[muh-nip-yuh-ley-tiv, -yuh-luh-tiv] adjective
- influencing or attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purposes: a manipulative boss
You’re reading this because you have reached an “enough already” point in your life. Or someone really manipulated you into doing something you didn’t want to do or into not doing something you wanted to do and you became so infuriated with them and yourself that you reached a “never again” moment. Isn’t that true?
Instead of going into why do they do that, let’s just leave that as, because they can get away doing it with you. This article is about why youhave continued to let them do it, why you reached your last straw with them and more importantly how you can put an end to it and never be manipulated again.
Why have you let people manipulate you and continue to do so?
One reason is that you may be so hungry for positive attention and adoration (because you didn’t receive it as a child or from an important current relationship), that when they flatter you or tell you how different, wonderful and special you are for treating them better than other people do, you lap it up. This can also play to a grandiosity in you where you say to yourself, “I am special because I see the goodness in this person that nobody else sees.” Then you continue to lap it up which sets the stage for feeling either you owe them something in return or would feel guilty in disappointing them.
A deeper psychological reason may be that you really don’t know what it’s like to feel truly wanted or valued for you, so you have decided that a close second is to get people to need you. And then you think you can control the relationship by just giving people what they need. This is not unfamiliar territory to you. Over time however, you realize that although you like to feel needed, you don’t like to feel used and begin to resent it.
But you can go a long time letting people need you and feeling that you’re special before it dawns on you that you are being royally exploited (euphemism for another word that is a tad vulgar). This is despite your being warned about these people by people who do care about you. At that point, you can go from feeling kindly and benevolently towards these people to feeling duped, hurt, frustrated, resentful, angry, furious and enraged.
When you feel those more deeply hostile and dark emotions it is directly in conflict with your wanting to believe that you are kind, caring and benevolent and having hostile or even violent feelings can not merely trigger guilt for feeling those emotions, but also shame for being such an angry person.
And so what do you do when the discomfort of that conflict becomes too intense? You pull an “out damned spot” Lady Macbeth and do even more for them using a defense mechanism referred to as “reaction formation” where in order to lessen your anxiety(about your shameful feelings) you do the opposite of what you want to do.
Your last straw
This possibly occurred because when they most recently tried to manipulate you, you said, “No,” and then they said something insulting implying that not only are you not special, but that you turned out to be as bad as or even worse than all those other people who have mistreated them. At that point it was all you could do to restrain yourself from telling them to go kill themselves (if that was where their threats escalated if in a family situation) or feeling tempted to do it for them. Feeling those raw murderous feelings were so out of sync with your core identity as a caring and loving person that it scared you. And it scared you enough to not appease them this time, but instead to finally say, “No more” to them.
How to put an end to it with this person
Read my lips and practice saying this to them in your mind and then in person the next time they try to manipulate you. Say simply and directly to them, “No,” and when they ask you, “Why?” reply, “Because I don’t want to.”
You don’t owe them an explanation beyond that. If they threaten you with what they might do to themselves say, “I hope you won’t do that.” If they threaten you with what they might do to you, “You will need to leave now and not come back or threaten me ever again or I will call the police.” And don’t make that a bluff. Mean it and do it.
How to never be manipulated again
Learn to recognize these people by catching yourself when they’re flattering you too much and too soon (a.k.a. buttering you up). You can then say to them early on, “That’s very nice of you to say, but I don’t feel I’ve done enough to deserve such wonderful comments. Also I’m sorry to have you pay for the sins of others, but is there something that you’re going to want from me or for me to do? If not, then I will have to think about whether I am being a tad too distrustful or even paranoid because of the others before you. And if there is something you want from me, you’ll need to give me a moment after you ask me so that I can think of something of equal importance to me that I can ask from you so that we don’t fall behind.”
What is a fair thing for people to ask of you?
This is where you need to separate the truly needful people in your life from those who merely claim to be. There may actually be some people who legitimately need what you can do for them or with them and to whom you feel a legitimate responsibility such a child, aging parent, sibling or friends with true special needs rather than trying to make their problem, your problem and their responsibility, your responsibility to solve.
Also realize if there is something that they can’t do (such as a negative manipulative elderly parent) it doesn’t mean you have to directly do it. You can bring in another person such as a patient, friendly caregiver who just doesn’t get into it with such a person. Such people are known as “angels.”
One of the best ways to sort the truly needful from the pretender is to ask a friend or another family member who can be cool, calm and objective, who doesn’t get manipulated by people and doesn’t have a vendetta against manipulative people about the person in question, because they can say, “No,” to such people calmly and without guilt and will advise you to do the same.
As a final note, if you are wondering why I have chosen to write this particular article, I used to be an “easy Mark,” but my “never again” moment woke me up.
Now wish me luck going forward and I’ll do the same to you.
Mark Goulston is a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and the author of “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.” He is the co-founder of Heartfelt Leadership. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org