You’ve heard of manipulators, haven’t you? Perhaps you’ve even been the “victim” of a manipulator (or perceive yourself that way.)
It can seem as if manipulative people manage to get what they want, and it’s always at someone else’s expense. Let’s take a closer look.
First, we’ll consider the situation of a sweet young gal who seeks out a lonely, wealthy, older man, whom I’ll refer to as the “target.” Her goal: a fat payday in a short time with minimal effort. (Note that while this example features a female manipulator, males can be just as manipulative!)
How does she go about achieving her goal? By pretending to admire, respect and love her target. This pretense can work well for the manipulator. Why?
We all have basic needs, including that powerful need for love and belonging. If her target has money but no feeling of belonging, he’s not satisfied. Something’s missing. A skillful manipulator will create the illusion that he’s loved, regardless of the truth of the matter.
We also have a need for power and recognition. If you’re a wealthy guy who is no longer recognized for your accomplishments, then having an attractive sweetie on your arm could seem like an effective way to once again feel recognized and admired.
A confidence man (con man), whether male or female, is one who deceives. Our sweetheart here is preying on the vulnerability of a man who has unsatisfied needs to get what she wants.
So, does everybody lose in that situation? Does only the target lose? Perhaps you perceive it as a win-win? You make your own assessment. However, it’s unlikely that the consequence will ever be true love, for either the manipulator or the target.
Now, here’s another situation, one where the manipulation may be harder to recognize.
Jamie’s mom is lonely. All of her children love her, but it’s always Jamie whose actions demonstrate his devotion. She calls, he comes running. But Jamie has been unusually busy lately and hasn’t been as available as usual.
Now, mom is complaining to Jamie of sudden, mysterious pains. Doctors can’t find anything wrong. Jamie is worried.
Mom is attempting to satisfy her love and belonging need in what she perceives as the only way that will be effective. She is thinking: “I have to deceive you to get your attention. If I tell you I’m fine, you won’t come and see me. You’ll only visit if I “make” you worry.”
What’s the consequence? Jamie feels guilty for not being able to spend the time with mom that he knows that she wants. If he eventually concludes that her pain has been exaggerated to “guilt” him into seeing her, he will be unhappy and resentful. It will be hard for him to trust her, and he will be more reluctant to visit.
What might work more effectively? Mom could say directly, “I miss you and I would like to see you more often.” She may not get what she wants, but at least it sets up the opportunity for a negotiation between two honest adults.
What do you think are the consequences of manipulative behaviour?