This topic has come up throughout so many sessions in the last week or so that I felt the universe was telling me to write a blog on it. I realized, too, that a lot of people don’t know that they’re being manipulated and when I point it out to them they’re quite surprised. Manipulation comes in many different forms, which I’m about to lay out for you AND let you know what you can do when it happens.
1. THE CLASSIC “SHUT DOWN”: This happens a lot in relationships. When the discussion takes a dangerous turn or gets too difficult for someone, they use this technique to shut down the conversation. They may do it by beginning to cry, or simply stating “I can’t talk about this anymore” and then leaving the home or locking themselves in the bathroom.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT? Understand that someone using this technique does so as a defense mechanism. They have been taught (by themselves, or others – possibly even you!) that when a topic becomes too difficult, they can avoid, deny, and delay. Don’t back down if it’s something that needs to be discussed. Gently explain to the person that you understand why they don’t want to continue the conversation but that it’s necessary and is best done sooner, rather than later.
2. THE GUILT TRIP: Everyone has that person in their family – a mom, a grandmother, etc. – who always feels like your time at their home is never long enough. They might say things like: “You just can’t wait to get out of here, can you?” Nothing you do is ever enough and you might find that you constantly have to convince the person how much you love them because they feel so deserted and abandoned every time you leave. There are many variations to the guilt trip, this is merely one example.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT? Don’t give in to the guilt. Some statements don’t dignify a response. Give it one and you might find yourself in an argument with the person, so there’s no use in engaging in that conversation. You might say, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, while you give them a hug and kiss, then make your exit.
3. CO-DEPENDENCY: This one’s a doozy! Again, this typically happens with people in relationships, though I’ve also seen this between parents and grown children. When we get to a point where we feel like we “can’t” do something without that other person, you are in dangerous territory. Sure, partners do nice things for each other and take advantage of the fact that one is better at fixing things around the house while the other might be better with balancing the budget. But when you feel like you could never manage the budget or pay the bills on time on your own, you might have entered into a co-dependency. This other person may do whatever s/he can to keep you in that situation and perpetuate your belief that you can’t manage such tasks without him/her. This is a severe form of manipulation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT? Become more independent. If your partner or parent adds to the perpetuation that you will never be able to fix your car yourself, you might try to take an auto mechanics class or watch some You Tube videos or listen to Click and Clack on NPR podcasts. Remember that where there’s a will there’s a way, and you can do anything you set your mind to. It’s OK to depend on others, but not to be dependent on others. Ask yourself which is your situation and, if it’s the latter, get to work right away to remedy it.
These are the 3 big ones that come to mind, though there are many, many others. Just remember that if you find yourself doing things you didn’t want to do, if you have trouble telling someone “no”, or find that you feel unnecessary obligations to people, you might very well be being manipulated. We train others how to treat us! Be assertive, stand up for yourself, and stand your ground. If someone is being particularly unreasonable, try not to let it upset you, disengage in the conversation, and go on with your life.
If you find this happens all too often, you may want to evaluate what your place is in it and consider why you are so easily manipulated. And another thing to consider is that if you have someone in your life who does this and talking to them about it doesn’t change things, you may consider giving that person a break from your life – temporary or permanent, depending on the situation.
Hope this helps! Have a great day!