Subtle manipulation is more common one might think. Like most manipulation, it’s rooted in a covert attempt to gain advantage over you. But not all manipulation is the same. In fact, sometimes manipulation is not even covert. A truly savvy manipulator can operate in the open. Knowing his/her target well, he/she knows just what to say or do to sway. But most manipulators operate covertly. Keeping someone in the dark about what you’re really up to is generally a more effective strategy. So, the subtle someone is in their manipulative ways, the more likely they are to bamboozle.
In one way, subtle manipulators operate much like their overt counterparts. They understand the needs, wants, idiosyncracies, etc. of their intended targets. So, they know just how to play their cards to get what they want. But their chances of success improve greatly when they hold those cards close to the vest. This is the point I emphasize in my landmark first book In Sheep’s Clothing.
The subtlest manipulation occurs when someone seems really attentive to your concerns. Knowing what you want/need, etc., skilled manipulators are pleased to give you exactly what they understand you’re looking for. But what initially appears a generous gift on their part actually comes at a hefty cost. Subtle manipulators are always looking for something in return that they don’t want you to fully recognize. As a result, you don’t realize what the attention they gave you has cost you until well after the fact.
Subtle Manipulation and Gaslighting
Subtle manipulation almost always causes some gaslighting effects. Gaslighting is that crazy-making feeling I first described in the opening pages of In Sheep’s Clothing. And the main reason you suffer these effects is because of how long it takes to validate what you suspect is the truth about your manipulator. Subtle manipulators are adept at appearing benign. They may even be charming, charismatic, amiable, and congenial. But possessing these pleasing and attractive personality traits is not the same as having character integrity. Integrity requires a heart surrendered to something much bigger than our selfish desires. And I begin a discussion of this very issue on the latest installment of Character Matters.
I’ll be taking some time off next week, so there won’t be a weekly post. Nor will there be a Character Matters podcast. But I’ll be back with both the week after next.