When the media, the politicians, or business associates manipulate us, we let them get away with it. To some extent, we expect them to do so. But when a person we trust does the same, it is difficult to understand and accept. We feel hurt and betrayed. After all, why would someone who loves us try to manipulate us?
The psyche behind manipulation is complex and deep-rooted. But the crux of it is that individuals who cannot express their needs assertively take this indirect route to get their way. The manipulators could be family or friends, and they might even care for you, but their own limitations cause them to resort to manipulation. Whatever the reason, no one enjoys being manipulated. So how can you shield yourself from it?
Learning to spot a manipulator
“Can I have two minutes of your time?” This is one statement that most of us have fallen prey to at some time or another, because those two minutes are always stretched longer. But this is one of the more moderate tactics employed by manipulators. To avoid falling into a manipulation trap, you need to know how to spot manipulation from a mile away. Here are some commonly used tricks by habitual manipulators.
1. Making you feel guilty
This is the easiest one to succumb to and there are many ways by which a person can induce guilt in the victim. Some things that they may say are, “How can you do this to someone who loves you so dearly?” Or “This is what I get in return for all the love I have showered on you?” Or even “Do as you wish but consider the pain you are causing the other person.” Ironically, this is used commonly in close relationships like those between parents and children, spouses, siblings or relatives. Playing the victim, shedding crocodile tears, appearing sad and morose are also subtle ways of the same game.
2. Making assumptions for you
The manipulator may make statements where he or she assumes your intentions or choices to justify their emotions or actions—“I thought you would like my suggestion” or “I know you will never say no to me.” Here, the person can put you in a spot where if you are not assertive enough, you end up saying yes when you actually want to say no. Sometimes these statements also come in the garb of false flattery—“No one can bake a cake better than you, so please make one for my party,” or “I can trust only you to take care of my pup when I’m gone.” It’s easy to get drawn into the maze of compliments that the manipulator spins; but once the momentary high is over, you are left feeling exploited and taken for granted.
Manipulators depict a different side of themselves to different people, depending on the situation
3. Displaying passive aggressiveness
Here, the person doesn’t want to do what you want them to do or disagrees with what you are saying. However, instead of being vocal about it, they mislead you into doing the action. For instance, you ask your son to pick up the house-supplies but his response is, “But you just told me that I should study and not waste time doing other things.” After you go out and buy the provisions, you return only to find your son playing video games.
4. Faking concern or ignorance
Have you ever told someone to not do something or not bring up a certain topic publicly with you and they do just that? Well, occasionally this might be a genuine memory lapse, but if it happens often enough, it is high time you realise that you are being hoodwinked.
And if you confront these people at a later time, true to their nature they will be evasive in their dealings—“There is no point discussing this now because I hardly remember anything of what I said on that day.” They may also fake empathy for your problem but it is only to use it to manipulate you further. Watch out for statements like, “With everything you have to deal with, you are too confused to think straight. Let me decide for you.”
Another trait of manipulators you might notice is that they depict a different side of themselves to different people, depending on the situation.
people tolerate manipulators because they fear the outcome. But if you want to stop getting exploited, you have to stand up for yourself
Dealing with a manipulator
If the person manipulating you is a colleague or someone who is not close to you, the easiest way out is to avoid talking to them as much as possible, set boundaries or even cut ties.
But being aware of who is manipulating you and how is not enough. If you are not able to take productive action, you will end up feeling even more helpless than before. You have to work on yourself and not allow anyone to take you for granted. By now you know that manipulators thrive on the weaknesses of their victims—they have discovered your weak spots and enjoy pushing your buttons.
If the person manipulating you is a loved one, you may feel guilty for not satisfying their wish. If you doubt a person’s intentions, openly ask exploratory questions and see how genuine their answers appear to you. If you find evasive explanations, accusations or counter arguments, you have to prepare yourself to tackle them effectively without shame or guilt. Many people tolerate manipulators because they fear the outcome. But if you want to stop getting exploited, you have to be prepared to face the consequences of standing up for yourself. It may make you insecure initially, but in the long run it will greatly boost your self-respect.
Once you learn to spot who is manipulating you and how, prepare in advance what you will say to them the next time they try to corner you. You may even need to mentally rehearse arguments to counter their reactions, so do that!
Asserting yourself fearlessly takes work and only you can do that for yourself. You have to learn to say “No” assertively and tactfully. But at times you might have to say it brutally too.
Finally, listen to yourself. When you listen to your gut, spotting and dealing with manipulators will become easy.