Work relationships and friendships can only be based on mutual trust and respect.
It can never be a one-way street where one partner, colleague or friend constantly gives and feels exploited and the other party gets all the benefits and pleasure. That is not friendship or a healthy relationship, it is emotional manipulation. And it is toxic and extremely harmful to the emotional and even physical well-being of the victims.
Sadly, there are millions of manipulators out there who wittingly or unwittingly manipulate just as there are millions of victims of manipulation. If you think you might be either of the two, read on.
So what are manipulators like and how do you know if you are being manipulated?
Relationship experts agree that emotional manipulators prey on your vulnerabilities and often use your own words as a weapon against you in order to get what they want.
Life coach Preston Ni defines manipulation as “the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense”.
He says manipulative individuals have four main characteristics. Firstly, they know how to detect your weaknesses. They then use these weaknesses against you. Then they use their furtive ways to give up something precious to you in order to serve their self-interest. Lastly, whether in work, social or family relationships, this exploitative behaviour is likely to continue until you put an end to it.
Beatty Cohan, psychotherapist and author of For Better, For Worse, Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, says there are clear-cut signs that you’re dealing with an manipulator. Because they are only concerned with themselves, they diminish your feelings. They also put you down, hold you responsible for their own bad behaviour, they refuse to explain themselves, and they only change their ways once you’ve had enough.
She says your legitimate anger or concern over the manipulation will be met by the manipulator’s cries that you are overreacting or being silly. They never apologise, says Cohan.
She says they prey on your insecurities and uses it against you in front of others. They know that you may feel self-conscious about gaining some weight and call you out in front of friends and family for eating an extra bit of potato salad at a braai.
Ni and Cohan agree that when you choose to walk away from the relationship, the manipulator quickly makes amends by offering vague apologies and tries to charm you into staying. However, once you choose to stay, they revert to manipulating. It is always about them, and never about others.
Suzanne Degges-White PhD says you’re dealing with a manipulator when there’s an imbalance in the level of self-disclosure between you and them. You feel like you’re always “on call” to help them when they have problems, but they are conspicuously absent from your life when you need them.
White says external parties will also start making observations to you about the exploitive nature of the relationship.
Erica Tempesta, 30 July 2015, “Are you dating an emotional manipulator?” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3180252/Are-dating-emotional-manipulator-Relationship-experts-reveal-six-warning-signs-prove-relationship-toxic-lead-heartbreak.html.
Preston Ni, 1 June 2014, “How to spot and stop manipulation”, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201406/how-spot-and-stop-manipulators.
Suzanne Degges-White, 25 March 2014, “How to handle manipulators”, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifetime-connections/201403/how-handle-manipulators.
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