People generally cannot believe themselves so easily manipulated and controllable. This is precisely why they are so easy to manipulate and control.
Wilson Bryan Key
What do we know about manipulation? What are the signs that we are getting into manipulators trap? Maybe we are the ones playing these psychological games?
Majority of us are keen on getting what we want and that is why we try “different techniques” to get this. We are great manipulators when we need something. However some of us we do that without realizing it and this way we “unintentionally” start the game which can damage any relationship if not identified on time. You will say that in every human relationship there is a bit of manipulation. And you will be right.
Psychologist offer to distinguish healthy social influence from psychological manipulation. Healthy social influence occurs between most people, and is part of the give and take of constructive relationships.
In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits others to serve his or her agenda.
In any case, it is important to be aware of what is happening, so that you can CHOOSE whether you are into this game or not. Without the awareness you are simply getting into the trap.
The most important questions that we should ask ourselves are the following:
How do I feel about this comment/situation/relationship?
Do I put other person needs before mines?
Am I being treated with genuine respect?
It’s repeating every time I have to work, interact with this person?
If you answered yes to these questions, and you don’t feel comfortable with the situation/ comments/ relationship, this is the first sign that something wrong is happening.
Now, what are the common manipulating techniques that we might miss in our daily lives:
1. Manipulators often “evaluate” and criticize
For example: “You are very difficult to work with”, “your temper is very difficult to deal with” and so on and so on. In this case person will never explain why they find you difficult, instead of providing you the facts they will give you their personal view. The most incredible is that you might believe in this! This is a very powerful technique that in majority of cases our parents, friends and bosses like to use. As a result we try ¨to improve¨ to meet their expectations, however this is never enough. Since no facts and no reasons provided, just personal ¨evaluation¨ based on person´s point of view. If used commonly and in negative way it might seriously damage your self-esteem.
What YOU can do in this case: ask the facts, what did you do and how can you improve. If this is a positive feedback we can always improve (if we want of course and find it relative), if the person continues to make these comments without giving a reason or explanation of the actions – you know that you are getting into a trap of manipulator.
2. Manipulators often behave needy and make you feel guilty
¨After all I have done for you¨, or ¨You don´t care about what I am doing for you¨, ¨I think I deserve more after all¨. Sounds familiar? These are very common approaches between close family members, someone who knows you very well, someone who did a lot for you and now is seeking remuneration for this. Someone who needs attention and playing helpless. Whoever it might be, this is again a trap. Person who cares about you most likely is doing something for you without seeking any remuneration, if this is not the case then again we are getting into a trap of manipulator.
What YOU can do in this case: Be thankful for all that they have done for you. This is an antidote for this type of manipulation. Being thankful and appreciate another person’s efforts. Communicate your own point of view only once you acknowledge manipulators good will.
3. Manipulators often make a small request that you agree to, which is followed by the real request
It’s harder to say no, because you’ve already said yes. The reversal turns your words around to mean something you didn’t intend. When you object, manipulators turn the tables on you so that they’re the injured party. Now it’s about them and their complaints, and you’re on the defensive.
What YOU can do in this case: put the focus on them by asking questions
When you hear an unreasonable solicitation, it’s sometimes useful to put the focus back on the manipulator by asking a few probing questions, to see if she or he has enough self-awareness to recognize the inequity of their scheme. For example:
“Does what you want from me sound fair?”
“Do I have a say in this?”
“So, what do I get out of this?”
“Are you really expecting me to [restate the inequitable request]?”
If I were to describe all of psychological manipulation techniques in one post, it would be endless and you would get bored reading me 😉
There are a lot of different behaviors that can be counted as a manipulation and that we can easily spot, however the ones described above are the tricky ones that often go without notice, so let’s be aware of them and eliminate toxic behaviors from our relationship.
Think how often do you face manipulation? Did you improve any of your relationship once you spot it?