I have written about manipulation by narcissists before. Today I’ll write about the more common kind of manipulation.
In my family, manipulation is the normal means of communication. It is close to impossible to get people to clearly express their wishes or to say that they are annoyed about each other. Instead, all the important communication happens by subtle and not-so-subtle manipulation.
One could think that I might have emerged very skilled at dealing with manipulation from this family. This is not the case. I still have absolutely no clue how to handle it.
For example, I have not managed to find a way to handle the following kind of scene (which actually starts by people clearly expressing their wishes, for once).
P: “I thought that tonight we could do X”.
Me: “Oh. I was hoping we could do Y.”
P: “Fine. In that case we’ll do what you want.”
Me: “Why? We just only found out we have different opinions about how to spend the evening. Can we not discuss it? Find a compromise? We do not have to do what I want.”
P: “Stop discussing! We are doing what you want. I am not going to discuss this anymore with you.”
Me: “Why? But you wanted to do something else! I might be convinced! Let’s talk about it!”
P: “STOP DISCUSSING IT! I don’t want to hear about it anymore!”
Why is this manipulation? This is an attempt to make me feel guilty. It works each time — I feel like I was dominating and pushing my idea. Which I didn’t. In this way, the manipulator tries to teach me not to say my opinion — see what happens if you do!
I think this manipulation here partially goes under ‘manipulating by getting angry.’ By getting disproportionally angry in the middle of what has been a normal and inoffensive communication, you can scare and confuse your conversation partner, which will make him weak. He will extremely careful not to upset you in the next conversation.
Maybe Clarissa’s suggestion of laughing in reaction to a manipulation attempt would be a good response? How should I react to this? Does anyone have a suggestion?