How to deal with manipulation?
In a previous blog I reflected on the experience of being manipulated; in this one I want to take a closer look at how to deal with manipulative people. Manipulation is a violation of our dignity, it cuts deep into our value as a person. It robs us of the sense of security. The trust is broken, the confidence eroded; we feel angry, confused.
“Many of us don’t recognize manipulation when it occurs, mainly because manipulation violates our basic assumptions about how people should behave. We simply don’t expect it. Manipulators engage in covert aggression” says Dorian Polson.
Ever since I realized I had been manipulated I have been thinking about why people manipulate, how to deal with all the emotional hurt once you realize you have been manipulated, and most of all how to guard against further manipulation.
I also have been wondering whether women are more susceptible to being manipulated:
“Why are women so reluctant to call a spade a spade?… I believe this denial of pain goes back to our socialization as children. Research has shown that even as early as the teen years, girls begin to go underground with their emotions and start what seems to be a lifelong tendency of ‘stuffing down’ their true feelings. Young women do not wish to appear weak or vulnerable; they are afraid of not measuring up to a stronger, more competent ideal; or they want to avoid being scrutinized or criticized. Even more insidious is the ‘good girl’ syndrome, which demands that they avoid actions that might rock the boat, challenge authority, or make others unhappy with them. Many baby-boomer women were raised by well-meaning parents whose generation believed it was unladylike or worse for women to stand up for themselves. We are still battling the unstated injunction that we must be polite, ‘grin and bear it,’ lest we come across as whiners, nags, or the kind of women who are ‘just never satisfied.’”
Does this need for connection, for harmonious relationships, and the fear of appearing impolite make women more vulnerable to being manipulated? Do men find it easier to say no, set clear boundaries and in effect be less susceptible to manipulations? I do not know, but these and other questions have been at the back of my mind as I continue to think through my own experiences.
Here are some thoughts on how to deal with manipulation:
- Reflect upon your own life; are you predisposed to ‘grin and bear it’? Are you afraid to call a spade a spade?
- Trust your own judgment more, and exercise the power of discernment.
- Set clearer boundaries: “Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around them and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits.” (outofthefog.net)
- Don’t be hungry for the approval of others. “Play to the audience of one” as Dallas Willard said.
- Seek integrity in your own behavior. Guard against manipulation in your own life and practice the disciple of silence whenever you feel tempted to bend the truth your way.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Joanna is a theologian, mentor and global traveller. She is the founder of SheLives, helping women all around the world to live out their best story. As International Director of One Rock she helps both men and women to lead with both courage and competence. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.