It’s a cold balmy morning and as I open my inbox, Quora decides to educate me on ‘How do you quickly recognize a manipulative person?’ Now why Quora decided I needed that bit of information is quite an interesting topic and maybe ‘Google’ does indeed know?
However, this post is not about that it is about, wait for it, my objections to the article. No, I’m not a troll, I’m not one of those who have to find fault with everything kind of person but read on and hopefully you’ll see my point.
Let me start with the title, quickly; now I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever had the unfortunate experience of encountering a manipulator but let me clarify there is nothing quick about spotting a manipulator. It often takes years of damage to one’s self esteem, soul, heart and mind to realise that it wasn’t your fault; you were just being manipulated. A con artist is easy and quick to recognise but a manipulative person who has weaved himself or herself into your fabric of life, not so much.
Manipulators are sneaky, in the sense you get this gut feeling that something is amiss but you can’t pin point exactly what. They are so good at turning everything into your fault that you can hardly take a stand, after all they are always the victim and you are made to feel guilty about it. Nothing quick about spotting that, it often takes years of emotional and mental turmoil and a tipping point, an illness, or some other catastrophe to get you to finally realise what’s going on.
What’s worse is that most successful emotional and psychological manipulators have a home court advantage. They either are your family (parent, sibling, spouse, child, in laws etc.) or in a position of authority (employer, senior, etc,) You get the point, they can’t be easily ignored and they often bring along social obligations that they use to their advantage.
So needless to say when I find an article that says, “If a person is too nice or caring, suspect them.” I cringe. I take personal offence to this generalised statement; doubt good people on the off chance that they are manipulators? I now realise why some people have given me the cold shoulder or responded rudely when all I wanted to be was kind and helpful, they have been getting this kind of advice!
While I understand that being in the snares of a manipulator is one of worst experiences imaginable, hardening your heart and suspecting everyone you meet is hardly the solution. For me this advice is akin to someone saying I’m going to sit in this cold dark room because something bad might happen to me if I step out. Yes, nothing bad can happen to you but neither will anything good and that isn’t living it’s existing.
“If they make you do things, that you don’t really want to do, but you do them anyway because of them then you are being manipulated.”
I’m a mum I make my kids to do things they don’t want to do all the time but it isn’t because I’m manipulative it’s because vegetables and fibre is really good for them. A jacket no matter how unfashionable is a must if it’s chilly in the garden. Going to school no matter how boring is not an option it is mandatory, period.
The article was hardly a comprehensive account of what it stated in the title. All it did was offer swooping generalised statements that I felt caused more harm than good. If you truly are in the clutches of a manipulator or suspect someone of being a manipulator this article is not to be read, instead advice from a psychologist would be more appropriate. The truth is manipulators work by eroding your confidence, making you doubt yourself, guilt tripping you into every situation, it is a sad slow process that begins with gaining your trust, isolating you from anyone who might help you see though the manipulation or support your self worth.
Here is an example of what it’s like with a master manipulator as posted by Eden Strong for YourTango.com:
Manipulation always starts with guilt. If he can convince you to feel guilty for your actions (even when you’ve done nothing wrong), then he knows you’ll be more willing to do what he says. “I mean sure, I guess dinner was OK. It wasn’t what I was hoping for and I would have rather done something different but I guess as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters. I love you and it’s important to me that you are happy, even if that means setting aside what I want.”
See what he did there? How he turned that around you? On the surface, he makes it seem like he’s a loving boyfriend but spoiler alert: guilt is not love.
While this isn’t as good as going to a professional psychologist or counsellor for advice it paints a fairly accurate picture of a manipulator. A half page article with generalised statements does more harm than good, and this concept of posting advice about anything and everything under the sun after reading a few articles by other equally unqualified people is what is wrong with the internet today. Dr. Google has become the go to professional for advice, and Dr. Google is filled with quacks that want to raise their ranking on sites like Quora by posting as many articles as they possibly can with blatant disregard to the repercussions of their actions on impressionable minds. It takes 5 likes on a post to get people to trust the nonsense some people pass off as advice.
What I find ironical is that this blogger is doing exactly what a manipulator does, “Manipulators may appear selfless and helpful. It’s because they conceal their intention, ambitions and desire for power.”