like her! Yet, I have to move on and not recall happy events!

    People like to control and manipulate us, keep us in our place (or theirs) because they are too afraid to do things themselves, to step outside their comfort zones, in which they require companionship – US. When they see others around them striding out and taking chances it unsettles them, rocks their little world and highlights their own doubts, insecurities and failures.

    If we do not have hope and belief in ourselves and in our dreams, we may as well lie down and die. I have cut people out of my life for various reasons. If you find yourself in the presence of a manipulator, remove yourself by whatever means available to you, but do not allow your dreams, hopes and aspirations to be crushed by them.

    May I wish you all happiness and success in your lives.

  21. akemi on October 14th, 2008 3:40 pm

    Thank you. I’m glad my little article worked as encouragement for you.
    You are strong and smart. Many blessings to you.

  22. Liara Covert on October 31st, 2008 8:06 pm

    This is a wonderful post that invites readers to reflect on their own confidence and esteem. Each person nurtures a degree of faith and a degree of doubt. At what point do you permit other people to stop influencing your thoughts and choices? As you evolve to have more faith in yourself, you are still willing to listen to outside opinion, but you also draw limits about what to adopt or take on-board. The truth that is best for you is something you feel. Discernment, like faith, emerges with experience.

  23. Liara Covert on October 31st, 2008 8:07 pm

    I initially neglected to click on the ‘post to show’ option.

    Liara Coverts last blog post..The way will be made clear to you

  24. akemi on November 1st, 2008 4:06 am

    Exactly! We want to be open, yet have a healthy boundary around us.

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  26. lucka on November 8th, 2008 6:06 pm

    my boss came to the U.S. to pursue her musical and holistic careers, and have since become a public figure. I cant keep track of the countless times She is attacked / targetted by manipulators in her work fields. She has learnt to shut them all out and point the mirror back at them so that she can continue living her lifes’ purpose and help others stay true to themselves without being taken advantage of..This is one example of a strong Female Role model in todays society

  27. Joanne Geib on December 2nd, 2008 6:46 pm

    Your words sound wonderful, to me. I have been thru allot of hate and psychological hurt due to certain people, that live in the United Statesl
    they say it is a free country, it is only free, as long as the underdogs, have a donkey locked up, and actually stop her from living. It is not something one can prove, but people play, money games, and no matter what games they play, the years go buy and the stars and singers get richer with their shows, while the donkeys like me, sit at home, not being allowed to live my life to a full potential. I am so hurt inside, I have not had friends or love since 1992, and the government knows. I do not want to be used for money, but yet it is a laugh, because so many people are successful because they walked over my life, I don;t want to be a so called prisoner, because certain people have to play games. I do not trust anyone anymore, I have been spit on, and hurt so bad. I have known so much hate and they still sing their songs of love. All I do is sit in my room, getting older , depressed watching everyone out west get rich and all i can is cry to god at what a terrible country this is.

  28. akemi on December 2nd, 2008 8:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing that story! And having a wonderful role model like that is great.

    I feel for you.

  29. Jeffrey on December 30th, 2008 3:12 pm

    Great topic!

    Sometimes we (me) can allow advice, words, messages from others close to us to “get in the way” of our selves.

    It is in self love, unconditionally, wherever we are at in our lives… Meaning right now! When those comments, manipulations, words, messages, conscious or subconscious thoughts appear… We, as human beings, have the GREATEST GIFT of ALL living creatures on the planet.


    We can choose to believe in an idea other than what is in our heart. We can choose to lower ourselves to a more “acceptable” level of thought, enthusiasm or behavior. We can choose once again to play victim to some OLD PROGRAMMING that is outdated, on it’s last leg and really just does not know any better than what it has been running all it’s life. (Parents, Siblings, Friends, Lover, Bosses, Clients, Co-Workers, You & Me…)


    Wherever you are. SEE THAT FOR what it is…


    The next time you get any feedback that does not make you want to live bigger, brighter, stronger, softer and more loving than ever…

    SEE IT, for what and where IT is too. Use empathy and your heart.

    Express you heart freely. Yet guard your self love with your life. The best way to guard it is to: LIVE IT!!!!!

    Stay in the company and share your thoughts with all who YOU like.

    Do NOT be afraid to hear others condeming or negative comments along the way…

    Just choose. Your next thought, your next action. Make sure it aligns with your overall direction you want your life,business and overall purpose to go. Choose wisely. Definitively, and take action.

    You may need to get away from repetitive negative influences to get yourself to a place of self love.

    Or maybe, you just need a hug from that same person.

    Or maybe you need to go, create the dream and share it along the way… in a way that could even inspire the one who has given up on their dreams long ago…

    Never give up on your dreams.

    Never give up on others either, as nasty or hidden as they may be. Just SEE it. Them. You. For who you really are.

    Choose. And Then…

    SHINE ON!!! my friends…

    SHINE ON :-)

  30. Creating and Delivering Value as Lightworker | Yes to Me on February 23rd, 2009 8:45 am

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  32. Joe on March 24th, 2009 5:01 am

    Hi Joanne Geib,
    My name is Joe and I’m soon to take my license to become a doctor in general medicine. I have gone through a lot of the same things you have gone through. That’s why my heart goes out for you. You seem to have felt the same pain that I have felt before and it’s like living in pure hell. I believe that counseling with a psychologist will help you. I also believe that taking antidepressants (Zoloft/Sertraline) would be good for you right now. Exercise is something very important if you are able to do it, but if not because your depression is removing all of your energy from you, then I’ll wait until the depression helps. Don’t think that antidepressants are going to be your crutches for the rest of your life; use them as crutches only temporarily (short time) until you can get back to another position where you’ll like to be. The side effects are very minimal. Once again, I’m sorry about not being able to trust anyone anymore; I know how that feel. PS: Akemi and everyone else’s ideas are awesome!!!!!



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  34. Jc on December 30th, 2009 5:35 am

    My Mother is a genius manipulator. Once I caught on to her game and figured out what she was doing other mainipulators are easy to spot and pale by comparision. I tried for years to get my mother’s approval and finally accepted that I was never going to get it either. I also accepted that she is a very selfish person and that I needed to be my own person and not be validated by her or any other person. Here is how I deal with manipulators.
    1. Recognize manipulation
    2. accept your own feelings, you have a right to feel any way that you do about something.
    3. don’t over intellectualize someone’s behaviour and make up excuses for their inappropriate behaviour. Trust your feelings.
    4. are you putting more into the ralationship with the othe person than you are getting back? If you are then isn’t good.
    Here are my rules
    1. Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean you have to love them back. It might be hurtful to them but don’t feel guilty about it if you want to break off a relationship. You can tell the person you are sorry that they feel the way they do and you just don’t feel the same. You don’t want to be dating a person that has completely fallen in love with you and you only stay with that out of pity or guilt. The next thing you know it will years later and you find out that person has been playing you like a fiddle.
    2. No one has the right to judge you even yourself.
    3. forgive others if you can. if you can’t you may be able to in time but don’t blame yourself for how you feel. You have a right to your feelings.
    after a lifetime of my mother’s manipulation I broke free. I completely severed all ties to her and feel no guilt or remorse. I also forgave her. If she carries any anger or hatred of me or any emotion she will have to deal with that herself.

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  36. Sara on September 4th, 2010 7:32 pm

    You are a very brave. Everything you said sounds painful especially because it is family the ones that should be our backbones in life. You know this week I detected my own friend to be the one manipulating me for a year, I stopped contact right away because as you said ‘ you don’t cope.’

    One beautiful phrase I read says ‘We control how people treat us’

    You did take control of the damage and I am sure you are so much at peace now.

    My situation is recent so I haven’t been able to sleep since three nights now, because I am honestly sad but not guitly for the lose of someone whom I thought was a friend to find comfort with yet instead I was absued in return. She was always draining the energy out of me, when she saw something I have she once screamed at her boyfriend in front of me because she was so envious her face turned red….she always took and never gave back , typical!

    But I am thanful like you that the beast revealed herself.

  37. Nikhil on October 29th, 2010 12:14 pm

    I work at a media house. Being well and truly good at what I do, I do not have to deal with fear. There’s just two of us in the department and the other guy is far from as good. Yet, because I am new to the organisation and because information is not forthcoming, I have to deal with a person who know he cannot get the better of me but tries to, anyway. I have recently started to assert myself, say ‘no’ and so on. He will fall in line when I want him to, but not otherwise. Please advise.

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  39. Mr. Monthon Vallsri on January 1st, 2011 6:51 am

    Dear Akemi,

    i just found this websit because i am having a problem with my girlfriend then i cannot figure out how to solve the problem i i goggled it

    i am 34 she is 33 we have been dating for 2 years we have been arguing everyday both minor fight and major flight

    manily she always manuipuating me; make me feel depresive, pressure, unhappy and manythings

    i have been tring to search how to cope up with this problem

    until i found this website,,,,,then i understand that the more we coping with it the more we feed it with encouraging

    so…dodge it

    thank you Ake mi


    from Bangkok, thailland

  40. K. Winston Furlough on January 9th, 2011 11:17 am

    “Psychological Manipulation Techniques” are creatures that formed right after the start of TIME. Nevertheless, I would advise to stay positive and move onward and upward, also move away from these family elements.