Have you ever met someone who has taken advantage of you? Do you have people in your life who aren't always easy to be around? Psychologists Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend say that healthy and safe people speak truth into the lives of others with grace. Unfortunately not everyone is safe.
Most of us use manipulative tactics in some shape or form to control relationships, and we often do this to avoid our own inadequacies. In some cases, manipulation is a learned practise and we need to snap out of it.
Identifying manipulation is the first step to dealing with it, so here are six ways we manipulate each other:
The Control Freak
Like the dictator of a rebel army or a power hungry boss a control freak offers protection and a slice of the pie in exchange for submission. These manipulators are the most obvious types, and the scariest.
You know you have a control freak on your hands when they'll do anything to avoid showing any sign of weakness. Instead they prey on your weaknesses, using fear as their main controlling weapon. A control freak will embarrass you, hurt you, and cut you down if they feel threatened because control to them is everything.
More subtly, you may know a control freak if you're afraid to stand up for yourself.
Cunningly, they'll reward you for loyalty till you find yourself indebted to them. If you know a control freak who is dominating you, or others, run.
'Woe is me, look how broken I am,' says this passive aggressive victim.
Like the control freak they'll hold things over you to gain control, but they'll do it from a position of weakness. Maybe they're always sick, always seeking attention with another sob story or maybe they'll remind you of how you let them down—again!
Like some kind of victim currency, they might say something like, 'Hey, I was wondering if you could grab the bill, I left my wallet at home, I've been so tired lately I keep forgetting things.'
You'll be in their pocket when you're a sucker for their victim manipulation. It'll start small enough, but don't let the wounds fester.
The 'All Hype' type
This person will let you believe they're worth more than they are. They'll promise you the world, yet they won't be there when it counts.
Have you heard the story of the girl getting swept off her feet by this 'great guy' who seems too good to be true! Well, chances are, he's one of these types. All hype and no follow through.
Usually born out of insecurity, this type needs to feel like they've got it altogether. They'll be full of false promises, and lots of ideas about exciting trips and events, but they'll also have 100 excuses as to why it didn't work out, when nothing gets off the ground.
An all hype type is afraid of people who will speak the truth in grace; because they know their card tower of lies might just blow away in the wind.
The 'You Owe Me' type
This is a scary one, because we all do it to some degree! This person, like a meticulous accountant, keeps a record of what you owe them, and they'll call in favours whenever it suits them!
This takes root in those little conversations like, 'Honey, I cleaned the kitchen and made dinner, the least you could do is put out the rubbish!' A true intimate relationship is born of humility and a willingness to serve, and when you're keeping a record of who owes who what, it's hard to keep up, and it's even harder to trust them.
If you feel like you always owe someone something or if you feel like they're in control of the imaginary scoreboard where you never win, you may know one of these types.
The critic holds the control in all their relationships because they're always right! It's like they hold the only copy of the rule book. The critic can never be wrong, and will use your faults as a form of currency to control you.
People will stop a slightly offensive joke mid-sentence if they know a critic has walked in the room.
I think its fine to keep people accountable to a certain degree with a level of mutual respect if it flows both ways—but with the critic it's a one-way street, where they're right and everyone else is wrong.
You know you have a critic in your life when you're always thinking about what they'll think of your decisions and actions, and you're always trying to live up to their seemingly impossible expectations.
The 'Me First' type
I was going to call this type the bully, but it's a little more subtle than your typical school bully type who steals your lunch money.
A manipulator in the adult world using this tactic will control you by constantly having the favours flowing one way, but never giving back in return. They simply don't care for you. They'll always want your skills, your trailer, time or effort but it's never reciprocated.
This type will burn out their friends, their employees, and their congregation by not taking time to gain trust or simply care for anything but their own agendas.
Although, this is just referring to 'healthy' relationships where it's expected you'd get something from it in return. There are many times where it's great to give and help where someone simply can't afford to repay the favour.
Grace and needs
Healthy life-giving relationships allow room for each other's weaknesses. When two people admit their faults and do this with grace, they gain each other's trust. It's like the moment you realise your parents have faults, and aren't superhuman after all! Some of us might use this information as proof we're all in need of grace, while others take the information, store it away and start young in the manipulation game.
I think the main thing we're afraid of in relationships is inadequacy. We're simply afraid we are not good enough. Someone who is stable in their own identity should have no need to manipulate others. A safe, healthy person should have a balance of humility and dignity. Sadly this is usually too hard, or we've been scarred by others, we resort to controlling our own destiny and enter the manipulation game in order to meet our needs.
Cloud and Townsend say we should admit that having needs is not something to be ashamed of: 'Welcome them [our needs]. They are a gift from God, designed to draw you into relationship with him and with his safe people. Your needs are the cure to the sin of self-sufficiency.'
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Media in Auckland, New Zealand.
Brad Mill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/brad-mills.html