How to deal with a manipulative acquaintance

Updated July 20, 2017

Manipulative individuals use devious tactics to attempt to control or influence others. They typically target individuals they perceive as weak and vulnerable. Once a manipulator latches on to you she will continue to victimise you until you take the initiative to put an end to the situation. Avoiding manipulative acquaintances, developing a plan for responding to manipulation when it occurs, and confronting manipulative individuals you must frequently interact with are all viable strategies for effectively dealing with manipulative people.

Show off your self-esteem. Manipulative individuals choose victims they believe they can easily manipulate and who will not put up resistance. They perceive the people they target as vulnerable, naive, gullible and lacking self-confidence. Make sure you do not project this type of image. Stand tall. Hold your head up high. Walk with confidence. Speak in a manner that lets others know you are comfortable in your own skin. Manipulators tend to avoid those who they believe will see right through their schemes.

Learn to recognise manipulation. There are a number of warning signs--some obvious, others more subtle--that can alert you that someone is attempting to manipulate you. Be on the lookout for individuals who constantly ask you for favours but who can never reciprocate; frequently seek sympathy or always have a hard luck tale to tell; behave kindly toward you when they want something, but coldly when they don't; want you around only when they will benefit somehow; get angry when you tell them "no"; attempt to coerce you into doing things by using threats or harassment; or act like your friend when the two of you are alone but distance themselves when others are around.

Create a plan for dealing with manipulative behaviour that is directed toward you. You must develop a viable preplanned response for effectively dealing with manipulation on the spot when it occurs. Your plan might be to tell the person "no" and, if she persists, to tell her "you have my answer, do not ask me that again." Or, it might be to say "I'm sorry, but I can't help you. I wish you the best." You might even want to excuse yourself and leave the immediate vicinity. Think about ways you can successfully address manipulative behaviour without succumbing to it. Choose an approach that suits your personality and does not make you uncomfortable.

Minimise contact with manipulative individuals. No one likes to be manipulated, and it's impossible to have a meaningful friendship with a manipulative individual. Avoid unnecessary contact with manipulative individuals. Decline their invitations. If you work with them, keep conversations brief and strictly about business. If they are neighbours, exchange greetings with them and keep moving. If she is a friend of a friend, tell your friend you'd prefer not to socialise when that person is present and explain why.

Confront manipulative individuals you must interact with frequently. When a person you must be in frequent contact with constantly engages in manipulative behaviour, you have no choice other than to confront her. Politely, respectfully and tactfully point out manipulative behaviour when it occurs. Tell the person you consider it offensive and ask her to please stop behaving that way toward you.


If a manipulator bristles when you confront her, don't lose your cool. Remain calm. She may ask you for other examples of when she engaged in manipulative behaviour toward you. Give her one other example. If she continues to belabour the point, tell her you will not go back and discuss it any more. Tell her since you have to spend time together you'd like for it to be pleasant and productive. If she starts and argument, excuse yourself and walk away. Confronting a manipulator may not be a pleasant task, but it is a necessary one. In the long run, it's much better to assert yourself and risk offending her than to continue to accept her abusive behaviour.

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About the Author

Michelle McFarland-McDaniels has been writing professionally since 1983. She has written for a variety of online publications including and, as well as "College Outlook" and "San Diego Family" magazines. McFarland-McDaniels holds master's degrees in African-American literature and education.