Combat Manipulation with Confidence
Manipulation is one of the hardest forms of communication to respond to. Most of us respond with our automatic reactions - fight, flight, freeze. While these are natural human responses to manipulation tactics, they often leave us feeling tired, upset, and angry.
These reactions happen because we have no idea what to do when we sense we are being manipulated. We are stuck. Manipulation is unsettling and often catches us off guard.
In order to resist manipulation, it requires a solid base to work from, so when it pops up, we are ready. This solid base is created when we have a clear concept of who we are and what our values are. When we are clear about our values, we know without a doubt “how things are,” which makes it much harder to push us into doing, saying, or feeling something uncomfortable or hurtful.
One example of manipulation is framing. If someone says, “That’s crazy,” or “She’s a diva,”, or “That’s wrong,” this is framing. It’s putting a particular thing or person in a box with a generalized black/white description. This can be used to discredit something, to make someone else look superior, to cover up unresolved emotions, to make someone feel bad, or most often, to get someone to do something without having to actually ask them and be responsible for one’s own values.
In general, it’s a pretty clear indication that someone is trying to manipulate us in some way if when we express a differing opinion or don’t immediately agree, the manipulator becomes rageful - putting us down, passive aggressive, writing us off completely, talking about us behind our backs, name-calling, etc. That’s a good indicator that they are trying to get us to do or think something, and they are upset that we are resisting.
Framing and other forms of manipulation are an attempt to get us to live under a value system that benefits the manipulator. We do not have to listen to or accept other people’s values they are trying to press on us. We can understand them and reflect them back on the other person, but in order to combat manipulation, our own values must be strong enough to resist others’ attempts to get us to leave our value system in order to comply with their needs. In order to have this strong value system as a guide of what is right and wrong, we have to know consciously, and clearly, what our values are.
How to know your values
Start with brainstorming. “What do I believe? What is important to me?” Write down everything you can think of.
Then try answering these questions:
- What is “healthy?”
- Is the world black/white?
- Where is the line, and how do you know if someone has crossed it?
- What is respectful behavior? How do you know if you are respecting someone else and if they are respecting you?
- What do you feel about punishment and discipline - for adults, too?
- What is success?
- What is friendship?
- What is common decency?
- Do you feel it’s important to behave the same way you expect others to behave?
- What is an apology? When are apologies necessary?
Lastly, each time you are confronted with manipulation, or a situation where you feel triggered or regressed, ask yourself which values are being trampled on that cause this reaction in you.
Keep this list, go over it regularly, and modify it as you have more experience.
Last note: we are all manipulate to some degree - it’s a tool we learn early to handle dysfunctional emotional situations. Sometimes we are the manipulator unconsciously. If that’s the case, it’s time to apologize and ask ourselves what our values are and why we feel the need to get the other person to abandon their value system for one that benefits us. Where is that coming from? (Hint: Often times, it comes from a childhood need that was unmet.)
Manipulation is a tool that is used when an adult has regressed and has not learned who they are, what they want, and how to ask for what they want. It’s not OK for people to manipulate others, but it’s understandable. Resist by knowing who you are, and demand that others live up to their values, too. Combat manipulation with confidence by knowing and living your values.