Dealing With Manipulative People: A Timeless Problem

Photo by Dr George Simon

Manipulation — the art of hoodwinking people into giving you what you want — is an age-old problem. And dealing with manipulative behavior requires something more than the well-worn perspectives of traditional psychology.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over 16 years since I wrote my first book, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. The good news is that for all that time, the book has only grown in popularity and thus remained a bestseller. The bad news is that the success of the book and its message gave me little incentive to finish other literary projects.

Early this year, Parkhurst Brothers Publishers released a brand new revision of In Sheep’s Clothing. Although some of the content is new, the problem of manipulation is as old and timeless as human behavior itself. One of the main points I make in the book is that for too long, psychology focused on people’s fears, inhibitions, and insecurities as well as the ways these things can cause problems in one’s life. But the truth of the matter is that human beings do a lot more “fighting” for the things they want in their daily lives than they do “running” from the things they fear. And it’s the underhanded, unscrupulous, subtle ways some people try to get the better of us that can really be a problem at times. That’s especially true when we’re unaware of someone’s tactics until they’ve already done us in. So, manipulation — the art of hoodwinking people into giving you what you want — is an age-old problem.

Manipulative behavior is just one part of a larger problem. Fighting for one’s legitimate needs in a conscientious, respectful, and principled way has never been cause for concern. What is of concern is that not only has manipulative behavior increased, but also all manner of unscrupulous, irresponsible behavior has been on the rise in recent years. And just as traditional psychologies were inadequate at explaining manipulative behavior, they were never really suited to help with the growing problem of character disturbance. Gone are the days when people’s main problems stemmed from their excessive fears and inhibitions. Today’s problems are more the result of the dysfunctional ways folks tend to think about things, the immature and irresponsible attitudes they form, and the problematic behaviors such distorted thinking and maladaptive attitudes inevitably lead to.

Parkhurst Brothers plans an end of July release for Character Disturbance [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK], which represents my latest attempt to help folks understand what has become the psychological phenomenon of our age of permissiveness and entitlement. (You can see the publisher’s catalogue page on the book here.) Whereas In Sheep’s Clothing took a hard look at one type of irresponsible character, the new book takes a look at the factors that produce a wide variety of character dysfunction in some people and the problems such dysfunction can cause for relationships and for the general social welfare. As with my first book, Character Disturbance introduces a new perspective on why people are having some of the problems they have and what we really need to do about things to make them better. The ideas in it were fairly radical when In Sheep’s Clothing was first released. But now time, research, and increased awareness have validated the perspective. Still, Character Disturbance attempts to offer some new approaches to dealing with our more timeless problems. And because many of these problems have only increased in recent years and the social “pendulum” of attitudes toward the social factors responsible for the phenomenon has only recently begun to swing back in a healthy way, the timing of the book’s release could not be better.

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