How to spot manipulative behavior
October 29, 2015 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How to Spot Manipulation - PsychCentral
How to Pick Up on Manipulative Behavior - Basic guide from WikiHow
Are You Being Manipulated? Keys to Hidden Aggression - Good Therapy.org
Psychological Manipulation Resources - Band Back Together
Eight Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation - cassiopaea.com
Subtly Controlling Behavior - Abuse and Relationships

And the fallout: Trust After Emotional Abuse - from Psychopath Free, however, messages are also applicable to the subject at hand (manipulative behavior):
"The realization that you were duped and manipulated by a predator generates strong feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion. You wonder how you could have made such a terrible mistake, and you probably feel so, so stupid! You may tend to beat yourself up and sometimes become your own worst enemy. It is important, first, to acknowledge that all of these emotions are normal and okay. It takes much time to feel them fully and work through them, and the process is far from neat and tidy. Try to be patient with yourself and with life in general. It is impossible to rush through recovery. It is also so critical to be very gentle with yourself and become your own best friend. You can give yourself positive affirmations and make a deliberate effort to stop the negative thoughts that might creep in. This is the challenging path toward self-forgiveness and self-love. You trusted the wrong person because you did not know such monsters existed. The abuse was never your fault! When you internalize these truths, and when you begin to listen more carefully to your heart, you will discover something deep within you that is extremely valuabe… your intuition."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (92 comments total) 289 users marked this as a favorite
 
I cannot express how much I needed this collection of links right now. Holy moley. Thank you for posting!
posted by mdonley at 10:04 AM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Manipulating MeFites into throwing favorites at you by consistently posting fantastic FPs, by joseph conrad is fully awesome
posted by Etrigan at 10:08 AM on October 29, 2015 [79 favorites]


Oh man. This is so very timely. Thank you, thank you.
posted by palomar at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you, I really needed this recently.
posted by brecc at 10:10 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


At a party this past weekend someone handed me a card to share their contact info, and printed on the back of it was this:
Please do as I requested, only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a hungry duck.

•Please do not so as I request if there is any taint of fear or punishment if you don't.
•Please do not do as I request to buy my love, that is, hoping I will love you more if you do.
•Please do not do as I request if you will feel guilty or shameful if you don't.
•And certainly do not do as I request out of any sense of duty or obligation.
I know I only got the card because of the contact info, but that little thing on the back is something I've sort of been meditating on for a few days now and looking back across my own life I realize how many times I've engaged in these behaviors.

It's sort of the anti-manipulation, I think. Or something.
posted by hippybear at 10:11 AM on October 29, 2015 [61 favorites]


Depressing how common these tactics are at the workplace.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:17 AM on October 29, 2015 [31 favorites]


Incredibly timely for me too but would have been even more timely if posted in 1993.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:18 AM on October 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


Great collection of links! Takes me back...to this summer. I was preparing with a meeting with a really manipulative person and was frantically gathering lots of links like these to try to arm myself against his tactics. I was glad I did b/c he used a whole slew of the tactics I had read about.

Main lesson: don't respond to a manipulative person like you normally would. They use your natural empathetic reactions against you.
posted by aka burlap at 10:24 AM on October 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


All of this is extremely interesting to read, and difficult to read. I have certainly had many, many of these things done to me in relationships, and, worse, have done many of them myself. Was I being emotionally manipulative? Probably. Humans are so difficult. I can't even be sure of my own motivations for my actions any more, let alone those of others. It feels like perhaps the best we can do is assess if things are healthy or not, rather than working out why people do them.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive.

I am so glad to see this written out. It's taken me many, many years to realize that approval is no less manipulative than disapproval (e.g. men telling me how much they like X thing about my body or personality or choices).

Being able to articulate WHY you feel uncomfortable when someone is being nice to you is such a big deal and hard for many people, including me. Reinforcing that just someone's opinion is positive does not mean that they are entitled to an opinion on you or your actions is huge. Thank you so much for posting this!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [24 favorites]


Some links to add to the pile (not that the post needs em!):

1. Blog from a psychologist who's done a lot of work around abuse, manipulation, etc. Tons of posts.

2. Nice list of tactics to look out for and how to respond.
posted by aka burlap at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


These are like a how-to guide for becoming senior in a corporation. Startups are often even worse.
posted by colie at 10:51 AM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think the difficult thing is that if someone does these behaviors, they're not going to admit it when confronted. They're not going to suddenly have a label that says stay away. There can be good parts too.

You don't get closure from someone that does this. And those who fall victim to this are often the type who strongly desire closure.

Personally it's been a hard road to realize a lot of this. Reading thru these links made me realize how manipulative most of my family was growing up because I had internalized it into negative self talk and would say many these things to myself.
posted by sio42 at 10:58 AM on October 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


Admit it heck, they're not even going to be aware of it a lot of the time.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:01 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


These are all really fascinating links (including yours aka burlap). This sounds terribly conceited, but I've always felt like I have a really good sense for when people are trying to manipulate me and am amazed when other people don't see through them as well. The serous manipulators (narcissists, sociopaths) often seem able to sense when people have them figured out and as a result skip the manipulation and go straight to blatant contempt or terrorizing. There's really nothing they hate more than someone who won't play their game.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2015 [23 favorites]


The serous manipulators (narcissists, sociopaths) often seem able to sense when people have them figured out and as a result skip the manipulation and go straight to blatant contempt or terrorizing.

This just sounded a bell within my psyche that made sense of about 3 relationships current and past. Thank you.
posted by hippybear at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2015 [22 favorites]


I have certainly had many, many of these things done to me in relationships, and, worse, have done many of them myself.

Frankly, I wouldn't believe anyone who told me they hadn't done at least some of these things in some context or another. Many of them are perfectly normal and near universal human behaviors that only add up to a pathology when taken on the whole.

Who hasn't bribed or blackmailed or guilted someone to achieve some desired outcome? If you apply the definitions broadly enough, you could probably shoehorn in pretty much any compromise or give and take into one or more of those categories.

I'd read those articles as a balance thing. These are all normal tactics and behaviors humans engage in that, in moderation, are perfectly fine. It's when there is a real imbalance or intimations of violence or something like that that it becomes a problem.

This is one of those things where most of the people who are the real problem aren't going to recognize, acknowledge, or care that they're doing it.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2015 [26 favorites]


I'd read those articles as a balance thing. These are all normal tactics and behaviors humans engage in that, in moderation, are perfectly fine. It's when there is a real imbalance or intimations of violence or something like that that it becomes a problem.

from the second link:

You. Seriously, at one time or other, every single one of us practices manipulative behaviors in one form or other. It is just that for most people, manipulative actions tend to be one-off or only occasional instances rather than a purposeful map for daily living and interaction with others.

so be careful, folks. Both out there and in there.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


2. Nice list of tactics to look out for and how to respond.

After reading that list, a lot of those behaviors seem like things that could be part of a manipulative pattern of behavior but usually aren't. To me, manipulation is more overarching patterns and intentions than any specific set of behaviors (which are kinda secondary).
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who hasn't bribed or blackmailed or guilted someone to achieve some desired outcome?

Uh... people who have been the target of this over a long period of time, maybe? Not everyone is a predator.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:35 AM on October 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


•Please do not so as I request if there is any taint of fear or punishment if you don't.
•Please do not do as I request to buy my love, that is, hoping I will love you more if you do.
•Please do not do as I request if you will feel guilty or shameful if you don't.
•And certainly do not do as I request out of any sense of duty or obligation.


I don't think I'd ever do much of anything without these motivating factors.
posted by josher71 at 11:37 AM on October 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


When you think about it etiquette is just an elaborate set of techniques for manipulating people. Miss Manners' whole column is about getting people to do or not do what you want without actually coming out and saying it directly (most of the time anyway). And I think Miss Manners is great. Manipulation does have its uses as a social lubricant - it's just that some people are serial abusers of it.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:42 AM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think ernielundquist is right in that some of this is so overbroad that it basically covers all interactions between two or more people. Like from the first link:
Parents routinely manipulate with bribery — everything from, “Finish your dinner to get dessert,” to “No video games until your homework is done.”

I was bribed with a promise of a car, which I needed in order to commute to summer school, on the condition that I agree to go to the college that my parents had chosen rather than the one I’d decided on. I always regretted taking the bribe. When you do, it undermines your self-respect.
Is this manipulation or just compromise and negotiation? If I hired you to paint my house in a week for $1,000, but said I'd give you $1,500 if you did it in 3 days, am I manipulating you into doing it faster, or just providing a bonus incentive for the job? After all, as with the parent offering dessert as a reward for finishing their dinner, I'm getting you to do something you wouldn't otherwise have done by offering a reward to comply with my wishes. The car thing is also weird to frame as bribe, otherwise pretty much anything anyone ever offers is a bribe and manipulation.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


Uh... people who have been the target of this over a long period of time, maybe? Not everyone is a predator.

I'm glad that people find links and articles like this useful when it comes to setting healthy boundaries for themselves and finding healing, but I am kind of disturbed by the impulse to claim that all emotional manipulation (including really common behaviors like laying a guilt trip or getting upset when confronted) is done by "predators" who can be neatly identified and labeled and othered. It's especially disturbing when we're not talking about abusive relationships, just day-to-day interactions with people -like co-workers- we don't know all that well. In some of these articles, calling someone an Emotional Manipulator is basically giving yourself permission to sort them into a category that might as well be labeled Bad Person and then interpreting all of their actions in the most negative possible light.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:53 AM on October 29, 2015 [55 favorites]


I had a 15 year relationship break up over this kind of behavior in my ex (I think the manipulation was really only in full force for the last 2-5 years, but am uncertain about any more fine details). It's been a long struggle back to anything approaching normal trust and love. I am certain it's good with my (new) love now. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes have really crazy thoughts. That abusive/manipulative relationship is 4 years gone and still, occasionally intrusive thoughts will make me doubt everything for a few moments and it SUCKS.

But Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been a godsend. So utterly helpful to recalibrate and to be able to sort of let things go and see how they turn out instead of obsessing on every little detail.
posted by kalessin at 12:02 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Uh... people who have been the target of this over a long period of time, maybe? Not everyone is a predator.

"If you run this errand for me, I'll make brownies tonight." = Bribery
"If you don't finish your homework, you can't play video games tonight." = Blackmail
"You didn't walk the dog this morning, so I had to do it, and it made me late for work." = Guilt

I wouldn't think any of those things qualifies as predatory all on its own, although any of them could be one small part of a predatory relationship. But give and take is a pretty fundamental, healthy part of how humans interact with each other, compromise, and live together peacefully, as long as there isn't some overarching dynamic that's messed up, like outright hostility, sneakiness, or unusually one-sided manipulations.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


Please do as I requested, only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a hungry duck TO A SEA LION.

Much more manipulative.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


The realization that you were duped and manipulated by a predator generates strong feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion. You wonder how you could have made such a terrible mistake, and you probably feel so, so stupid!

I haven't found thinking of the people who I've felt emotionally abused by as predators, or monsters, or evil overly helpful. Much of the time I'm sure it was just a cycle of abuse, and there was very little intention there. I prefer to think of it as more like cuckoos, or those fungus brain-zombie things.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


So where do we draw the line between healthy greasing-the-rails-of-social-interaction behaviors--like offering bribes or rewards for something we want, or flattering someone we want to befriend us, or trying to make someone we're angry at feel guilty and apologize for upsetting us--how do we draw the line between normal, non-abusive attempts to influence the minds and hearts and actions of others and abuse? It's not, I hope, the influencing in and of itself. Otherwise, I've been abusing this community for a long time in places like MeTa, as I express my opinions and feelings in a hope and effort to change the emotions of people around me. Part of interacting with people is a desire to change them, even if only so far as to change them from someone who has never heard of you into someone who likes you.

I think that the line here, as it were, is the line between giving and taking, as ernielundquist mentions. Abusive behavior comes when a relationship is deeply one-sided, when one person is taking much more than they're giving back, and especially where they're trying to force the other person to give more than that person is really willing to do. But I could be wrong on that. Suggestions?
posted by sciatrix at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


(One of the article does state that we *all* engage in manipulative behaviors, to an extent, and that this is part of normal human interaction; it basically exists on a continuum, the articles address the extreme end. Please read the links folks! <--- manipulative or not YOU DECIDE.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:30 PM on October 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


I've been thinking lately about this post on "sick systems" which has been linked a few times on MeFi, which talks about how personal relationships and work relationships can end up working on a system of continuous crises and intermittent rewards, so that you keep feeling like you want to get out, and will, just as soon as this current crisis is over -- except that the current crisis keeps on being replaced by the next crisis, and the next one.

And I feel like that's a big part of the gap between normal everyday manipulation and the kind of manipulation that makes relationships toxic: it's the difference between a relationship that has enough of a solid basis of trust to it that you can make a rational decision about things like "I'll go out to the bar to talk with them about their break-up, I will miss out on some sleep and be tired in the morning, but it'll be fine" -- versus a relationship that has so much EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE in it that you don't see any alternative except to keep sacrificing yourself, to stay up until three in the morning when you have that big presentation in front of the board, where everything is so much heightened emotion that it's not even a thinkable alternative to say to yourself "Yeah, this is more than I can give / more than I want to give." It's someone keeping you off balance (emotionally, cognitively, however) so that you don't have the space to figure out and assert your own needs.
posted by Jeanne at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2015 [37 favorites]


This comes up in a couple of the articles, but I'm not clear why agreeing to do something and then making clear you don't want to do it counts as manipulation. I totally get how it counts as shitty behavior, and no fun for anyone, but not why it's a red flag as presented here.

I will say that most of the seriously manipulative people I have known, both personally and clinically, have been in intense pain themselves. Calling them predators seems like a serious misreading. The "Band Back Together" article presents some links without comment at the bottom. One is for Dependent Personality Disorder, these folks are presumably the victims of manipulation. One is for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and my guess is that these folks are supposed to be the predators. Another is for Borderline Personality Disorder. I honestly can't figure out where they are supposed to fall. The content at the link itself isn't bad, but it talks a lot about abuse perpetrated by people with BPD. I tend to see BPD in the way Judith Herman does, as Complex PTSD, and thus most people with the disorder as victims of abuse. Sure, they do horrible things sometimes, but it isn't because they are happy or happy causing pain, it's because the life of the average person with BPD is pretty shitty and they aren't sure what to do about it.

I'm in a reasonably privileged position relative to being the victim of serious manipulation, but the language of "predators" gives much more malicious agency to manipulation than I think it usually has.
posted by OmieWise at 12:52 PM on October 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


how do we draw the line between normal, non-abusive attempts to influence the minds and hearts and actions of others and abuse?

I think for starters if the primary satisfaction you get out of a relationship is that ping of relief you feel in capitulating to the manipulation, then that's a big warning sign. If you give into stuff occasionally but overall it feels more like negotiation or cooperation than surrender, that's much better.

Also if you're in a position of weakness or desperation from the outset, e.g. "I'll do anything just to be accepted or loved," then you're really inviting predators into your life. They can practically smell your vulnerabilities.
posted by xigxag at 12:53 PM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


If your reaction to this post is "everybody acts like this sometimes," you're not wrong, but I don't think these articles were written for you either. There are some truly insidious people out there and if you've never been coerced onto the dancfloor by one, you're lucky.
posted by STFUDonnie at 12:56 PM on October 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


These authors appear to have compiled all the DTMFA ask metafilter answers.
posted by bukvich at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter - you know you're being manipulated, because you were coerced into reading all about manipulation. Dang it.
posted by Chuffy at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2015


Wasn't it in Heinlein's Lazarus Long stories that someone opined that friendship was being able to choose who manipulated you? Or was it Number of the Beast? Anyway, I hate to be old school about this, but I feel like one knows when one is being unjustly manipulated and when is being manipulated (or cajoled) toward good ends.
posted by kalessin at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think for starters if the primary satisfaction you get out of a relationship is that ping of relief you feel in capitulating to the manipulation,

*lightbulb*
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's amazing how many things in the last link are "tricks" that "good negotiators" or "good salesman" will use...

Silent Treatment
Expecting Mind Reading
Asking Questions
Abusing Truisms
Use the Cover of Other People
and especially The Chain of Yes

Go buy a car, and count how many of those the salesman uses...
posted by -1 at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


how do we draw the line between normal, non-abusive attempts to influence the minds and hearts and actions of others and abuse?

For me, I think, it's what happens if the other person says, "No." Or if the other person is allowed to say, "No." If that will increase the manipulation or flip it into overt abuse, then the manipulation itself was just the covert form of the abusive power-struggle.
posted by jaguar at 1:16 PM on October 29, 2015 [22 favorites]


And I would add, sometimes it's non-abusive to be in a position where you are supposed to use your power over someone else -- parenting comes to mind -- but I think "Whether the other person can say 'no' and have that be respected" is a good metric for adult interactions.
posted by jaguar at 1:21 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


For me, I think, it's what happens if the other person says, "No." Or if the other person is allowed to say, "No." If that will increase the manipulation or flip it into overt abuse, then the manipulation itself was just the covert form of the abusive power-struggle.

YES. I left a job after 4 months earlier this year because of manipulative behavior from my boss. The capper was when, during live television happening 20 feet away from us, she chose to question whether a certain conversation we had had, had indeed happened. When I realized she was gaslighting me and called her on it, it was like a flip had been switched, and after that, I got the silent treatment from her until I left for another job a couple months later.

Truly astounding behavior.
posted by Automocar at 1:24 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think one of the most insidious and distressing things about emotional abuse and manipulation is how much plausible cover it gives the abuser. When you try to describe what they've done to you, so often the reaction is just like this thread "well, everyone does that."

And you're left trying to explain that "no, this is different!" But you just keep hearing over and over how you're over reacting, because the behavior is cumulative and it's so hard to really get that across. So, the world acts as a secondary gas lighter.

For me, one of my primary fears in life is being manipulative or emotionally abusive. That fear guides so many of my decisions and closed off what are perfectly normal ways of interacting. Once it's happened to you, it really does change what you think of as acceptable behavior for yourself. I don't hold other people to nearly the standard I've got for me.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2015 [34 favorites]


For me, I think, it's what happens if the other person says, "No."

more or less.

If I can't answer no without things shifting into crisis mode, why was the question asked? you may as well just have ordered me.

but I'd still probably say no ... unless you're my boss and you're paying me really well, or my conscience... or perhaps a two year old.
posted by philip-random at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


What would someone do to to figure out if they are being manipulative?
posted by rebent at 1:30 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems like if you're willing to even ask that you're off to a good start. I think that manipulators either tell themselves what they're doing is not manipulation and thus don't see anything wrong in their behavior, or are actual narcissists/sociopaths and don't care.

It's similar to being able to ask, "Am I being an asshole?"
posted by Sangermaine at 1:33 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am very disappointed that the "Band Back Together" article is not an exploration of the tactics that Jake and Elwood Blues used to get each member of the band to rejoin.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:33 PM on October 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think it's particularly helpful to tell someone that if they're asking the question that's a good sign. That really lets people off the hook - it's easy to ask the question and then assure yourself you're a good guy because at least you thought about it! Some ways you can actually tell:

What are the consequences of saying no to you? Is it so high a price that people rarely pay it?

Do you pride yourself on being one of those people that always gets what they want? Do you get a thrill when you get people to go against their own interests?

Do you ask for what you want straight out or do you try and phrase it in such a way that it seems like it has to happen that way instead of as a request?

If the consequences for saying no are really high, or if you always get your way, you are probably manipulating people. (obvious exceptions for certain types of relationships, but those exceptions only go so far.) If you are a sideways asker, that can be cultural or it can be manipulative, so you need to take that in context and be introspective.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Alfie Kohn's work, especially _Punished By Rewards_, is all about how embedded into our society is the idea that we need to use rewards and punishments to get people to do what we want, and how untrue that generally is.

I've tried to avoid using rewards/punishments at all in raising my kids and while I'm not a perfect parent by any means, most people who know my kids consider them likable and well-behaved.

RE: the "free requesting" on hippiebear's card, that sounds like something that is taught under the name of _Nonviolent Communication_ by Marshall Rosenberg and others. A part of what they advocate is learning how to honestly ask things of people without manipulation, accepting a no as a no, so that a yes can be an ungrudging yes -- and communicating that you are really making a request that can be freely accepted or refused.

I got really interested in both nonviolent communication and Alfie Kohn's work some years back; I haven't thought about it too much lately but I think to the degree it's stuck with me it's been a positive thing.
posted by edheil at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


I realize that part of the reason why I feel like it's so important to have a self evaluation tool probably isn't immediately obvious to many people. Being told you're manipulative is a control mechanism deployed by many emotional abusers. It's a way of keeping you from taking care of your own needs, and it is disproportionately used against women. It's something that certain people have realized they can use as an effective way to keep someone in line. The very accusation can be manipulative.

So, you really have to be able to take a step back and honestly evaluate whether that's the case. You have to be able to do self evaluation when you're worried you might be manipulative. Otherwise, you can't improve if you are, and you're terribly prone to a certain type of gas lighting.

Don't get me twisted: I'm not saying that telling someone they're manipulative is always wrong or abusive. Just that it's a tool clever abusers use, and so you have to be prepared to honestly interrogate your own behavior.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:39 PM on October 29, 2015 [24 favorites]


I don't think it's particularly helpful to tell someone that if they're asking the question that's a good sign.

I think it can be at least a minor good sign. I've known a lot of extremely messed up, manipulative people, including one guy who was officially diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and those people--the people who are really that damaged and toxic to others--seem to have no capacity at all for self-reflection or criticism. So if you're asking the question, you may still be a jerk, but you're probably capable of making positive changes and having healthy relationships. Every person has room for improvement, and every relationship can stand a little tweaking and reflection every now and again. If you're looking and thinking about it, that is at least an indication that you're not the worst of the worst.

A lot of bad relationships and even exploitative ones are in part due to bad dynamics. Some people are just plain not compatible, even if they're both reasonable and respectful and attracted to each other, and it is worth considering that some manipulative behaviors might be the consequence of a bad dynamic. Something as simple and blameless as having wildly differing standards for ambient temperature or noise can create a dynamic of constant negotiation, bargaining, manipulation, and conflict, despite neither party being in the wrong.

And other times, manipulative behaviors are reactive.

Here's one thing that really gave me pause. In this link, the silent treatment and expecting mind reading are both listed as problematically manipulative behaviors.

But my primary experience with both of those dynamics is when people (usually women) do them as a response to a partner who is not pulling their weight.

There is a very common scenario where a woman will have to remind a husband or boyfriend to do simple household chores and the like over and over again, to the point that he accuses her of nagging. Eventually, tired of being called a nag, she gets pissed off and refuses to tell him yet again what is wrong, in hopes that he'll remember it on his own. Then, the man turns around and accuses her of being passive aggressive for giving him the silent treatment and expecting him to read her mind.

Those are manipulative behaviors, but the manipulator is not the problem in that case.

Aaand on preview, we're mostly saying the same thing, I think, stoneweaver.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:51 PM on October 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've got a strong real-life example of a manipulator. It's a nice one because it's not an intimate relationship, and centers around an experience most people can relate to: renting a place.

Start: acquaintance of two years has an apartment for rent in a very practical Area. He wants to leave Area, I'm moving there. We discuss things and agree on a fair rent. Proper contract is written and signed, move-in inventory is done, deposit is deposited, rent is paid on time.

As I get to know Acquaintance better, I notice that everything inevitably revolves around him. He has never been able to hold a steady job in his decade-plus time on the market in Area, and it is always the fault of others. Others who were fools incapable of recognizing his genius. My narcissist radar gives a quiet but clear "ping" that I take note of. He occasionally compliments others, myself included, as being fellow unrecognized geniuses. I tease him that, actually, I've been recognized as extremely intelligent throughout my life and appreciate the support I've had. (This is particularly good narcissist bait, as true narcissists are unable to joke about their "unique" qualities.) He gets angry at this. Narcissist radar goes "Heehee PING".

Eventually I find a new place in a nicer, less expensive Area2. The apartment won't be ready until an undefined date, though, which is somewhat impractical, but no worries, Acquaintance has made strides to become Friend. I tell him about the new place and that I may not know the move-in date for a little while, so I'll wait to give him the one month's legal notice. He says that's cool, and if I want to move out earlier, he'll give his OK knowing that Area1 is in high demand and so he'll easily find a new renter. He volunteers this of his own initiative.

Three months later, I'm finally given a move-in date, and it's two and a half weeks away. I immediately call Acquaintance-Landlord to let him know, and ask which he prefers: two and a half weeks notice, or the legal month?

He responds with "you're ruining my life!! how can you do this to me?!? I'll have to withhold the deposit and prorata for the remainder of the month!!!"

Bingo. Narcissist shows his end game. French law requires that the deposit be returned unless the rental has been damaged, and for that to be justified, the damage must be written and valued in the move-out inventory, which he didn't want to do. As for the prorata, it's required if/when the landlord agrees to shorten the legal notice period (which he did) and landlord finds another renter – in effect, they can't "double-rent" a place.

I immediately shut down all expressions of emotion and went by-the-letter, dispassionately, squeaky-clean legal.

He threatened to not help me move, knowing other friends were on vacation and thus I'd be doing it alone, if I didn't "let him" keep the deposit and prorata. Two thousand euros in play. I responded with links to the French rental laws in question, which are freely available online, and already written in the notice (it's required by law to repeat them when you give notice). He responded with a bullet-pointed screed of every wrong I'd done against him in the past year, and thus I didn't deserve what I was "demanding of him". I shrugged and archived the email without replying. On the day I moved out, the day before we'd agreed to exchange keys, he texted me at 10pm with "omigod you haven't given me the keys yet!!! I have nowhere to sleep!!! I'm suffering [sic], I can't sleep out in the cold!!!"

I told him nope and put my phone on silent. Woke up to a half-dozen texts I didn't read.

Went to the apartment in the early morning and he'd been inside to clean it. Because he had a copy of his own apartment's keys, obviously. The whole thing had been a ploy. For what, I don't know, because at one point he'd also written that I could leave my copies of the keys in his postbox, so I did that and told him so.

I consider it a success to have gotten out of that unscathed. That's the closest thing you can get to closure with these sorts.

Seriously, unless you're living with this sort, the most important thing once you know who you're dealing with is to shut down expressions of emotion/feeling to them. That's when it can get nasty and truly dangerous. If you're living with them, get out as soon as they know you're on to them. Losing stuff sucks but is better than losing part of your soul. Speaking from lived experience here. Family and then my first ex, who was abusive. Thankfully all that is now 11 years in the past. This is the first new brush I've had, and am SO GLAD it wasn't intimate.
posted by fraula at 2:52 PM on October 29, 2015 [23 favorites]


Maybe it says something about me and the world I inhabit, but I find most people use at least some of these tactics on a regular basis. It's usually not meant in a serious or threatening manner (more along the lines of say parents trying to bribe their kids to behave or something) but I think it's helpful to acknowledge it does happen, probably everyone does it at some point in their life and then once you accept that, try to figure out what the person is really after. Everyone has a motive but will their motive hurt or benefit you?

It's amazing how many things in the last link are "tricks" that "good negotiators" or "good salesman" will use...

I currently work in sales (see first paragraph) and I really don't think any of these are that common in our industry mainly because they're so transparent. But we do sell something more complicated than used cars and our consumers are more educated in the product than some Joe of the street so that probably changes the playing field. They already know what our motive is.
posted by bgal81 at 2:54 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


My rule of thumb is that Guess culture types are manipulative, and I try to avoid those situations.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:55 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that's just the original sin of Guess culture that it tends to bend towards manipulation whereas Ask culture bends towards confrontation. I don't know if either is objectively worse as they can both be awful in the wrong hands.
posted by bgal81 at 2:58 PM on October 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


You guys, do you know what is best in life? Telling assholes: nope. Next time some dickhead tries some bullshit on you, I want you to close your eyes and think of this.
posted by danny the boy at 3:04 PM on October 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


A wise friend and I were just discussing a particular behavior I'd observed. I called it "manipulative" and she questioned whether the word, with all of its negative connotations, applied in this particular case.

She'd worked with disadvantaged kids years ago and when someone told her "They're going to try to manipulate you," she wondered how those particular kids would have survived without giving compliments to the adults around them. Is giving people compliments so that working relationships are eased "manipulative"?

Of course, the person doing the flattering behavior that led to my conversation turned around and did something nasty-manipulative a few days later, so perhaps my original suspicion was in fact a diagnosis. (HT: "The Heiress").
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:11 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have a really hyperactive "DRAMA BAD" reflex, so the types of people who manipulate via drama trigger me to start looking for the exits.

It's a little harder with people who play on your empathy, because there's always an underlying fear that you're the one being the asshole, because they're sick/abuse survivors/have a mental illness/etc. and that's why they act that way.

Eventually I learned that even if someone's illness is making them act horribly to me, it doesn't mean I have to sit there and take it. There are more constructive ways to deal with trauma, and lots of people with trauma manage to find those ways without making life miserable for their friends.

She'd worked with disadvantaged kids years ago and when someone told her "They're going to try to manipulate you," she wondered how those particular kids would have survived without giving compliments to the adults around them.

I'm pretty lenient when it comes to kids being manipulative, I kind of expect it, especially if they've been through trauma/are disadvantaged.
posted by emjaybee at 3:17 PM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


the original sin of Guess culture that it tends to bend towards manipulation whereas Ask culture bends towards confrontation

would you rather ask for permission or forgiveness?
posted by philip-random at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


These are like a how-to guide for becoming senior in a corporation. Startups are often even worse.

Every organized endeavour attracts these people. The worst I've ever experienced was in a tiny non-profit.
posted by ssg at 3:45 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


It sucks that, "you're the manipulative one!" is an arrow in the manipulative person's quiver. So these kind of lists actually cause me a lot of stress, imagining my older sibling bringing each one part of a proof as to why I suck.
posted by nom de poop at 4:19 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This comes up in a couple of the articles, but I'm not clear why agreeing to do something and then making clear you don't want to do it counts as manipulation.


It's a guilt trip. If you don't want to do something, you should say, "I don't want to do that." Not agree to do it and then try to get points by making a big deal out of what an imposition it is.

I avoided managing anyone at work as long as I could, but had to give in to get some help last year. The employee just left and near the end of his employment I realized he'd been totally manipulating me with the guilt I felt over the low pay rate we'd had to hire at. I guess he tried it once and it worked, so he just kept at it.

I finally realized what a chump I'd been, right around the time he gave notice and was pretty mad at myself. I'm inherently suspicious of many manipulation techniques, but can be got at through my empathy I guess.
posted by Squeak Attack at 4:23 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been manipulated in horrible ways so many times, and sometimes find ordinary social behavior so manipulative at its core, I have a hard time trusting anyone anymore. And often when I see I'm being manipulated, I just ignore it and keep trying to do what seems to be the right things anyway because, well, sometimes, what are you going to do? I hate that I have such a hard time trusting anymore, but what the hell are you going to do? People manipulate each other a lot. Once you start noticing it, you see it everywhere and it can make you crazy (sometimes literally). I just don't even care anymore. You do your thing and leave me alone to do mine. Please.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:04 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


This comes up in a couple of the articles, but I'm not clear why agreeing to do something and then making clear you don't want to do it counts as manipulation. I totally get how it counts as shitty behavior, and no fun for anyone, but not why it's a red flag as presented here.

Earlier in the year I started needing my in-laws to look after my daughter one day a week. They volunteered. Except every time I picked her up it was this long story about how haaaaaaaaaaaaard it is to pick her up because car seats/walking/losing younger kids, on top of the kinds of sighs and eye-rolling. During this time I was picking their kid (or kids) up two days a week, and in spite of the fact it does adversely impact my routines (can't go out because I don't have enough car seats, interrupts the homework/dinner routine, I actually enjoy spending time with my kid) I just do it.

Then it ramps up to 'even though I am home, I am going to let GA pick the kids up and interrupt her work, because her time is less important than mine' (me: PT work, FT study, freelance project due; them: PT or FT work, occasional freelance). All with the sighs and the sob stories and if I say anything I'm being too serious and making stuff up.

So I put my kid in paid care one day a week, and am unable to pick their kid up that day. I gave them warning, I told them my plans, told them what might happen. When it does happen, I'm suddenly a terrible person. I don't deserve that paid childcare space, other people do, what did I do to get it (...was on the waiting list and high priority). When I react to those claims, I'm being hypersensitive and silly. I finish up my contract, no longer need them to do any child care for me, cue several weeks of 'misunderstanding' and snark about 'not being told'.

All after volunteering, then pissing and moaning about doing it. What happens is the favour being offered gets weighted with lead, because they turn it from something acceptable to something SO hard and SO difficult, that it can't possibly ever be repaid. That's why that kind of behaviour can be manipulative - not always, but it adds disproportional emotional weight to things on the side of the person who agreed to do the thing in the first place, having the dual effect of increasing the sense of being owed AND reducing the chances of being asked to do something in the future.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:25 PM on October 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


Agreeing to do something you don't really want to do for someone you love isn't necessarily manipulative, but droning on at every opportunity that that's what you're doing for reasons other than to offer up evidence you care about the person is pretty crappy, but how is it manipulative? What is the secret ulterior motive for it that elevates it to manipulation most foul? The desire to have a personal sacrifice acknowledged? Or what? People make little sacrifices for each other in healthy relationships, and it's not necessarily manipulative for one of the parties to want to have their sacrifice acknowledged, is it? There needs to be some hidden goal in mind for it to be manipulation.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:40 PM on October 29, 2015


If the horrible hidden goal is just to be liked and given reciprocal acknowledgement for a sincere effort, that's not manipulation. The motives make the difference between manipulation and normal social behavior don't they? How can you discern those without taking more than just the tactics into account? The context makes all the difference in being able to tell whether it's actually manipulation or healthy social negotiation. You can't just look at a list of techniques and tell.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:44 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


they turn it from something acceptable to something SO hard and SO difficult, that it can't possibly ever be repaid.

Oh that. Yeah, that sucks.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:46 PM on October 29, 2015


Here's one thing that really gave me pause. In this link, the silent treatment and expecting mind reading are both listed as problematically manipulative behaviors.

When I think of "expecting mind reading" I think of people who suddenly get angry about something you didn't know you were supposed to do/thought you had already reached an agreement about doing a different way. That's either a genuine communication failure or a tactic to force a confrontation/blowup but I don't really recognize their description of "it has the dual advantage of getting what they want, and being able to plausibly deny that they wanted it." I suppose that's a dynamic some people might be susceptible to but it doesn't seem like the ordinary case.

(this isn't really a comment on the scenario you present it's just something I have a reaction to for my own reasons)
posted by atoxyl at 6:07 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


The employee just left and near the end of his employment I realized he'd been totally manipulating me with the guilt I felt over the low pay rate we'd had to hire at. I guess he tried it once and it worked, so he just kept at it.

Uhh, there may be some missing details but from the outside this just looks like you hired someone for a job and paid them less than what they were worth, and that affected their morale/performance. How is it manipulative if they let you know they know they're being underpaid? Was this just their way of asking for a raise? And... they left, presumably because they realized it was a shitty job?

Like what exactly did they manipulate out of you? Acceptance of sub-standard work? Freedom from doing projects they don't want to do? That's not an emotionally manipulative predator, that's just bad management on your part...
posted by danny the boy at 6:18 PM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: "Depressing how common these tactics are at the workplace."
And in advertising…
posted by Pinback at 6:21 PM on October 29, 2015


I realize that part of the reason why I feel like it's so important to have a self evaluation tool probably isn't immediately obvious to many people. Being told you're manipulative is a control mechanism deployed by many emotional abusers. It's a way of keeping you from taking care of your own needs, and it is disproportionately used against women. It's something that certain people have realized they can use as an effective way to keep someone in line. The very accusation can be manipulative.

Oh, dude, this. One of my friends is in a relationship where she's being told all the time that she is the bad one, manipulative, etc. It's not true at all, she's one of the most scrupulously truthful people I know, and I've watched it do a number on her. I wish she'd leave and I try to be supportive, but I know I can't make her leave.

That's one reason I'm a little wary of some of the discourse around this stuff - it becomes weaponized so easily.
posted by Frowner at 6:33 PM on October 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


I was once accused of being manipulative because I complained too frequently about being in a bad place financially to a close friend. Apparently, I was lording how financially powerful I was over everybody else in the room by complaining too much about how financially powerless I felt. In relationships, when strong feelings come into play and empathy and trust have started to fail, the simplest, dumbest disconnects in communication can come to seem like intentional emotional manipulation because the people on different sides of the conversation may have completely different understandings of what the motives and goals of the other party to the conversation are, and so, come away with completely different understandings of what the conversation's really about, like the characters in The Crying of Lot 49.

In my case, was I wrong to complain so much? Sure, but I was also in an abusive employment relationship at the time. Annoying? Sure. Manipulative? Not really. I had no intentions but to express my feelings to someone sympathetic to better cope with them.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:52 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's one reason I'm a little wary of some of the discourse around this stuff - it becomes weaponized so easily.

Yes. I mean, why do women (and some men) revert to the silent treatment or expectations of "mind reading"? Well, sure it could totally be manipulation. Or it could be that they're completely exhausted and burned out by doing all the emotional labor and just don't have anymore to give. I've watched so many kind and lovely women get turned into a husk by emotional withholding and a spouse that refuses to do emotional labor. And they definitely just stop communicating because it is just too much. And then come out the accusations that they're manipulative. I mean, how many different examples did we have in the emotional labor thread of this?

You need two people trying to have a healthy relationship dynamic, and women are disproportionately blamed when it doesn't exist.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:02 PM on October 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think this may be related to the overall topic, especially the idea that sometimes people end up trying to manipulate each other because the dynamic is dysfunctional, rather than because either is abusive:
Think about what would happen if you recognized the pattern and stopped it in its tracks. Imagine being the one who chooses not to perpetuate the cycle just this one time. What would you feel knowing you had reduced the opportunity for pain and disconnection between you and your partner? And in that stillness—that moment where the dynamic breaks down—so many options emerge. What other behaviors could you choose that might lead to connection, hope, and love?
posted by jaguar at 7:08 PM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's not an emotionally manipulative predator, that's just bad management on your part.

I didn't say he was a predator, so don't put words into my mouth.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:26 PM on October 29, 2015


So interesting. The Goodtherapy.org article offers this definition of gaslighting:

Manipulators also frequently use gaslighting—the process of provoking someone into an extreme or angry reaction, then blaming the other person for his or her reaction.

My god, my soon-to-be ex-husband did this incessantly (ignoring my measured, respectful requests or confrontations repeatedly, til I got angry and yelled or worse, and then blamed me for being out of control.) So I'm incredibly familiar with the dynamic.

However I'm curious about defining this as gaslighting, when I think of that term to mean denying reality or deliberately planting false thoughts or interpretations in someone's head (i.e., denying that the gaslights had flickered in the movie that gave the term its name).

I guess I can see the connection--in the quoted definition, the manipulator is denying that any other aspects of the issue have ever been raised, or something like that. But if some wise person out there has any more info to connect the two or gain further understanding, I'd be grateful (as I try to heal from years of this bullshit...)
posted by Sublimity at 7:42 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


To me, the idea of "gaslighting" in the movie was provoking her to notice an objectively-real thing, and then denying the reality of that thing and using her recognition of that thing to "prove" her mental health disorder.

So, it's screwing with the setting of the gaslights specifically in order to fuck with your wife, and then telling her (reasonable) reaction is unreasonable to demonstrate (manipulatively) that she's "crazy."
posted by jaguar at 8:48 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me the denial of reality at the base of 'provoking' behaviour like that is the way it undermines the previous healthy behaviours. Not changing until you're faced with a sobbing partner, then blaming them for sobbing (you should have just asked) denies that they tried changing anything before AND blames them for their own reaction because of that denial. If they accepted "yeah, this is the fifteenth time you've asked, you're exhausted" that would be different, but the usual response is "well, you didn't ask the right way/you didn't ask at all/how was I supposed to know it was serious" all while denying the seriousness because of the emotional aspects.

And then often not changing at all, or only 'just enough' and reverting ASAP.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:13 PM on October 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Or the super fun, "why should I be the only one to change?"

Which completely disregards the 18 dimensions you've twisted yourself through trying to please them.
posted by susiswimmer at 9:49 PM on October 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


But the absolutely tragic is when a parent has done this to their child. Because then that's what the child thinks love is supposed to look like, and how they are supposed to treat others.

And undoing that damage is a lifetime of work.

Those that have been on the receiving end of this and have come through it with hard work know very well that normal human interactions can look like this, but also know damn well that what happened to them was not normal.

It's a matter of degree.
posted by susiswimmer at 10:00 PM on October 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thanks, all, very helpful ways of framing.

Jaguar, the article you posted a few notches above mine is incredibly painful to read. This dynamic was recognized very early on in our marriage struggle and pretty much never went away. No amount of loving, compassionate effort on my part to be the one to break the cycle ended up somehow inspiring him to treat me with respect or compassion in return.

Susiswimmer, your point was spot on in our case. The explanation I always got was that "people just never brought stuff up" in his family of origin, or when something came up and people didn't want to deal, they just didn't acknowledge it. I.e., he thought that was what loving, mature behavior was (and so, of course, I as the one who kept voicing concerns was the fucked up one). I am sure that was this was true about his upbringing, and that the experience of being treated as irrelevant or negated led to his deep shame and self-loathing. And of course this same cycle reinforced those notions too, in many ways...

I'm reminded again of one of the central points in Terry Real's great book, The New Rules of Marriage, the choosing power over love is always a losing strategy. I think for many manipulative people, the prospect of giving up power is so terrifying a notion that they can't ever get to love. It's so sad to watch someone close to you be on that path and unable to get off. In the end it wasn't worth it to continue to sustain damage as a result. So it goes.
posted by Sublimity at 4:35 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where was all this info in 1979?!?
posted by Chitownfats at 6:52 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I think of "expecting mind reading" I think of people who suddenly get angry about something you didn't know you were supposed to do/thought you had already reached an agreement about doing a different way. That's either a genuine communication failure or a tactic to force a confrontation/blowup but I don't really recognize their description of "it has the dual advantage of getting what they want, and being able to plausibly deny that they wanted it." I suppose that's a dynamic some people might be susceptible to but it doesn't seem like the ordinary case.

Here's an example of how this plays out.

My mother, my preschool-aged child, and I are eating dinner together. We are all seated at equal distance from one another. Suddenly, my mother falls silent and sighs loudly. I ignore this, so after awhile she does it again. I look around to see what's bothering her, and notice that my son's drinking class is close to the edge of the table, and that she's staring daggers at it. I'm reluctant to take the bait, so I let her sigh a third time and shake her head sadly before asking, "Is something wrong?"

"Look at his cup," she says, prompting me to guess.

"What about it?" I say.

"It's about to fall on the carpet. It's going to ruin my good carpet." The drink has a lid and the carpet's not that good, but whatever. Again, she and I are equally mobile and at the same distance from the cup. My kid is also perfectly capable of moving the cup if asked, but she wants me to do it, and she doesn't want to ask me.

"Are you asking me to move the cup?" I suggest.

Now she's angry at me. She stares at me open-mouthed in shock and outrage. "I shouldn't have to!" she says coldly. So I ask my kid to move the cup, and she's angry at me for the rest of the night.
posted by milk white peacock at 6:54 AM on October 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


"Claire would have moved it without being asked. Why are you like this?"

Aaaargh
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:32 AM on October 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jaguar, the article you posted a few notches above mine is incredibly painful to read. This dynamic was recognized very early on in our marriage struggle and pretty much never went away. No amount of loving, compassionate effort on my part to be the one to break the cycle ended up somehow inspiring him to treat me with respect or compassion in return.

Yeah, I was in the same abusive cycle in my own previous relationship. I think it's a good indication of abusive-manipulative vs. reactive-manipulative -- if you stop the negative cycle, and they continue it anyway, it's generally abusive.
posted by jaguar at 7:36 AM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]



"If you run this errand for me, I'll make brownies tonight." = Bribery
"If you don't finish your homework, you can't play video games tonight." = Blackmail
"You didn't walk the dog this morning, so I had to do it, and it made me late for work." = Guilt

Life makes me slow to respond on MetaFilter, but come on. All of these sound like things that a parent might say to a child, so let's take them like that. The first two are extremely mild and appropriate positive and negative reinforcement. The third one is a statement of fact, explaining the consequence of an action. If this is honestly what people are falling back on as examples of bribery, blackmail, and guilt as a counterargument to the idea that there are a lot of people who actually don't do those things, then we need better words because these three examples are the opposite of what these articles are about.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:08 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Agreeing to do something you don't really want to do for someone you love isn't necessarily manipulative, but droning on at every opportunity that that's what you're doing for reasons other than to offer up evidence you care about the person is pretty crappy, but how is it manipulative? What is the secret ulterior motive for it that elevates it to manipulation most foul?

The motive is to make sure they never ever ever ask you to do something unpleasant ever again.
posted by jaguar at 9:50 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


To me, that's a pretty broad definition of manipulation. I understand that it is, in dictionary fact, manipulation, but in the absence of other supporting things it seems like something more innocuous that the kind of manipulation we are talking about in this thread.

I tend to think this is important because there is a cost on both sides here. On the one hand there is the problem of letting manipulation (in the abusive sense) slide; on the other there is the problem of improperly identifying annoyances as red flags for predatory behavior. While the first is super important because of the power issues involved, not overreacting is also pretty important to a happy healthy life.
posted by OmieWise at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


we need better words because these three examples are the opposite of what these articles are about.

That is exactly my point. The mechanics of normal, healthy interactions such as those are pretty much identical to the insidious and manipulative behaviors that the articles are addressing. The difference is in the big picture--intent, power balance, honesty, etc.

That might come off as semantic nitpicking, but as at least a couple of people have mentioned, abusers frequently turn these things around in order to cast their partner as the problem. People project all the time, and probably for that reason, it is common as muck to see an abusive and controlling person accuse their partner as the one trying to control them.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


To me, that's a pretty broad definition of manipulation. I understand that it is, in dictionary fact, manipulation, but in the absence of other supporting things it seems like something more innocuous that the kind of manipulation we are talking about in this thread.

Oh, I agree, I was just trying to answer the question about ulterior motive. I think the behavior of "passive-aggressively making the asker absolutely miserable for asking, as if they are forcing you to do something you actually agreed to" is where the manipulation actually comes in. Or can come in. And it can also totally fall into that category of being innocuous in non-abusive situations and hard to pinpoint in abusive situations -- my co-workers might agree to run an errand for me and then grumble about it but we do that jokingly, and it's not manipulative or meant to be; my abusive ex would agree to things and then make my life miserable while carrying out the request because (I think) he wanted to paint himself as a "good guy" who didn't say no but also wanted to make sure I never asked him to do anything he didn't want to do, and it was almost like his agreeing to do things and then acting like I was forcing him became part of the gaslighting.
posted by jaguar at 11:11 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Manipulation can be done completely consciously and rationally, but it can also be because a person is unable to separate their personal bias from their perspective. Identifying one's bias is potentially the hardest thing to do considering current culture and discussion. If only people could talk about it without bad actors immediately using it to their advantage...

Thanks jcifa.
posted by halifix at 3:56 PM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was a huge one with my ex, halifix, he just couldn't see past his nose when it came to my point of view; also, didn't want to. No flexibility at all, in that. Our respective understandings of our day-to-day reality were not aligned. By the end of that relationship, I didn't recognize myself in what he reflected back to me - it felt like a funhouse. Totally destabilizing.

In the background of ordinary, not-bad manipulation, in addition to accepting the other person's definition of self and reality, I'd add: goodwill; shared overall goals for the relationship (if not in a particular moment of conflict); having the other person's interests at heart, and agreeing with them or at least listening to what those interests are, even if there isn't agreement on how to best serve them - basically, giving a shit.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:26 AM on October 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


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