How I Set Boundaries with Master Manipulators

This is my first ever podcast, and I’m sooooo excited to share it with you! It piggybacks off of my other posts and offerings on boundaries (see below for a sampling). I’d love to hear your thoughts!

About this episode

This episode dives into my method for setting boundaries with master manipulators. As a compassionate empath, setting boundaries with entitled, narcissistic, and manipulative souls is one of the most necessary but brutal things I’ve ever had to do. It takes a lot of courage to do this, and there’s always pushback, but the reward is a life that you and only you own.

Click the link if you’d like to read my blog post How I Set Boundaries (From A Place Of Love).

Also, why not download My Roadmap To Becoming A Boundary-Setting Goddess (it may vary a bit from the five steps in this podcast due to revisions)? It’s a condensed, beautiful guide to help you with the boundary-setting process.

Thank you for tuning in! Please subscribe to The Illuminated Goddess podcast if you enjoyed this show.

Here’s the transcript

How I Set Boundaries with Master Manipulators

Kristi: [00:00:01] Hi, I’m Kristi, and I’m the host of the Illuminated Goddess podcast. Today is a super special day for me because it is the very first episode of the very first podcast that I’ve ever done. So thank you so much for being here, for letting me share with you a topic that is very important to my heart. And that is on setting boundaries…and not just setting boundaries, but setting boundaries with master manipulators.

Kristi: [00:00:38] When I say master manipulator, I mean someone who is perhaps a narcissist, someone who has a very entitled attitude and expectation that things go their way. Someone who is not afraid, in fact, seems to enjoy using manipulation and gaslighting or maybe raging and belittling to get what they want and someone who does not respect you and your needs. So it’s kind of like an all encompassing term for people that are very difficult to deal with. If you’re a co-dependent soul or maybe an empath, my guess is that there’s no explanation necessary. I hope that what I have to share will resonate with you and that maybe you’ll get some additional tools in your toolbox to help you set boundaries with people of this caliber.

[00:01:48] So before I dive into the rest of this podcast, which will be me sharing what’s worked for me and giving giving recommendations based on that, I do have to give the disclaimer that I have set boundaries with a master manipulator. But he was not violent, physically violent. If that is your situation, it’s probably going to be pretty obvious if you continue to listen to this podcast that if you are to follow what’s worked for me, that you could find yourself in physical danger, your safety could be threatened. And so if that is your situation, only you can know what you need to do. But please. Please, it’s paramount that you keep yourself safe. So, that’s my disclaimer moving forward.

Kristi: [00:02:37] And so what I want to do is I want to just share with you my basic framework for setting boundaries. It’s kind of high level. I want this to be a short podcast so it can be consumable, like if you only have 15 minutes or whatever time to listen to it on the way to the grocery store or whatever. But you can also get more detail on this. If you go to my blog, I blog about this topic, I’ll toss that link in the in the notes field below. So the first thing I like to do is identify the boundary that needs to be set. What is the boundary, what’s the need for it? And then I like to envision what life would be like both if I set the boundary and if I don’t set the boundary. Sometimes it’s not worth setting boundaries even when they should exist. Because you know what? The net result in my life isn’t going to change much.

Kristi: [00:03:37] But sometimes, in fact, most of the time, if this is an issue that’s coming up for you, is that life is going to be so much better, maybe not easier, but better if you set the boundary. And so it’s important to sort of keep that in mind, that bigger picture in mind, because once you do set the boundary, there’s going to be pushback from master manipulators. There’s always pushback. And so remembering why you’re doing it is going to be critical so that you don’t cave. So step one, identify the boundary and why.

[00:04:13] And then also you want to anticipate their response. Now, don’t overthink this part. It could you know, it’s not meant to be like a big task, but anticipating the response, like, you know, this master manipulator better than I do. But there’s probably some themes that they follow in terms of how they relate to you when they’re unhappy with you. Do they rage? Is that their biggest tool in the toolbox or do they do or are they more manipulative, like “like, oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I feel terrible. Oh, my gosh. I’m like such a bad person.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

[00:04:57] Do they respond in that sort of way? Because if they do, it’s going to be super, super, super important that you don’t cave because you’re trying to be a decent human being and you feel bad for them and then you feel like a bitch. And then they won and you don’t set the boundary and they keep repeating the same B.S. that they’ve always done. So understanding how they respond to to you, how you think that they might respond to you when you set this boundary is really important for how you’re going to then respond back. We’ll get into that more in a minute.

[00:05:30] So the third step is to prepare. And what I mean by this is, you know, there’s a couple of things. One, choosing your words, and I recommend being blunt and being kind. And so this is if I’m setting a boundary with, like someone who does tend to respect boundaries, who isn’t a master manipulator, like my parents, for example, in those cases, I may give them background. I may explain why I need to set this boundary or and I may acknowledge their feelings. In fact, I’m probably going to acknowledge their feelings and express gratitude for, you know, their intent being whatever it is I need to set a boundary around. I might be like with them, for example, “I know that you’re doing this from a place of love, that you just want what’s best for me, that you care about me, you love me, you hate to see me in pain,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

[00:06:27] But when I need to set this boundary with a master manipulator, though I’m blunt, I do not go into that at all. It’s not about expressing gratitude, false gratitude in this case. And it’s not even about acknowledging their feelings because people who are master manipulators, it’s like all the rules of decency are kind of broken. They’re out the window because of their nature, how they choose to respond, et cetera, et cetera. And so with them, I know I’m being a broken record here, I’m blunt but kind, I tell them the boundary that I need to set. I am not defending my boundary. I am not justifying my boundary. I am not saying I know you mean well, blah, blah, blah. Like, no, just this is my boundary. So that’s what I’m thinking about. Verbiage. I always keep that in mind.

[00:07:18] Also I when I’m preparing, I think about how I’m going to deliver this. So not just the words I’m using, but like, am I going to do this via email or text? Am I going to do it in person? Am I going to do it over the phone and depending like I know people say, you should have got these conversations in person and I’m going to call bullshit in some cases with a master manipulator, especially one who gaslights which is challenging your version of reality or whatever, kind of making you feel like you’re going a little crazy. Is that really what happened? Whatever that sort of thing with them? And it’s been my experience that the best approach is via the digital realm.

Kristi: [00:08:00] And that’s because you have you have a copy, you have documentation of what was said, everything. And so you can always go back if your memory is challenged in the future or whatever, or they respond very poorly. You have a trail and depending on your circumstances, this might be important. Like, for example, I was sued by my daughter’s father for custody of my daughter, having digital documentation of what we’ve agreed upon and details of events. And all of that was critical because like he was in court trying to say, she said this, she did this. It’s like, well, actually, no, I have a record here that that shows that you’re lying. But if we had had these conversations in person, it’s just my word against his.

[00:08:52] So with a master manipulator, I like having it in the digital realm and with my parents, of course, it’s not going to be via email. It’s going to be via phone or in person depending on the circumstances. But so anyway, this is something when you’re preparing it, think about what delivery method makes the most sense. If you do do it with a master manipulator who is prone to gaslighting or whatever, if you do do it in person or over the phone and if there’s any potential for fallout like legal consequences, especially if you’re co-parenting or anything like that, following up with the email stating exactly what was said might be a good idea, it could help protect you.

Kristi: [00:09:35] So, you know, anyway, that’s just that’s how I do it. Take what you like and leave the rest. So again, step one is identify the boundary. Step two is anticipating the response. And step three is preparing what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Step four is delivering. This is hard. This is really hard, but it’s so important. So the first thing that I always do before I need to communicate with a master manipulator is to eat something because my blood sugar tanks. I do not have the most regular eating schedule. And if I’m stressed, which is often the case before I have to set a boundary, I probably haven’t been eating because I don’t eat as much when I’m stressed. So I have a snack or I do it right after a meal, whatever. And that’s because the last thing I want is to get those shakes, the shakiness compounded on my jitters from having to even deal with the situation in the first place. So I have a snack. I recommend you do too, when you’re actually delivering your message.

[00:10:57] For the boundary that needs to be set, stay focused. Most important, refused to go down rabbit holes or take the bait. That is the biggest thing with master manipulators that I’ve found that they’ll like try to distract you. They’ll like focus on a minute thing that you’re saying and blow it up and make the conversation focused on this thing that really doesn’t matter. You know, like a detail, like you might say that, last Sunday evening you did this. And this is why I’m setting this boundary or whatever. It really has nothing to do with Sunday evening. And they’ll focus on how it was Sunday afternoon and they will go down that rabbit hole and then they’ll maybe focus on something that you did wrong on Sunday afternoon. And really, what you need to do is set a boundary about some unacceptable behavior that they did that you are not going to tolerate anymore.

[00:11:56] So that’s a rabbit hole, that’s taking the bait. Don’t let yourself do it. Stay focused. Always remember what it is, the boundary you need to set and just be blunt with it and always go back to the boundary. And that takes practice. It takes practice. It took me a long time to be able to do that. But, you know, you start to recognize those rabbit holes or whatever those lures they use to get you to take the bait. And there’s always this unsettling feeling with it. I hope that you can relate or I mean, I’m guessing you can relate. So when you start feeling that something is not right, it’s probably because something isn’t right and that you need to go back to the boundary. 

Kristi: [00:12:44] Another thing when you’re delivering is with a master manipulator, and I think I already touched base on this, you do not need them to understand why you’re doing this. You don’t need them to agree with you. You don’t need them to like it. It’s OK if they don’t like it. My experience has been that when they’re trying to understand, it’s really just they’re looking for ways to pick holes in my argument. And they don’t have to agree with me, and I don’t need them to like me. That’s the biggest thing is that I’m doing this for me. I know they’re going to be unhappy with me. So, you know, if they don’t understand, fine. I’m sorry. You don’t understand.

[00:13:34] Finally, the last thing I want to say about the delivery is that you need to end the discussion when it’s time, and that could be after like two minutes, you state your boundary. They don’t tolerate it. Well, end of discussion. You might find that it’s time to end the discussion if you’re unable to stay calm and focus. If you start getting shaky, you need to stop. It needs to be, you know, end of discussion. Also, if they keep trying to understand, that’s another signal. That’s another key that it’s time to end the discussion or if you’re just ready to, you know. Oh, and also critically important, if they’re manipulating you, gaslighting you, belittling you, raging at you, whatever, end of discussion.

Kristi: [00:14:26] And when I say end of discussion, this does not need to be picked up at a later date. You have set your boundary at this point. Period. That’s it. You don’t have to talk about it again later. So just to recap, so far, step one is to identify the boundary. Step two is to anticipate their response. Step three is to prepare your delivery. Step four is to deliver the boundary.

[00:15:00] Step five is to take care of yourself. This is really, really hard work. When you set a boundary, it’s exhausting. And especially if you’re an empath or a co-dependent, this work can be debilitating. My guess is that you’ll probably feel some relief. I usually do, but I’m tired. I need to decompress. I need to not have any more conversations with this person, like probably no more contact, at least for a day, maybe more. Just I mean, obviously it depends on the circumstances, but like, I need to take care of myself. So when I say decompress, honouring the commitment you made to yourself to set a boundary, that is a big thing, you’re cortisol is probably through the roof. You might have adrenaline going on. You’re exhausted, you’re tired. You’re like, oh, my god, you know, shaky, whatever.

Kristi: [00:16:05] You know, just take a moment to, like, give credit to yourself, because this stuff is really, really hard. And it’s especially hard with a master manipulator and it’s a big, big, big deal. So I meditate, I do yoga, I have self care practices, I journal, I do all these things. If you do those things normally, I would invite you to do that, especially now. If you have the opportunity, get out in nature. Nature speaks to me big time, I love walking barefoot in the grass. Just recharges my batteries. If that is your experience, I recommend you do something like that.

[00:16:46] But whatever it is, honor yourself. Do something that is an act of self care and self-love. Maybe it’s a candlelit bubble bath. I don’t know, whatever. Do something like that. And then if there is somebody that you can call, someone who is really great at holding space for you and who’s not trying to fix you, who’s not trying to give you advice, who’s not a drama queen, who’s not going to start telling you about all her problems. Like “let me tell you about mine!” Like, no, not that. But if you have someone who will hold space for you and just listen to you like a shoulder to cry on – that kind of a person – this is a great time to call them up and just, you know, let them hold you. Let them hold you, like in a energetic hug.

Kristi: [00:17:33] And if you don’t have that, that’s OK. I don’t always have that, either, but I kind of like to do that for myself. So if I can I do and if I can’t, it’s okay. Anyway, OK, so just to recap of the the five steps that I recommend that I generally tend to follow when I’m setting boundaries with master manipulators are one, identify the boundary that needs to be set. Two anticipate their response and then how you’re going to respond to it. Three, prepare your delivery, like identify what you’re going to say and the method that you’re going to take to say it. Four, deliver via email or in person, whatever. And then five, take care of yourself, decompress, whatever that looks like to you. So that’s generally what I do.

[00:18:32] I do have a blog post about it and often on my website, if you would like to download my free boundary setting guide, you’re welcome to do that. The link to that is in the notes below this this podcast. So I want to thank you so much for honoring me with your presence, my very, very first podcast ever. I look forward to producing more of these if you feel inspired, too. I would love it if you would subscribe to my podcast, share it with anyone that you feel could benefit from what I have to say. And I look forward to our next episode together. Thank you.