I will be writing about the emotional aspects of decision making, and moral orientation in a couple of days, but this seems like a good crosspost from over at Quora. I get asked things like this a lot. How do I avoid being a target for underhanded manipulators, so I give my advice on that below.
There are a few of things you can do, but all of them have to do with you, not the other person.
Be a hard target. If someone has a sob story, don’t care. It might seem very callous, but really, that’s a them problem, not a you problem. The more they tell you about their problems the more of a “suck it up buttercup” attitude you need to have. They complain;
“I hear you man, everyone’s got it rough.”
Sooner or later they are going to run their game on someone who will give them the time of day.
Never give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Ever. I know, you want to. It’s in your nature, it’s the nice thing to do, it feels good, and it’s a bunch of crap. Unscrupulous both expect this from you, and will utilize it when you grant it.
They have never done anything that grants them your trust. They need to earn that, over a long period of time, and by demonstrating who they are both towards you, and everyone that they know. They will tell you who they are, if you make them by requiring them to earn your trust. It’s never given, it is granted.
Never put anything on the table that you aren’t willing to lose. All human interaction is manipulation. It is about getting your wants and needs met by those that you are around. The reason that manipulation is viewed so negatively is because people frame it in a way that is wholly negative. It isn’t, they think it is because they bet too much, and lost the hand.
If you view it as each person coming to negotiate for what they want or need, you will see things a lot more clearly. You want X, and that other person wants Y. You may have no idea what Y entails, but it really doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is X. What you are willing to put up. If you only put up what you can afford to lose, you don’t lose. This is especially important in new negotiations when you don’t know the other person across from you.
I will use an example. People talk about love bombing all the time. A person that acts like the perfect mate, treats them like a king or queen, and basically is a dream come true. Emotions run high, and the person just puts all their chips up in the pot right then and there.
Nope. Stop. Too good to be true? Probably is. Refer back to point 2. Never give the benefit of the doubt. They might seem like the perfect mate, but if you aren’t so easy to woo, then you might see the cracks in the persona. You don’t put onto the table your whole heart, you put up cautious interest. You can lose cautious interest, but your whole heart? Not so much.
Serious manipulators are interested in their wants and needs, and are willing to bilk you out of yours. They only can if you let them. Don’t give them an in, make them work to be in your life, and be very cautious about what you put up, and you should be fine.
I'm so guilty of this, but I'm learning, my son keeps reminding me not to give people the benefit of the doubt. He also says I give people to much credit, for having intelligence. I'm working on that too. I think most people don't have bad intentions but things have changed since I was young, people have changed so I'm sure he's right.
It's sad really.
Thank you for this post, Athena. Have you considered writing about a psychopath's perspective on relationships (both romantic and non-romantic)? I.e. how psychopaths view relationships, do they really view others as nothing more than tools, how psychopaths deal with ending a relationship (unlike NTs who often have trouble cutting off people, fall back into relationship etc)?