What do you do when you discover that someone’s been pulling your strings? Here are five ideas to help.
People will attempt to manipulate you at many times in your life. Some people will argue that certain types of manipulation can be positive, like using reinforcement and behavior modification to reward positive behavior. Parents and teachers make good, generally beneficial use of these techniques to turn newborn babes into functioning, responsible adults during childhood. However, there’s no doubt that some people use manipulation to achieve selfish, sometimes evil aims. Flattery, deception, coercion: these tools are the dark side of manipulation. For the rest of this article, manipulation will refer to the practice of using people to do things for selfish or evil goals.
What do you do when you’ve figured out you’ve been manipulated? Can you break this cycle of oppression and coercion? There are five alternatives that you need to examine when you understand what’s been happening to you.
Ignore and continue onward
This is a sad situation, but sometimes there isn’t much more that you can do other than grin and bear it. You may be stuck in this scenario if your options are limited to survival. This is one of the worst scenarios to be in. However, the manipulator might not be worthy of attention if they don’t have a huge impact on your life. Chances are that they will eventually grow tired of you and they will try to pick a new target that can help them advance their own agenda.
Confront the manipulator
Sometimes it’s necessary to confront the school bully and call him out. Sometimes it is best for you to tell the manipulator that you know what they are doing. Tell them to stop trying to use you because you aren’t going to permit them to continue. When confronted, sometimes the manipulator will back down, not unlike a bully. Sometimes they will either deny what is happening or else refuse to stop.
Ask for help
If the manipulator won’t stop what they are doing, it’s a good idea to seek advice and get help, either from a trusted supervisor or colleague. Sometimes objective advice from an outsider is more helpful. Your confidante might have some influence to stop the manipulator. They might have some good suggestions on how to handle the situation and they might have valuable information that can help you.
Threaten to expose or discredit the manipulator
If you need a stronger weapon, you might have to build up a dossier of evidence, like a lawyer, and use the evidence to stop the manipulator. You might have to threaten to divulge the evidence to a superior, their peers, or their clients. Be prepared to go ahead and expose them if they don’t back down. Your evidence must be solid in order for this to work. It also helps to have at least one other person who knows the situation and will back you up. This will frighten off most manipulators.
Sometimes the manipulator is too strong to be stopped by the means that we’ve noted in this article. At this point, take stock of your situation. If the manipulator is making your environment intolerable and you can’t get them to stop, sometimes you need to cut your losses and leave for a new job or a new city. In many ways, this is the least desirable outcome. Avoid this scenario unless you have no choice, but remember that it’s an option.
Taking Control Back
Being manipulated can be a humbling, humiliating experience. All of us value freedom of choice and free will in general. The manipulator sometimes strips that freedom from us, occasionally without our knowledge. But take heart: there are things you can do to battle manipulation. Sometimes it takes courage and skill to break free of this cycle, particularly from the more skilled manipulators, but try to keep your mind open to possibilities and understand the situation. Chances are good that you can find a way to improve your situation, if not break free completely.