Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mind Games: You Can't be Beat a Manipulator

I do not like to be manipulated.  Overt manipulation irritates me.  Subtle attempts at manipulation are even more offensive. We have all been there. Someone says: “You just don’t care about me.”  Or it is stated:  “I just experienced ______ and you never reached out to me.”  In many cases, there was no knowledge of what that person was experiencing.

How do we deal with those that are inclined to manipulate others?  I have a few ideas that I have unashamedly stolen from friends that make my life better.  Here we go:

  • Direct communication in a spirit of kindness:  I don’t let people get by with implying that I failed them when it is simply not true. In particular, I think it is important to communicate that we are not mind readers.  If you don’t tell me that you are going through a difficult period in life, I can’t figure it out all by myself.  I communicate directly and kindly that I expect the same from them the same kind of candor from them.

  • Emotional Ownership: It is generally not wise to tell someone: “You make feel like ________.”  That is responding to manipulation with more manipulation!  It is better to own our feelings.  “I feel _____.” I feel angry. I feel hurt, etc.

  • Non Anxious Presence: My mentor, Dr. Charles Siburt, taught me the importance of remaining non-anxious during times of interpersonal conflict.  That principle holds especially true when encountering a person that is inclined to manipulate.  Such individuals can have a tendency to lure us into losing our cool. We then proceed to say things that we regret later.

  • The Kickoff: Manipulators are masters at playing mind games.  If you show up for the kickoff and enter the game, you are bound to lose. Most skilled manipulators experience undefeated seasons in the mind game arena. Refuse to play.  Don’t even show up for practice. 

Not too long ago a friend told me that he was going through a particularly difficult time. He asked me if I would be willing to check in with him over a period of days.  He was honest and straightforward. And he was humble too. I in turn tried to respond as helpfully as possible. His candidness is the opposite of manipulation.  In essence, he was saying:  “I feel discouraged.” Or  “I feel the need for your friendship right now.”  He owned his emotions, so  the consequences were good.  When we factor manipulative tactics out of relationships, good things can’t help but occur.

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