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Four Types Of Manipulators:
And How To Deal With Them*
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
- One thing all antagonists have in common is a desire to control.
- Haugk and others who have written about antagonists have gone through great pains to
delineate and describe each type of antagonism. Certainly these listings and accompanying
descriptions have great value for specific situations.
- For those who have difficulty remembering the seemingly endless categories of
antagonism, let me suggest four. They are: The Poor Me, The Aloof, The Interrogator, and
The Intimidator. Perhaps all antagonists are one of these four types or a combination
- The Four Types In Everyday Life
- In enjoyable relationships, we regularly use these four types of manipulation in a way
intended to bring mutual enjoyment. In relationships which are not so enjoyable, these
four types of manipulation can bring about unconstructive--or downright
destructive--behaviors intended to give ourselves enjoyment and energy at the other's
- Thats exactly what antagonists do. They exploit the negative uses of these four
types of interaction to manipulate others. In their virtually compulsive and obsessive
desire to control us and our ministries, they will use variations of these four
manipulative patterns to divert us from moving the ministry of Jesus Christ forward.
- The longer this goes on, the more likely we are to just want to give up and give the
control over to the antagonists. If we give up, quit, or give in, theyve won while
weand those in Body of Christ to whom we ministerhave, apart from the
grace of Jesus Christ lost.
- A working knowledge of these four manipulative types may go a long way to help us to
deal with antagonists in more effective ways. What follows is a summary of each of the
four types including a brief description of each type, the overall strategic use of each
type, and suggestions for how to deal with each.
The Four Manipulative Types**
- 1. The "Poor Me"
- The most passive of the four styles, the "Poor Me" describes the typical
victim approach. This person seeks to get other people's attention through the
- Their strategy is obvious: to throw us off balance and to win by creating in us and
others a sense of guilt and obligation to help. After all, arent Christians supposed
to help the victim? The most hideous thing about the Poor Me strategy is that, of all
places that this is effective, probably the most effective place is in the
- How can you deal with "Poor Mes"? You cant attack the "Poor
Me." It just perpetuates the victimization by giving the "Poor Me" and
their supporters more to complain about. Instead, the best response is to avoid being
thrown off balance by their ploys and avoid buying into their guilt.
- Keep your boundaries intact, evaluate the real extent and need they have. Recall
Pauls words in Galatians 6:5 that our goal in bearing each others burdens is
to enable them to bear their own burden. Be appropriately compassionate and
pastoral, but remember the maxim, "God helps those that help themselves."
2. The "Aloof"
- Slightly less passive than the "Poor Me," the Aloofs goal is to create a
vagueness around himself, forcing us to pour ourselves into getting information which is
normally shared in a straight-forward, casual manner.
- Such people are described M. Scott Pecks best-selling book entitled, People of
the Lie (Simon and Schuster). By their indirectness, their tact, and their façade
they impress us from a distance. But, as we approach them, they retract, become distant,
an unapproachable, afraid that their inner "secrets," fears, or machinations may
- Reprimanded for expressing themselves in their childhood, they believe that ultimately
no one can be trusted. After having demonstrated trust and intimacy, they make
"snap" and suddenly turn against the one in whom they shared trust.
- The most effective way to deal with "Aloofs" by avoidingat all
costsdefensive behaviors. Such behaviors merely fuel their anxieties, fears,
and distrust. However, once we "name the game," the Aloof individual will likely
sever all communication with us and those around us. This will occur in spite of the best,
most noble and loving pastoral attempts to approach, love and counsel the individual.
- In such cases we must not be overwhelmed by inappropriate guilt or endless self-blame.
It's the nature of the Aloof. Even if it be in tears, all we as pastors can hope is that
someday, somehow, God will in His merciful, compassionate love move them to deal with
their overwhelming fear and inextricable existential pain.
- 3. The "Interrogator"
- More aggressive than the previous two manipulative types, the Interrogator uses
criticism to control others.
- Its easy to know when youre in the presence of an Interrogator. Youll
get an unmistakable feeling youre being monitored, watched, and criticized.
Thats because Interrogators consider others inadequate, incompetent, stupid, or
unable to handle things.
- Dont let them draw you into their world. Thats how they throw us off
balance. They would like us be unsure of ourselves, to doubt our convictions and to
surrender our boundaries to their intimidating tactics. After all, their manipulation is
primarily directed to cause others to believe as they do. They would intimidate others to
believe the world is not safe or orderly unless the Interrogator is in charge.
Self-acclaimed heroes, Interrogators are ruthless perfectionists, monitoring everything
with a smothering sense of caring and an all-consuming, dictator-like control.
- The most effective way to deal with Interrogators is to avoid defensive behaviors.
Dont cower back. Dont give in. "Name" the game and tell him how we
feel in his presence. Interrogators, when confronted, typically turn the tables on us and
project his own interrogative excesses on us. Expect it and prepare for it. Decide whether
its true or not (without getting stuck or frozen) and make necessary adjustments if
- Having "named the Interrogators game," dont let the Interrogator
become your conscience. No matter what he does, remember those famous words of
Shakespeare, "To thine own self be true." Since Interrogators seldom change,
when they see your boundaries are strong and their ploys ineffective with
yourself and others, they will angrily sever the relationship rather than risk having to
- Again, the key is a patient, moderate, but confidently firm (but not rigid)
pastoral approach. At all costs, keep your integrity, demonstrate your character, and contain
your anger. Dont let them frustrate you, especially in the presence of
others! Maintain what Friedman in his book, From Generation to Generation calls
"a non-anxious presence."
- If necessary, rehearse your responses with an experienced confidant. And if you
cant seem to muster up the courage to do it for yourself, then do it for the sake of
the Kingdom. Your patience and trust in God's strength in your weakness will save you and
your hearers. If, with God's help, you succeed, you will likely experience an unparalleled
level of respect from your parishioners (including other antagonists) and, with God's
blessings, lead the congregation to a new era of remarkable ministry renewal.
- 4. The "Intimidator"
- These are the "Saddam Hussein's" of parish life, Intimidators are the most
aggressive of the four manipulative types.
- No onethat is, no oneneeds to tell you that youre in their
presence. The threatening sense of danger they convey is unmistakable. Their threats,
their harsh words, and their unpredictable, abusive actions all suggest the potential for
uncontrollable rage or violence.
- Often they will convey their threats publicly adding illustrations of how they dealt
withand destroyedothers like us in the past. Those "select" pastors
who have experienced conflict at Speed Leas Level IV or V have undoubtedly
experienced the Intimidators unforgettable display of extremely unsettlingand
- A specific way Intimidators attempt to knock us "off balance" is by their
powerful, merciless attacks and attempts at publicly humiliating the enemy. These attacks
are intended to incite all kinds of hurtful emotions in the foe. Examples include
such things as unwarranted guilt, a sense of worthlessness, a feeling of incompetence, and
of course, fear. Its their trap; its the secret to their success. The reason
these attacks work is because Intimidators are so skilled at these techniques that often
those being attacked are unable or unwilling to confront them.
- Whats the best response for dealing with Intimidators? As in all four of these
paradigms, the keys to an effective response are to 1) name the game, 2)
Consider whether the accusations are right and correct them if necessary, and 3)
to not be knocked "off balance".
- Some consultants say, "When you have an alligator, get as close as possible. He
can't bite you if your holding his jaws." In the case of the Intimidator, don't grab
his jaws. He'll whip you with his tail.
- As much as possible, remove yourself from the Intimidator. Stay close enough to know
what he's doing, but far enough to keep you from being under his controlling,
ever-watchful eye. Do everything possible to keep business "as usual." Do
everything you can to patiently do everything you can to maintain a relatively smooth and
healthy continuation of the ministryeven in his presence.
- Though many in the church probably won't step forward to confront him, the "silent
majority" in the congregation will be watching and praying for you much as the
Israelites watched David confront Goliath from the sidelines. When the Intimidator
recognizes that his threats and force cannot overcome your patient firmness; when he
recognizes his threats cannot cause you to back off in fear, he will begin planning for
his "big move.". Stay patient, stay in control, and don't over-react. Above all,
don't seek vengeance. That's exactly what he wants. If you do, you'll lose
every time. Let the Lord do that. He will avenge...and in His way and time.
- Perhaps the best advice against Intimidators and other antagonists such as these was
given by Jesus. "If your enemy asks for your tunic...." Another applicable word
of the Lord is, "Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10).
- Each time you deal with the Intimidators' fear-provoking tactics, dont cave in!
Don't run! You'll probably take some heat and a beating. But be patient. For every action
there's an equal and opposite reaction. As you get tired, so will he. As you're tempted to
lash out, so is he. Let him make the first move. Let him be the one to make a fool out of
himself. All he needs is enough time and enough rope.
- Finally, remember that in every case in the Scriptures where Gods people
were scared, threatened, or in great danger at the hand of a much larger and more powerful
enemy, God or His angels responded with the words such as, "Fear not!" Then He
proceeded to demonstrate His awesome, almighty power against the cause of His
peoples fear to humiliate, render powerless, or destroy the opposition.. God still
demonstrates that power today!
Reflections On Antagonism
- What Antagonists Teach Us
- Dealing with antagonists teach us many things about us. It teaches us about our
strengths, our weaknesses, our leadership styles and, among other things, the relative
strength and character of our faith.
- Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from our dealings with antagonists, it is
this. When antagonists come our way, we learn just how easy it is to loose the focus of
faith. The way antagonists play on our feelings is simply a heightened recognition that
all human relationships have the potential to divert us from an unshakeable faith in
Gods will and power for our lives.
- When we spend more time thinking and dwelling on how we're so afraid of our antagonists,
we're not really focusing on God. Perhaps that's the most damaging thing about
antagonism.. Let God teach you, through antagonist if need be, about His love, His
oversight, His power and His faithfulness in your ministry. Watch Him and trust Him. He
will do it!
- Put God Back In Control
- Theres a certain strength in the ability to Let Go
of basing our self-esteem on the things of this world, the relationships which come
and go, and whether or not were accepted or rejected, successful or unsuccessful,
happy or unhappy. True Christian joy is onlyand exclusivelyin Christ. If we
havent yet learned it from God's gentle teaching in scripture, God may send
antagonists to give us the opportunity to learn it from them!
- Once we direct (or re-direct) our lives toward God's control, antagonists will not have
such a dramatic ability to "get under our skin." When we finally learn
this lesson and put it into practice, perhaps we will have learned the real lesson God is
trying to teach us when we have to deal with antagonists. That lesson is "Dont
trust the antagonists. Trust God!" Give Him the antagonists. It is an act of faith,
- The Hardest Lesson
- Perhaps the hardest lesson in our dealings with antagonists is recognizing that
were not under their control and that theyre not under our
control. Such never was and never will be. Like the ultimate antagonist, Judas Iscariot,
antagonists can only do what God permits. Everything under Gods providence works out
for the "good of those who love Him and are called to His plan" (Romans 8).
- Whether were called, as Isaiah was, to preach to those who will never listen
(Isaiah 6) or directed, as Jeremiah was, to "tear down and destroy, to build and to
plant" (Jer. 1), Our respective ministries are directed and defined by Gods
calling as were the ministries of all Gods servants.
- Gods will is ultimately unstoppable. What He wills shall be done. No matter
how many or what type of antagonists come into the way of His ministry, its our
calling to minister to them in an appropriate manner.
- Trust God to deal with the antagonists. After all, isnt Hes doing that
- Thomas F. Fischer,
*Based on James Redfield's "Four Control Dramas" in
his book, Celestine Prophecy (Warner
Books, 1997), pp. 71ff. The above content in no way implies the author's agreement
with Redfield's theological perspective.
** I cannot but help noting how these four control dramas may
correspond with "excess/conflict" characteristics
of the ancient four types of
personalities: Poor Me (Melancholy), Aloof (Phlegmatic), Interrogator (Sanguine) and
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:09 PM