When dealing with a manipulator, you must not go on the offensive

We encounter some form of manipulation almost every day. Most of us manipulate unconsciously, and only 20 percent of people are pathological manipulators. Unfortunately, it is these disturbed personalities that you may meet at work or are part of your family.  Most often, a sense of power, a learned pattern of behavior, or a fear of failure is behind the manipulation. And some people simply enjoy it. But for everyday communication, manipulation is devastating, and if you can't fight back, it will grow into frustration, sadness, induce fear and anxiety, and attack your person and competence. 

In her webinar, Kateřina Bělková, a registered mediator and professional communication specialist who teaches the MBA Human Resources Professional at NEWTON University how to become a professional negotiator through mediation techniques, told us how to recognize manipulation, defend against it and how to master assertive communication. 

A successful mediator, she teaches MBA Human Resources Professional HR managers at NEWTON University how to use mediation to become professional negotiators.

You can overcome manipulation through assertiveness 

Assertive communication is a learned respectful style of communication, explains Kateřina Bělková. Manipulators manipulate because they don't have access to their emotions and you can defend yourself by capturing and describing emotions assertively. Manipulators' tricks are different, they use verbal and non-verbal manipulation. 

  • They use manipulative statements 
  • They appeal to another authority figure. 
  • They digress. 
  • They insult themselves. 
  • They are passive aggressive. 
  • They are verbal. 
  • They use half-truths and lies. 
  • They make communication impossible through silence. 

Their goal is to confuse you so that you get lost in the communication and they take you where they need you to go. 

What to do if you find yourself in the middle of such communication? Keep calm

  • Stay factual and fair. 
  • Keep your distance. 
  • Go for your goal. 
  • Focus on specific behaviours.
  • Don't attack.  
  • Neutralize - Calm the entire challenging situation by describing it and thereby neutralizing it. E.g. I see you're really angry, let's talk about it. 
  • If it tests you, e.g. sarcasm, irony, bringing up old issues, don't respond. 
  • Use assertive consent - stingy like your mother! Yes, I'm thrifty, what else?)
  • Assertive demarcation - You say I'm incompetent, what exactly do you mean by that?
  • If you feel you are having trouble staying calm, walk away and end the debate on the topic. 

Always keep in mind that manipulators want to hack your boundaries, they are testing how far they can go, protect yourself. Imagine, for example, that you have an imaginary wall around you from which his attacks bounce off. You must never be swept away by his attacks, his aggression and go into confrontation with him.

Kateřina Bělková

Registered mediator, coach and lecturer at the School of Mediation. She teaches students at NEWTON University in the Human Resources Professional MBA program how to negotiate professionally, work with emotions and communicate in difficult situations.

Mediation is an alternative, voluntary, out-of-court method of resolving disputes between parties with the assistance of a third neutral party - the mediator.