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What's New:

  • Moving Beyond People Pleasing: My exclusive online video course is back! This course is the culmination of 25 years of private practice and hundreds of hours helping women learn how to establish healthy boundaries in any relationship, but especially those that might be destructive. Doors close on Friday. Find out more at leslievernick.com/peoplepleasingcourse

Moving Beyond a Manipulator's Tactics

by Leslie Vernick

It’s time to stop being easy prey for a manipulator. But if you want to break free, understand this important truth. You will never change the manipulator by confronting their tactics. They will simply switch to another tactic. If you want to stop being easy prey for manipulators, change beings with you.

You must first recognize that someone is attempting to manipulate you.

Awareness is the first step of all change. But you are not going to change the person doing the manipulating. You are going to change you. Manipulation is only effective if it works to control you. Therefore you must begin to identify what’s going on in you that keeps you easily manipulated by others.

Below are the three most common reasons we allow ourselves to be manipulated:

Fear: Fear comes in many forms. We may fear the loss of relationship, we fear the disapproval of others or we fear making someone unhappy with us. We also fear the threats and consequences of the manipulator’s actions. What if they actually succeed at doing what they threaten?

We’re too nice: We enjoy being a giver, making people happy, and taking care of other’s needs. We find satisfaction and our self-esteem and self-worth often comes from doing for others. However, when we don’t have a clear sense of self and good boundaries, manipulators sense this in us and exploit it to their own advantage.

Guilt: We live under a lie that we should always put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own. When we try to speak up or put our own needs out there, manipulators often exploit us and attempt to make us feel like we are doing something wrong if we don’t always put their wants and needs ahead of our own. Manipulators define love as always doing what I want/need you to do. Therefore, if we have a different opinion, need, want or feelings, we are told we are unloving and feel guilty if we express or want to do something different.

Moving beyond a manipulator’s tactics.

Develop a clear sense of self. You need to know who you are, what you want, what you feel, and what you like and don’t like. Don’t apologize for these things. They are what make you, you. Sometimes we fear that if we state what we need, feel, think or like, that means we’re being selfish.

That’s not true. It is not selfish to know who you are or what you want. That’s healthy. Selfishness is defined by demanding that you always get what you want or that other’s always put you first. In the same way, when someone else demands that of you, they are being selfish and disrespectful of your personhood.

Jesus knew who he was. Because of his strong identity in the Father’s Word, he was not manipulated when people wanted him to do things the Father did not call him to do. He also was not derailed when other’s defined him as crazy, or demon possessed.

Develop your ability to say “No” even in the face of someone’s disapproval.

Healthy people live in reality. The truth is when you can’t accommodate someone else’s desires or needs, they naturally will feel disappointed. That’s human and most people will adjust and move on. Healthy people know that they don’t always get everything they want even if what they want is legitimate.

However, when you are not able to tolerate someone else’s disappointment or disapproval when you say “no”, then it’s harder for you to say it or to have good boundaries. Manipulators capitalize on this weakness and use disappointment and disapproval in extreme forms to get you to do what they want.

Read Mark 1:29-39 and see how Jesus said no to Peter and his friends who were waiting to get healed. Do you think they felt disappointed? How did Jesus handle that?

Develop a higher tolerance for the other person’s negative affect (disappointment, sadness, and/or anger) without backing down.

It’s true. We don’t like it when someone is disappointed in our no or angry when we won’t do what he or she wants. However, you can show empathy for someone else’s sadness or hurt or even anger without backing down and reversing our decision.

For example you can say something like, “Yes Mom I know you are disappointed and angry that we won’t be traveling home this year. I know it means a lot to you and family vacation just won’t be the same for you (all the tactics she’s using to guilt you into changing your mind), but with Covid-19 and everything else going on this year it just isn’t possible for us to do it.” In this you acknowledge the other person’s hurt, disappointment or even anger and sit with it without giving in to their demands.

Remember, a healthy relationship is characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. If you are in a relationship with someone who uses manipulation regularly, as you get stronger, you can invite him/her into healthy change simply by not allowing yourself to be manipulated. This will create a crisis of sorts in your relationship.

Either the manipulator will begin to back down and respect your time, your feelings, your desires and needs, or they will move on to another person who is more easily manipulated. Don’t let that be you.

My Moving Beyond People Pleasing Class is available right now. If you’re interested in learning more about it click here.


How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

by Leslie Vernick

Experience the Blessings of an Imperfect Marriage.

We all–at one time or another–have the opportunity to act right when our spouse acts wrong. There are no perfect marriages or perfect spouses. We know that having a good marriage requires effort and hard work. Yet we often don’t know how to continue to love when we are angry, hurt, scared, or just plain irritated. Nor are we sure what that kind of love is supposed to look like. Should we be patient? Forgive and forget? Do something else entirely?

Acting right when your spouse acts wrong will not necessarily guarantee a more satisfying marital relationship, nor will it automatically make your spouse change his or her ways–although both could occur.

It will, however, help you see how God is stretching you in the midst of your marital difficulties, teach you to respond wisely when wronged, and lead you into a deeper relationship with Christ as you yield your will to his plan for your life and learn to be more like him.

Two winners will be selected in our next newsletter! (Giveaway only available to U.S. residents)

If you would like to enter to win, you can click here to provide name and email address.

The winners of “Lord, I Just Want To Be Happy” by Leslie Vernick are Tina H. and Lisa M.



Want to have Leslie speak at your event?
Click here to find out more information.

GT Church
Video Message by Leslie
August 16th
West Lawn, PA

New Hope Church
November 6th and 7th
East Lansing, MI

Center for Christian Counseling
November 20th and 21st
Madison, WI

The Village Church
December 3rd
Flowermound, TX

The Difference Between Judging And Discerning

Question: You talk about putting consequences in place not to enable one’s spouse. You teach about not repaying evil for evil. I try very hard not to respond negatively.

Also, I examine myself to see if I am becoming bitter, which I don’t think I am. But I find myself wanting God to judge my spouse for what he does. Is this wrong (Biblically)? In several verses in Psalms, we see the psalmist praying for justice and punishment.

Answer: This is a tricky question because I think you struggle with what we all struggle with when we are wronged. I am so glad that you are aware that you are tempted to respond with more evil, but you don’t want to. And you are also examining yourself for roots of bitterness which you know give the devil a foothold. But you also long for justice.

So let’s first focus on the idea of judging because I think that’s the lynchpin of your concern.

God is the only true judge because he is the only one who fully sees someone’s heart. Biblically I see nothing unbiblical about praying for God’s justice, punishment, or even just judgment on someone.

The tricky part comes when we act as if we are the judge. That’s where I think we get into the unbiblical territory. In some ways, we are called to judge a believer by his or her fruit. We are not to simply believe someone’s words if his or her actions are inconsistent with those words, but I would use the term discernment more than a judge in these cases.

Let me share a personal example. A few years back, I was heading to the grocery store after a massive snowstorm. I needed food (as did everyone else), and the parking spots in the parking lot in the grocery store were not all accessible because of the enormous snow mounds. People were waiting in line for parking spots to open up. As I was waiting for someone to pull out, another car whipped around the corner and pulled into the spot I was waiting for.

Here is What People are Saying About Leslie's Moving Beyond People Pleasing Online Course

I have realized that my husband had the God spot in my life. This has helped me to see that I am not sinning in making my own worship choices, despite what he tells me. This has taken a huge burden off my heart. I am no longer feeling like I have to make everything okay, especially after none of his tirades. I now get that his unhappiness resides in him and it is not my job to fix it. I still struggle, but I am able to research the videos to reinforce what I have learned.


Leslie wants to help you grow in your personal and relational effectiveness. Please submit your questions by clicking here.

Then, visit Leslie's Blog as she posts her responses to one question per week.

Note: Due to the volume of questions that Leslie receives, she is unable to respond to every question.


Leslie Vernick PO Box 5312 Sun City West, Arizona 85376 United States