The Telltale Signs of Manipulation
In the previous article, we saw that the key difference between persuasion and manipulation is intent. Certainly not all there is to it; it goes deeper than that, and some of the excellent comments, both from those who agreed and disagreed with my basic premise, eloquently pointed that out.
I called persuasion and manipulation cousins because both are based on certain principles of human actions. These principles are not inherently positive or negative; they simply are. Again, this comes back to intent.
Two asterisked remarks concluded the article. The first basically said that while the principles and methods can be similar or often even the same, there is something that a manipulator will do that a persuader never will, and it’s important you are aware of it:
A manipulator will play on your negative emotions in order to elicit your compliance. In other words, if you fail to comply with their request, they will then try and make you feel bad, selfish, naive, foolish, guilty or whatever emotion will cause you to capitulate to their desire in order for you to obtain relief from those negative feelings.
So, how then can you tell; how can you be aware that someone is in the process of trying to manipulate you? It’s actually very easy to recognize:
- You feel any of the negative emotions mentioned above.
- You are being asked to do something that you simply would not do of your own free will; if you had the chance not to.
Good news: You have the free will and you absolutely can refuse. Just stay conscious of what is happening. If you feel any type of negative emotions as you’re about to “do the thing” ask yourself why? You’ll know the answer. And, as far as refusing? Just be polite and don’t make excuses as to why you are not going along with them. Any excuses will simply be looked at as “objections” which the manipulator is an expert at overcoming.
If you’d like to know a simple, yet effective way of saying no graciously, and in a way that cannot be refuted by the manipulator, feel free to check out this brief two-part article.
By the way, manipulation comes in varying degrees and isn’t always of mal-intent (though it still ain’t a good thing!). For instance, the person who wants you to serve on the committee certainly isn’t evil. They may really believe it’s for the “greater good” (that reason being — at times — one of the greatest causes of evil events, but that’s another post) and don’t even realize they are being manipulative. They just want you to do it.
But it’s still manipulation. Of course, I’m not saying whether or not you should serve on the committee. That’s up to you. I’m only suggesting that, if you do, it should be because you consciously choose to and it is congruent with your values and desires; not because someone manipulated you into doing it.
The second asterisk was about questioning and keeping on top of our own motives in order to not cross that often “fine line” between positive persuasion and negative manipulation.
And, we’ll discuss that in the next article.