Manipulation is a behavior tactic used to coerce someone into behaving a certain way. This could be passive aggressive behavior, or emotional manipulation. Manipulation can happen in familial bonds, relationships, partnerships, friendships, or any other situation where someone can potentially be “tricked” into behaving a certain way. Manipulation can also look like not directly asking for what you want, but instead using sneaky tactics to trick someone into doing something you want them to.
It is important to mention, manipulation is a human defense mechanism. The major difference between healthy communication and manipulation is that in healthy communication you are not fearful to come out and say what it is you desire. With manipulation it is as if someone is trying to finesse someone into doing what they want, instead of being straight forward. Manipulation can point to unresolved traumas, and can also be the result of not being able to be accountable for your own feelings. When you are accountable for your feelings you handle them in a mature way as opposed to a manipulative way.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE BEING MANIPULATED
Do you question yourself more than usual? Are you feeling pressured or controlled in any of the circumstances in your life? Do you feel threatened, fearful, obligated, or guilty? Manipulation could also feel like being coerced or guilted into doing something you do not want to do. If you answered “yes” or had a visceral response to any of these questions, you may be dealing with manipulation.
A major sign of manipulation is questioning yourself more than usual. The urge to help your manipulator may arise, and you may feel as if helping your manipulator would in some way dampen your unnecessary guilt, or anxieties. What makes being manipulated a potentially complex issue is that someone being manipulated could begin to perceive their manipulator as their responsibility.
Gaslighting can be a tell-tale sign of manipulation. Being gaslit looks like feeling guilty as a result of someone else’s manipulation. Gaslighting can even be as simple as someone hijacking a conversation and making it about them. Conclusively, gaslighting gets people questioning themselves, or their reality when their feelings and experiences are in fact, valid.
Manipulators blame as opposed to being accountable. As a victim of manipulation you may start to feel depressed or anxious, you may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, you may be people pleasing, you might begin to lie about your feelings, put your needs second to other’s, or find it difficult to trust others.
ARE YOU BEING MANIPULATIVE?
Manipulators are usually boundary-less or have enmeshed boundaries. Reflecting on your boundaries and getting to know and understand boundaries is a great way to begin addressing manipulative behavior.
Answering “yes” to the following questions will ideally signal you to reflect on your own behavior, and boundaries. Do you go to great lengths to get your way? Are you okay not getting your way? Someone manipulative will do anything to get what they want. No is a complete sentence and as much as you have the right to say no, so do others. Manipulative behavior is expressed by maneuvering the situation to benefit yourself, even if it is at the expense of another person.
How are your communication skills? Do you voice what you need, or do you have a challenging time voicing your needs? Voicing your needs can feel vulnerable and when there is reluctance to openly express your needs manipulation can arise.
Hiding the truth is another tell-tale sign of manipulation. Lying, stretching the truth, or avoiding the truth can all play a role in manipulation. In addition to lying, guilting others into giving you your way is a common form of manipulation. Here, it is important to mention the difference between expressing disappointment or hurt, and making someone else feel guilty to your own benefit.
Do you make promises you can’t keep? Promises without follow through can be incredibly manipulative.
Do you do nice things for others for your own benefit? Exploiting the norms of reciprocity is manipulative. It is amazing to do nice things for others, but when you do nice things with the expectation of something in return, that is manipulation. This does not suggest that people should take your kindness for weakness, but your motive should solely be to be kind instead of seeking something in return.
Do you punish others when you do not get your way? Withholding something and/or passive aggressive behavior can point towards punishing and manipulative behavior. This sort of behavior is unacceptable. Not getting your way does not make it acceptable to punish someone else.
HOW MANIPULATIVE BEHAVIOR BEGINS
Perhaps you have discovered you have been manipulative in some way. In many instances manipulative behavior starts when someone believes that if they asked for what they actually needed, they would be met with a “no.” Manipulation can also stem from childhood needs that were not met. The greater the amount of trauma the more difficult it becomes to face the trauma. This can be the underlying cause of manipulative behavior.
The first step to addressing any issue is to admit you have one. This works far beyond manipulation. It takes dedication and a commitment to Self to start asking the question, where does this behavior stem from? What is the deeper issue at hand? How can I take care of myself differently in order to deal with this pain?
This is your starting point.