What do you think of when you hear the word “manipulative?” Maybe you think of characters you’ve seen on TV, perhaps the classic evil mastermind archetype. Or maybe this word hits closer to home. Perhaps a friend who is in a seemingly toxic relationship or a family member comes to mind.
Since manipulation is often used by individuals like con artists, narcissists, and abusers, it can be alarming to consider the idea that we may be manipulative at times. However, many of us grew up in environments involving dysfunction. Without being taught how to communicate clearly and directly, it’s easy to utilize manipulative tendencies without even knowing.
What is Manipulation?
Let’s start with the Merriam-Webster definition of manipulation: To control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage.
Manipulation is a way to get what we want without being upfront about our intentions and desires, often using fear, guilt, or shame to get our needs met. It’s an attempt to change the perception of others so that they are thinking the way that we want, rather than presenting the facts and allowing them to form their own opinions and make their own choices. Again, many of us had to learn strategic ways to psychologically survive in childhood, which can lead to manipulative behaviors as adults.
What Does Manipulation Look Like?
Inspired by therapist and online educator Kati Morton, examples of potentially manipulative behavior can include but are not limited to:
If you’ve done one of those things… so has pretty much everyone else. It’s ok, we’re human! What matters is that we take the time to self-reflect and learn healthier ways to get our needs met.
How to Stop Manipulating Others:
For the sake of our relationships, it’s imperative to be mindful of these behaviors. It can be helpful to take some time to reflect on our own methods of communication and gain more awareness of any unconscious manipulative tendencies.
Consider the following tips to increase the likelihood of getting needs met in a way that is collaborative and encourages connection with others:
You are awesome for taking the time to learn and grow. This is not an easy topic to reflect on, so give yourself a pat on the back. May your relationships thrive 💜