I'm all in favor of kindness and service to others, but not when it means allowing others to manipulate us. Refusing to allow others to walk all over us is not about being selfish or self-centered, but of being self-aware. It's about understanding we are responsible for our own lives. If we GIVE IN to others, we GIVE UP on ourselves.
This article is about people manipulating others. Let’s start with a definition. Manipulation is about being used, abused, intimidated, coerced, pressured, bullied, or ‘brainwashed’ into doing something you don’t want to do. When we do something that is not in our best interest simply because we were pressured into it, we surrender our personal power and turn control over our lives to others. Unlike cats, we have only one life; so, don’t turn it over to someone else.
We are here to help others, but we cannot help others until we help ourselves. How can we make others strong if we ourselves are weak? How can we teach others to defend their rights when we do not defend our own? There is enough unhappiness is the world, it needs more people spreading joy. Yet, when we do what we don't want to do, we add to the unhappiness in the world.
We help one another by engaging in a series of transactions. We make exchanges of value. For example, I agree to work for my boss and he agrees to pay me a salary. As long as he pays me, he is living up to his part of the bargain and I am obligated to work for him. But manipulation involves no exchange of value. For instance, a coworker comes up to me and says, "I’m moving into a new apartment Sunday and need a lot of help. If you don’t help me move in, I’ll be very disappointed." The coworker is trying to manipulate me. He wants free labor and in exchange promises not to feel "disappointed." He is acting like a child threatening to throw a temper tantrum unless it gets its way.
I’m not responsible for my coworkers’ feelings. I would hope he chooses to be happy and joyful, but if he chooses to be unhappy and disappointed; well, that’s up to him. Because of the absence of an exchange of any value, I am not obligated to help him. Nor do I owe him any explanation or apology. So, the conversation may go something like this:
"Sorry, Bob, but I have something else planned for Sunday."
"How long will you be busy on Sunday?"
"What are you doing that’s so important?"
"Leading my life by doing what I want to do. It’s something I recommend to everyone."
"I’m disappointed in you, Chuck; I thought I could count on you."
"If you want someone to count on, call the moving company."
I’ll stop here, but manipulators can be persistent. They hope you will break under the pressure. If Bob were to persist, I would just break off the conversation with something like, "Sorry, Bob, but I already gave you my answer. I wish you luck. Now I’ve got to get back to work. See you later." Also, when standing up for our rights, there is no need to reply in a hostile tone. We can remain polite, but firm.
Bob, my coworker, is just an acquaintance, but Jim is a friend. Compare Jim’s conversation with Bob’s. "Chuck, I’m getting ready to move again. I know you’re working on your basement. If you give me a hand moving, I’ll help you out in your basement."
There’s a big difference in conversations, isn’t there? That’s because Jim is not a manipulator. Cooperation is the opposite of manipulation. He offered to exchange something of value. I was happy to help because we both got each other’s job done in half the time and had fun doing so.
To avoid being a victim, remain on the alert. If someone asks you to do them a favor and you can’t say NO without fear or YES without resentment, you are a victim. If you are, it’s time to regain your power. No one stole it from you, you handed it over to them. Now take it back. After all, you can’t live for others without squandering your own life. When you are in control, doing what you want to do, you will be happy and in the position to spread happiness to others. But when you reluctantly follow the wishes of others, you will be resentful and spread misery. You owe it to yourself and others to remain in control of your life.
Although you should be on the alert, there is no need to fear the attempts of others to manipulate you. For their attempts will give you the opportunity declare, decide, and develop into the person you want to be. Further, once you understand why they are trying to manipulate you, you fear will be replaced with compassion. And because of your compassion, your assertiveness will never change to aggression.
Why do some people try to manipulate others? Because they’re weak. Weak people are not to be feared, but to be pitied. Their weakness comes in many forms and includes feelings of inadequacy and incompetence. They try to get others to do what they believe they cannot do. They try to compensate for their feelings of powerlessness by gaining power over others. People like this don't care which way the car is going as long as they remain in the driver's seat.
Also, people who live miserable lives like to make others miserable too. When they are successful in doing so, they find some relief by diverting their attention from their own pain to the pain of others. Also, they may be afraid that if they ask for what they want, you may refuse, so they try to manipulate you instead. Some manipulators have distorted thinking. They either believe they are superior and entitled to their demands or they feel they are treated as inferiors and therefore are entitled to special privileges.
Whatever the cause, it’s based on weakness. So, whenever they try to get their way by making you feel guilty, refuse to give in to them, but do so in a gentle caring way; after all, they’re weak, and you’re not. When facing manipulation, don’t give in to fear. Don’t be afraid of losing a friend, hurting their feelings, or disappointing them. You are responsible for your life, not theirs. Remain vigilant and ignite in your heart the flame of courage, for as Helena Petrova Blavatsky (1831-91) wrote, "The more thou dost advance, the more thy feet pitfalls will meet. The Path that leadeth on is lighted by one fire — the light of daring burning in the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain. The more he fears, the more that light shall pale."
© Chuck Gallozzi
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