I manipulate, you manipulate, and you will be manipulated by others.

We all specialize in a style of manipulation. Somehow, at some point in your life, you discovered that your technique works, and you have honed it through the years.

Every person that you meet has discovered their manipulation style and honed it too. A good relationship and even good decision making become hostage to manipulati0n.  One person may come out on top of the manipulation game, but no one wins.

You try to manipulate others, and others are trying to manipulate you. It can turn a church into a vicious place where only the strong survive. Paul encouraged us to give up manipulation in Romans 12:10 when he wrote:

A friend works in his relationships to give honor by preferring others – letting them have their say, while understanding how to serve them. (OGV)

If you want to stop manipulating others you must be honest in how you manipulate, and if you don’t want to be manipulated, understand how to stand when you are being manipulated.

There are four styles of manipulation. What is your style? Caution: the crafty develop expertise in all four styles and can use them interchangeably.

  • The irate. Expresses anger, bullying, being blunt – too often it works. Those who encounter the irate back down or develop avoidance techniques. To talk to the “irate” we couch our terms in such a way to think we have said something, but they haven’t heard what we wanted to say. The “irate” often come from these “couched” conversations thinking they have agreement.
  • The inquisitor. Have you had someone send you an e-mail asking for explanation? It took them a few minutes to send the questions and you about an hour to answer. Then, you get another question about your answer. Another hour for you. You have encountered an “inquisitor”. Eventually you will give up and let them have their way. Side note: teenagers specialize in getting their way with this style.
  • The acting intimidated. Have you noticed a person apologizing at the beginning of a conversation? The apology plays upon your sympathy. You disagree but you compromise to their position not because you agree; you don’t want to hurt them further. They gain through their mistake by playing upon your compassion. The phrase “better to ask forgiveness rather than permission” applies to this style.
  • The insidious. A gradual and subtle conniving to achieve! The insidious are the most destructive, blind to their faults, and work through layers of ploys to manipulate. They do it naturally in a seductive manner that gradually reels in the victim. When you feel less in worth or taken advantage of, and you aren’t sure why, you have met the insidious.

Learning exercise: I’m listing four encounters with others. Which is “the irate” or “the inquisitor” or “the intimidated” or “the insidious”? You decide:

  • I had a pastor tell me his manner of dealing with complaints. “I send them a lengthy e-mail. I list my points, talk about the vision of the church, and ignore their actual questions. I then ask them to help me in a project.”
  • I received an e-mail every Monday for several years from someone who wanted to discuss something that happened during the service the previous weekend. The e-mails never stopped until I explained that I wasn’t going to answer an e-mail that took me longer to respond to than it did for them to write.
  • I watched an interaction in which someone talked loudly about why the other person was wrong. When the other person admirably talked back even louder, the initial “loud” got soft and almost began crying. The “talk back” person then caved.  Wow. I thought – two manipulative styles used in combination for a take down.
  • An elder said to a pastor, “You win. I say something and you repeat what I just said in a way that makes me feel bad about my motives for bringing up the subject.”

The antidote to manipulating others or being manipulated – love others and don’t manipulate them. Also, courageously stand your ground when needed.