A Guide to Recognizing and Escaping Manipulation in Your Life
Professor Len Bowers defines manipulation as the process by which someone deceives, coerces, tricks, or instills fear in others to obtain what they desire.
As manipulators only think about themselves and don’t consider the needs of others, they differ from positive social influence. Fair influence does not involve using someone just for personal gain. Instead, you acknowledge their needs and feelings while persuading them to agree with your viewpoint.
Why do they manipulate?
People can be manipulative due to their pain, inexperience, or wounds. Instead of freely relating, they frequently react nervously. They don’t have the interpersonal abilities required for constructive relationships.
They either never acquired these qualities—self-awareness, humility, empathy, and a willingness to accept accountability for one’s actions—or they have rejected them. The only way they know how to interact with people is through manipulation.
Naturally, that is not a comprehensive list. Furthermore, it’s not always simple to tell when someone is attempting to control or manipulate you; the more cunning a manipulator is, the more difficult it is to predict their ultimate goal.
Nonetheless, it’s critical to have a general understanding of what to look for because manipulation can be so damaging.
What are some ways of being manipulated?
Keeping the individual in the dark
This kind of manipulation involves psychologically coercing the victim into altering their behavior to further the manipulator’s goals. In other situations, the ultimate objective is to satisfy the manipulator’s desires for dominance and power.
Managing the social and physical surroundings of the individual
Mind-control manipulators give their victims plenty of structure, guidelines, and tasks to ensure that they stay focused and live on that very track and by those very rules.
Making them feel as helpless as possible
The victim’s perception of reality becomes unstable as their sense of helplessness grows, leading to a decline in their ability to make sound decisions and comprehend the world.
To obtain what they want in the future, manipulators may “condition” someone into forming a relationship with them through intimacy, flattery, or sympathy.
Abuse of authority
They might try to weaken the standing of the people they wish to control by utilizing hierarchies or power structures.
Guilt and Shaming
Tricksters may attempt to “guilt-trip” victims into complying with their wishes. Guilt-inducing behaviors can be overt, like saying things to make other people feel horrible, or passive, like using body language or vocal tones.
How do I avoid being manipulated?
Be mindful and receptive. Is this person trying to take control of my decision and force me to behave in a certain way? Remember that exhortation—strong encouragement—and manipulation are two different things.
When someone sincerely speaks the truth to you for your benefit and then gives you the freedom to make your own decisions, that person is exhorting you. Even if they disagree, they accept and respect your final decision.
Establish and uphold sensible boundaries. Give up following the manipulator’s instructions. Boundaries prevent harm to you and have consequences for those who attempt to cross them. The stronger the boundary, the more destructive the manipulation must be.
Until their unhealthy manipulative behaviors stop, you may need to put yourself and the other person at a greater physical or relational distance, or even cease all communication.
You might combat them by recognizing the areas of vulnerability in yourself that they could exploit and by recognizing manipulative tendencies. Be firm and establish personal boundaries so you are aware of what you will and will not put up with when someone is controlling you.
If you must confront manipulators, be clear about how their actions undermine you and point out the bad behaviors you have seen. Additionally, ensure they receive the assistance they require to change and hold them accountable.