Can boundaries protect you from a manipulator?

Only if you defend them. If you don’t, they’re useless.

Psychopaths and other manipulative people will test your boundaries. Oh yes, they will. They’ll poke and they’ll prod and they’ll huff and they’ll puff, hoping your house will cave in. Hoping you will cave in. Don’t fall for it.

What are boundaries, really? Boundaries are the core values you hold, which you are willing to uphold and defend. Boundaries are the way you define those values to others.


There are three types of boundaries:

~ Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.
~ Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.
~ Emotional boundaries help us deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.

Having values empowers us and motivates others.

I listen to the points of view of others and take them seriously
I treat everybody with respect
I am always supportive of family and friends
I am totally honest in all my dealings with others
… and I expect that same.

Dr. George Simon, an expert on covert aggressive people (psychopaths and related), has published an excellent series of articles on personal empowerment. He considers boundaries to be an important part of that. Dr. Gordon Shippey, a contributor to his website, says “Boundaries are defined by individuals, by themselves, for themselves. People skilled at manipulation often challenge our right or our ability to set boundaries, in service of their own wants. When dealing with such people, doing your own thinking, on your own, well in advance becomes even more essential. Your boundaries have to satisfy your moral code and support you in meeting your needs, not necessarily theirs. That distinction is exactly what a master manipulator wants you to forget… The key move here is to resist the temptation to rewrite boundaries on the fly… ” 

I found an excellent article titled “Guarding Against Manipulation by Criminal Offenders,” written for people working in corrections. It’s one of the best I’ve seen and is applicable to us, too. It includes a great “risk of manipulation” questionnaire. The author says, “When the manipulator pushes, insists, demands or complains, they want to see if you will back down or take a weak conciliatory position…If you lack assertiveness or have trouble saying ‘no’, the manipulator knows they are on a winner…”

But even if you set and defend your boundaries, never become over-confident and think you are not likely to be deceived. “The truth is that many manipulators are so skilled that, at least initially, no one can detect them. Complacency is probably the greatest single danger when dealing with manipulators. No one is ever safe, simple as that.”

Dr. Shippey goes on to say, “Just because you define a boundary, and even declare it, doesn’t mean that others will respect it. Just like political boundaries require border guards, fences and walls, personal boundaries require planning out exactly what to do should someone try to violate a boundary…Scripting these moves in advance ensures you can make the boundary stick…Ultimately, boundaries are only as good as our skills and resolve to define, declare, and defend them.”


If you’ve set a boundary and are tempted to bend it for someone, think carefully before you do. It’s a serious thing to give up something important to you because someone else wants you to, or something about them makes you feel like doing it. Take your time. Remember that manipulators (like effective sales people) will make you feel you have to act fast, act now, or lose out on the deal. You don’t. And no one who respects you will expect you to.

I think an important point to make is that even if you think YOU are the one deciding to loosen a boundary, it’s an important warning sign that deserves a very close look. What better way to get past a boundary than make someone believe they’re the one who came up with the idea? We’re talking about covert manipulation here, after all. The only way to pick up on this is if you’re very clear about what your boundaries are.

Boundaries are important, but they’re just one part of what you need to do to protect yourself from predators (and establish safe relationships with real people instead). What are the other things to focus on? Know yourself. Learn how your weak points — and your strong points — make you vulnerable. Value yourself. Know your worth. Know what you want from life and from relationships. Learn how and who to trust. Learn the facts about psychopaths and about psychological manipulation. Learn how the human mind works, and how that makes us vulnerable to predators (more on that coming soon).

♥ Can you think of anything else? Please leave a comment and share it with us.


“The BEST Manual on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim again…

…I am going to recommend it to the facilitators in the divorce support group I am attending.”

200PX_FINAL BOUNDARIES FRONT (2) copy“This small book was full of tons of useful information. I don’t usually write in my books, but my copy of Boundaries has underlining on almost every page. I was really glad I bought it.”

“My eyes have seen the light. How I wish I would have read this book years ago.”

“”Worth your time! Well written, clear, and concise. So thankful I came across this quick, but powerful read. I so appreciate the wisdom I found in this writing. I feel empowered once more! Easily rated at 5 stars.”





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