Tag Archives: Manipulation

Fence-Split Rail-1In this day and age with our population growing in leaps and bounds, we’re finding less and less space to be able to expand in. Some cultures find it easy to live in close quarters. Others of us, like those of us who have become acclimated to the wide open spaces of the western hemisphere, find close quarters and people who move too close to us, unnerving and sometimes even painful. For some of us, we may find it surprising that there is more to establishing personal boundaries than just deal with physical proximity. Because physical space is tangible and essentially visible, it is easy for most of us to understand why we might feel the pressure we feel and can easily comprehend what needs to be done to minimize its effects. However, the feeling that we may be encroached upon emotionally or intellectually includes much more than just the visible space we can see and feel. Since it is intangible, it is also much more difficult to navigate let alone to recognize that we are emotionally or intellectually being squeezed. In this article I’ll cover:

  • Boundaries operate from two perspectives,
  • Cultural Differences,
  • Family Dynamics,
  • What causes the necessity for personal boundaries and
  • Points to remember that will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort

Knight in armor-1Boundaries operate from two perspectives. In both tangible and intangible cases we do our best to establish boundaries or fences, if you will, to prevent encroachment. Generally, we think of these fences as keeping people out of “our space.” But these boundaries give us something more. They give us perceptual limits to know where our space ends thereby giving us our Girdle-1limits and permission as to how far our reach and responsibility might be allowed to extend. An analogy might be if we owned property that was tangent to another property owner and there were no land marks to tell us where our property ended and our neighbors’ began, we would have no way of knowing how much space we had to work with or what we were responsible for. But if a fence marked the dividing line between the two, we could easily have a feeling of what we had to work with and how far we could develop it. Our emotional boundaries work exactly the same way. They enable us to feel how far we can go while also telling us when our neighbor has stepped too far into our space. The difference between physical space and emotional space is that physical is established by traditional distancing by way of culture. Emotional “space” is established by the prevailing implementation of manners inherent in the culture and etiquette concerning self-determination.

Giri-2Cultural Differences: A major component to look at in establishing personal boundaries is that where we set our fences will be different for each person and their culture. For example, in a tangible format, southern European people are used to living in close quarters and in a hot climate. This gives an intensity to not only their rapport with us but tends to draw them in closer physical proximity to us when they are relating. Northern Europeans also live in close quarters but their climate is much cooler which also reflects in their proximity in creating more space between themselves and the people they are relating to. Hence, the perception that northern European people are more cool and “stand-offish” than southern.

Closetalker-1Generally, our physical boundary settings transfer to our emotional boundary settings as well. That is, we will find southern Europeans behaving in a more intimate manner with us than northern Europeans including much more flexible allowances when it comes to interpersonal manners. So emotionally we find northern Europeans to be cool, calm and reserved and with more rigid emotional guidelines while we find southern Europeans to be hot, animated and expressive with looser emotional guidelines. When they relate to each other the northern European will find the southern European agitated, pushy and invasive while the southern European will find the northern European elusive, withdrawn, rigid and secretive.

Personal space-1Family Dynamics. Since our country is such a melting pot of cultures, there is a tremendous variety in how people relate to each other. Our expected boundaries between us and others will be a reflection of how we perceived our family and its boundaries. It is in this way that we will approach others and consider ourselves considerate if we stay within our learned boundaries. Most of the time we don’t recognize differences with others until they encroach or evade. So, when things include someone outside the family structure, things often become a little dicey.

What causes the necessity for personal boundaries? We can easily understand the dynamics where physical boundaries might be involved, but suppose we are relating with someone who wants to emotionally direct our behavior for their own benefit. Their assumptions about how they expect us to behave may lead them to putting us in a social situation where we might feel shameful if we didn’t respond in a specific way. For example, if someone they know is having difficulty performing an activity or is unable to perform that activity, the person making the assumption about us may volunteer our services to their perceived person in need. Suppose that this is an activity we would rather not involve ourselves with but saying no would make us Female Dominance-1appear to be selfish in the eyes of others. This would make us feel that if we didn’t perform what we were offered for, our social standing would be diminished in the eyes of the person being “serviced” and surrounding individuals. The person offering our services either has no awareness that performing as such would be disagreeable to us or, in a more sinister way, they volunteered our services so they would not have to become obligated yet gain “credit” for finding someone the assistance. If we don’t speak up, we would find ourselves cornered and performing. Yet if we do, we look as if we are behaving selfishly.

There are many people in the world who are master craftsmen at manipulating us into performing in ways that will augment their social status and benefit while augmenting our responsiveness to their coercions through a form of emotional blackmail. Yet, there are also still people with whom we come in contact with that have no comprehension of the pressure they put us under to perform in the ways that they assume simply because in their family and culture it’s the way that they would have responded. We need to be aware that those who coerce us are CrushedCulture_Forbesaware that their coercions can be and most often are interpreted as innocent expectations based on their own culture. They play this game much like a double entendre provides an opportunity for a manipulator to “be excused” from blame simply because it’s possible that they acted innocently. Personal boundaries are necessary because of both scenarios; the innocent assumer and the crafty emotional manipulator.

Erecting personal boundaries has a lot to do with our self-perceived social image and the amount of Self-Trust and personal dignity we were allowed to develop as we were growing up. The more Self-Trust and dignity we were able to develop, the more likely it is that we will permit ourselves to set up strong personal boundaries. The less Self-Trust and dignity we were allowed to develop, the more likely it is that we won’t speak up and will have weak personal boundaries thereby finding ourselves performing the tasks assigned to us by the “assumers” and the emotional manipulators. So, what must we do and not do relative to establishing personal boundaries?

The following points will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort…the goal of setting personal boundaries.
Megaphone-LPoint #1 – We must learn to speak up even if we are put in a position of appearing cowardly, selfish or lacking compassion. The person who innocently assumes that we will act the way that they would will simply be surprised at our lack of conformity. The person who is attempting to emotionally manipulate us will really lay into us by emphasizing their perception of us as being selfish, cowardly and lacking of compassion relative to their comfort or preference. They will essentially threaten us with the potential conveyance of this perception to the individuals involved in the circumstance they are manipulating. This will trigger our acquiescence into action thereby preventing the need for conveyance. We must not give in. We must still refuse even in light of this threat. If we do give in, it will open us up to future manipulation by them and others just like them. The key with handling the manipulator is that once we get past their initial assault by sticking to our guns and not capitulating, they will most likely not use us again in this fashion for fear of being exposed for dishonest manipulation themselves. They know that if they push their perception too far, most people receiving it will sense something “fishy” going on and their cover will be eventually be blown. They will then simply move on to someone else whom they feel will be an easier touch. Remember, it’s getting past that initial assault that frees us. Once you’ve given in once it’s much harder to turn off the manipulation.

writing a list-1Point #2 – It’s extremely important that we have a clear understanding of what we want and what we don’t want. This way our erecting of personal boundaries will be solid and clear, especially, to us. Then, when someone contrives a situation that attempts to waffle our convictions and our fear of social disapproval, we can simply say, with certainty and comfort, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. You should know that it takes courage to offer a flat refusal. You are essentially calling the manipulator’s bluff and are forcing his or her hand. Many will launch into conveying your “unworthiness.” But you must remember that if you allow this to happen once there may be many more repeat scenarios. It’s better to endure one “besmirching” than to live through a whole series of them. Your best defense and support is a strong Self-Trust and respect. You can develop this easily through listening to your own feelings and intuition and respecting their validity…something many of us have been inadvertently programmed by our parents to disregard in our early childhood training.

Talk to the handPoint#3 – When we do say I don’t feel comfortable doing that, do not offer an explanation as to why! The manipulator is a master at turning the game around to his or her benefit. If he or she can show you the holes in your preferences and reasoning, you will then again feel obligated to do what it is you’ve decided that you don’t want to do because the obvious reasoning has been invalidated by your manipulator. If you don’t perform what your reasoning has been trashed for, you will again feel like a fool in the eyes of your peers.

It’s important to know that emotional manipulators can “smell out” those of us who have weak Self-Trust and confidence. It’s as if we broadcast “I’m easy” simply by the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others. Once we develop stronger Self-Trust and confidence, the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others will broadcast that we’re not susceptible to manipulators. Then, they will set their sights on others to fill the mark.

Personal Boundaries are not something that we need with everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it is so difficult in knowing when to express them. Those who are unaware that they are overstepping them are often very apologetic and sometimes even ashamed. As long as you verbalize your preferences, it is enough in dealing with them that they won’t be transgressed again. It’s when you encounter emotional manipulators that you must remain aware and up on Pic-cat-in-mirroryour game. The best way you can do this is to know your limits ahead of time and not be afraid to express them and stand up for them even in lieu of potential personal assault of your character in the eyes of others. Your limits and preference must be clear and apparent to you. Their best tool is their ability to tune into and use your hidden shame, self-consciousness and any lack of self-confidence or Self-Trust as their weapon to implement your coercion. Building your Self-Trust and respect is the best thing that you can do to guard against being manipulated. Remember, you are responsible for your own subversion by letting them do so…not them! It’s all in your hands…

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Damsel in Distress-2For many of us who are organized and task oriented or even just moderately productive we are viewed by others as have energy and momentum in handling life’s issues and responsibilities. Many people who may feel timid or at a loss for handling their own responsibilities often see us as an opportunity to acquire the completion of their obligations through our efforts. This perception often becomes compounded if we exhibit kindness and consideration for others which is frequently misinterpreted by them as our being an “easy touch” or manipulatable for getting what they want or need with a minimal effort, if any, on their part. Whether this is thought through or simply instinctual on their part is not as important as the fact that we must deal with them in a way that conserves our own energy for our own tasks, obligations and pleasures. Handling these kinds of people can be a real challenge especially for those of us who have been raised in our contemporary culture idolizing altruism. In this article I’d like to cover:

• The origins of helplessness,
• The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy and
• 5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy.

Origins: How might someone find themselves in a situation that they would consider themselves helpless? The simple and assumed answer is that they are simply incompetent or incapable of performing the tasks that are required of them. But it goes much deeper than that. With all the responsibilities we have in our daily lives and aside from those who are obviously handicapped we are all eminently qualified and able to deal with what our life throws at us. The chink in the armor comes when we’ve grown up in an environment where we’ve been subjected and encouraged toward the belief by our caretakers that we ARE incompetent and incapable. This coupled with the need to get on in life leaves us in an untenable position. How do we do what we need to do but avoid exposing our laziness or incompetence? Easy. We just get someone else to do it for us and no one is the wiser.

There are many reasons by which someone may feel incompetent. But, also, their personal ethics often come into play and they may not just use others to hide their perceived lack of ability. They may also have a diminished work ethic or lack consideration for others and their comfort and simply decide that there is nothing wrong with getting others to take care of their responsibilities. Whether through lack of competency or lack of ethics, the methods that others use to manipulate us into performing their obligations basically follow the same pattern. They play on our indoctrinated belief that it is our responsibility to take care of those who appear to be helpless and weaker than us.

Colonial Survivors-1But where did that belief come from? Two places: During colonial times we actually needed the help of others to survive and from our western altruistic and religious foundations declaring that the welfare of others is our responsibility before our own benefit or convenience. It’s a simple jump in our perception to see how easily this might be used to capitalize on our perceived obligations.

The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy: This story has many variations but comes from two basic perspectives: either we believe that we are helpless or incompetent and solicit help or assistance or we know we’re not and simply use the ploys for our own selfish gains. Either way, the ploys are just as effective against us and need to be dealt with in a way that will conserve our energy and efforts so as not to be drained or subjugated.

Ploy #1: “Woe is me. I’ve been deserted and left in a position where the only way for me is down. You're my last hope!” This ploy is based on tapping into our compassion and our capacity to feel guilty if we decide to not assist. Our historically western religious belief that we are expected to be our brother’s keeper plays a major role in how we respond. This ploy has also been quoted as “the tyranny of the weak.” It also includes those who can be perceived as sick and assumedly unable to perform the tasks that are being solicited. We see this ploy Little Red Ridinghood-1primarily operating in family situations. If we accept the premise that the person is incapable or “too sick” to take care of their responsibilities, we’re dead meat. Our compassion will be seen as a weakness and we’ll be played as far as they can take us. Whether they are conscious of what they are doing or not is not as important as the process. The only difference is that if we confront the person who is unconscious of what they are doing we will most certainly solicit an honest denial and, if this is a family member, create a long term resentment on their part. Many elderly parents utilize this type of guilt and will use this ploy to maintain their children in close proximity to them.

Ploy #2: “My goodness! How well you do that! Everyone can see that there is no one as compassionate as you! I would be so grateful if you could do that for me. Where else could I find such perfection and consideration?” This premise is obviously focused on energizing our pride and ego. The controlling and hidden factors in this interchange are that if we don’t submit to what is asked we would, number one, be seen as lacking in compassion, number two, “everyone” else would see and be told that we are lacking and, number three, we would be held in contempt by the solicitor. This is the “build us up to break us down” ploy. This also includes the age old “damsel in distress.” Those of us who have fragile egos are highly susceptible to this ploy. The last thing we want is to be publicly “dissed” and our incompetence and “lack of compassion” exposed. Why incompetence? Because when we are so invested in our ego and its appearance it becomes a predominant factor contributing to how we overcompensate for our perceived lack of personal status. We will do almost anything to keep our publicly perceived image strong and intact.

Out on a limbPloy #3: “It’s your responsibility to have this taken care of. If you don’t, this will leave me in a very untenable situation.” This ploy is a combination of ploy#1 but with the added dimension of bullying us through using the performance of our perceived obligations as a gauge for how others will perceive us. In a sense, this is sort of a blackmail. Much the same as in Ploy #2, if we don’t acquiesce to their demands we risk not only exposure but the spreading of our “dis-commendation” to our family, business or peer groups.

5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy. These three ploys will cover the majority of the ploys that come from the origin of helplessness. We must remember, however, that all these types of ploys derive their effectiveness from our own perceived frailties and failings. The fact that we believe that we have them is ample enough fuel to power our subjugation by them. However, the more Self-Trust that we are in possession of, the less these ploys will have an effect on us. But as adults and humans we all know that we have weak points in our self-confidence and until we are able to “plug the gaps” with the needed confidence building we will need to have strategies to keep the “users,” conscious or instinctual, at bay in order to maintain our energy and self-respect.

Strategy #1: Accept and displace the compliment. This is mostly in response to Ploy #2. Two things are happening here. First, our culture expects us to be humble when being complimented and then to somehow defer the “honor” to another recipient. This is considered a contemporary measure of humility. The second is a play on our desire to maintain our “granted” image of “better than.” Both actions require us to diminish ourselves in order to stay within the limits of “modesty.”

applause-1There is nothing wrong with accepting a compliment. It is only our own self-consciousness and expected modesty that encourage us to deflect it. Our self-consciousness is proportional to the amount of Self-Trust we are in possession of. If it is strong within us the next part is easy. Do project an exaggerated honor on another recipient claiming that their proficiency is better than our own, that they would do a much better job than we would and that they would more likely than we have much more time and consideration to answer the solicitor’s needs. In doing so we will have played into their demand for humility but deflected it to a worthier “contestant.” We’ve effectively acquiesced to their demand of humility and used it against them. Realize that if we can’t diminish our own need to be “better than” this will not work for us. We must remember and accept the fact that we are OK as we are. This will pull the rug out from any solicitor’s exaggerated compliment and free us from any assumed obligation.

Strategy #2: Actually “help” them but put limits on your time and energy. By telling someone that we have commitments to someone else we negate the “responsibility factor” implied in Ploy #3. Then if they threaten us with blackmail we have a counter with an obligation that meets their terms but just not with them. This will also enable us to gauge our time and energy in a way that meets our needs and obligations so our interaction with them can’t be pushed beyond “reasonable” limits. This salves our desire to be helpful and useful but keeps the degree to which we can be manipulated under our control.

You can do it-1Strategy #3: Cite circumstances where the person soliciting help was fully competent and able to complete their obligations without our assistance. This amounts to using ploy #2 against our solicitor. In pointing out circumstances where the solicitor has been competent and able is eminently contradictory to their claim of helplessness. In pointing out their successes they must acknowledge our observation and “compliment” on their proficiency and ability. This, essentially, frees us from feeling obligated to “save them” as well as letting them know that we know that they are able to do it themselves. They cannot, in good conscience, continue to solicit us unless they have neither shame nor self-respect. If that’s the case, or they pose additional reasons for their inability (unwillingness) to perform the task(s), our response would be, “That’s just something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.” We’ve offered a culturally accepted response to their request (demand) and they must acquiesce in order to remain in good standing with us and their peers.

Dumpster Diving-1Strategy #4: Commiserate. This strategy is the easiest and probably the most fun all. I was working for a boss who was very people savvy and could read them like a book. When she responded this way I was shocked at its effectiveness and laughed almost until I peed in my pants. When the solicitor complained about how difficult and how hard her life had been my boss responded with, ”Oh, honey I know. It’s so hard. Dealing with that circumstance has hurt me so much too and put me in such a bad way that I just don’t what to do.” In commiserating with the solicitor she had put herself in the same position as the solicitor and disarmed her ability to put her in a position of having to be responsible for “saving” her. In the same position the solicitor could not reasonably assume that my boss would have anything to do with her “rescue.” What a beautiful and harmless way to turn the tables on being used! (Not to mention funny).

Talk to the handStrategy #5: Simply state “No. I’m not comfortable doing that.” DO NOT give reasons for your decision. That gives your solicitor armament and a door to badger you. If your solicitor threatens you with harm or diminished social standing, just respond with, “Well, that’s just something that I’m going to have to deal with.” Your solicitor will then, most likely, realize that they have misjudged you as an easy touch and move on to easier prey. In these days and times there is a large component of us who simply have no fear or regret in dealing with those who would use and abuse us. Our Self-Trust is developed to a point where our image in the eyes of others is minimally important and our feelings about ourselves and what we do has a lot more sway over how we conduct our lives. This does not mean that we lack compassion. It simply means that we maintain the right to determine where and how we will apply it. But until we reach that point of trusting ourselves and attending our own needs, these strategies will serve to mitigate any “coercive” experiences we might encounter.

These strategies take our time, awareness, practice and patience to be implemented to full effectiveness. We must be patient with ourselves and recognize where we must simply “cut our losses” with certain people who will not acquiesce in favor of our comfort and our necessity to care for ourselves before addressing their needs. Unfortunately, our western altruistic approach to social relationships has metastasized into a voracious cancer eating away at our Self-Trust and confidence through implied obligation. Moving from perceiving ourselves as a victim to being in charge of our own love, work and energy is an ongoing process. Remember, it took a long time to train us into being susceptible to manipulation. It will take a reasonable amount of time, patience, and practice to change us from being reactive to being proactive in our own interest. There is nothing shameful in looking after our own welfare.

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