Learned Manipulation

If someone is a jerk whose problem is that? I get a laugh at my training classes when I flash a slide with this question on it. But really, whose problem is it? People say, “Oh it’s their problem,” but when you’re at home ruining dinner for your family talking about what the jerk did, what is the jerk doing? Having a peaceful dinner with his or her family. The day the jerky behavior becomes a problem for the jerk, he or she will be motivated to change it. But if it bothers you it’s your problem. This answers the question: if they’re a jerk, why am I the one who’s here reading this?

And why are they being a jerk in the first place? Typically the answer to this is because it works. Most ineffective behavior occurs because either it works or be it worked at one point in their lives, became a habit, and now occurs on autopilot.

But it only works when you buy into it. Jack Canfield author of the chicken soup for the soul series used to say if someone told you had green hair with that hurt your feelings? No, because you know you don’t. But if someone says you’re too demanding, might that bother you? Well, if that was a line item on your performance appraisal or something you were accused of in a previous relationship, it may now be an area of insecurity for you, which means it’s a point of weakness that people might capitalize on to be able to manipulate you. Zig Ziglar said if you don’t want people to get your goat, don’t let them know where it’s tied up. But for most of us it’s too late. In fact the people you work with might be more aware of your weak points than you are.

Think back to childhood. What are some of the things children do to try and get their way? Now think about what technique was your favorite. Why did you use that technique? Chances are, it’s because it worked. And once it worked what did you do? Default to that technique? And do you suppose you’ve gotten enough practice and repetition of that technique for it to become a habit on autopilot?

Am I suggesting we are all manipulating one another? Yes. But is it conscious? Not usually.

I believe humans need to be manipulated in order to take action.
What did you do to manipulate yourself to get out of bed this morning?

We will define manipulation as attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for your own purposes. With that in mind, think about who might be manipulating you. Who might you unconsciously be manipulating? How does the manipulation show up, and what harm does it do? Are there ways not to fall for the manipulation as well as ways to get your way without manipulating others?