Do you feel manipulated when…
you have a legitimate issue and the other person slides out of it? Or puts you down, sometimes claiming that he is only joking? Do you feel that you have to be careful of what you say sometimes, because the other person begins to look angry, and you feel it is like walking on eggshells around him or her?
Is there someone you feel repressed by, and every time you try to talk about something it ends up in an argument?
Common Manipulative Ploys
There are some ways that people manipulate others that are easy to recognise, with a bit of help. When you are being manipulated yourself, you may feel so tied up in frustration and emotional reaction that you can’t see what the basic ploy is, and you just fight… and so the manipulation has worked. You might feel enraged, or you might feel depressed, as though things just don’t work for you, when in fact, you have become entrapped in someone else’s game. To unsnare yourself, you have to become aware of what the mechanism is.
Here are just a few of the major and most common ploys:
- Sarcastic humour or irony
- Put downs
- The Silent Treatment
- Personal attack
- Blaming You
- Delaying tactics
Have you experienced any of these? You have a legitimate concern about how the other’s behaviour is affecting you, and he is sarcastic. It means you cannot come back with your issue. He puts you down, so that you actually feel small and useless and unable to challenge him. She denies that it ever happened, and follows that up with further derogatory remarks intended to make you feel foolish or doubt your own perceptions. He actually attacks you, saying that you are the one who is causing all the trouble. A nice variant of this is where the other person makes a pre-emptive move, blaming you for whatever has happened, and you are on the backfoot sounding as though you are trying to get out of something. Or she says, “not now, let’s talk about it later…” but later never comes, and you are left swinging in the breeze waiting for the never never. The point of all manipulative behaviour is that it is the manipulator’s way of being in control, anavoiding the give and take of real relationship. Possibly they are protecting a feeling of weakness, relating back to childhood and the childish methods they found for dealing with was beyond their control with adults who were manipulative themselves. Whatever the source of their manipulative behaviour, your responsibility is to recognise what is happening without judgment but with skill.
There are more ploys, too, that you can learn to recognise. Sometimes the manipulation is quite subtle, even apparently playful. When you can see what the process is, you can do something about it. When you are simply reacting, you do not see how you have been manoeuvred. When you do see, you stop reacting and do something much more sensible.
Doing something about it – some ways of handling manipulations
You can learn quite quickly to practice some tools for circumventing manipulative behaviour and feeling grounded and stable, even in the face of the other’s manipulative tendencies. For instance, learning the art of the “meta-conversation” ( eg: I feel belittled by your comments and then I feel silly asking for what I want). You can learn to put another process in place. And there are several, very effective methods, that anyone can learn. A tip: Never Argue !! That is not so easy, is it? But arguing plays directly into the other’s game.
The Empowerment Pause – respond with silence for a moment or two
Into the Lion’s Den – enquire about what the other person sees as the issue ,without having to engage with it. “Ah, that is how you see it”.
Turning off the fuse – validate the other’s emotional state (but not their behaviour)
The Strong and Subtle – Agreement in principle – agree to things that are true in general and to things which are true about yourself (but not to all their projections on you)
Meta-conversation – describe what’s going on in the conversation. (You’ll drive ‘em nuts, but it will shift them out of their game plan)
Non-argumentative – just state your position. Restate it again and again if need be, with no elaboration. Just one simple assertion.
Self-Enquiry – Knowing your own state
While getting your kit of new tools together, a deeper understanding comes from seeing your own mental and emotional patterns. Looking into your own rage, for instance, would show you a lot about why you have accepted the game in the first place. And then, there are two ways of going about self-investigation.
Quick or deep self enquiry
One form of self-investigation is simply to work out what it is that you are objecting to. Stop telling yourself it is because of the other person. Even if you can see what the manipulation is, the real point is to discover why it presses your buttons. If you were watching the same interactions on a TV sitcom, you would probably enjoy it.
The other is a deeper method of investigating your own processes, to find out how your personality strategises its life-plan. This is very deep work, and may be confronting from time to time. Are you manipulative yourself? This is also the deepest spiritual work – eventually finding out what your ego actually consists of. It is the way to enduring peace. And it is best accompanied by a solid practice of still-mind meditation.