Have you ever had someone in your life that did not respect your boundaries? That did not communicate effectively? That was just overwhelming? What if I told you that manipulation is not a bad thing? It is something that we do every day. We manipulate our vehicles in the morning to get where we need to go. We manipulate our Keurig’s or coffee pots in the morning for that much needed energy juice. We manipulate tasks at work to get our jobs done and to be effective. Manipulation has a bad rap and is often associated with negative connotation, especially when referring to people and how they interact with us in relationships.
The word manipulation in and of itself is a neutral term. It is simply a way for people to get their needs met in a relationship or in everyday life. However, it is often used in the phrase, “that person is so manipulative.” This is signaling that a person is doing something hurtful to another person. Using manipulation in a harmful way is typically a sign that a person does not know how to get their needs met in a healthy way. This can be a result of trauma or past experiences built up over years of their life. The individual may not be aware of either the trauma or how they are acting out through manipulation. It can also be hurtful to hear one is being manipulative. It is important that we understand the subtle ways that we are using the word in context of people’s actions, including our own.
Additionally, this term gets used quite frequently when talking about individuals who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder. There are already many stigmas attached a personality diagnosis and this reinforces a lot of those misconceived ideas. So, when these situations come up, other things to say are “When you do this it makes me feel…” or “How can I help you right now?” We can even advocate for ourselves by taking a break and walking away from the situation. Effective communication comes into play and is a tool we can use.
For those have been called manipulative and have been hurt by this, I see you. Your needs are valid. Your emotions are valid. You can get your needs met in a healthy way.
Now, how can we work through this? Therapy can be a great tool to help ourselves get our needs met and learn to communicate in a healthy way. Therapy can also help us address the deeper-rooted issue and create a life worth living.
By: Tate Goss
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