“Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks, and bad people. Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the art of peace.”
Morihei Ueshiba (Founder; Japanese Martial Art of Aikido)
“Almost all people are hypnotics. The proper authority saw to it that the proper belief should be induced, and the people believed properly.”
Charles Fort (Author; The Outcast Manufacturers)
“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings and emotions.”
Will Smith (Actor and Producer; Ali)
Manipulative people are those who disguise their interests as your interests.
“I bet people would like you better if you wore your glasses more.” This is what my academic advisor told me once in graduate school. Actually he told me a few times. He was always giving me tips on how to tone myself down and fit in better.
I thought he was genuinely concerned about me. It was my first year and I didn’t feel like I fit in very well. Maybe this was his way of helping me out without hurting my feelings. Wearing glasses would make me look more like a scientist—they’d make me look smarter. This was a good thing. Right?
Eventually I realized my advisor wasn’t worried about me. He was worried about himself. Over the next few years he found more and more ways to make me feel like I was doing something wrong. He’d tell me that my work ethic wasn’t good enough to graduate, or my writing wasn’t good enough to get published, or that everyone in the lab didn’t like me. Or he’d call me a moron or a boob and then say just kidding. But he wasn’t kidding.
Usually these episodes would happen right after something went well for me or for my career. He’d feel threatened or like he was losing his grip and react by trying to push me down.
Manipulators Want To Shake Your Confidence
I was at a large sales meeting a few years ago and one of the division managers walked up to me and said “I’m going to need you to tone it down for the rest of the night.” He said it to me like I was running around the room naked doing cartwheels. Worse—he said it to me like I was 8 years old. In reality, I was just laughing and having a good time. This really threw me off.
It was my first week at the company and I was still getting to know everyone, including this manager. I knew I wasn’t being inappropriate but I started to second guess myself anyway. Maybe I was doing something wrong?
I felt stupid and uncertain so I told him I was sorry and went to bed. A few nights later I found out that the entire Russian sales team went skinny dipping in the hotel’s hot tub later that night. The division manager never said anything to them. Why did he tell me to tone it down but not them?
You’re Not Good Enough—Signed, The World
Do you ever get that feeling that someone is going to walk up behind you, tap you on the shoulder, and say “We know you’re a fraud…” Or that you’re going to walk back to your desk one day and see a note that reads, “Psst…you’re not good enough.” Everyone experiences this feeling at one time or another. It’s so common there’s even a name for it—Impostor Syndrome.
Research shows that up to 70% of the population has suffered from Impostor Syndrome at some point. This is a pretty big deal when you consider what it means to have Impostor Syndrome. According to the California Institute of Technology, people suffering from this Syndrome persistently see themselves as inadequate or as failures despite information indicating that they are adequate or successful. These people chronically experience feelings of self-doubt and intellectual fraudulence.
One study found that people who frequently suffer from Imposture Syndrome, labeled as impostors, perform less well and are more anxious in general than those who suffer infrequently, labeled as nonimpostors. Impostors also feel worse and suffer a greater loss in self-esteem than nonimposters after a perceived failure. Other studies show that Imposture Syndrome is strongly correlated with self-sabotage and feelings of shame.
Manipulative people love Impostor Syndrome. It’s one of the many psychological states they will try to tap into and use against you. They’ll work to make you question your actions and your worth. They’ll plant seeds of doubt to keep you distracted and off balance so they can take what they want from you. If you’re not careful, you’ll end your life surrounded by manipulative people who have taken everything from you, including your self-worth.
10 Ways To Eliminate Manipulative People
There’s always going to be people trying to shake your confidence—people trying to instill seeds of self-doubt within you. These people will do their best to manipulate you into believing that their opinions are objective facts. They’ll tell you that everyone in the entire world thinks you’re arrogant, crazy, or not good enough. Then they’ll tell you how concerned they are about you—about how you’re living your life, spending your money, raising your kids, on and on.
If you don’t change in exactly the way they want you to change, your life will be ruined. That’s what they want you to believe. The truth is these people don’t want to help you. They want to control you. They want to change you, not to better your life, but to validate their lives and to keep you from outgrowing them.
Don’t be confused. Manipulative people are not worried about your interests. They’re worried about their interests. Once you let manipulative people in your life, they can be extremely hard to get rid of. The key is having enough confidence in yourself to give manipulative people the boot as soon as you spot them. Here are 10 strategies for eliminating manipulative people from your life:
1. Ignore everything they do and say.
Manipulative people are meant to be ignored. These people flip flop on issues, they’re slippery when you try to hold them accountable, they promise help that never comes, they make you feel guilty constantly—everything you don’t want in person.
When dealing with a manipulative person, the biggest mistake you can make is trying to correct them. By correcting them, you sink deeper into their trap. Manipulative people will use frustration and confusion to bait you into conflict. They want to get you emotional so they can see how you tick.
Once they know the things that trigger you, they’ll use them to influence your actions. A better strategy is to ignore them completely. Simply delete them from your life. If you can’t delete them right away—like if they’re a boss, coworker, or family member—agree with what they say and then go do your own thing anyway.
2. Hit their center of gravity.
Manipulative people are constantly using their own strategies against you. They’ll become friends with your friends and turn them against you. They’ll dangle some small reward in front of you and make you chase it continuously—every time you get close to it, they’ll pull it away. They’ll hold past actions over your head forever. On and on.
Stop letting manipulative people use their strategies against you. Instead, turn the tables. Create a strategy of your own and hit them where it hurts. If you’re forced to deal with a manipulative person who keeps making your life hell no matter how hard you try to ignore them, you only have one option, find their center or gravity and attack it. This center might be the manipulative person’s friends, followers, or subordinates. It might be a high level skill or an advanced understanding of a particular field. It might be a particular resource that they control.
Either way, find out what their center of gravity is and make it yours. Create allies with people close to them, recruit people with their skillsets and knowledgebase to replace them, or siphon away their prized resource. This will throw them off balance and force them to focus on controlling their life, not yours.
3. Trust your judgment.
You know what’s best for your life better than anyone else. Too many people go around asking for other people’s opinions about everything. What should I do with my life? What am I good at? Who am I?
Stop looking for other people to define you. Define yourself. Trust yourself. What separates winners from losers is not the ability to listen to other people’s beliefs, it’s the ability to listen to one’s own beliefs. By setting your own beliefs and holding onto them strongly, you prevent manipulative people from affecting your life. In this way, your beliefs will act as a blockade, keeping manipulators ostracized and out of your way.
4. Try not to fit in.
Keep reinventing yourself. The idea that consistency is somehow virtuous or tied to success is a misconception. Manipulative people want you to be consistent so they can count on you to push their agendas forward. They want you to show up every day at 9am and work for them for minimum wage. They want you to get home on time and clean the house and make them feel good about themselves.
Assembly lines are consistent. Prison is consistent. Consistency is how manipulators keep you in a box. It’s how they control you. The only way to keep from being manipulated is to actively push against all the boundaries that others try to set for you.
Stop trying to fit in. Instead, work to stand out. Work to be different in every possible way and to never stay the same for too long. Personal growth, by definition, requires a lack of consistency. It requires constant change—constant reinvention.
5. Stop compromising.
Guilt is a useless emotion. But it’s a powerful tool. Guilt is one of the weapons that manipulative people will use against you. They’ll make you feel guilty for past failures and small mistakes, or they’ll make you feel guilty for being prideful and overconfident. Any time you spend feeling happy or sure of yourself, they’ll use against you. No one should ever feel too good about themselves, they’ll say.
Another weapon that manipulators will use against you is doubt. They’ll work to instill a sense of self-doubt within you—doubt about your abilities and your worth. Their overall goal is to knock you off balance and make you second guess yourself. Manipulators gain power in this state of uncertainty. Their influence becomes stronger and they are twice as likely to convince you to compromise on your values, your goals, and yourself.
The solution is simple—stop feeling guilty. Stop doubting yourself. When it comes to your own life, you don’t owe anyone anything. You deserve to feel good about yourself and to be proud of your accomplishments. You deserve to feel a strong sense of confidence and self-belief in what you’re doing. Compromising on any of these things is not moral or enlightened. Rather, it’s the road to self-destruction.
6. Never ask for permission.
It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. The problem is that we’ve been trained to constantly ask for permission. As a child, we had to beg for everything we wanted—to be fed, changed, and burped. Throughout school we had to ask permission to go to the bathroom, we had to wait to eat lunch at a designated time, and wait our turn to play with toys. As a result, most people never stop waiting for permission.
Employees around the world wait to be promoted and wait for their turn to talk. Most are so used to being picked that they sit silently in meetings, afraid to speak out of turn or to even raise their hands. There is a different way to live.
What if you did whatever you wanted to do whenever you wanted to do it? What if you stopped being overly concerned with politeness and making others feel comfortable? What if, instead, you live your life exactly the way you want to? These are all things you can do at any time.
Manipulative people want you to feel beholden to some imaginary rule or ideal that says you cannot freely take action without consulting either an authoritative figure or some group. The truth is you can disregard this sense of confinement at any time. You can start living your life today radically different that you lived it yesterday. The choice is yours to make.
7. Create a greater sense of purpose.
People driven by destiny are not easily fooled. The reason manipulators continue to thrive in this world is because so many people are living purposeless lives. When your life lacks purpose, you’ll believe anything. You’ll do anything. Because nothing really matters.
People who lack purpose are just killing time. There’s no rhyme or reason behind how they’re living their lives. They don’t know where they’re going or why they’re here. So, to keep from going crazy, they work at pointless jobs and stuff their brains full of celebrity gossip, reality TV, and other forms of useless information. They stay busy to avoid the feeling of desperate emptiness growing inside of them. This busyness and emptiness empowers manipulative people.
There’s a sucker born every minute. If you’re constantly distracted, constantly consuming useless content, constantly trying to stay busy—you’re the sucker. Manipulators control purposeless people by peddling useless information and activities to them. The only way to escape this fate is to develop a sense of destiny. Destiny destroys distraction. When you know you’re going, manipulators can’t hurt you. They can’t distract you or misguide you.
8. Keep taking new opportunities.
The world wants you to put your eggs in one basket. Everyone and everything around you is telling you to lock yourself into a mortgage, a car payment, a stale relationship, a single office job, on and on. They want you to stay staked down to a single opportunity for the rest of your life.
Nowadays, being ambitious is often looked down upon. Staying hungry is often seen a sign of weakness. Why can’t you be content with what you have? Why are you so greedy? This is what manipulative people will ask you when you express a desire for more. They will call you selfish, arrogant, and prideful. They will make you feel cold and awkward, like you are inhumane and heartless. The truth is they want to keep you in your place. They want you to stay at the same job and live in the same place for the rest of your life. They want you to stay dependent on them and the systems they control.
The only way to stay independent is to constantly seek out and create new opportunities. Keep applying to new jobs, keep starting new businesses, keep building new relationships, and keep chasing new experiences.
9. Quit being a baby.
If someone fools you once, shame on them. If someone fools you 10 times, you’re an idiot. Stop letting manipulators walk all over you. Stop being a punching bag. No one feels bad for you and you’re only embarrassing yourself. Have enough self-awareness and self-respect to say no to manipulative people.
You can’t just walk through life blaming other people for your problems. You can’t just walk through life oblivious to the people trying to manipulate you either. Yes, negative and manipulative people exist. And yes, these people will try to use you. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to make mistakes and be used.
No one can manipulate you without your permission. You’re responsible for your own successes and failures. If others outthink or out-strategize you—it’s your fault, not theirs. Be accountable. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t keep trusting the same slippery person over and over again. Cut them loose. Delete them from your life. Commit to surrounding yourself with likeminded people who aren’t going to use you.
10. Bet on yourself.
Take a chance on the one thing you can control in life—yourself. When it comes to making tough decisions, too many people limit themselves to considering just external factors. They consider the financial and relationship consequences of a situation. But they fail to consider the effects their decision will have on their personal happiness and sense of self-worth. As a result, they take chances on other people when they should be taking chances on themselves. Then they wonder why they’re miserable.
When you only take chances on external people and things, you place yourself at the mercy of those people and things. This makes you vulnerable and ripe for manipulation. Instead, you should be taking chances on yourself. In any difficult situation you’re faced with, don’t ask questions like, “Who is the better person to side with?” or “Which option is more likely to be successful?” Instead, ask, “What do I want to do most?” and then go out and do it.
If, for example, you’re faced with an opportunity to start your own business or stay working at the same dead end job, don’t stay at the job just because the pay is only slightly pathetic. Don’t stay just because the relationships are only slightly miserable. When you do this, you’re betting on external factors. This is always a mistake. A better strategy is to bet on yourself.
You’ll never regret betting on yourself. Sure, you’ll have to take full responsibility for any mistakes you commit. Sure, you’ll have to hold yourself to a higher standard. But you’ll also be fully responsible for your own victories too. You’ll continue to grow and achieve greater and greater levels of success.
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