How to Deal with a Manipulative Relative: 4 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Keep family gatherings happy by using alternate strategies with manipulative relatives.

You try to stay away from Aunt Mary at family gatherings, but she always finds you. Before you know what’s hit you, you’ve been pressured into driving an hour each day to feed her cats while she’s away. Every family has at least one relative who’s a master at getting her needs met at the expense of others. There are relatives you’d like to see, so skipping family gatherings forever is not an option. But with some strategies, you can learn to stop the manipulation.


  1. 1
    Set boundaries for yourself. Your thoughts and feelings are your own and no one has the right to use them to pressure you to meet their needs. Boundaries will help you protect yourself so that the manipulator will not use your feelings and reactions to control you.
  2. 2
    Apply assertiveness techniques to change the nature of the interaction. Sure, it makes your blood boil when you think about how you're constantly giving in to this relative’s demands, but yelling at her won't work. You'll feel badly, and she'll use it against you. Instead, buy yourself some time. Say, “I need to think about it and I’ll get back to you.” Don’t explain why you need the time. This puts you in control of the situation.
  3. 3
    Confront the anxiety, fear or guilt that has driven you to comply in the past. Although you may think your relative is the problem, look at how you’re contributing to the situation. Do you habitually please people? Are you afraid of conflict arising from saying no? A manipulative relative is good at spotting a family member to control. If she can’t manipulate you, she'll move onto someone else. Boosting your self-worth will make it easier for you to give the manipulator a guilt-free no.
  4. 4
    Don’t give into guilt. Learn to identify a guilt-trip early and turn it back on the giver. If you’re accused of being selfish, agree. Acknowledge your refusal and state that you feel it’s the right way to proceed. If she uses confrontational statements to upset you or create an argument, stay calm and leave the area. When you refuse to be baited into an argument, you leave the manipulator with no way to continue the escalation.


  • Examining your contribution to the manipulation and using alternate responses may redefine the relationship into a healthier one.


  • Don't argue or plead for understanding from a manipulative relative. She is focused on getting her needs met and your feelings are insignificant.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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