How do we stop ourselves from being manipulated?

Do not become a puppet: how not to succumb to manipulation.

There is hardly a person who has not faced in his life with manipulation by people he knows and strangers. And often we can not avoid dealing with manipulators – we have to learn or work with them, or even live under the same roof. And worst of all, as a rule, manipulation causes emotional discomfort: it sows anxiety, leads to despair, and provokes depression. “Rost.media” spoke with psychologist Anna Portnova from Novosibirsk about how to recognize manipulation and not fall for the tricks of the manipulator, and learned that there are “benign” manipulation.

What is manipulation?

Manipulation is one person’s attitude toward another person not as a value, but as a means to their own ends (the manipulator usually puts his desires and needs above the feelings of others). Manipulators’ goals can be both personal and societal. The first goal falls into the category of being promoted at work, buying discounted groceries at the market, or wanting to eat a bag of candy. The second purpose refers to public outreach, advertising, and sales.

You may be surprised, but anyone can be a manipulator. Even unknowingly. Children are usually unconscious manipulators-they cry when they don’t get what they want, they take pity and force the parent to buy something and do so-and-so.

There are different ways to manipulate people, but many psychologists identify three main ones.

“Positive reinforcement”-excessive attention, pampering, praise, and gifts. The victim is put in a situation where she feels she owes the manipulator for gifts, pretty words, and attention. This makes it difficult to end the manipulation. “These flowers are for you. You look so pretty today. I hope you won’t turn me down for a date?” – sounds like simple manners and gallantry to a woman, and it probably is. But if you consider a situation where a girl has already turned a man down, but he won’t settle down in any way, it could be considered manipulation. In this case, it is not so much the girl herself and her company that matters to the man, but the fact that she agreed and the date took place.

“Negatively reinforced actions” – threatening and playing the silent game, imposing guilt, recriminations, frightening behavior. “If you don’t give me back everything I gave you, we’ll talk to you differently!” – The pressure on the victim puts her in a hopeless position, the feeling of fear drives her to a standstill and forces her to participate in the manipulation. “Look what you’ve done to me, I was doing fine before you. You broke my life!” – The manipulator imposes guilt on the victim, blames his failures on a loved one, absolving himself of all responsibility.

“Neutral actions” are silencing, denying the obvious, distracting from the heart of the matter. Manipulation succeeds as soon as the victim loses his vigilance, which is exactly what the manipulator seeks. “I’ll solve this issue later, it’s such beautiful weather today, maybe we can go for a walk?”

But we should not divide the world into white and black, and people into manipulators and manipulated. Everyone has been on both sides at least once in their lives. The main thing is to understand why it happens.

Why are we manipulators and manipulated?

We are manipulators because we don’t know how to achieve our goals on our own, relying only on our own experience and abilities. And we are manipulated because we can’t say “no” in time, we’re not sure of ourselves, we don’t know exactly what we want. If there is a master, there will be a slave, and vice versa.

It is worth noting that not all manipulation is malignant. There are two complementary principles: “I win, you win,” and “I win, you lose.

“I win, you win.” Give a chocolate bar to sit by the window on the plane when you fly home. Smile and be polite to the waiter to make your order a priority. Sprinkle compliments on the street shop clerk to get a discount. These manipulations are harmless to both parties. They may be disingenuous, the compliments exaggerated, the smile strained, but no one bears the loss after them.

“I won, you lost.” This principle is very similar to “negatively reinforced action.” Its essence is that one person is always in the black, always doing well, while the other person bears moral and material losses, is always wrong and misunderstands everything. These manipulations are dangerous because to get something means to destroy it.

The habits of a manipulator: how to recognize him

There are signs of manipulation that can be recognized in advance. These are the things that give away the person who is preparing to manipulate.

Inner feelings. The person does not understand what it is, but feels that something is wrong.

Strange behavior. The previously familiar person becomes overly polite and cautious and behaves in a slightly unusual way: not using direct dialogue, but withdrawing into lengthy reflections aloud, moving further away from the essence. You get the impression of losing the thread of the conversation, you don’t know where you’ve started, and the essence is reduced to the manipulator’s judgment.

Targeted manipulation is psychological violence; it is dishonest, unethical, and violent behavior by one person toward another. It can lead to psychological trauma, anxiety, and other psychological problems that only professionals can help solve. Psychological abuse can be used by women and men against each other and their children. There are several types of psychological abuse.

Impairment. Contributions to the family are devalued (“you do not earn enough”), appearance (“you are not beautiful”), the partner’s personality (“you are standing still, you are not developing”). The person is constantly pointed out his/her shortcomings, ridiculed and humiliated.

Controlling. Most often, children are subjected to such control. Parents control the time spent on social networks, the content the child receives, finances and even hobbies. If the child disobeys, they punish him or her, tighten prohibitions and control him or her. It turns out that children don’t trust their parents, they lack love and affection, but they are afraid of aggression and punishment from adults.

Gaslighting. One forces the other to believe in the unreality of what happened – “You imagined it,” “You just don’t understand,” “It didn’t happen. Denial of events and emotions; the victim starts to feel that he/she is going crazy.

Isolation. The partner forces the victim to deny all communication with people other than one person, the partner. In this way, he closes off all communication to himself. The victim is deprived of support and becomes completely dependent on him.

Psychological abuse differs from manipulation in that it has far more severe consequences. The victim is under a great deal of stress and loses all confidence in people.

Coping Techniques

So how do you prevent yourself from being manipulated? The most important thing is not to enter into explanations and not to explain the behavior of the manipulator to himself, because it is a dialogue in the language of the manipulator, he will win in it.

As a preventive measure, you have to be more careful. If an unfamiliar or unexpected situation arises, do not make quick decisions. It is better to take a break to think. It is important to differentiate well your feelings, your senses, and to monitor unfamiliar thoughts. And be sure to master fighting techniques – this is a great way to always stay on your side.

“I’m a statement.” Speak directly and about yourself, your feelings, sensations and thoughts. For example, “I’m losing the thread of the conversation, so I’m getting uncomfortable continuing it, and I’ll pause” , “I understand your idea, I accept your thoughts, but I have nothing to say right now”. , “I don’t want to continue, I can’t accept these gifts.” If a person uses this technique, the manipulator will not be able to continue his game.

“Bore the questions.” Don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you have. Through this, you can break down all of the manipulator’s plans for you. You are told, “I don’t think you’re right for my son” . What can you say to that? But then there are a million questions from the banal “Why do you think so?” to “What do you think I need to change in myself to be better and fit for your son? “. After that, the manipulator will realize that you are falling for his manipulation and will not try again.

“I am such a person(s).” To avoid becoming a victim in response to all of the manipulator’s claims about your appearance or inner world, the person responds: “Yes, I am, and I like myself. I’m okay with my behavior. This technique is an opportunity to end the manipulation.

“Unanswered Response.” With this technique, the victim responds in a monotone way, such as, “That’s interesting,” “I’ll think about it. , “I’ll think about it,” , “Thank you, I’ll listen to what you have to say.” The manipulator, after the fifth “Aha,” becomes uninterested in continuing the game.

“The question is a head-on one.” If a person is strong in such conversational techniques and feels his ability to bring the manipulator out in the open and not get caught in his “net,” then it is necessary to ask the manipulator a direct question: “What are you trying to do?” , “Why are you manipulating me?” , “Do you want to make me feel guilty?” .

If you have trouble putting these techniques into practice, don’t feel bad. The safest way to deal with the manipulator is simply to leave. It is worth ending those relationships where you are always guilty, always wrong, stupid and blind, according to your partner or friend.

In order not to depend on anyone and not to force anyone to depend on you, it is necessary to be well aware of yourself, to be able to differentiate your thoughts, feelings and needs. It is very important to treat the other with interest and respect, to see the person as a value and not as a means to your own ends. This can be very difficult for some people, because to refuse manipulation means that you have to take responsibility for your own life.

All of us can at times in an easy way suppress pity, praise a person or withhold something. The main thing is that in these situations, the principle of “I win, you win.

What to read?

Psychologist Anna Portnova also recommends reading books that will help you better understand the manipulation to which people resort.

Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The book is about relationships between people. It contains many simple and useful theories and practices, the use of which will make your relationships with other people more successful.

Sigmund Freud’s Psychology of the Masses and the Analysis of the Human Self

If you are interested in psychology and have an idea of what a person is and their relationship to society, then reading this work will be very helpful to you. You will be able to understand the psychology of the masses and yourself.

Stephen Hassen, “Confronting Cults and Mind Control”

This work is about the mechanisms of mind control, religious associations, mystical societies and their real challenges.

“Growth.media” published articles that can help you not only to stop giving in to manipulation, but also to become independent of others’ opinions and learn to build personal boundaries.

Emotional blackmail: how not to let yourself be manipulated

We succumb to the tricks of manipulators to the detriment of themselves and their interests. How do we learn to resist emotional blackmail?

When we meet with such people, it’s as if we lose our willpower … And then blame ourselves for the weakness. Manipulators get what they want, because we are forced to follow our emotions, not reason. But we can learn to recognize manipulation in communication and learn psychological defense mechanisms against it.

“Don’t you want to spend this weekend together? Have you grown cold to me?” This rebuke is not easy to answer. Instead of calmly explaining the reason for our decision (important work stuff, just a desire to be alone), we start hotly proving to our other half how much we love her. This means that the manipulation is a success.

Once trapped by the manipulator, we lose the ability to respond appropriately. Everyone has the desire to use others for their own purposes from time to time. More often than not, we do it unconsciously. Why? If we feel that we are unable to influence the situation in a “legal” way, cannot accept the behavior of others, or simply want attention to ourselves. The ideal ways to do this are to make the other person feel guilty for our troubles, to make them feel like they owe us, or simply to let them know how bad, ugly they are doing.

The eternal victim

Let us imagine the situation: you are planning a wedding. A modest, without pompous ceremonies and celebrations. But your mother is not happy. How can you deprive your relatives holiday, the opportunity to congratulate you. Especially since it’s been a long time since you all got together. “Family is sacred.” This is a classic case of manipulation. Here is an implicit threat: “If you don’t come, you’ll disappoint everyone. Mom gets into a “victim” position to make others behave the way she wants them to behave.

Fake gift.

In this case, the manipulator takes advantage of the principle of reciprocity. “When he gives a gift (provides a service), he tries in every way to let the recipient know that he or she is now indebted to him or her. The implicit message is: I gave you this, so you owe me something in return. The problem is that the “giver” reserves the right to choose when and with what the “recipient” has to pay him back, “explains psychologist Isabel Nazare-Aga.

For example, having noticed a colleague’s mistake, the manipulator does not inform the management about it. But in a private conversation, he tries to hint that he saved him from serious trouble: “Can you imagine what would happen if the general knew about it?” Later it turns out that the “savior” did not act out of an unselfish desire to help…

Types of manipulators according to Susan Forward:

Executioner. He threatens you with trouble (“If you leave me, you won’t see your children again”).

Voluntary Sacrifice. He promises to hurt himself if you refuse to do what he wants (“If you leave me, I’ll kill myself”).

Martyr. He tries to make you responsible for his suffering (“Look what you’ve brought your mother to!”).

A peddler of false hope. He promises you large benefits in exchange for help, support (“If you enter into a share with me, you’ll make a huge profit.”).

Imaginary Values

Why is it so difficult for those who are emotionally blackmailed to react soberly and intelligently? “Because the manipulator plays on the stable beliefs that society and family dictate to us in order to evoke in the victim a sense of moral deficiency,” writes Isabel Nazare-Aga. Typical examples of such beliefs are: children owe their parents (because those gave them life, took care of them, spent time, money, effort on them); friends are known (only) in trouble; modesty embellishes a person (so there is no need to ask for a raise and promotion)…

“The guilt the manipulator instills in the victim compromises her positive self-esteem,” writes psychotherapist Susan Forward. – Neglect, selfishness, injustice, betrayal – all these are sensitive points to which we react particularly acutely. Often just a hint is enough. This trick is used by the sick, who need only mention their helplessness, so that others satisfy their every whim.

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