When trying to avoid being manipulative, one needs to evaluate if it is more beneficial for them to get their way than it is sacrificial for the other person.
For example, Monique and Garin are relaxing on their couch while watching television. Monique’s leg has been hurting since her workout so she asks Garin to get her a drink from their fridge. In this case, Monique is not manipulating Garin and the benefit to her avoiding pain outweighs the minimal sacrifice for Garin having to get up. The next day, Monique is feeling better and is driving home. She remembers that she has to pickup some bread for dinner while driving by a grocery store. Monique feels lazy so she calls up Garin, who is working in the yard at their house, and tells him that her leg is still hurting so could he pickup bread. She is already next to the store and Garin would have to go out of his way to stop what he is doing, change, and drive to the store. In this case, Monique is manipulating Garin because she is lying about her leg still hurting and the benefit to Monique, being lazy, is far less than the sacrifice for Garin.
What makes manipulation difficult to stop is that most people are not aware that they are doing it. For some, they have been raised around manipulators and have needed to become one as a defense mechanism. If someone is the only person in a family that does not manipulate, they tend to become a primary target for the others.
If you want to evaluate yourself or others to determine if there is manipulation happening, you can try the following exercise:
- Write down the names of the people that are a part of your life.
- Next to their name, write down the different roles that you play in their lives. For example, you could write down daughter / son, sister / brother, spouse, etc…
- Evaluate what their perception would be of you in that role. For example, how would your child see you as a parent? How would your brother see you as a sibling? How would your partner see you as a spouse?
- Examine your relationship with each of the people in your list and honestly try to see who has the upper hand. Who gets their way in the relationship?
- If your relationship is not balanced, get to the root of why you or the other person gets their way. The person who has the upper hand is the one who is either manipulating or is in a place where they could manipulate the other.