Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it’s the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.
This week after having a way over the top reaction to manipulation, I kept this question in front of me:
“Why does manipulation make you so angry?”
Knowing that anger generally masks a primary emotion I examined myself. This morning as I was going through my chores doing the laundry and I realized that manipulation feeds on an unresolved need or desire. It is predator characteristic and it preys on the ones who are non-confrontational, or people pleasers. The moment I see it I get out of its way because I know its damage first hand.
Do we recognize it?
When manipulation knocks on your door do you see it, smell it, hear it? Or do you cower to it? No one can manipulate you without your consent. So how does manipulation work? Have you ever had someone come and say these things to you?
“I’ll just go away. Obviously, I’m too much of a bother. I have done a lot for you but you have your own life now, and you’ll never have to hear from me again!”
These people get the academy award for emotional manipulation because they are a master of their craft. You have to either confirm their statement or backtrack. When push comes to shove most people backtrack.
“No matter how much I try to get ahead, something always knocks me down and I know people are tired of helping me, but they don’t understand that life has been hard since (and you can fill in the blank of what tragedy has fallen upon them)”
Be it a death of loved one, an unfulfilled marriage, a loss of job, or whatever else they deem the stopping point of their life, it is now somehow on you to fix it. Social media makes this manipulation tactic extremely helpful as they will post their latest dilemma and then a shout out to their loss.
“I know I said that, did that, but you don’t know what was said to me, and I don’t want to burden you with it. Never mind, I’ll take the fall for what you consider bad behavior. I always do.”
Victim thinking and the hint of a bigger picture can keep us in manipulation’s hand.
“You’re not going to help me? Don’t you go to church? Do you think that’s the way a Christian should behave? Aren’t you being judgmental?”
This is one I have heard a lot. As if a spiritual walks makes it necessary to give up your common sense.
“I know this puts you in a bad position but I think if you do this God will honor you for it.”
Do you hear this person? They are actually telling you they are putting you in harm’s way and hoping God intervenes on your behalf.
“My tribe always shows up when I need them. We always have each others back and we love deep.”
Basically, if you want to be one of us you have to conform to how we do things. We move together and if you have an opposing view or decide not to follow then you’re out of the tribe.
“You’re tired? I’m exhausted. You have no idea what I go through.”
This either puts you in defense mode or makes you feel petty for having an emotion. This too is emotional manipulation.
“<sigh> I have been putting so many hours into helping you. I don’t understand why we have to do all of this. <groan> I wish I would have known what I was getting myself into. <ha!> I am not complaining, of course I want to help you silly, don’t be so sensitive!”
This person is the martyr. They work so hard and so tirelessly and you don’t acknowledge what they do for you. Then they make you feel like you’re insane for asking if they don’t want to do it.
So why does it make me angry? I realized this week that when I question the insanity of a manipulative person out loud that I feel shame. I should be a kind, compassionate, a willing to help person. Instead I feel hurt, resentful, and frustrated at what they are doing to others. These aren’t emotions that are becoming to anyone, and I don’t like to see these emotions in myself.
What can I do to get healthy in this arena? I can be mindful of the true needs of others in my life. I can ask myself if the person is truly experiencing a need or are they merely trying to make their problem my problem? Will this be a one-time help or is this a pattern of ongoing mismanagement of life? Are they making others responsible for their poor lifestyle choices and if so is it any of my business and I would have to say no. I want to shout, “You’re being manipulated!”, but what does that solve?
Today I realized my anger came from my assumption that if I don’t speak out then I’m an awful person. When I sat down and truly examined my feelings, I realized wisdom and discernment and saying no is not bad. I am mindful of what I help with and I am not one to nurse dysfunction and I think that is a good trait.
What about you? Do you fall for manipulation or do you recognize it? When you know you are being manipulated do you get resentful or do you just say yes to keep the peace and continue to keep the feeling of being adored? What are you going to do to get healthy?