The naughty word that directs every aspect of your life

This is going to be a two part piece on manipulation. In the first part we are going to explore manipulation as a term, and how people tend to think about it, challenging the preconception that it is a terrible thing to partake in, or to have happen to you. 

In the second piece we are going to discuss the easiest way to identify a person’s currency in the manipulation process. Once you know that, you have a great deal of information on your side of the table that is extremely beneficial to your ends. In this piece we are going to talk about the roadblocks you are creating for yourself in getting what you want from others.

Manipulation as a word usually brings to mind negative connotations. It has long been maligned as something that someone does that is underhanded, and has nefarious intent. 

I think that it is time for a more frank discussion about it. It is time to remove this belief that manipulation is only employed by those that are out to get you. You manipulate. You do it every day, and you do it to every person that you are interacting with. What’s more? They are doing exactly the same thing to you and everyone that they know as well. 

Every human has wants and needs. In order to get those needs met they manipulate one another. Every human interaction is based on it. If you want something from someone, you need to provide them something that is going to make them inclined to fulfill whatever your request is. That is, in and of itself, manipulation. 

Why do people tend to think of it as a negative thing then? Simple enough, because they are negotiating with too much on the bargaining table, and sometimes that comes back to bite them. If you remove the negative or positive thinking towards it, and see it for what it is, you can have a much more practical approach to it. It will be more difficult for you to be taken advantage of, and you will know better how to get what you need from future interactions. 

Manipulation is a bargaining process. I know to neurotypicals that it is an emotional process as well, but let’s leave that aside and see it through it’s working parts. It is two or more people coming together, each with their own idea of an acceptable conclusion to the negotiation. You can deal directly and openly with the person. You can say, I need X, and to get your cooperation in achieving that, I offer you Y. They can agree, or disagree, or they can negotiate for a better deal. 

Often however, that is not what is going on. It is going to be done through more round about actions or words. For instance, you want your spouse to take the trash out, and instead of stating, 

“Will you please take the trash out?” 

Instead you say, “I am going to wash the dishes, and the trash needs to go out.” 

You are hoping that they will take your cue, and say, “I’ll do that since you’re doing the dishes.”

I would argue that the better way would be to just ask them to do it directly, but that would be my approach, and we aren’t talking about that… yet. Let’s say that the person does not take your hint. They shrug and say, “all right”, then disappear from sight.

Now you’re annoyed, aren’t you? Why? Because you put a lot on the table with that inference. You put on the table that you are going to do work, for the family, and that work is not the only work that needs doing. There is also another task, and because you are doing something, and it would take something off your plate if your spouse would do it instead, the fact that they are ignoring you is a direct insult to you. It is taking you for granted, and making you have to do more, while they just take off.

Fair enough, the annoyance is likely warranted to some degree. It seems like any mature person would see that they have to do their share of the labor, and if they don’t, and leave it all to you, that’s irritating. However, that irritation is because you put way more on the table than the other person did. You believed by putting a hint out there that they were obligated to both identify that hint, and respond in exactly the way that you were expecting. Maybe they did, and ignored it. Maybe you married an idiot, I have no idea. Either way, now you’re angry, and likely it’s not going to go away as division of labor is a huge part of upheaval in marriages. 

I am not here to say that either of you are in the wrong. What I am going to say is that what you put on the table was very emotionally weighted. Instead of seeing each interaction as a negotiation, you see it as an essay on the other person’s regard for you. While that may be true, maybe they really take you for granted, and they are very immature, it doesn’t change the fact that you are only in control of you in this situation. 

You can decide how much of yourself are going to put on the table, and you are the only one that can decide how much you are going to lose when they aren’t interested in the pot you presented. Your emotional investment in the outcome is on your side, not theirs. We will talk about how to approach this situation in the next part to this in the next piece. Right now we are only discussing why this attempt of manipulation caused you pain, and it did so because you placed a lot of yourself into the bargain, and then it got rejected. 

How can you not do this? Not just with your spouse, but in things like your friends not texting you back immediately, especially if you know they saw the text but had the unmitigated gall of not responding with lightning speed? Evaluate your expectations of that interaction, and figure out why you take personally that they aren’t at your beck and call. 

If we are being practical, they have a life too, and you have no idea what they are doing at that moment. They might be with their children, at a doctor's appointment, getting out of the shower, cooking dinner, driving, all things that take priority over a text from you, just as you should prioritize those things over a text from them. You logically know this. You are aware that they have other things going on, but you still take it as an affront to your friendship. 

That is a malfunction in how you are viewing that other person’s interaction with you. You are attempting to derive self worth out of it, and because of that, you placed your self worth on the table. Those three dots not appearing should not be a testament as to your own self worth. That is an illogical bargain that you are entering into for yourself.  

When you place too much on the table, and you lose in the negotiation by the person not holding up what you have decided is their end of the agreement, you have cheated yourself. They didn’t sit there and decide that they were just going to make you wait because it gave them some sort of sadistic pleasure, but that is how you responded to it. 

Stop negotiating with your emotions. Negotiate with your logic. What do you seek at that moment, and what is the most direct route to obtain it without causing undue suffering. Once you remove the emotional aspect of the process you are far more ready for how to get what you want far more efficiently. 

For that, stay tuned for part two. 


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