I’ve been posting some articles addressing the many questions I receive every day about living and dealing with manipulators. One post addressed whether there is any hope covertly-aggressive individuals can ever really change (see: Top Question about Manipulators: Can They Ever Really Change?) and another addressed how to best shield children from negative influences (see: Questions about Manipulators: How Do I Protect My Children?). This post will address another frequent question, namely, how to best respond to the behaviors and tactics manipulators engage in to dominate and control.
Most of the time, when people ask me how to best respond to the manipulator or other character-impaired person in their life, they’re really asking two questions, one unspoken. The spoken question is the obvious one, and involves what a person needs to do in response to tactics of covert intimidation, shaming, guilting, rationalization, denial, etc. The unspoken question is whether responding to the disturbed character and their tactics in the right manner will influence them to change their behavior. And I consider it crucial to make the point from the outset that responding to tactics in the right way, while harboring expectations that doing so will prompt the manipulator to change their ways is a setup for heartache and other disaster. The most important reason to learn the “tools of empowerment” that I so strongly advocate in my book In Sheep’s Clothingand to put these tools into practice is not so much to prompt surface-level change in the disturbed character but to train oneself in setting and enforcing better boundaries and limits, ridding oneself of self-doubt, anxiety, uncertainty and depression, and take back control and direction of one’s life. Character disturbed individuals don’t give up their unhealthy bids for control easily. They use every tactic they can (see: Another Look at Manipulation Tactics) to bring you to submission. But once you know how to respond to the tactics in a healthier and more empowered way, it’s a genuine “game-changer.”
With this post I’ll be launching a series of articles on the actions anyone can take in the face of manipulation or any other tactics of disturbed characters that can empower them to regain control of their lives. The first “tool of empowerment” I’d like to introduce is rejecting all excuses for hurtful and inappropriate behavior. To quote from In Sheep’s Clothing:
Accept no excuses. Don’t buy into any of the many reasons (rationalizations) someone might offer for aggressive, covertly aggressive, or any other inappropriate behavior. If someone’s behavior is wrong or harmful, the rationale they offer for it is totally irrelevant. The ends never justifies the means. So no matter how much an “explanation” for a problem behavior seems to make some sense, don’t accept it. And remember, the person offering the excuse is trying to maintain their position – a position from which they should be backing away. From the very moment they start “explaining,” they’re actually resisting submission to the principles of civil conduct and trying to get you to cave in to their erroneous point of view. And because they’re resisting submission to principle, you can be certain they’ll only engage in the same problematic behavior again.
Accepting no excuses doesn’t mean badgering the excuse maker and trying to “make them” sing a different tune (at least on the surface). Rather, it’s simply not allowing yourself to be swayed and holding the wrongdoer accountable. You have the power to stand on principle vs. be swayed an manipulated. That’s what personal empowerment is all about. And holding on to your own principled position is one way you make decisions about the kind of person you want to be involved with. When someone refuses to capitulate on a behavior most people would agree is wrong, you glean some very valuable information about their character and whether life with them will ever be any different. Once you make it clear you won’t accept any excuses for inappropriate behavior, the focus automatically shifts from you (where the manipulator tried to direct it) to the problem behavior and the person who displayed it. Then it’s only a matter of whether they accept responsibility for it or continue to make excuses for it, which gives you important information about how likely they are to do it again.