Have you ever found yourself doing things for others that you don’t really want to do? There are people around us that would use manipulation in order to get what they want from us. Learning and understanding manipulation and manipulative behavior will help us eventually change the relationship with the manipulative person, and get rid of the manipulator from our lives.
Manipulation exists, because it works. The only way to get rid of a manipulator is to disable their tactics. This requires a certain understanding of how manipulation works, and how it is done. While some types of manipulation are easy to figure out, some of them are more subtle. When manipulation tactics stop being effective, the manipulative person will first change their tactics, and later eventually leave you alone. He or she will seek another victim, as they always seek the path of least resistance.
Manipulators do not want to have to work at manipulating people, improving their skills, and become better at it. They simply do it because it is both natural for them, and because you make it easy. By increasing your understanding about their motives, you will have a better understanding of why you feel so confused, violated, unhappy and diminished in your relationships with manipulative people.
It is important to know certain things about manipulation and manipulators.
- First of all, they will not have a moment of insight and become changed men or women over night, understanding the pain and suffering that they are causing. Pointing out the manipulator’s shortcomings will not change him or her.
- Second, you will not be able to out-manipulate a skilled manipulator, so don’t even try. When in a relationship with a manipulator, always pay attention to what the manipulator does, and not to what he says.
If you ask the question “Why” don’t ever expect a truthful answer from the manipulator, and therefore, don’t even bother asking. Telling him about your feelings or about the pain that he or she is causing, will not change the manipulator either, and he or she will not care, but maybe even use the information to his advantage.
The only way to change a manipulator is to make his tactics ineffective by changing yourself. When you stop rewarding manipulative behavior by ceasing to cooperate, comply or please. If the manipulator runs into hard work, he or she will eventually give up.
Manipulators are not always aware of their tactics. The most dangerous are those who are aware and intentional about being manipulative. They are the least likely to change. Being manipulative and controlling of others does not create any inner conflict or turmoil over the thought that they might hurt other people, or violate their rights. They simply don’t care, or might have rationalized their behavior to the point that they think that what they do is right, if not for the victims, at least for others. If the manipulation behavior is ego-congruent (doesn’t create a conflict with the manipulator’s self-perception), there is little motivation to change. Such persons will eventually change their tactics, but never their beliefs. The drive is always the outcome and not the desire to become a better person.
The other type of manipulative persons are the ones that are not aware that they are manipulative, and that, when confronted with their tactics, will feel bad about it. Being seen as a manipulator will be seen as ego-incongruent or inconsistent with the view that they have of themselves. The motivation to change will be higher.
Something that all manipulators have in common is their preoccupation with their own need, and at the same time, their inability to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes. The insight that their behavior is hurting other people will not motivate change. The most likely outcome is that, when their tactics do not longer work, they will search for another victim.
The manipulators will always disguise their motives under several layers of lies. Skilled manipulators will even hide those motives even for themselves. Most manipulators know that their behavior is unacceptable and will therefore use certain, more socially accepted guises.
- Love and care: “I am doing this because I love you/care for you”
- Expertise: “I am telling your this because I know more about this then you do”
- Altruism and generosity: “I am doing this for your own good, even if it doesn’t benefit me”
- Role endowment: “I am telling you this because it is my obligation/role to do that”
Asking manipulators about their true intentions and motives will often not lead to honest answers, primarily because they don’t look too deep inside, because it will make them defensive and angry. They often use denial, as a defense mechanism. The very skilled manipulators will often hide their true intentions and motives even from themselves, and the manipulative behavior will come easily. Most of them will also feel that they deserve to have their ends met, no matter the damage they cause others. Often, this is because they feel that the world owes them that, often because of surviving a bad childhood. They think that life or other people wounded him in some profound way, and not it’s time to give back. It became difficult for the manipulator to feel what other people feel when he or she hurts them, and he or she will also feel entitle to mistreat other people.
Underlying manipulative behavior is a deep sense of distrust for other people. They also tend to project their own world view one others, and think that, the world is a stage where people get their acts straight and either manipulate others or will be manipulated. Competing is the manipulators true mind set, even if collaboration often gives the highest returns. Pretty much according to game-theory, manipulators believe that everybody in the world play to win or to maximize their outcome.
When are you most susceptible and vulnerable to manipulation?
- You are in a transition.
- You are making a significant life change.
- You are thinking about setting a major life change in motion.
- You have suffered a substantial loss.
- You are in a period of instability and uncertainty.
Under these periods of your life you are more vulnerable because you are redefining your identity, and are more interested in gaining something and more afraid of losing something. Manipulators that are skilled are often sensing the victim’s vulnerability.
Are you able to recognize your hooks?
According to the mechanics of manipulations, a manipulator will seek out those areas of your personality where you have the most desired gains – what you really want at this point in your life – and where you have the greatest fear of loss. While some manipulators have developed the skill to understand what you might want and desire, you will yourself make it very easy for them. You might simply tell them about your dreams and hopes and wishes, and your deepest fears or worries. By knowing yourself, and becoming aware of your fears and desires, will transform you into a difficult target for manipulators. Manipulators use certain levers of control over their targets that hold the promise of gain, stimulate the fear of loss, or offer the means to avoid something that is highly undesirable.
You might have a strong desire for love and security, money or career advancement, love and sexual fulfillment or approval and attention. You might also be afraid of getting old, getting ill, becoming unhappy, losing your job or your status. When you get to know what you fears and desires are at this moment, you will also know what manipulative people will use to gain control over you. It is easy to spot a manipulative person out: he or she will, combined with a certain level of coldness, will try to exploit your deepest desires and/or fears.
Manipulative relationships depend on activating one or both of two principle human drives:
1, gain or reward.
2, loss or avoidance.
These are the two engines that drive the manipulation. Do not bother looking for anything more complicated than this. Manipulation always boils down to the promise of a net gain, and or, the threat of a net loss. In some manipulative relationships, there is the promise of something valuable to gain, which is why the mark willingly goes along with the program. Or the manipulator promises to reward the collaborative mark, or compliant victim, with something that he or she wants, needs, desires or prefers.
In some manipulative relationships, there is the promise of something valuable to gain, which is why the mark willingly goes along with the program. Or the manipulator promises to reward the collaborative mark, or compliant victim, with something that he or she wants, needs, desires or prefers. In most situations, the manipulator is subtle enough, so that the victim isn’t aware that he or she is manipulated. It can feel like influence, advice or a suggestion.
“However, when the other side of this coin is examined, meaning, the consequences, if the mark doesn’t go along with the request or suggestion, it ceases to be influence and it’s downright manipulative behavior. This happens when there is something valuable to lose, or something that, one wants to avoid. A skilled manipulator then plays on the victim’s fears, and promises to prevent the loss, or perhaps to avoid the punishing consequence, if the request, of compliance or collaboration, is demonstrated. “
Manipulation is a process. It takes place over a prolonged period of time. The mantra for many manipulators is “slow and steady”. To gain control over the victim, the manipulator will often use tactics to tell the victim that if he/she does as the manipulator wants, he might gain or lose something. Usually, the relationship will start with the promise of gain, but will gradually be kept alive by the threat of loss. The goal of the relationship, becomes therefore, the hope of gaining, or/and the avoidance of losing something. As the hope of gain will usually not materialize, and only the fear of loss will be present, the victim will feel deceived, stressed out and hurt.
When you know how something works, it is always easy to spot the trick, when somebody else does it. Manipulation simply stated is much like a magic trick. If you take the time to learn how manipulation works, it is less likely that you will be caught off guard when confronted with it, because you will know what to look for! The mystery will be gone.
Source: Who’s pulling your strings? How to break the cycle of manipulation and regain control of your life. Harriet Braiker, 2004