Confronting Evasion and Diversion Tactics

Evasion and Diversion Tactics

Manipulators like engaging in evasion and diversion. These tactics keep the spotlight off their behavior. They also them to avoid both responsibility and exposure. This artful dance can help them stay one step ahead of you. So, it’s important to confront these tactics head-on.

Agreeable, conscientious folks don’t relish confrontation. They hesitate to call out what their heart suspects. But to avoid potential victimization you have to do exactly that. It’s also how you hold a manipulative character accountable.

How It Works

A woman I’ll call “Sally” came to see me one day. (As always, I’ve altered details in this story to ensure anonymity.) She was concerned. Her husband had previously struggled with pornography use. His use pattern had become a true addiction. And it was impairing intimacy in their relationship. So, he sought treatment in a 12-step program. And he appeared to have made good progress. But he was spending a lot of private time on the computer again lately. And this aroused her concern.

Sally tried to explore the issue with “Jim.” She did her best to be gentle but direct. But Jim wouldn’t give her a direct answer. This frustrated her. She had seen this kind of evasion in the past. But Jim hadn’t been evasive in a long time. So, she pressed forward on the issue. And when she did, he changed the subject! She had seen such diversion before, too. And she knew evasion and diversion to be manipulation tactics . But this time she would not be manipulated. She confronted the tactics directly. And she also confronted Jim on what his use of them likely meant. That began an honest conversation. Jim had indeed “relapsed.”

The Power of Benign Confrontation

I’ve written before on the power of benign confrontation. (See, for example: Learning to Confront Benignly and Effectively.)  And in Character Disturbance I explain its importance in character-constructive therapy. Before you can deal with any issue, you have to expose it. And if one is to resolve it, one first has to “own it.” That means no evasion, no diversion when the spotlight shines on it. Sally knows this now. And she’s just as gentle and caring a person as she has always been. But she doesn’t let Jim or anyone else give her the slip.

Because Jim doesn’t successfully manipulate Sally anymore, he actually has a true ally in his recovery. Sally had long been his “enabler.” Now, she’s his supporter. He does the work. She reinforces his efforts. A true and positive partnership. If Sally were to succumb to Jim’s tactics, this couldn’t happen. Problems only fester when manipulation succeeds.


I felt compelled to write In Sheep’s Clothing. Too many people had come to me depressed and confused. Misinterpreting their manipulator’s tactics caused much of their confusion. Seeing the tactics for what they truly are changed things. And refusing to let any tactics sway them empowered them. Their sense of empowerment only increased as they became more confident in their ability to confront benignly.

22 years and 3 revisions later, the book remains a bestseller. Word-of-mouth is the main reason for that. And that makes me most grateful. Soon, the book will be published in yet another foreign language. I’ll announce that debut in about a month or so.


I’ll be posting my new speaking schedule soon on the Seminars page. This year, PESI sponsors and organizes my workshops.

Character Matters will feature a replay of an earlier program April 1, 2018. I’ll be celebrating Easter with my family that day. Sorry, you won’t be able to call in live to chat. But you can still enjoy some good conversation. And don’t worry, we’ll be back live April 8.  I can take your calls then.



28 thoughts on “Confronting Evasion and Diversion Tactics

  1. Dr. George, this is a fantastic site. I look forward to the opportunity of participating in your forums.
    There are many cases where exposing the manipulators evasion and diversion tactics by (benign) confrontation, doesn’t work. Persons suffering from addiction, for example, use evasion and diversion tactics to conceal their compulsions. The manipulators will do everything in their power to avoid responsibility for their behaviours, projecting their inadequacies and guilt onto their partners, leaving the innocent in a pit of crippling shame. Similarly, people who physically or sexually abuse women and children will never admit to wrongdoing, many holding the Machiavellian belief that they are entitled to use “their” family to meet their needs, regardless of how twisted those needs might be.
    Denial and scapegoating can take on a life its whereby the entire family will join the manipulator/addict in supporting his/her denial to avoid exposure of “the problem.” No amount of benign confrontation will be effective in these situations. Partners in a relationship with a person with an addiction to pornography/or substance abuse disorders or who abuse women and children will be held contributorily negligent in failing to meet the needs of the “manipulator” thereby avoiding the “spotlight.” Even innocent children will be held “accountable” for the behaviour of such individuals.
    I would also like to add that “confrontation” and “exposure” can also lead to “shunning” and “ostracism” in shame filled families, resulting in the truth teller being completely alienated from the family.
    Recent studies by Professor Joan Meir out of the University of Washington, for example, demonstrate the devastating effects of exposing the behaviours of fathers that abuse mothers and children. Mothers who seek to protect their children are scapegoated, accused of alienating “good ” fathers, and overwhelmingly, losing custody of their children. Empowerment can come at significant costs.

    1. Welcome Molly, I like what you had to say, there are high costs to not “going along with the program”.

      1. Hi Molly,

        I don’t think I have gotten to interact with you and read your posts. I apologize, have been busy with a friend who is in critical condition in the hospital right now.

        I just wanted to say welcome and and am looking forward to hearing your story and input. Lucy has been through and has an immense amount of knowledge she is always willing to share.

        Take care and again Welcome

  2. Molly,

    I was under the impression that the courts were more sympathetic to women, where children are concerned and that a woman had to be almost an axe murderer to lose custody of her children in a divorce situation. Maybe things have changed recently.

    Maybe you are referring more to courts enforcing non-custodial visitation rights to father, post divorce.

    1. LisaO
      In my circuit it used to be that way, so much in fact that the father wouldn’t even attempt to obtain custody. Nowadays there are plenty of courtroom battles over custody, there are many awful parents who use the children to get at the other parent. There are no winners in custody battles. The children always suffer, being suffled back and forth.

  3. On confrontation and calling out a manipulator. Here is my story with the X husband CDN.
    The X and I attended a few marital counseling sessions immedatiely prior to filing for divorce. At one session I had a question I was trying to get answered from Mr. jackass. I asked it over and over. He would not answer. At one point he got up out of his chair and yelled that he’s leaving. I jumped up, scooted a chair in front of the door and blocked him. (I know – pretty brazen – I was determined) I said, no, I’ll quit asking. You can stay. The counselor says “I don’t think you’re going to get your answer.”
    At the end of the session she told me “I want you to confront him and not back down.” I said “I can do that.” From that point on any time he used his “false anger” whenever I tried to speak to him about something, I wouldn’t back off until I was satisfied. Actually, I never would get answers, I got diversion tactics, and at one point he just left because I wouldn’t back down.
    I would not recommend doing this to a person who is physically violent.
    I should have left this marriage much sooner than I did. By the time I figured out what was happening so much damage was already done. I didn’t have the tools to know how to deal with, understand what was happening.
    I sure do now though. Thanks Dr. Simon.

    1. To All,

      Something to remember. What keeps coming to mind lately is chapters taught in the book The Four Agreements, honing in on the chapter Don’t Make Assumptions.

      The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

      “The Four Agreements
      1. Be impeccable with your word.
      2. Don’t take anything personally.
      3. Don’t make assumptions.
      4. Always do your best. ”
      ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

      If we don’t fully understand something, ask questions. Don’t assume. I always try to keep this one in my mind. Sometimes we have to dig deep to fully understand. Other times we don’t. (Sent by a dear friend)

      I feel out of place saying this, we must all remember we are people with wants, needs, desires, what have you. Even the CDN have these same underlying needs. There is a lot of sickness in this world, crazy making drama and our society as a whole is being torn apart by this sickness, sin whatever you want to call it.

      No one, has the corner on what the outcome will be except we all have a responsibility to do our part. I know the underhanded ilks that crawl in creating havoc and discord, evasion and discord, divide and conquer is the theme. I can say this to all you envious green rejects of your own choice, you have gained nothing.

  4. Dr. Simon,
    I have implemented the no diversion tactical response of calmly but not being dissuaded by evasive answers or replies from 2 people in my family. This response from me is working !!! It is not easy but I’m looking at my 2 family members and saying they don’t belong to me but to God. If I don’t do this “work” for them and lay down my own life for them who will confront them with truth?
    With most of my other family members though, one being very important to me, I don’t see how it will work. He is SURROUNDED with enablers and actual helpers!! Any advice? I’m talking like more than a couple of hundred “friends and family” he listens to or rather spouts off about what I think and they just go along with him.

  5. I had an interesting and very brief interaction with someone in a parking lot the other day. I was really distracted passing my groceries to the driver to load into the car while checking one of the bags to see if I missed something, all while keeping my eye on my little leashed dog.

    Suddenly I see an unleashed Russian wolfhound lumbering toward me, his owner behind him. He wasn’t exhibiting any signs of aggression, but I moved out of his way and pulled my little dog to the side.

    The owner slowly breezed by me and said, “you shouldn’t pull on your dog that way,” as she walked by, sort of out of the corner of her mouth.

    This wasn’t a drive by shooting or a drive by shouting, for that matter. It’s criticism designed to rob you of an ability to respond as the criticizer is now past you. This technique relies on your compliance, fear of making a scene, polite nature, etc…

    Soooooo, as she sauntered off, I was able to ask her why she was suggesting I not pull my dog to the side to avoid her dog. She turned around and said, “when you pull your dog out of the way like that, you are teaching it to be fearful of other dogs and that alone can cause a problem.”

    I responded back that as I didn’t know her dog or her for that matter, I thought it best to err on the side of caution. I was polite but unbending. Her jaw kind of dropped and she stood stalk still and stared at me, searching my face really carefully for some sign.

    I got the impression she needed something to work with and couldn’t get a read on me, as I was polite but matter of fact. With her jaw still slack with gob smacked wonder she told me her dog was super friendly and there was nothing to worry about.

    I responded that I didn’t know the dog at all. She said, “you could have asked.” I was doing several things at once. I told her I was distracted until her dog was 5 feet away and I didn’t agree with her. I wasn’t aggressive or rude, I was just clear that I didn’t agree. Again, her jaw dropped.

    Anyway, it was all so stupid and can count on one hand the times I have had this kind of encounter. The thing is to hold your ground, politely. Be assertive but not aggressive and don’t default to over smiling or showing submissive traits. People who do this are generally Narcissitic and use this technique to boss people around, including total strangers.

    1. LisaO
      You can sure think quickly. First off of course you should have pulled your dog. You can tell this woman hasn’t had many people not bow down to her. I can recall many instances where someone has been rude or out of line with me and, as you say, they’ve already gone past, the response time is too short. But . . . . I love that you spoke out loud enough to stop her. She was totally out of line, rude, bullyish, and yes it sounds like she was trying to get a read on you. Good for you speaking up, and having the wits about you to do so in a non-confrontational manner. But you definitely got your point across.

      1. Lucy, while she was trying to get a read on me I was able to glean a pretty strong dominant alpha female vibe from her. That’s okay. We need this type, but seeing as they are never challenged, they are astonished when it does happen — to the point of shock. So, as May West said, “those who are that easily shocked, need to be shocked more often!”

        1. LisaO, Lucy,

          Sure love Dietrich and Mae West, I will have to watch her movies, I used to have them all taped on VHS. Loved Groucho too. So true, this is one heck of a shocking world and I believe we haven’t seen anything yet.

    2. LisaO,

      Thank you for sharing this story of Confronting and Deversion. To many it may seem to be a minute incident playing out in ones day to day life. Where in fact it touches on many important stand alone discussions.

      There are so many tragic scenarios that could have occurred from this persons negligence. Having been the victim of some ugly interactions regarding pets in the past ,one can never underestimate or assume anything. I commend you for thinking fast, however, many dogs by nature are prey driven and also go for other animals for numerous reasons.

      WOW, Russian Wolfhounds are large animals and could had easily killed or injured you and your dog. It is always wise to aire on the side of caution. This woman determining you were not teaching your dog properly sure was out of line to call into question your right to use your judgement. Really, in a split second you were supposed to take the time to ask if her if her dog was friendly? (blame shifting)

      My first response would had been the same as yours, hers should had been to apologize to you for any inconvenience it many have caused you and ask you if you were alright. I know when I am caught off guard, just twisting, turning or just jerking can cause me back pain.

      We live in a society where the norm seems to be blame shifting for ones uncaring behavior and lack there of. We live in a world where shameful conduct is shifted onto the one who is not at fault. Further insult is to then accuse the innocent of being the one out of line and the shameful one for even questioning bad behavior. This world is upside down in its fight against those of us who dare stick up for decency and integrity.

      As long as a person/party feels and says its true and its their truth its true. Its to the point everything is wrong and everything is right according to the individual. Looking back, we have lost a way of life that used to be based on character, decency, a regard for our fellow man, that very concern is what held a community/neighborhood together.

      LisaO, there was a time when an incident like this occurred the woman would had bowed her head in shame knowing her negligence could had seriously harmed another, knowing she also upset and inconvenienced another member of their community in such a manner. The woman would had been contrite and embarrassed, I know I would be.

      There was a time when the core citizens of our country stood together on basic standards of truths, honesty , decency and integrity. Today what is left is a declining skeletal structure of very few who can no longer pull the weight of the individuals who go their own way, rinsing their hands of their fellowman on a self seeking journey of I, me, me, me and the I AM….

      There are those of us who are still principled but are torn down and accused of the very things that are wrong with society. Instead we are constantly being put on trial, fighting for simple decency to be treated with respect and how dare we ask for this.

      The new concept now being, I have a right to define reality because I the almighty, I proclaimed it is my truth, therefore, it is the truth, although, we all know it is a blatant lie.

      LisaO, from what you say and in no less than brief seconds this woman determined her truth was that you were not training your dog correctly, she cared less that it may have upset you, harmed you or your dog and instead continued to shift her irresponsible actions onto you.

      I am truly sorry this happened to you and I do understand how something so instantaneously crass could have lifelong dire ramifications on an innocent person. I am glad you were not hurt.

      If it were me or I was a bystander, my response to this selfish, outrageous woman would had been a 911 call, as there is a law called, A leash law and to have control of ones animals at all times. I would not have been compelled to speak with her only to law enforcement. I would also suggest to keep your cell and camera close at all times. This could very well save your life and substantiate if need be for the future.

      I feel so strongly about this as I have been the victim of such a scenario which left me paralyzed at the time and I will suffer residual problems till the day I die from another such persons negligence and flippant disregard for anothers life due to a dog. Could you imagine what a dog like this could do to a pregnant woman, an elderly woman, small children and the list goes on. Yes, I was told the dogs that attacked me were super friendly too.

      LisaO, I did not mean to detract from your story. What stood out and is of immense importance is your statement:

      “It’s criticism designed to rob you of an ability to respond as the criticizer is now past you. This technique relies on your compliance, fear of making a scene, polite nature, etc…

      I totally agree, at one time these situations were far and few between, today these scenarios take place on a relatively consistent basis in society. Of further importance you stated:

      “The thing is to hold your ground, politely. Be assertive but not aggressive and don’t default to over smiling or showing submissive traits. People who do this are generally Narcissitic and use this technique to boss people around, including total strangers.”

      From my experience Go Grey Rock, say as little as possible and be aware of your environment. This is a weird, sick world and the very ones who seem to be friendly are the very ones setting you up for victimization. I do not suggest being paranoid, but rather always be aware, let your gut instincts lead you and be prepared.

      Many people are victimized in parking lots, its and easy place to corner someone, take advantage of them and make a fast get away.

      Again, this is another whole topic.

      I am glad you and your fur buddy are OK.

      1. Btov,

        Thanks! I’ve confronted this kind of behavior in the past, a couple of times. The difference this time was I remained very neutral, didn’t get angry and tell her off. The last few incidents were over a decade ago and both times I opened up on the person and really let them have it.

        On those occasions there was a class issue involved. Both times I was dealing with supreme arrogance and was thrown on the defensive due to obvious discrepancy in income.

        I abhor people who are arrogant due to their wealth, but still — if these incidents happened today, I would handle them differently. I wI’ll still confront but in a different way.

  6. People in the grip of addiction or compulsive behavior don’t have to be character disordered, necessarily, to manipulate. But as Doctor Simon illustrated with example in his article it is really important to understand all of the signs of evasion and diversionary tactics in order to help them to handle their problem.

    My personal belief is most people addicted to drugs are tormented somehow and trying to escape misery. Are they all character disordered? No. Do they all manipulate? Sure. And they steal and deep into a severe addiction, particularly with drugs that cause hyper sexuality and aggression, they start to lose their humanity.

    But…we have to remember that they are still human. Another thing to bear in mind is many addicts desire a mystical experience, a sense of Love and expansion in the arms of a benevolent universe, or God. An ego driven society isn’t the best place to find this kind of solace.

    1. So they can’t be helped if they continue to evade. My counselor once told me that the X was the most evasive client she’d ever had. She should have told me the marriage stood no chance. I was she let me go through the stages of realizing it myself. And he wasn’t ready for change or healing. Although it’s maddening what he’s done to me, it’s still sad, a wasted life.

      1. Lucy and All,

        I cut and pasted from a prior post from Lucy which is what I strive for too.
        Yes, I will try to be Forever the Diplomat. What is truly missing in this world is Character along with LOVE……..

        So now, my mantra is Restore and Rebuild. I can now do this now that I am solely responsible for myself.
        I don’t want drama, I don’t want troubles. I want to be surrounded by positivity and am ready to enjoy the good life again. I’ve read Dr. Simon’s books and am well versed on his teachings of CDs, and I’ve lived it, live with a full blown CD, grandiose Malignant narc. I’ve grown.

        You sure have grown Lucy, you are blossoming into a lovely, kind, gracious woman, full of passion, love for others and empathy, but above all,
        Your Gift of Character is shinning through.

        Many blessings and above all peace to you and your family.

        1. BTOV
          Thank you. I’ve still got my core self, I didn’t lose it through all this devastation.
          Holding onto past events can prevent one from living in the present. I intend to go forward. The past has passed.
          And Spring is here!

  7. Confrontation with the truth is one of the most painful experiences we ever go through.
    We are living in a world where people are so deeply deceived by their politicians, media, even academia, then by everyone around them in the family, school, workplaces etc, who are kept under a constant deception by the same sources, that it is impossible be kind and to be truthful at the same time.
    Most of us, even those with good moral character, tend to escape cognitive dissonance, hence we take it as a personal insult when someone tries to confront us with an inconvenient truth. We just prefer to be deceived by wonderful fairy-tale tellers rather than to be forced to face the ugly truth.
    “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” – George Orwell
    In consequence, in our world it is impossible to observe all the rules that are required to be a person of good character, because these rules drive us into a constant clash of values.

  8. To come up with an example of convenient truth:

    Americans believe the myth that freedom means to be free from taxes, and because they are trapped in that myth, they don’t seem to realise that freedom means to be free from evil, which however means that to be free from evil one needs a social-economic system that – by its very own motivational rules – fosters the development of good moral character. You can’t tell a person – as the rules of capitalism tell them – to obtain as much profit as you can in order to stay in economy, and to be a good moral character and create opportunity for the others. It is the same as to say, spend your lifetime on trying to be the fastest runner in the world, then to slow down and let others overtake you. It. Simply. Does. Not. Make. Sense.

    So, are your ready to be faced with a most inconvenient truth?
    If yes, then let’s start looking at American history to see the facts rather than the myth.
    If Americans are so against taxes and high taxes, how come FDR was the most popular US president of all history? He was reelected several times and he stayed in office until his death. Why? Because Americans were the freest ever in history under FDR’s presidency and his New Deal. What made America great was SOCIALISM, NOT CAPITALISM, under a SOCIALIST US president. Will Americans ever accept this historical fact as a fact. Of course not.

    FDR was someone with a most decent, empathic, social, compassionate character, who was wise and courageous enough to tax the most anti-social and greediest segment of society – FDR taxed the riches above 90% of their income! and used these tax incomes to give the masses the opportunity to prosper, by providing them affordable education, healthcare, social care etc, which in turn fostered the development of good character in that era, which then fostered the development of a much better functioning society. In other words, it was SOCIALISM that gave us freedom, NOT Capitalism and it was SOCIALISM that made the whole US economy prosper NOT Capitalism. Will Americans ever face this truth? NO. They would rather die.

    Even though this truth is simple. You don’t need to be an economist to realise it. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to avoid that more and more kids would grow up in criminal neighborhoods and/or under circumstances that their parents have zero time to raise them as decent human beings because they need to work 3 shifts just to survive, if you want to provide everyone equal opportunity, then you have to help them, and to help them, you have to tax the rich.
    Moreover, if you want to avoid that the greadiest, that is the nastiest people would take rule over the whole of society, you have to give up the idea of freedom under which someone can accumulate such a wealth that it can be used for taking away the freedom of the masses.

    The inconvenient truth that Americans don’t want to see, again: that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You just can’t. You can’t have these two conditions to be fulfilled at the same time: 1) to have your democracy and freedom, and 2) to allow a few people to accumulate all the wealth of the world.
    “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.” (John Maynard Keynes, economist)

    Yet, the myth of the misconceived freedom, the myth that is spread of course by the richest, that allows the nastiest of men to be freest to push us into captivity, still prevails, hence by now even the poorest are citing the myth that freedom and prosperity means to be free from taxes. And because Americans love this myth and refuse to be confronted with the fact that opposite is the case, they have allowed someone, a most disturbed character Donald Trump to obtain a position that will push the American masses into even deeper poverty and even less freedom than before.

  9. Hi Eva and welcome,

    You’ve said a mouthful here. Capitalism as is and was practiced, in the U.S. has always been a mixture of government intervention, redistribution of wealth combined with competitive markets.

    The problem, as I see it (and you correct me if you think I am wrong) is institutions of all kinds are starting to take on the pathological characteristics of disordered individuals. If the ultra wealthy were taxed at 90% today, you can bet most of that money would end up in military budgets anyway.

    The psychopathic individual’s genetic strategy is a “here for a long time, not a good time,” one. Mate with as many women as possible and do it quickly, then flame out by being killed in battle.

    When they aren’t killed off in battle and come to dominate the corporate and political culture, the strategy is the same. It is ruthless, self serving and the institutions themselves are threatened with demise because the same fearless, hell bent for leather, frame of mind prevails.

    Capitalism, in the past, was always tempered by truly conservative impulses because those who controlled the political and corporate machinery were more moderate people.

    1. I think it boils down to either the red or blue pill……

      Depending on which one “The Truth Will Set you Free or You Exist.

  10. Hi,

    I have been wondering about something and it is when” covert aggressives are unmasked”

    In my life I have dealt with quite a number of covertly aggressives (six actually) . What I have noticed is that when they are unmasked they act completely different…. stupid is the correct word actually . It is the same word that everyone around me said about them when they discovered them and of course eventually the covrt realized that they are exposed. For example one of them used to charm his parents to get what they want and after realizing that they are exposed and noticing that his parents are treating him differently (not falling for his charm and seeing if he actually deserves and needs whatever he desires ) he started to demand in an intimidating way which actually weakened his position even further! .

    So what is happening exactly ?

    1. Johar,
      Manipulator first used charm tactic, when that stopped working, he switched to intimidation tactic.
      There is a blog post that lists all the tactics that a manipulator can use.

    2. Johar,

      After you read the article on tactics, it gets interesting to spot-on identify the tactics one will use. They may go through all of them seeking the result they want. I watched that happen with the X husband. Once you know what they are doing it’s like watching a Sci-Fi movie.

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