While it’s tempting to fault ourselves for being duped, the tactics covertly aggressive and other character-impaired people use are inherently powerful manipulation tools because they throw us on the defensive while simultaneously concealing obvious aggressive intent. And universally, folks familiar with my work reported that merely adopting the different perspective I offered about how to view their manipulator’s behavior was key to them putting an end to future victimization and empowering their lives.

Recognizing manipulation tactics and knowing how to respond to them is the key to personal empowerment.

One of the most effective ways for impaired characters to victimize others is to conceal their malevolent intentions while simultaneously prompting their “target” to accede to their desires. Manipulators win by using clever tactics like “gaslighting” to get the other person to back down or give in.

Some folks are charming in the most benign and appealing way. They are not only sincerely well-mannered but also genuinely positively regarding of others. The very way in which they conduct themselves and the authentic respect they have for others is “attractive” in its own right. But there are those characters whose display of charm is a farce, part of a calculated use of seduction to take advantage of others.

When it comes to understanding and dealing effectively with disturbed characters, it’s hard for helping professionals who still embrace traditional models of viewing human behavior to get things right. And those who’ve been in relationships with disturbed characters and sought help through counseling often ended up feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and not validated. Even worse, sometimes, the “monster” they dragged into therapy is so good at impression-management that the therapist appeared swayed. Seeing the disturbed character’s behaviors and tactics for what they really are is a prerequisite for facilitating real change.

Many of the things we were taught to view as defensive behaviors are more rightfully viewed as habitual responsibility-avoidance behaviors and tactics of impression management, manipulation, and control.

In order to judge the character of others objectively and accurately, you also have to know yourself pretty well.

Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, explain yourself, and question your judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in.

For change to be properly promoted and reinforced, problem behaviors must be reckoned with at the very moment they occur. Toward that end, over the years I developed worksheets that both individuals with character impairments and their relationship partners have used to confront and correct dysfunctional behaviors, thinking patterns, and attitudes.

A new article will feature an expanded discussion of the important issues and will include even more examples that illustrate how you can know for sure that most manipulators know exactly what they’re doing when they engage in their tactics. Look for it in the next couple of days!

Once you’re intimately familiar with all the tactics they habitually employ to: 1) get the better of you; and 2) look good while doing it, you can be more sure of your judgments about your manipulator’s character.

When disturbed characters make excuses, they’re really making a very conscious attempt to cast themselves in a more favorable light while manipulating others into seeing their point of view.

If someone’s behavior is wrong or harmful, the rationale they offer for it is totally irrelevant.

Evasion is a one of the main tactics manipulators and other disordered characters use to maintain control in situations. When you confront such persons about their behavior, they will often attempt to sidestep the issue or to avoid the subject altogether.

Disordered characters use the tactic of minimizing to manage the impression others have of them. It’s a way to manipulate others into thinking they’re not so bad despite the horrible things they’ve done.

“Denial” has traditionally been conceptualized as an ego defense mechanism. But disordered characters use denial as a tactic to feign innocence, and to manipulate and manage the impression of others who might otherwise have their number.

Disordered characters are forever blaming their misbehavior on someone or something else, and skilled manipulators can make you think that somehow it’s your fault that they did whatever they did to hurt you.

When manipulators rationalize, they’re mostly trying to manage your impression of them, trying to convince you that they meant no harm, had no choice, or did what any reasonable person would do in order to mislead you about the nature of their intentions and their character.

Rather than openly assert power over you, covert-aggressors use subtle tactics that not only blind you to their real nature and self-serving agendas but also have the power to bring you to submission and control you.

2012 was a banner year for consultations. And I owe a big “thank you” to everyone who contacted me. I can truly say that I got as much if not more out of the experience than I trust those with whom I visited did.