Recently, one of the readers commented on another reader’s question about how to deal with a troubling and manipulative relationship. In their comment, the reader made the excellent point that many times manipulators combine tactics in a way that makes the manipulation more effective. This got me to thinking about something I probably haven’t emphasized enough in prior articles, namely the infinite number of ways some characters can find to manipulate and take advantage of others. In my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance I outline the most “popular” tactics manipulators use. But I also point out that shrewd manipulators not only combine tactics sometimes but also have an arsenal of techniques that is virtually endless. Still, I don’t go into detail about all the various tactics and combinations of tactics they can use. And while I’ve posted some prior article that expand a bit on the various tactics manipulators use (see: Another Look at Manipulation Tactics), I thought it important to elaborate a bit more on the nature of manipulation tactics in this article.
Most of the time, people get manipulated because they don’t trust their gut instincts. While at some level they might suspect someone is trying to get the better of them, they often can’t pinpoint anything that objectively confirms that hunch. This makes them feel a little crazy. Besides that, the manipulator can speak and act with such apparent conviction and intensity that the other person starts doubting their initial impressions and reactions. Once that doubt creeps in, and especially once the manipulator notices that fact and plays upon it, it’s “game over!”
A good manipulator can use almost any tact, or combination of tactics: deny they’ve done what another accuses them of doing, act innocent and/or offended, turn the tables and reverse-accuse, blame the victim for suspecting, doubting, or “falsely” accusing, etc., and do it all with such apparent righteous indignation and the other person is almost sure to cave in. The key is to know the victim’s vulnerabilities and to effectively read their responses. This enables the manipulator to pick the tactic or combination of tactics most likely to work. And what really does a would be victim in is their hesitancy to believe that there really are people in this world so calculating and heartless that they’ll use all kinds of tactics to get their way with no compunction or remorse and put on such a civil facade to mask it all on top of that. That’s why it’s so absolutely essential in this day and age to understand the nature of character disturbance and to be in a position to make fairly decent and accurate judgments about the kind of character with whom you might have a relationship. And it’s toward those ends mainly that I have geared my writings.
The other main reason folks get manipulated is because when they engage with the manipulator, they don’t take a step back and assess what’s really going on process-wise in the interaction. They actually listen and respond to what the manipulator says and does. And then, like getting whiplash, they later realize they were taken in but long after the damage is already done. So the key is to be very aware of the process as it happens. To listen “for” and not “to” the kinds of things the manipulator says and to watch “for” the various shifty behaviors they typically exhibit. Being alert to what’s really going on in the interchange is absolutely essential to avoid being disadvantaged. And it also empowers a person to resist manipulation no matter what tactic or combination of tactics the covertly-aggressive person might throw at you.
What I’ve tried to do in both of my books is to lay out an easy to understand framework for becoming a much more astute judge of character. Once you know what kind of person you’re dealing with, it’s easier to anticipate the kinds of things they might do in a relationship with you. Really knowing yourself and knowing the kind of person you’re dealing with – that’s where the real power is. And I’m edified that so many have written me to say that my writings have enabled them to achieve that very goal.