The sad truth is that many times we are manipulated because of the relationships we are in. “Why wouldn’t you lend me money, aren’t we friends?” or “You have to forgive me; I am your spouse!” Relationships cause us to be more open to being manipulated. So, how can you not be manipulated in relationships? Try the following:
1.Recognize warning signs and be on defense.
When you are being manipulated red flags start going up, but because of the relationship most of these get ignored. It is time to stop ignoring those signals. Realize what these flags are for you. It might be feelings of uneasiness or discomfort. It might be anxiety. It might just be that you can see it in the face of the person manipulating you. Or it might be that the person has a reputation for manipulating. For example: If each time your sisterinlaw calls she asks, “What are you doing?”, and this is her standard lead in for getting a favor, do not fall victim to it. Instead of hoping they are calling to invite you to do something, be conscious of who they are and respond with, “Oh ya know, the usual, you?” This way, if they are inviting you to do something you have not committed yourself to being busy, and if they are trying to manipulate you into babysitting for them, or doing them a favor, you have room to make a legitimate excuse without looking like you are making things up. This is what is meant by be on defense. It does not mean always doubt what everyone you have a relationship with intends, but it does mean don’t be a sucker.
2.Don’t fall victim to the guilt trip.
You have to recognize that guilt is the most powerful manipulation tool on the planet. If you recognize this now you will be less likely to be manipulated by relationships. For example: “If you don’t give me the money, my utilities will be shut off!” The person who says this to you is leveraging their relationship with you, and playing the guilt card. They are essentially saying. “If YOU do not give me money, it is YOUR fault my utilities will be shut off.” Well guess what? This is not true. They want you to feel that way, to feel guilt, because that gets them their end goalmoney from you. But the truth is, they are responsible for themselves; they got themselves in the situation where they did not have enough money to pay their utilities, and while you can certainly help, you are in no way obligated to or responsible for what happens if you don’t. These guilt manipulations do not always have to be big things. They can be simple like choosing a movie at the video store. A comment like, “Well, we can watch the one you picked but if it sucks you aren’t picking again!” is a guilt trip. It is essentially a selfish ploy to instill fear and guilt in you so that you will do what they want. Retort with the same comment in jest, or say something like, “It is not going to be my fault if this movie sucks; it is the director’s, so you can take it up with them if in deed it does suck.”
One of the best ways to not be manipulated is to know what your values and thoughts are and not waver from them. If you do not like something, or are uncomfortable doing something, be clear about it. Set your standards, and do not let anything change those. There will always be an excuse or reason you should change how you feel or what you have decided, so recognize that, and stand firm. For example, let’s say you work from home. Monday is an exceptionally busy day, and your best friend calls you and asks you to watch their baby because they have work and their sitter called to cancel. They may say, “You are my best friend, and the only one I know who is home and can do this.” Well, if you have already decided that on Mondays you do not do favors for people because it is a busy work day for you, you would not let the flattery and desperation sway you. Instead you would say, “Oh I wish I could, but Monday is my really busy work day, but I hear this day care is really great.” You are not rude, you are not manipulated, and you provided a solution.
Remember, manipulation is about people trying to control you or trying to escape accountability. As long as you recognize that and act responsibly yourself, you can avoid the pitfalls of letting someone else walk all over you.