Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation
April 25, 2008 by Akemi Gaines
One of the major challenges of living fully is the mind manipulations from people around you.
People – including your loved ones, unfortunately – will try to hold you down where you are by various forms of manipulation. When we aspire to live fully and make changes in our lives, we need to be watchful of these manipulations and learn how to dodge them.
I don’t mean those who manipulate are bad people. Manipulation is typically based on fear, and they are only trying to keep things at status quo because they themselves are scared so much. Nonetheless, manipulation is very harmful to your growth.
Do you recognize these manipulation techniques?
Some manipulations come in such subtle and seemingly innocent forms. My list here is only a partial list of so many variations of manipulations. . .
1. Pointing out potential problems
“You want to start your own business that resonates more with who you are? Oh, that is wonderful. I wish you luck. So many startup businesses fail within five years, the statistics says, though. . .”
Does he really know what the stats mean? Is he with you to better the chances? Or is he just afraid himself, and wants you to be afraid, too?
This manipulation often utilizes statistics or failure stories they heard somewhere. It sounds realistic, practical – and uninspiring.
A variation of this approach is to point out the negative side effects. They may admit that the change you are trying to implement is positive, but also point out the potential negative effects.
“ You want to start your own business? Are you aware how many hours self-employed people have to work a day?”
Some even imply you might lose your relationship. . .
And they often add this line,
“I just don’t want you to get into trouble.”
2. Direct put-down disguised as a joke
“It should be illegal for non-MBA’s to start businesses – what the heck do they know, lol, look at the failure rate (add demeaning body language here)! Hey, I didn’t mean you! Cheer up.”
It’s supposed to be unsociable not to understand jokes, and they utilize this social conditioning. They say something really un-nice, and when your feeling is hurt, they treat you as naïve.
Here is my acid test for jokes: Does it make you feel light and warm or does it leave you a nasty taste in the mouth? This test works for all kinds of jokes, whether it is aimed at yourself or others. Watch out the fake jokes.
3. “Count the blessings” you already have
“We are happy as we are. We should be. Look at what you’ve earned – and there are lots of less fortunate people out there, you know. . .”
This is a twisted logic. Of course, we, each one of us, are blessed as we are. But it doesn’t mean we should stagnate where we are. Don’t feel guilty for seeking more.
4. “What is the point?” apathy
“Well, you know it takes so much work to be successful in business. . . Do you really want to do that? You are ten years from comfortable retirement. . .”
From their perspective, the glass is always half empty, no matter what you do. They don’t even point out potential problems. They don’t pretend to be content. They are, in effect, half dead and want you to be the same.
5. Acting out
You talk with your family about your decision to go back to school. Everyone seems happy. So you start the application process. Suddenly, out of the blue, there is a surprise in the family – some kind of crisis – like your spouse’s car breaks down and you need a chunk of money to buy a new car. Then you find out your brother is checked in for rehab and he and his family really need some moral support. And . . .
I don’t mean they cause the crisis on purpose. It just happens – one after the other – until you are completely distracted from your aspiration, or you figure out “It’s just not the right time.”
How to cope with manipulation
You don’t. Coping only encourages more manipulation. Dodge them, and just do what you have to do.
Just do it.
I took the extreme route and moved myself across the Pacific Ocean. This was not just to dodge manipulation from my family but was in line with my dream to complete college education and build a new life. Nevertheless, it ended most of the subtle and not-so-subtle manipulations. Prior to my migration, they tried to change my mind by counting the blessings of the comfortable life in my home country. They even tried to bribe me. . . “Do you want a new dress? We can dine out at nice restaurants if you stay around. Are you aware you will be financially stressed if you go to America?” They also threatened me that I’d be robbed and murdered in America – very realistic-sounding potential, but somehow I have happily survived for 13 years – and counting. Oh, and they tried to dampen my dream. “Why do you need to complete your education in the US? What would you get for the time and money you invest?. . .”
I’m not recommending you to move thousands of miles to dodge manipulation. But do know action – the action toward your aspiration — is the antidote to manipulation. I don’t think talking back or reasoning things out work really. Nor reactions to manipulation.
“The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. ” Albert Einstein
Is manipulation from your family and friends an issue for your personal growth? How do you deal with it?