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S2 EP152 – How to Know When You Are Being Manipulated

Episode Summary

Knowing when you are being manipulated is a challenge for all of us. In this podcast, we share with you what we’ve learned about how to know when someone is being authentic or lying and manipulative. 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul and Dr. Erika Chopich here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Once again, due to some recent distressing experiences, Erika came up with today’s topic of how to know when you are being manipulated. First, let me say that it’s often not easy to know when you are being manipulated. Even those of us trained to pick it up can sometimes be manipulated by someone who is very good at it. But there are some signs, and it’s important to become aware of these. One of the forms of manipulation that is sometimes hard to discern if someone is ingratiating, and this is what Erika wants to speak about.

(Erika)The person who’s ingratiating will always have an expectation – an agenda. The person who is kind and caring and just friendly has no expectation. The person who’s ingratiating themselves to you will always feel disappointed at some point because you can’t meet their needs and expectations. It will always blow up in your face at some point. A person who’s genuinely kind and caring and giving, has no expectation – they’re just giving because that’s who they are, but the ingratiator is a highly skilled manipulator who latches on to you like a leech, and tries to smother you with kindness and support and caring, and then in return expects you to see them as the greatest person you’ve ever met, and if you fail to do that, it will blow up in your face.

So, how can you tell when someone is being kind and giving as a manipulation? In the very beginning you can’t. Anyone could get tricked by somebody who is an expert at ingratiating. With a few of the people who have worked for us, eventually their behavior was over the top, which is one of the red flags. With one of them it was hard to know because she seemed so angelic. Sometimes, with somebody who seems too good to be true, they probably are, but that’s kind of a negative attitude though. We don’t want to be suspicious of every kind person, but eventually your stomach will get tight, and you want to pay attention to this. You might start to feel smothered, like smother love.

With these people I could eventually pick up that they were needing to be indispensable in our lives. They worked very hard to become indispensable to us either physically or emotionally, and that’s when my stomach started to feel tight. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but I knew that something was off. As I said, you will always disappoint those people because they have an agenda that you don’t know about, that they keep a secret, and you will disappoint them and then it will blow up. That’s when you’ll see their anger or they’ll suddenly disappear and blame you for their upset because you didn’t play the game, you didn’t cooperate. You didn’t come through and tell them they’re the most spectacular person you ever met and that you don’t know how you could manage without them. That’s when their narcissism comes out.

Looking back, you recognize that there were lies going on – saying things about themselves that are not true but lying to get your approval – being desperate to get your approval and your recognition and praise to be OK. Eventually, you become aware of how much they blame others, especially their partner, for the problems between them. If fact, this is one of the earlier signs that something is off. You eventually realize that they are projecting what they are doing on to their partner, which means they will eventually do the same thing to you.

These people were trying to be indispensable in the barn and indispensable in my personal life, knowing I was vulnerable due to having had a stroke. They would often say things like, “Don’t worry I’ve got your back,” or “No worries, I’ve got you,” giving me constant reassurance that with them, I’m safe, and it was a huge manipulation. They usually will target somebody who’s vulnerable and having had a stroke made me very vulnerable.

They almost consume you because they’re so needy. They’re empty human beings and they’re trying to use you to fill up. One of the people was constantly complimenting us, showing constant adoration, and adoration is a red flag. But she also constantly blamed her husband for things. Everything in their marriage was his fault, so that was a clue that she was manipulating. There was no personal responsibility. Same thing with the other two people. So blaming their partner or others or the past for the difficulties in their life or relationships is another red flag. Complaining is often also an attempt to elicit sympathy and feeling pulled at to sympathize is another red flag.

In contrast, one of the women who currently works for us is very kind and never complains about her husband or her kids. She lives her life in joy and she gives truly from the heart. You know she has no need to ingratiate herself to us because her life is already full. And this is often another red flag. The needy ingratiating women had nothing going on in their lives – no sense of passion or purpose, so they have a tendency to glom onto you and attempt to manipulate you to become the perfect person for you. They can’t do enough for you or praise you enough or give you positive feedback enough or let you know they are so grateful to know you and to be with you, and they hold you out as a higher being that they then can latch on to and manipulate and control, which makes them higher in their minds. It’s sometimes hard to tune into their real agenda because they’re so good at it and you don’t want to think negative things about the other person. You want to see people as kind, as giving, with good intentions, until you start to feel that tightness in your chest or in your stomach when you’re around them. The constant praise, the tightness in my stomach, the complaining about others, and the lack of personal responsibility in their relationships are the main ways I know that the person is trying to manipulate me.

(Margaret) Obviously, lying is a form of manipulation and control, and like with ingratiating, it’s not always easy to tell when someone is lying. Again, one way of telling is to pay attention to your feelings. As M. Scott Peck said in “People of the Lie,” one way of discerning if someone is lying is when you feel confused. I have found this to be a very accurate way of knowing when someone is trying to manipulate me with lies.

People often lie in their relationships as a way of protecting themselves from what they fear, but often this is a system where one person is overtly manipulating with anger, while the other is covertly manipulating with lying to avoid the anger. Here is an example.

Amanda and Ron had been married for six years and had two small children. I had counseled them during some difficult times in their marriage but had not heard from them for a while. Then Amanda scheduled an emergency session with me. She was very upset.

“I just found out that Ron’s been watching porn on the Internet and lying to me about it. I had thought this was going on a couple of weeks ago because of a site I found on the computer, but when I asked him about it, he denied it and explained it away. He is not too computer savvy – he doesn’t know how to delete the sites – and today I found a number of sites he has visited. I can’t believe this! I’m very upset about the porn, but I’m devastated that he lied to me! I feel like the trust has gone out of our marriage, and without trust, what do we have? Why did he lie to me?”

“Amanda, how would you have responded if he had told you the truth?” I asked.

“I would have been really upset and disappointed in him. I probably would have gotten angry. We have a good sex life, so why is he using porn?”

“Well,” I said, “he lied to you because he knew that this is the way you would have reacted. His lying is his way of controlling your reactions, and your anger is your way of controlling his behavior. As long as you get angry when you hear the truth, the chances are he will lie to you. As your children get older, they, too, will lie to you to avoid your anger and judgment. It takes a very strong person to tell the truth and deal with another’s anger and judgment, and Ron is not that strong. He is very afraid of your anger and judgment and will do anything to avoid it, including lying.”

“Are you saying it’s okay for him to lie to me?” she asked.

“No, I’m not saying it’s okay or not okay. I’m not making a value judgment about it. You asked why he’s lying and I’m telling you why. Lying is just another form of protection against pain, just as your anger is a form of protection against pain.”

“So what do I do? How do I deal with this?” she asked.

“Amanda, you need to shift your intention from trying to control him to being open to learning about what is behind his behavior. From his point of view, there are some important reasons why he is using porn, and why he is lying about it. Trying to control him will only result in more lying and resistance but wanting to learn can result in understanding and resolution. You need to approach him with caring and a desire to learn rather than with anger and judgment – about both the porn and the lying. You would need to say something like, ‘Ron, I know that you have been going to porn sites on the Internet. Please don’t lie about it anymore. I know there must be some good reasons you are doing this, and I really want to understand what it’s about for you.’ However, you have to be aware that the words themselves are less important than the intent behind them. If you say these same words with anger and judgment, he will be defensive. Don’t ask until you feel genuinely open and caring.” 

Lying is always a form of control and manipulation.

Some people are pathological liars, having learned that they get a rush from manipulating others with lies. Others lie habitually as a way of getting approval. But many people lie when they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth. Lying may be one end of a relationship system, with anger and judgment on the other end. Whether the relationship is a primary one between partners or between parents and children, or a relationship between friends or between co-workers, lying may be a part of it when fear of anger and judgment is an issue. Most people do not know how to handle another’s anger and judgment and may revert to being the child they were when they learned to lie to their parents to avoid punishment.

While you have no control over whether or not someone lies to you – it may be habitual for them – some people are less likely to lie to you if you shift your intention in your relationships from controlling to learning.

Learning to discern when someone is a pathological liar and gets a thrill out of manipulating you is the greater challenge. Here is when you need to trust your feelings – your inner guidance, and your higher guidance. When your stomach tightens, or you feel confused, or something feels off, pay attention to these feelings. It’s so important to not discount your feelings. Learning to trust your feelings is vital regarding knowing when you are being manipulated.

So this is the real issue regarding knowing when you are being manipulated – trusting your feelings and your guidance, and sometimes it’s about trusting your first impressions.

How much credence do you give your first impressions?

Some years ago I read an excellent book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. The main premise of the book is that the information we receive in the first two seconds of an experience – in the ‘blink’ of an eye – is often more accurate than information gleaned from research. He offers many interesting stories that show the power of our first impressions. The first story is about a statue that someone brought to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The man who brought it claimed it was ancient. Researchers spent a long time testing it and finally concluded that it was authentic, so the museum purchased it for millions of dollars. Then they brought in a few well-known art dealers who instantly said it was a fake. They said things like it felt too fresh – it was their feelings that told them the museum had been manipulated. The researchers went back to work and finally discovered that the patina was not ancient. They discovered what the art dealers knew instantly. 

What do you generally do with your first impressions?

  • Do you notice them or not?
  • Do you generally discount them, instead going into your logical mind and trying to figure out what is ‘right?’
  • Do you discount them and listen to others instead?
  • Do you try to get others to validate them before giving them credence?
  • Do you judge yourself as being wrong or reactive?
  • Do you tell yourself that if you follow your own instincts, intuition, and inner knowing, and you are wrong, you will look like a fool?
  • Do you tell yourself that you can’t possibly know something so quickly?

While Gladwell doesn’t attribute the powerful information we receive in a ‘blink’ to our inner and spiritual guidance, I believe this is where it comes from. Often, in those first two seconds of meeting a person or being in a situation, our programmed left-brain mind is offline, and our right brain, which has access to our intuition and to higher knowing, is open. 

In those two seconds we can receive volumes of information directly from our feelings and our guidance.

Since many of us grew up being taught to discount our direct knowing, and to honor what we learn from others, books, and the media, we often discount those crucial first impressions.  

If you look back at some of the decisions you have made that didn’t turn out well, did you override your first impression?

Chloe, a client of mine, was struggling with her relationship with her husband, William. She couldn’t find a way to feel connected with him.

“Chloe, when you met William for the first time, what was your first impression?”

“I was repulsed by him.”

“What made you continue to see him?”

“I told myself I was being judgmental and should give him a chance. He seemed like a nice person, and he REALLY wanted to see me again. Somehow, I got hooked into being with him because he seemed to need me so much. The problem is that I still feel repulsed by him, and now I know it’s because he’s needy and manipulative – often angry and blaming me for his feelings. Now we have two children, and it is not easy to leave. I wish I had listened to my first impression.”

People tell me over and over how listening to their first impression prevented them from making huge mistakes regarding a person who was trying to manipulate them, and from harm – even saving them or someone else from getting raped or murdered.

You ARE being watched over by your guidance and when you learn to trust yourself – your feelings, your instinct, your intuition, your first impression – you will feel and be so much safer from manipulation and harm.

Many of us grew up learning to mistrust our feelings. “Don’t be ridiculous,” my mother often said to me when I asked her why she was angry. “I’m not angry,” she would say with anger in her voice.

“Don’t be ridiculous” was what I often heard in response to many of my feelings, such as my uncomfortable feeling that she was angry, or my discomfort with a sleazy, manipulative uncle. So I learned to mistrust my feelings. It took me many years of Inner Bonding work to regain trust in my feelings.

Our feelings always have important information for us. When it comes to discerning how to know when you are being manipulated, you need to learn to trust your uncomfortable feelings, such as your loneliness, tension, feeling crazy-made, as well as trust the information coming through you from your spiritual guidance.

So often I’ve heard from my clients, things like, “I wish I had trusted myself,” especially in reference to financial investments and relationships.

Problems in trusting ourselves come in when we question whether what we are feeling or hearing is coming from a place of truth, or from our ego wounded self. So it vitally important to learn how to tell the difference between information coming from your wounded self and information coming from your inner and higher source of truth.

One of the major challenges in being in a body is to learn to discern the difference between information that is generated from our own individual mind, and information that comes through to us from spirit – as well as what’s a lie and what’s the truth coming from others and the media.

Especially today, with so much polarized thinking being thrown at us, it’s vitally important to be able to tell the difference between lies and truth. How can you know when you are being manipulated by a person, a professional, or the media if you don’t know the difference and are not trusting yourself?

Our mind receives information from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, ministers, priests, rabbis, books, radio, TV, social media, newspapers, magazines, cults, government, businesses, advertisements, and the Internet. The information we receive from these sources may or may not be true, but we often believe it is true, especially when we hear it from several sources, or from someone we consider to be an authority. Our mind is like a computer – it performs according to the input it has received. Just as we cannot receive from a computer information that has not been programmed into it, we do not receive information from our mind that has not been programmed into our mind. We can receive much information through our computer when we are connected to the Internet, but we receive from our computer only the information that is programmed into it.

The problem is that much of what has been programmed into our ego wounded mind, in our lower left brain, is not true – just as information coming from others’ wounded self is likely untrue. Our minds are filled with false beliefs about ourselves, others, life, and spirit. Just because many of these programs have been handed down through the centuries does not mean they are true, and just because someone who professes to be an authority makes a statement as if it’s true, doesn’t mean it is. Just because someone who wants to sell you something seems to know what they are talking about, doesn’t mean they are not manipulating you. Just because someone gives you endless compliments doesn’t mean they are not manipulating by being ingratiating or lying.

You limited programmed ego mind isn’t capable of discerning the truth, but your feelings and experience and higher knowing is. This is what you need to learn to trust. 

Our mind also draws conclusions based on experience, but even those conclusions are not necessarily accurate. You might draw conclusions because you believe various media commentators, but this doesn’t mean the conclusions are true.

Our thoughts that come from our limited mind, based on our programming and our conclusions, are often way off the mark. Thoughts that are not based on truth always generate uncomfortable feelings in the body, which lets us know we are off base in our thinking. The same is true of information coming from others – from parents, teachers, religious leaders, and TV and social media. If it doesn’t feel right inside, it may not be true.

Inner knowing, on the other hand, is not generated from the programming and conclusions within our mind or others’ minds. Knowing is a direct experience of truth. It comes from our inner soul – our feelings, and from our higher soul – into the mind, rather than being generated by the mind. Knowing is a very different experience than thinking or believing. Knowing arises by itself when we are open to learning about love and truth.

Knowing comes of its own accord when our intent is to learn rather than to control.

Knowing feels very different than thinking. Knowing creates a feeling of rightness in the body. Even when it involves a truth that is hard to accept, there is still a “gut” sense that “this is painful, but it is real and true.” Knowing bypasses all our programs, beliefs, and conclusions because it comes directly from our inner and higher spiritual source of truth.

Many of us have been programmed to mistrust our inner knowing, because when we trust our knowing we cannot be controlled and manipulated by others. When we trust our knowing, we do not need to go to “authorities” to tell us what is right for us. 

Since much of our society is based on the intent to manipulate and control, the last thing our society has wanted is for us to trust feelings and our own inner knowing.

Yet trusting yourself is what needs to happen to know when you are being manipulated. This means learning to stay open to learning throughout the day. By staying tuned in to your feelings and your guidance, you will instantly, or eventually, know when you are being told something that is not accurate or true.

Direct knowing is possible for everyone. It all depends upon your intent. If your intent is to protect against pain with some form of controlling behavior, you will stay stuck in your programmed thinking. When you choose the intent to learn about love and truth, you open the door to direct knowing, and this is how you can know when you are being manipulated. 

You can learn to connect with your spiritual Guidance with my 30-Day video course, Unlocking Your Inner Wisdom.

You can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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