Notes to Self

Thoughts on psychology, spirituality and soft skill development for personal improvement


Manipulative Behavior

"Don't make decisions when you are angry, and don't make promises when you are happy."

Girlwiththecurl feels uncomfortable about the "manipulative" tip in the post Dating Advice that has a tip on how to get a woman's phone number within minutes of meeting her.

Posting that note 2 years back was a difficult decision because like Girlwiththecurl, the tip did appear kind of manipulative. Here's the reason why it was ultimately posted -

"Don't make decisions when you are angry, don't make promises when you are happy" is so true! The decisions we make when we are angry is often not the right one, and we do tend to make more promises if we are in a good mood.

Isn't that why all of us are extra nice to someone, especially when we need something from them? Now is that manipulation - being nice to someone when we need / want something?

Yes and no - as you grow and become more mature, you learn this - when you are nice to people you are more likely to get what you want and, that people are extra nice to you (or suck up to you) especially when they want something from you.

When someone does this to you, you could become angry about this thinking, "That **** is trying to manipulate me". Or you can realize that even you - and everybody else in the world - does this and consider the request being made on its merits and the person concerned. Think about it - when you wanted something from someone and were nice to them, and got that something - did that action make you a bad person? When your mom or dad or siblings or friends or a stranger submit to your niceness are they being naive, a fool or ignorant?

Chances are, you feel bad or uncomfortable about it only when you know the other person really well, and / or know that he / she is too naive to realize that he / she was being manipulated.

The point is, these "manipulations" are a part of human communication; the more mature we become, the more aware we become of such "manipulations". But we need to see it not just based on the action, but the character of the person indulging in such actions. Otherwise, one would go crazy judging every action of everyone and trying to figure out if they were being manipulated!

For example, I know someone who is a master of "manipulating" people to get what she wants. I sometimes dislike some of her "manipulations" but I don't dislike her because of another rule she follows - "If they do something for me, I should return the favor". And she does - even if she gets something by manipulating someone, she always returns the favor by doing something equally nice for them. Now If you were to judge this person just through her manipulative actions, you would judge her to be a deceitful, manipulative person - but if you also judge her through her values that define her character, you are not likely to look at her so negatively.

People with better social skills are those who understand human behavior; that's why we like being around them more - they know how to make us happier, how to make us laugh, how to cheer us up, how to make us feel attractive etc. In other words, they know how to manipulate our emotions. Does it make them a bad person to do so? Only if they have selfish values and misuse their social skills.

This explanation may not be quite satisfactory, but that's because this topic is quite a big subject (and so philosophically debatable - what is right and wrong?). In fact, this concept of dealing with manipulative behaviour from others and recognizing when you can and need to be manipulative is a part of advanced assertiveness training (read this note on assertiveness to learn more).

Related Note » Assertiveness

Book » The Manipulative Man: Identify His Behavior, Counter the Abuse, Regain Control