Today I want to talk about the five ways we are being manipulative without even knowing it.
Most of us have felt manipulated by someone at one point or another in our lives. I have even discussed this before about gaslighting, narcissism, and toxic relationships. Because we talk about manipulation like it’s a terrible thing, and only horrible people engage in it. It can be really hard for any of us to imagine that we have done it to anyone else, but it’s more common than you think.
And if we don’t know we are doing it, we obviously can’t stop. And that’s why today I want to talk about the ways we may be being manipulative without even realizing it.
Example number one is passive aggression. I have so much to say about passive aggression, I even debated making an entire chapter of my book dedicated to it. But after talking to my editor, we thought that toxic relationships as a chapter were sufficient.
Now let’s be honest, most of us didn’t grow up in a family where clear and direct communication was supported. Meaning that we usually had to stuff our feelings down because we didn’t feel safe or supported to express them. Possibly, just to explode in anger or upset later. Or, on the flip side, maybe our family yells about everything, either way, no upsets were calmly and clearly communicated. Which usually means resolution or understanding didn’t happen either.
And all of this unhealthy and indirect communication, Leaves us not knowing how to do it in our own life. Do you know what I mean? Like we never saw healthy communication, so we never learned how to do it ourselves. And tend to, unless we work on it, fall into those same patterns that our family had. Like we continue to stuff it down, or we decide that we are going to yell about everything.
When we don’t know how to communicate our needs or wants, we can get very clever at getting them met in other ways. For example, let’s say I really don’t want to go with Sean to that work event because I’m too tired, and frankly, I’m not into it.
Well, if I don’t know how to communicate that to him directly, I could drag my feet, make us super late, or forget to pick up the dry cleaning like I said I would. Or really any other indirect way of making the work event not happen. Or at least make him miserable for making me go.
Now passive aggression never leads us anywhere we want to go. If you are sitting there thinking that by doing that, you’re actually getting what you want, and totally winning, or whatever, you are so wrong.
Sure, you may have gotten your way this one time, but the erosion of honesty and loyalty in your relationships frankly just isn’t worth it. So instead of trying to manipulate someone into doing what you really want, try telling them directly. I know it’s uncomfortable. We don’t know what we’re doing or maybe how to say it perfectly, we get nervous. But just let them know that. And that you’re just trying your best. I promise you, it will feel so much better.
2. Art of suggestion.
This is when instead of asking someone if they want something, or more importantly if what they want is what we want, we just suggest that they do.
An example of this would be when meeting up with a friend for dinner. Instead of telling them that we’re tired and would prefer to meet closer to our side of town, and ask if they wouldn’t mind coming this way, we suggest a place by our house, that we thought they would really want to check out. We could even make a reservation prior to talking with them about it.
Again, this isn’t as healthy as real and direct communication. Of course, it’s completely okay to be tired and not want to drive another hour after work, but if we don’t tell our friends that we aren’t giving them the ability to do us that favor. And then, because they have done us that favor, we can thank them. Which I know can sound kind of silly and small, like not important.
But sometimes, when we manipulate others into giving in to our way, we never get to say thank you. Because, in a way, we force them into doing what we want. And a small shift like that, from forcing to allowing, and then thanking can honestly make all the difference. And I believe, it can deepen our relationships.
3. Playing the victim.
And we can do this when we are overly dramatic, in order to get people to do what we want. We could even start crying in order to keep our friend at our house, or we could exaggerate how bad we are feeling to get more sympathy.
Now, I know we all need love and support. But there isn’t anything wrong with simply telling your friends and family that we need it. That way, we are acknowledging how we feel, and what we need, and we’re communicating it. And you all know how important that is for our mental health, and for the health of our relationships.
And again, this allows us to ask those we’re in relationships with for something. Have them give it to us, and then, we can thank them. Which is just so great.
And no, I don’t mean lying outright, that obviously is not something that should be a part of any healthy relationship. What I mean by lying is when we say we are going to do something or show up for someone, and if we were being honest, we don’t really have any intention of doing it.
We could even make a deal with them previously, In order to get our way in that previous situation. For example, let’s say I didn’t feel like doing my laundry, so I told Sean that if he did mine this time, then I would do his the next two times. But I never follow through. And in fact, I never planned on doing his laundry. I just didn’t want to do mine last time, and I’d do anything to get out of it.
So make sure when we offer to do something in the future, that we actually intend on doing it, and we follow through. And if you are forgetful, you can put reminders on your phone. Or more importantly, let that friend or your spouse know that they can remind you.
Sometimes just giving them that permission, to call you out on that promise, will prevent any resentments from building.
5. Stone walling.
In school, I remember this being listed as one of John Gottman’s four horsemen of the apocalypse. Meaning that if this is happening in any of your relationships, your relationship is heading to an abrupt end. And if you are just curious, the other three are Criticism, defensiveness, and contempt.
But stonewalling is defined as a refusal to communicate or cooperate. And I’m not going to sugar coat it, It’s super manipulative. By being silent and not answering calls, texts, messages, or not speaking when they ask how we are, we are trying to force them to bend to our will. Being silent doesn’t actually get us anywhere, and it can only aggravate the issue. Possibly turning a small disagreement into weeks of radio silence.
Now the best way to deal with disagreements or upsets is to meet up in person, which is preferred if it’s at all possible. And, you knew this was coming, talk about it. Tell them what happened and what was upsetting you, and then listen to them. This is important, listen to them as they tell you their side. Do your best to hear them out.
We each have a unique view of a disagreement, and we’re all correct. So listen, apologize where you need to and hopefully, they will do the same. If they refuse to apologize for their part in it or they continue to blame and shout, then you know how limited that relationship is going to have to be. And you can choose to end it, or at least distance yourself from them as much as possible.
I know this article was a bit harsh, but we are all guilty of doing these things. As a teenager, I was a constant stonewaller. I was the queen of the silent treatment. And as an adult, I struggle to not suggest things. But being aware of the ones that you do the most is the first step towards becoming a better friend, partner, and relative.
Then, we just have to try our best. That’s important, just try our best to communicate what it is we want or need. And trust that they will rise to the occasion. Now I do also have to mention that relationships are giving and take. And if we are constantly asking for things from those in our life and never returning the favor, that’s not healthy either.
So just try to keep that in mind as well. Was this information shocking to you? Which ones do you do most? Or are there ways that you have stopped?
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