Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to Avoid Being manipulated

Have you ever been in a situation, where a salesman has managed to sell you a more expensive item than you originally budgeted for, or you purchased something you had no intention of buying when you went to the store but found the salesperson so convincing you couldn’t resist? Have you ever in a relationship done some thing to please another person, even when your gut told you differently? You might have been manipulated.

You would never do that to another person, would you?

Have you ever persuaded a child to not eat a snack that he or she really wanted, but wasn’t healthy? Have you ever persuaded another person to see a particular movie or eat at a particular restaurant? Have you ever interviewed for a job and convince the interviewer that you were right for the job? Could you have been the one manipulating others?

“No, that’s different”, you insist, “It was for their good when I persuaded them.”

What if the more expensive item really fit your needs better, and in the long run saved you money? What if the item you had no intention of buying solved a significant problem for you , or brought you much more enjoyment than what it cost? What is the thing you did to please another turned out to be a really great experience for you, in fact, now you’re glad that you overcame your fear to do it.

Manipulation and persuasion are closely related. In our desire to avoid being manipulated we are closed to being persuaded, even when it is in our best interest. In our distaste of manipulating others we neglect the study of persuading other effectively. This is too bad because on one hand we miss out on new and beneficial experiences, and on the other we miss out on giving a benefit to others.

Fortunately, the solution to both these is simple. First, realize that manipulation and persuasion are both terms for interpersonal influence. They differ only in the intent of the person doing the influencing The effective persuader and the skillful manipulator use the same strategies, techniques and tactics. The manipulator will do so without regard for the person he or she is influencing; the person being influenced is only a means to an end.
The effective persuader, relates to the person he or she is trying to influence as a whole person. The persuader has the other person’s interests in mind.

With this understanding it becomes clear that the way to avoid being manipulated is to learn and become skilled in persuasion. Learn how to communicate effectively as to influence others.

This knowledge will allow you to recognize when someone is using these strategies, techniques and tactics on you. Once you become aware to the tactics being used, you can look at what is being proposed objectively on it’s own merits. You can decide for your self whether or not you allow yourself to be persuaded. When someone is trying to manipulate you can recognize that as well and protect yourself, and even turn it back on the manipulator.

There are a good number of resources for learning the skills of interpersonal influence. It may take a small investment of money. It will definitely take an investment of time.

In the meantime, here’s a quick tip for when you’re not sure whether someone is trying to manipulate you or to persuade you. Ask that very question, “Is this other person trying to manipulate or trying to persuade?” Let the answer to that question determine your future dealings with that person. Then ask yourself, “What do I want?” Let your answer to this question determine how you respond to what is being proposed. Let me suggest, however, that if you are being manipulated, but you still want what is being proposed, find a way to get it on your terms, or through other means. Avoid rewarding manipulative behavior.

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