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3 Easy Ways To Stop Manipulators In Their Tracks

Greed. Power. Lust.

It drives so much of human behaviour. Look at any TV show or history book and you’ll see stories of scheming, obfuscating and manipulation at work.

Frank Underwood of House of Cards exemplifies the archetypal manipulator.

If you haven’t seen this Netflix hit, I strongly recommend you watch it for a masterclass in manipulation and power.It’s the story of a US congressman who wants the most powerful role in the land… to become President of the United States.Thereafter we join him ring-side as he manipulates his way to the top.

In his world there are not ten rules for gaining power or even five…

“There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted.”

Frank Underwood

A master of indirect manipulation, many of his most savvy opponents don’t ever see him coming… until it is too late.

In part because they never realised he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. And there are a lot of them around today. Cunning manipulators.It comes down to one essential question:

Do you want to be one?


Or Do you want to protect yourself and others from them?

These are the choices every skilled student of NLP must make.

[And in reality you need to know both sides if you are to survive and excel.]

NLP gets a lot of flak in some quarters for being manipulative.

People point to things like ‘rapport’, ‘anchoring’ and ‘priming’ as examples of how NLP is used to manipulate people.I once had a long email exchange with a woman who told me how her ‘NLP trained husband’ ruined her life. And I know top master trainers who were badly manipulated by ‘teachers’ when they were students. So is NLP manipulative?

Not at all. Yes some people have used this wonderful technology to do less than positive things. Sometimes the hype gets out of hand. A quick search on YouTube reveals hundreds of videos about Obama using NLP or hypnosis for controlling the masses or some public figure using NLP for evil.A lot of this is simply B.S. Yes there are PR men and women and political speech writers who are well versed in persuasion technologies. They use the technology to try and get ideas across and manipulate the ‘frame-of-reference’ so it meets their objectives.

But as much as some might be concerned about big government trying to manipulate you there are ‘everyday’ players (perhaps colleagues, salesmen, partners and ’friends’) who intentionally decide they want to manipulate you and others. The thing is, many of them suck at it when you have decent skills with the NLP toolkit you can easily see it coming.  

So here are 3 things you start to do today to stop manipulators in their tracks:

Educate Yourself

Power is a game. If you intend to win against forces that move against you, you must educate yourself in their ways. This can’t be emphasised enough.

The skilled manipulator knows that people can be induced in to taking actions contrary to their long term well being in many ways.

Three common ones are:if they can evoke fear or pain in you and offer relief if they present a proposition in a way that it appears to be in your best interest but really isn’t if they can evoke a sense of guilt or indebtedness. You may have noticed the pattern; the manipulator isn’t interested in objective facts but in how emotions can be evoked and how perceptions are formed.

A skilled student of NLP is concerned with both.We want to be good at evoking emotions and forming perceptions. But that is just the beginning, you also want to know what are the strategies those who seek power use. The best modern book I recommend for that is Robert Greene’s 48 Law of Power.

It’s a remarkable piece of work on the strategies and tactics used by the Machiavellian players. Read it so you can discover the tactics used and you will be part way to defend against them.

Understand People

As Robert outlines so well in his book:

“Power is a social game. To learn and master it, you must develop the ability to study and understand people.”

Those who play the game (there are players and those who are played) don’t see situations as good or bad, but view situations as events and circumstances. This gives them an advantage over you or I if we let our mind cloud our judgement by adding the label of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to an event or circumstance.

As a student of NLP we are interested in both what motivates people but how people get motivated. This gives you a tremendous tool to use as a powerful lever for change or on the dark side… to control.

By staying at the level of observation when a move is made, rather than judgment you are able to notice things that others miss. To uncover what someone is really doing vs. what they say, what they really value vs. what they claim. In short, when you understand what motivates and drives people, you have the capacity to puncture the cloak that conceals people’s true intentions. To figure out what purpose their behaviour is really serving. And if you are serving the role as change agent or people helper; to genuinely help them.This awareness of what drives people gives you insight in to how to protect yourself when someone is trying to manipulate you, to trigger an opponent to act in error and even to outmaneuver a cunning player. Like Frank (Underwood) they won’t see you coming. And best of all when you can do this well, you can do it without drawing any blood.

There is no big bust up or drawn out drama.

Changes happen and the manipulators who sought to do you harm are left scratching their head wondering how they ended up losing.

Get Good With Language

So much of our actions, choices and ultimate fulfillment is dependent on our perceptions. What you will have for lunch will depend on your perceptions. Whether or not you’ll go for that work out at the gym is dependent on your perceptions. Whether you’ll vote this way or that, or even vote at all is dependent on your perceptions. More often than not, it’s our perceptions and not the actual events that occur in the world that drive our behaviour.

Human beings struggle not to add meaning to our experience of something. The skilled manipulator can use this to their advantage.

Since 99.999% of people walk around every day treating their mind as reality; they rarely question the thought screen aka the mental projector of their mind.

They simply believe the thoughts, the inner voice, their feelings as “so”, if the see it, hear it, feel it.

The manipulator can use that to their advantage.

They don’t need to change reality to get what they want, they simply need to get you or I to believe reality is whatever they project into the theatre of our mind.There are many strategies to do that, a topic for another post, but the when done well this can be particularly evil stuff. Language is the painter in our mind.

As NLPers we are uniquely equipped to use language well, to extend an idea, to burrow it in, to use presuppositions and sub-modalities that change the look, feel, even the taste of an idea.

To cause ideas to have sex, to make idea babies, to link two things that normally don’t belong together… in short to use our language to colonise a mind with someone else’s ideas.

[Sounds kinda evil doesn’t it?] Well thankfully it isn’t. It’s a matter of application. But the message is simple: get good with language and you have the power to become highly effective in creating perceptions for others.

A person rarely resists an idea they think serves their best interest. Or better yet, that they thought was their idea to begin with. It can be pretty sneaky stuff.

Through the intelligent and purposeful use of just a handful of presuppositions, time and space predicates and causal language you can create vivid images that stick and burrow deep within… and hang around all day. So as useful as these 3 suggestions are, they all hook off another idea.

That you stay alert.

Practice your NLP skills and very quickly when someone communicates you’ll automatically track what is said, what isn’t being said and many other para message that reveal what’s really going on. So you can avoid being duped by a manipulator who wants you to feel bad, frak with you life or act in less than your own best interest.

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I'm Tom.

Everyone has something they’d like to change in their life. I’m here to help you transform the behaviours that get in your way so you can have the life you really want.


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