Are you influencing or manipulating others?

I want singles to feel empowered. They are not victims who just react to their circumstances. They can influence their relationships, and they need to express their feelings, rights, and needs. But how do singles do this? And where is the line between influencing relationships and manipulating others?

Provided below are several examples of where you need to draw the line both in how you treat others and how you let them treat you.

Asking for change versus manipulating to get what you want

The primary difference between influencing a relationship to meet your needs and manipulating is that when influencing, the other person is choosing to give you what you want. They have the relevant information they need to make their decision. They understand what the request means to you and how it might affect them. By contrast, manipulators often use threats, emotional exploitation, anger, and half-truths (that usually serve the manipulator’s interests). Due to the toxic effect of the manipulations, the other person will

eventually confront the true nature of the relationship. Thus, the manipulator only succeeds for a period of time in coercing the relationship, whereas the influencer can enjoy long-term and lasting relationships.

Review the examples below and circle all the behaviors (both good and bad) that you and those important to you use. Please note, that manipulations can be both aggressive and passive-aggressive (note which of the manipulations you or your partner use by putting an A or a PA next to the manipulative behavior. For example, most people might consider criticism to be aggressive, but someone who says, “you’re should know better” is also criticizing you, this time in a passive-aggressive way. Where one person might punish someone with anger or threats, another might punish them by arriving late, making excuses rather than keeping promises, or acting sick when the other is in need. They may do this rather than sharing their feelings of anger or frustration directly.


Respectful ways to ask for change (i.e., influence others) ———————————————–


Harmful ways to get what you want (i.e,. manipulate others) ———————————————–

  • Ask 
  • Request
  • Bargain
  • Compromise
  • Negotiate a Win/Win
  • Explain reasons
  • Promise reward
  • Catch and praise desired behavior
  • Share feelings
  • Agree
  • Act sweet or playful (while being willing to accept no)
  • Use humor
  • Provide a story or example they can relate to
  • Seek to understand and then to be understood
  • Express gratitude
  • Catch and praise desired behavior
  • Positively reinforce
  • Expect them to read your mind
  • Criticize
  • Shame
  • Threaten
  • Punish
  • Force
  • Resent
  • Withhold
  • Don’t listen
  • Argue
  • Badger / Pester / Harass / Nag
  • Use partial truths or false information
  • Refuse to let them leave until they agree
  • Withdraw affection
  • Use the silent treatment
  • Hold grudges
  • Feel sorry for yourself
  • Tell others how you feel but not them
  • Get alleys on your side
  • Withdraw but deny that you are upset
  •  Flirt with others
  • Fluctuate from sweet or charming through multiple manipulations (including anger) until you get what you want
  • Damage their things
  • Act cruel / angry / abusive
  •  Call names / demean / belittle / shame
  •  Use sarcasm
  • Threaten to abandon the relationship

We have all done some of these behaviors. The important point here is that you make a choice to build your relationships by influencing others not manipulating them. To do this:

  • Be sure to be honest with yourself about your past and present behaviors. When you notice that you are crossing the line, admit your mistake and try one of the options in the left column above to get your relationship back on track.
  • Notice those who consistently use healthy options and respond well when you use them. Avoid relationships where the person seems to ignore your efforts to influence change and only seems to respond when you threaten to end the relationship or get angry.
  • Before walking away from a relationship be sure to discuss what you notice about how they’re interacting with you. Many people hold grudges and resentments for unmet needs that they have never communicated. Don’t make this mistake. Give them a chance to use healthier techniques, but if the pattern continues, withdraw your attention from these relationships and invest more in those who do respond to your needs. If you notice others using these behaviors, lovingly address the behavior (rather than attacking them or their intentions) by saying, “I’m sure you’re not trying to do this on purpose. When you did _____ it made me feel manipulated. I’m sure we can resolve this another way. You matter to me. It would mean a lot to me if you expressed that differently.”

Don’t ignore the manipulative behavior. You teach others how to treat you by what you do and say in response to their actions. Ignoring their behavior is the same as accepting or condoning it.

4 ways to learn more

  • Schedule a free 30-minute consultation

    Alisa Goodwin Snell is a dating and relationship coach who spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist. She’s written 7 books for singles, created numerous audios, videos, and articles, is a popular public speaker, and has been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide. Learn more.

  • Get Stage 0, which will lay a foundation for you to move forward

  • Get the Relationship Package (if you are already in a relationship) so you can lay a more solid foundation while also learning how to enhance your current relationship
  • Get Everything, because you are not currently in a relationship and need to learn how to lay a solid foundation and navigate all 5 stages of the dating process.


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