What Does Manipulation Look Like?

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What does manipulation look like? What does it actually mean? The dictionary says: ‘to influence skilfully, especially in an unfair manner’. In my experience manipulation can be either consciously or unconsciously done. Either way being manipulated does not feel great and can anger us greatly.

Manipulation can happen in the context of all kind of situations, from when you go shopping in a supermarket, to in a relationship. I do not think in any situation manipulation is positive. It’s usually done stealthily and to benefit the manipulator.

If we look at how supermarkets manipulate their customers, they place products that they want customers to purchase in places that are more likely to be seen (at eye level). They use buy one get one free to entice you to buy more than you need, the product is often a glut product, a second or they are over pricing it, so you see the deal as a bargain. They offer financial incentives that often cost more, for example, two for £3 but the singles are only 75p.

Supermarkets also pump smells into the shop to encourage you to buy cooked foods, such as fresh bread, which does not keep as long as regular bread and so is more costly overall. The way a shop is set out also is made to entice you to purchase more than you went in for, meaning more impulse buys. These are all examples of manipulation that are widely accepted, but are nonetheless an unfair tactic to get you to purchase what they want you to.

Within relationships, whether it be a friendship or a partnership. Manipulation can look like guilting and shaming someone into doing something they do not want to do. Phrases like ‘well you did it last time’ or ‘everyone likes it so you should too’ are quite openly manipulative and play to a persons insecurities.

Whereas more stealth manipulation can look like a person taking a break from Facebook after a disagreement with you, but instead of doing it silently. It’s done with a post on Facebook in a passive aggressive move. Which will knowingly cause the other person discomfort.

Other manipulation tactics are discounting a persons feelings, just so you get the result you want. An example of this would be a family member no longer wishes to be part of a family, however they choose one person within that family, who they trust to keep contact with. The family matriarch knows this and over many years tries to shame the person into divulging contact details or to pass on messages. Despite being told they cannot do it. The person is often exiled from the family for holding that boundary. The matriarch then manipulating the family into seeing that person as selfish or in the wrong.

Using guilt or shame can be a popular method of manipulating. On the other side using threats of violence can also be a form of manipulation. It can be verbal threats or just through body language. For example: slamming of a door after an argument, throwing something in a tantrum like fashion or a facial expression that seems menacing and provokes a feeling of fear or dread in the other person.

Being able to spot a manipulation tactic and address it with the person is not always safe to do, especially when threats of violence or overt aggressiveness are in play. However knowing what manipulation is, having strong boundaries and being able to implement them will help you to teach those using manipulation as a form of control to stop.

If you need help learning how to set and keep boundaries, please get in touch!

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