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BOOK REVIEW: In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding Manipulative People

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (Retired)

Dr. George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D. received his degree in clinical psychology from Texas Tech University and has studied and worked with manipulators and their victims for many years. Dr. Simon has taught over 250 workshops on the subject of dealing with manipulative people. In 1996, he published In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. This book is in its ninth printing.

The book is divided into two principle parts. Part I is “Understanding Manipulative Personalities” and Part II is “Dealing Effectively with Manipulative People.”

Two Important Types of Aggression

Dr. Simon describes two types of aggression:

Two of the fundamental types of aggression … are overt and covert aggression. When you’re determined to have your way or gain advantage and you’re open, direct, and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you’re out to “win,” get your way, dominate, or control, but are subtle, underhanded, or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Concealing overt displays of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into backing off, backing down, or giving in is a very powerful manipulative maneuver. That’s why covert aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.

Though Dr. Simon doesn’t call the “manipulative” people he describes psychopaths, he seems to completely understand the manipulation techniques of psychopaths as we know them.

The tactics that manipulators frequently use are powerful deception techniques that make it hard to recognize them as clever ploys. They can make it seem like the person using them is hurting, caring, defending, or almost anything but fighting for advantage over us. Their explanations always make just enough sense to make another doubt his or her gut hunch that they’re being taken advantage of.

Therapists whose training overly indoctrinated them in the theory of neurosis, may “frame” the problems presented to them incorrectly … In other words, they will view a hardened, abusive fighter as a terrified runner, thus misperceiving the core reality of the situation.

Though Dr. Simon calls what we might term a psychopath an aggressive personality (overtly aggressive or covertly aggressive), he sums up both types of aggressive person as “Their main objective in life is ‘winning’ and they pursue this objective with considerable passion. They forcefully strive to overcome, crush, or remove any barriers to what they want.”

In Part II of the book, Dealing Effectively with Manipulative People, Dr. Simon gives some interesting and realistic ways to deal with the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

There are several things a person must do to ensure that the frequent contests of life are played on a level field. To guard against victimization, you must be free of potentially harmful misconceptions about human nature and behavior; know how to correctly assess the character of others; have a high self-awareness, especially regarding those aspects of your own character that might increase your vulnerability to manipulation, recognize and correctly label the tactics of manipulation and respond to them appropriately; and avoid fighting losing battles.

The suggestions Dr. Simon makes in the remainder of the book are simple, easily understood and are designed to empower us. I highly recommend this book.

In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People is available on Amazon.com.



139 Comments on "BOOK REVIEW: In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding Manipulative People"

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  1. ErinBrock says:

    An ally of mine….very well connected and has been invaluable in helping me….called me today….
    I emailed the article….

    She says she thinks the only reason he’s in town is to feel some sort of connection to me and kids….some faint thread of his former ‘normal’ life….
    He’s been on the go for 3 years…..never more than 3 months in one place….go go go…..
    He was always a homebody…..sat in the recliner in front of the sports shows…..
    He’s GOT to be miserable….laying his head down at night going….FUCK….what has SHE done to my life…(as I’m SURE it’s all my fault).
    If there ever was a reason for a sociopath to change…..WELL…..he’s the case study…..I am betting the farm on….it’ aint’ happening!!!

    Your friend maybe saw you as a connection to the ‘good ol days’ of high school…..and besides…what does HE have to lose in trying…..he’s locked up!!!

    Could you imagine the GUT ROT that is caused by facing criminal drug charges ….15 YEARS???

    Bet he’s sitten pretty on that toilet these days!!!
    :)

  2. Rosa says:

    15 years…..he got the MAX!!

    He should be out by now, though.

    In high school, on a drunken high, he crashed his sports car with 4 other people in it, almost killing everyone in the car including himself.

    He was quite a guy.

  3. ErinBrock says:

    Sounds like date material….
    For big bubba!

  4. behind_blue_eyes says:

    Oxdrover;

    Yes, I think you are right. I suppose the ultimately act of his “covert-aggression” and controlling nature was the way he dumped me: from afar, by email, full knowing I was quite sick and bed-ridden. This email’s tone was full of “I” no “we” and no apologies. In classic covert-aggressive fashion, he even deflected blame “when we met I told you I was not sure what I was looking for…” Of, course none of his subsequent actions or words left me thinking otherwise.

    He dumped me because deep-down he felt that ultimately he could not control me, much of that being the positive aspects of me. Another clue to this comes from the dating website: “if the words driven, focused or motivated describe you, then we probably won’t get along…” Not that I am particularly any of these, but it simply says he doesn’t like such people because he can’t control them.

    Inside, Jamie is an envious, greedy, and aggressive — I also got that from the way the dating website “profiled” him. On the outside, he his quiet, unassuming and polite. The disconnect? We often assume introverted people to be meek, but what’s on the outside does not always match the inside. Or, as some Russian saying goes, in the calmest waters swim the ugliest fish.

    Finally, and I forget who mentioned this but must agree, a simple sign of a sociopath or other character-defective person is that their actions leave your head spinning. I did not know Jamie very long, but in that time he did more things to make my head spin than any other person I ever met.

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