I contend that we all manipulate others in some fashion or another. That’s not good news to most of us because we all have a bad association with that word, don’t we? To be fair, most of us don’t even realize we are doing it!!
Manipulation is sort of an ‘under the radar’ method of trying to control someone else. I can prevent someone from having negative emotions by not telling them some bad news. Or I can control when they have the negative emotions by telling them later. Do you see the manipulation? I have decided for them what and when they need to know something. And why would I do that? We often justify that it is for the other person’s good, but in reality, usually it is for ourselves. In this case, for example, let’s say it was because I was not ready to deal with the other person’s negative emotions!
Some blatant manipulations are lies and shaming. Lies work fabulously to keep another person from feeling something (or at least delay it). Using guilt/shame to get people to do something you want, is another common manipulation.
But what about some more subtle efforts to control what others feel? Leaving something laying out so people will notice it. Bringing cookies to the office so coworkers will like you. Dressing a certain way so that people will see you as professional. Buying everyone’s dinner so they will think you are a good person. Telling a third party your side of the story first to sway them in your direction (triangling). Stomping out of the room to get your partner to hear you. Crying so that someone will feel sorry for you. Telling people about your excessive charity work to make yourself look good. “Giving in” to stop the fight, then expecting the other person to recognize and appreciate it. I could go on, and on, and on.
One of the manipulations I have been guilty of is working hard to get people to see me as good or to love me. I wasn’t aware that I was doing it, but looking back, it is obvious. I learned in my childhood that when I worked super hard, I felt more loved by my parents. I carried that belief around and applied it to every situation in my life. As I got older, however, it got harder and harder to get the desired result. I was tired and I’ll admit, pretty angry that I had to work so hard to be loved! My manipulations gave me short term results, but ultimately didn’t serve me well.
To know if what you are doing is manipulation or genuine, ask yourself, “WHY am I doing what I am doing right now?” and “What do I hope to get out of it?” If we look at our deepest level motivations for everything that we are doing and we are honest with ourselves, we are often trying to achieve something for our own personal gain. It doesn’t mean it is malicious or that we are bad people, it is simple human nature to be self-focused, but the good news is, once we see it, we can stop and look for healthier alternatives!