How To Stop Being Manipulated By Others In A Debate?

People will manipulate you, such is human nature. More so with those with dark personalities (namely, narcissists and psychopaths).

We are constantly bombarded with information in today’s world. It is difficult to know what to believe and how to defend our beliefs when we get challenged.

Debates are structured arguments in which two or more people present their opposing views on a topic.

While a debate can be a valuable tool to learn and understand different perspectives, it can also be used to manipulate and deceive.

If you are not careful, you can easily be psychologically manipulated into believing something that is not true or goes against your values.

How To Stop Being Manipulated By Others
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How To Stop Being Manipulated By Others In A Debate

“Being manipulated is an integral part of the human condition. It is unavoidable and happening all around us.”

— Eldar Shafir, Princeton University, 2016

Researchers have found that dark personalities can use emotional intelligence for malicious purposes, such as deceiving, exploiting, or harming others. These people can create a “dark intelligence” to manipulate others for their own benefit.

If others take advantage of your gentle nature and manipulate you in debates, these strategies will help you spot the crafty tactics, stay in control, and firmly stick to your points:

1. Be aware of the common tactics used to manipulate people.

  • Ad hominem attacks: These are attacks on the person, rather than their argument. For example, saying “You’re wrong because you’re stupid” is an ad hominem attack.
  • Straw man arguments: These are arguments that misrepresent the other person’s position. For example, saying “You’re saying that we should never do anything to help the poor” is a straw man argument if the other person has never said anything of the sort.
  • Red herrings: These are irrelevant arguments that are used to distract from the main point. For example, saying “What about the time you made a mistake?” is a red herring if the other person is trying to make a point about something else.
  • Appeal to emotion: These are arguments that appeal to the listener’s emotions, rather than their logic. For example, saying “Think of all the poor children who will suffer if we don’t do something” is an appeal to emotion.

2. Stay calm and don’t take the bait.

If someone is trying to manipulate you in a verbal fight, remember to not take the bait.

If you get angry or emotional, you will be more likely to make mistakes. And people might see you as a cantankerous person who can be easily triggered.

Instead, try to stay calm and focus on the crux of the argument.

3. Ask questions.

One of the best ways to defend yourself against manipulation is to ask questions.

When someone makes an argument, ask them to explain it in more detail. This will help you to understand their position and to identify any flaws in their argument.

4. Do your research.

Before you engage in a debate, get your ammunition by thoroughly researching the topic.

Being aware that the person will try to manipulate you is not enough. You have to arm yourself with data and facts.

In a recent study, researchers found that people are generally aware of the influence that manipulative designs can have on their online behavior. But surprisingly, being aware did not equip them to fight such influence.

This will help you to understand the topic and to develop your own arguments. It will also help you to identify any common misconceptions about the topic.

5. Be respectful.

Even if you disagree with someone, it is important to be respectful.

You don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree with someone.

A belief is a belief because it is not knowledge. And everyone is entitled to have their beliefs.

You don’t have to lose your dignity to bring down someone else’s beliefs. Disagree, but do so politely.

Maintain your dignity and be the last person to keep the debate civil and productive.

Spot it early if you start getting angry or emotional, take a step back and calm down before continuing.

6. Walk away if necessary.

Our best fights are those that we walk away from.

If you find yourself in a debate that is becoming heated or unproductive, it is okay to walk away.

There is no need to continue a debate if it is not going anywhere constructive.

There’s a famous saying by Herman Hesse, “Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

More Tips To Avoid Being Manipulated In Debates

It’s been wisely said that if you take everything personally, then you be unhappy for most of your life.

Here are some situation-specific tips to stop being manipulated by others:

How to handle someone who keeps interrupting?

  • Ask them to stop politely. This is the most direct and assertive way to handle the situation. Simply say something like, “Excuse me, I’m trying to talk.”
  • Interrupt them back. This can be effective if the person is not taking your request seriously. However, it is important to do this in a respectful way. For example, you could say something like, “Hold on, I’m not finished yet.”
  • Ignore them and continue speaking. This can be effective if the person is not worth your time or energy. Simply continue speaking, even if they are trying to interrupt you.
  • Walk away from the conversation. This can be the best option if the person is being rude or disrespectful. Simply walk away and end the conversation.

How to act when you’re in embarrassing situations?

  • Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This can help you to process your emotions and to feel less alone.
  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has done something embarrassing at some point in their lives. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself and to move on.
  • Laugh it off. If you can laugh at yourself, it will help to take the sting out of the embarrassment.

How to deal with others’ passive-aggressive tactics?

  • Don’t take the bait. If someone is being passive-aggressive, it’s best not to respond in kind. This will only escalate the situation. Instead, try to stay calm and ignore their behavior.
  • Call them out on their behavior. If the passive-aggressive behavior is persistent, you may need to call the person out on it. This can be done in a direct or indirect way. For example, you could say something like, “I’m not sure why you’re being so passive-aggressive, but it’s not okay.”
  • Ignore them. If the passive-aggressive behavior is not too serious, you can simply ignore it. This will show the person that their behavior is not getting to you.
  • Walk away from the situation. If the passive-aggressive behavior is making you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to walk away from the situation. This doesn’t mean that you’re giving up or that you’re letting the person win. It simply means that you’re protecting yourself from their negative behavior.

What to do when you’ve to think fast and talk smart?

  • Take a deep breath to relax. When you let yourself relax, it helps you to clear your head from many different thoughts and focus on the task at hand.
  • Pause to think before you speak. This will give you time to process your thoughts and to choose your words carefully.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. This will help you to be understood and to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Use simple language. Avoid using jargon or complex language that your audience may not understand.
  • Be confident. Believe in yourself and in your ability to think fast and talk smart.

How to be a good listener?

People may try to manipulate you by using your emotional triggers. To protect yourself from their triggering tactics, learn to listen actively and patiently.

Here are a few points from our post on how to be a good active listener:

  1. Pay attention. Make eye contact, do not interrupt, and avoid distractions like your phone.
  2. Be open-minded. Don’t judge the speaker or their ideas. Try to see things from their perspective.
  3. Ask questions. This shows that you’re interested in what the speaker has to say and that you’re trying to understand their point of view.
  4. Summarize what you’ve heard. This helps to ensure that you’ve understood the speaker correctly and that they feel heard.
  5. Be respectful. Even if you disagree with the speaker, be respectful of their opinion.
  6. Be patient. It takes time to be a good listener. Don’t expect to be perfect overnight.
Jordan Belfort's tips to stop being manipulated

How to stop manipulation like Jordan Belfort?

Jordan Belfort is an American author and former stockbroker. He is best known for his memoir “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was later adapted into a film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

These tips from Jordan Belfort can help you stop being manipulated by others.


  • Be aware of when someone is mirroring you. If you notice that someone is copying your body language, tone of voice, or even the words you’re using, it’s a good sign that they’re trying to manipulate you.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the mirroring. If you feel uncomfortable with someone mirroring you, simply change your body language or tone of voice. This will help to break the connection and make it more difficult for them to manipulate you.

The 4-second rule:

  • Don’t feel pressured to make a decision right away. If someone tries to pressure you into making a decision within 4 seconds, it’s a good sign that they’re trying to manipulate you.
  • Take some time to think about the decision before you make it. This will help you to make a more informed decision and to avoid being manipulated.

Scarcity principle:

  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it’s not right for you. If someone tries to sell you something by telling you that it’s in limited supply or that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s a good sign that they’re trying to manipulate you.
  • Do your research and make sure that you’re getting a good deal. If you’re not sure, it’s always better to walk away than to be taken advantage of.

Authority principle:

  • Don’t be afraid to question authority. Just because someone is in a position of authority doesn’t mean that they’re always right. If you don’t understand something or if you think that someone is trying to manipulate you, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Do your own research and form your own opinions. Don’t just blindly follow what someone else tells you.

Foot-in-the-door technique:

  • Be aware of when someone is using the foot-in-the-door technique. This is a tactic where someone starts by asking you for a small favor, and then they gradually ask for more and more favors.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re not comfortable with something, don’t be afraid to say no. It’s better to say no upfront than to get sucked into something that you don’t want to do.

Final Words

Practice these tips with a friend or a partner. Let them use manipulative tactics on you so you can learn to see and handle when another person tries to manipulate you.

This is your brief: The goal of a debate is to exchange ideas and to learn from each other, and you must not deviate from that.

If someone is trying to manipulate you, they are more interested in playing you than having a real debate.

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”

— Bruce Lee

Finally, always make sure to protect yourself from being triggered into being a version of yourself that you might regret later.

√ Also Read: How Stoicism Can Help You Control Your Anger

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When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.