“I don’t know why you still want to live here,” said the condo neighbor whose preference for a noiseless existence (on my part) I cannot meet. “After all you have all these kids and grandkids you like to spend time with, and they all live somewhere else.”
The tone of her words made it clear how much she wished I would choose to live somewhere else.
“I don’t like feeling manipulated, a friend said recently “But there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Oh yes there is. You can change how you respond.
Manipulation is simply trying to get somebody to do something without admitting your real feelings or motives. We’ve all experienced it – and I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it, too.
One person expressed his experience of manipulation this way, “When I think somebody is trying to manipulate me, I get the same feeling I used to have when a bullet whizzed past my ear in the jungle in Vietnam. I know somebody is in hiding – and is out to get me at the same time. Sometimes I wouldn’t be 100% sure it had actually happened. Either way, it focused my attention, and that’s what still happens now. I start to really listen.”
I think we all know that feeling of “What just happened here? Because suddenly I’m feeling uncomfortable.” Did something just whiz past our ear?
How can we respond in a way that will free us from becoming entangled in manipulation?
All conflict arises when we want our way – or the way that we think will benefit others as well as ourselves. Even when our motives are altruistic, we can still push for control over the situation, and manipulation is one of the ways of doing that.
I used to believe there was a “positive” kind of manipulation, and I felt quite pleased that I was usually good at it. Often, I could get someone to do something I wanted and somehow make them think it was more their idea than mine. This let me off the hook of showing up. I didn’t want to have to make my own requests and stand behind them.
That’s not the way I want to live now.
The end of being manipulated starts when we recognize that uncomfortable sense of being indirectly pressured. This can take a lot of different forms…
“Oh it’s fine if you can’t do it. I’ll figure out a way. I’m used to handling it all myself.”
“Of course I wouldn’t want to put you out…”
”Not that I would expect you to be sorry, but…”
If your relationship with the person matters, ask them directly about what they want and why they want it. Proactively guess their needs and feelings: e.g. “Are you really wanting support with this project and finding it hard to ask? Are you hoping maybe I’ll be able to volunteer?”
Of course, you may or may not get a straight answer. But once you’ve turned on your own radar and put the question out directly, you’ll be in a much better position to assess what you think is going on – and what you really want to do.
Your inner radar is usually reliable. If you get an uncomfortable feeling that the whole story isn’t out there, it’s time to pause and listen to the sounds in the jungle.
With You on the Path