How do you resist manipulation?

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 is not an easy rebuke 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. 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 how the “recipient” must 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 a selfless 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 drove your mother to!”).

A merchant of false hopes. He promises you large benefits in exchange for help, support (“If you enter into a share with me, you will get 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 only need to mention their helplessness, so that others satisfy their every whim.

Do not play me! How to resist manipulation

It’s not nice to admit it, but our whole life is riddled with manipulation. Consciously or unknowingly, we use this technique of influence almost daily. And, of course, we ourselves become its victims: we are manipulated by friends, children, spouses and parents, service providers and customers, subordinates and superiors. Even our beloved pets force us to act according to their wishes. How not to turn into a blind executor of another’s will? This article is about that.

⏱ Time to read – 6 minutes

Before we can talk

We learn to manipulate at an early age, testing the boundaries of our parents’ (and later teachers’) patience and testing the tolerance of those around us. Those manipulations that work and give us results become our favorite – we begin to use them unconsciously and on a regular basis.

Society would benefit if you were exposed to manipulations, to make you feel less confident and doubt yourself more, because manipulations work best with such people,” business-trainer, specialist on HR management Anna Samoilenko says. – Agree that it is difficult to manipulate a person who knows what he wants, lives according to their own rules and beliefs, and still enjoy life in parallel.

As adults we don’t abandon this habit of trying to manipulate “seniors,” we just transfer it to other ground. Have you ever noticed that employees, sometimes unconsciously, test a new manager for stress tolerance, loyalty limit, flexibility? So they feel for themselves the limits of permissible behavior.

How do you recognize manipulation?

Manipulation is a hidden psychological technique, and it is very difficult to recognize it. Especially today, when we, receiving every minute a huge stream of information through the Internet, radio and television, and just walking down the street, simply forgot to treat it critically.

To detect manipulation, it is important to listen carefully to ourselves. Manipulation, unlike arguments, targets our emotions. So if in the course of a conversation you feel that your inner state changes drastically, it is likely that you have been manipulated. For example, a colleague tells you: “I have to pick up my child from kindergarten early today – please finish my report. You are not supposed to do this and absolutely did not intend to, but suddenly for some reason you say, “Yes, of course” – and adjust your own plans to your detriment. Is there an objective reason for this action? No. Only emotions. That’s how manipulation works.

To avoid becoming a pawn in someone else’s game, try following this algorithm for dealing with manipulation.

Listening is very important, because there is a risk of mistaking for manipulation even something that is not manipulation. This is especially true for managers who have recently received training in handling manipulation or are simply unsure of themselves. “They tend to see manipulation everywhere and everywhere, even though your colleague or subordinate has never thought of manipulating you and really needs your help or advice,” says Anna Samoilenko.

Analyze your condition and make sure that your feelings and desires have not changed dramatically during the conversation with your subordinate. For example, a subordinate asks you for a leave of absence. He can do this in various ways. Say, calmly put a logical argument as to why a vacation on these dates he really needs. Or resort to blackmail: “If you do not let me go, I will die! Or quit!” The purpose of the message is the same, but the ways to achieve it are completely different: The second way is directly aimed at your emotions.

If you have detected that the interlocutor is trying to change your inner state, take time out. Under any pretext. Tell him, and along with himself, “I do not have time to discuss it now, but we will definitely get back to this issue. Variants to find an excuse for a pause a lot: you suddenly have an urgent matter or someone calls you right this minute. If you do not want to resort to such a forced lie, tell him that you heard him and understand the problem, but you need time to think about how to arrange things better for all – this is as close to the truth.

Just don’t go back to discussing the problem raised under the mask of manipulation. Indifference is a tough but effective measure.

“Think back to what was the worst punishment for you as a child? When your parents or friends punished you with silence,” says HR specialist Gennady Samoilenko . – Boycotted. No one can withstand this for a long time. So zero attention, or indifference, has a very negative effect on employees. It demotivates. Makes you feel uncomfortable and makes you feel guilty.

However, remember that, taking as a rule to respond to you uncomfortable requests from employees or colleagues indifference, to build a trusting and productive relationship in the team will not work. Do not forget that people often manipulate unconsciously. You need to show that the person himself is important to you and your indifference is not directed at him personally, but his manipulation.

Arm yourself with a joke.

Not obvious, but a fact: Nothing kills manipulation as effectively as a good joke, an anecdote told on the subject, or a show of self-irony.

“I was once amused by a situation where the director of a well-known restaurant, a grown-up and serious person, was discussing the issue of an unscheduled vacation with one of his employees,” cites the example of business coach, HR specialist Anna Samoilenko. – The employee could not explain to the director why he should be granted leave again, and so he began to manipulate. He played the “poor sheep” and the “victim” with talent. The director watched, nodding sympathetically. And then he summarized, “I haven’t heard one good reason why I should let you go on leave outside the schedule. Therefore, no.” As a rule, manipulators don’t rest on this, but continue to test their mettle. And so it was in this case. And what do you think our restaurateur did? He said: “If my first word isn’t enough for you, I have five reasons not to let you go on vacation.” And then with a completely serious expression on his face he sang the refrain from Igor Nikolaev’s song “Five Reasons.”

When Anna later discussed this case with the director of the restaurant, he admitted that resorted to this technique with a song he has quite often. And sometimes to the same person, because the manipulators rarely calm down after the first or second “no.

Advice to managers: make decisions without emotion

The main purpose of the algorithm described above is to avoid making the wrong decision on the emotions that the manipulator evokes. And it all seems elementary: you just need to take your time and listen to yourself. But why is the subject of manipulation so popular? And why do many executives fall for them as bait?

“Manipulators influence to a greater extent on insecure people, dependent on external assessment, on the opinion of others,” says psychologist, coach, business coach Olga Grigorieva. – Another convenient target for manipulators are managers who are afraid to make decisions and take responsibility for them. Managers who are not competent enough and therefore unstable are also at risk.

Analyze your relationships with your subordinates and colleagues. If you often become a victim of their manipulations, it is worth reflecting – it seems that you have the problems mentioned in the previous paragraph. And it may be worth starting to work on fixing them.

Declaration of Individual Rights

Develop resilience to manipulation can help you develop 10 rules of psychologist Everett Shostrom. He set them out in his work “The Manipulator Man” and called nothing less than “Declaration of the Rights of Persons.

  1. I have the right to evaluate my own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to be responsible for their consequences.
  2. I have the right not to apologize.
  3. I have the right to consider for myself whether I want to be responsible for solving other people’s personal problems.
  4. I have the right to change my mind.
  5. I have the right to be wrong and to take responsibility for my mistakes.
  6. I have the right to say, “I don’t know.
  7. I have the right to be independent of goodwill and good treatment of me.
  8. I have the right to make illogical decisions.
  9. I have the right to say, “I don’t understand you.”
  10. I have the right to say, ‘I’m not interested.

“Manipulation is primarily dangerous because in their ‘networks’ we stop doing our will and start doing someone else’s,” sums up Anna Samoilenko . – Let your manipulator-subordinate wring his hands, threatening, offended, playing the helpless victim. Remember that you – it’s always you. And you do not have to meet anyone’s expectations.

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