Emotional blackmail: how to avoid being manipulated


When we meet such people, we seem to lose our willpower … And then we reproach ourselves for our weakness. Manipulators get their way because they make us follow our emotions, not reason. But it is within our power to learn to recognize manipulations in communication and master the mechanisms of psychological defense against them.

“Do you want to spend this weekend together? Have you lost interest in me? ” This reproach is not easy to answer. Instead of calmly explaining the reason for our decision (important things at work, just a desire to be alone), we begin to ardently prove to our other half how much we love her. This means the manipulation was successful.

Being trapped by a manipulator, we lose the ability to respond adequately. The desire to use others for their own purposes from time to time appears in everyone. More often than not, we do this unconsciously. What for? If we feel that we are unable to influence the situation in a “legal” way, we cannot come to terms with the behavior of others, or we simply want attention to ourselves. Ideal ways to do this are to make the other feel guilty for our troubles, to make him our debtor, or simply to make it clear how badly, ugly he is doing.

Eternal sacrifice

Let’s imagine a situation: you are planning a wedding. Modest, without lavish ceremonies and feasts. But your mom is not happy. How can you deprive relatives of the holiday, the opportunity to congratulate you. Moreover, you have not gathered all together for a long time. “Family is sacred.” This is a classic case of manipulation. There is an implicit threat here: “If you don’t come, you will disappoint everyone.” Mom takes the position of “victim” to force others to behave the way she wants.

Fake gift

In this case, the manipulator uses the principle of reciprocity for his own purposes. “When he gives a gift (renders a service), he tries in every possible way to make the recipient understand that he is now in debt to him. The hidden message is this: I gave you this – it means that you have to repay me with something. The problem is that the “donor” reserves the right to choose when and how the “recipient” should repay the debt, ”explains psychologist Isabel Nazare-Agha.

For example, having noticed a colleague’s mistake, the manipulator does not report this to the management. But in a private conversation he tries to hint that he saved him from serious trouble: “Can you imagine what would have happened if the general had found out about this?” Later it turns out that the “savior” did not act out of a disinterested desire to help …

Types of manipulators according to Susan Forward:

Executioner. He threatens you with trouble (“If you leave me, you will no longer see your children”).

Voluntary sacrifice. He promises to hurt himself if you refuse to do what he wants (“If you leave me, I will commit suicide”).

Martyr. He tries to make you responsible for your suffering (“Look what you have brought your mother to!”).

A trader in false hopes. He promises you big benefits in exchange for help, support (“If you share with me, you will receive huge profits”).

Imaginary values

Why is it so difficult for those who are emotionally blackmailed to respond soberly and intelligently? “Because the manipulator plays on stable ideas that society and the family dictate to us in order to make the victim feel a sense of moral inferiority,” writes Isabel Nazare-Agha. Typical examples of such ideas: children are indebted to their parents (after all, they gave them life, took care of them, spent time, money, energy on them); friends are known (only) in trouble; modesty adorns a person (which means that there is no need to ask for raises and increases) …

“The feelings of guilt that the manipulator instills in the victim jeopardizes their positive self-esteem,” writes psychotherapist Susan Forward. – Neglect, selfishness, injustice, betrayal – all these are sensitive points to which we react especially sharply. Often just a hint is enough. This technique is used by patients who have only to hint about their helplessness so that others satisfy their every whim ”.

Emotional blackmail: how to avoid being manipulated

How to neutralize a manipulator

So, you noticed that in the conversation the interlocutor touched you with something. Listen to yourself. What thoughts come to your mind? “I am selfish, I am ungrateful, I was not up to par, I am worth nothing …” Take a break from the specific situation. Ask yourself, “Am I really selfish? After all, I did a lot for her in the past … “Or:” Am I really that bad? Here are the things that say otherwise … ”A common manipulator’s tactic is to grab onto a specific fact and present it as an example of typical behavior of the interlocutor.

Define your share of responsibility: “Does the problem he is talking about exist independently of me, or am I related to it?” The manipulator seeks to erase boundaries and mix up your own expectations and your obligations. Ask yourself the question: “To what extent can I satisfy his request without harming my own interests?” Once you have established this framework for yourself, you can make a clear decision. Your further behavior comes down to two strategies: counter-manipulation and confrontation.

Learn to parry

Don’t try to make excuses. This will only further weaken your position. “On the contrary, – offers Isabel Nazare-Agha, – keep calm, even if you are very worried in your soul!” Indicate your position in a calm tone, using the phrases: “This is only your opinion”, “I have a different point of view”, “They don’t argue about tastes!”, “Yes, I do not like others.” Your goal is to protect yourself without reacting to provocations from your interlocutor.

Decide to confront

It is about forcing the manipulator to reveal his true intentions, to talk about his own desires, and not about abstract values ​​and obligations. Remember that in this case, you must be ready to reconsider the principles on which your relationship with the interlocutor is built.

To resist manipulation, you need to abandon the ideal image of yourself

For example: you have a wife and small children, and at the same time you are fond of football, horse riding or tennis. Unfortunately, every time you are going to devote time to your hobby, your wife rebukes you: “Are you leaving me alone with the children? Imagine yourself in my place! ” “These claims are an indirect request,” notes Jacques Salomé, author of Don’t Live on Planet of Silence.

So, you need to help the other to express their desires directly: “When you are having fun without me, I feel abandoned, unloved.” Then you can rebuild the foundations of your relationship. “Do I have to give up my passion to prove my love for you? Isn’t everyone’s happiness a guarantee of mutual love? ” After that, you can discuss the time you spend together and separately, the division of responsibilities and other things. “

To successfully resist manipulation, you need to agree to the role of a “bad girl”, “selfish husband”, “uncomfortable colleague” … That is, abandon the ideal image of oneself. You will come to this as soon as you realize your own worth. It really works. Perhaps, in the eyes of a manipulator, you will not be “nice” and “pleasant”, but, freed from the pressure of external evaluations, you will gain much more – the freedom to be yourself.

Trolling – manipulations in virtual communication

Perhaps the “youngest” type of emotional blackmail today is network trolling. “Trolls” are usually called those who in online correspondence try to provoke the interlocutor, cause a fierce discussion or even a scandal. As a rule, “trolls” find a way to protect themselves from the possible consequences of their actions. For example, they maintain anonymity or operate under false names. The best way to protect yourself from them is to not react. After all, it is on her that the troll hopes. Ignoring the actions of the troll, you deprive him of “food”. The regulars of the forums even had an expression calling for an end to the senseless squabble that was unleashed by someone’s caustic post or comment: “Don’t feed the troll.”

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