18 Apr


How could I have been so stupid as to fall for that?  How come they believe such obvious lies?  What happened that we didn’t see that it was a con? – Have you found yourself or anyone saying this?

There are emotionally manipulative people of varying degrees all around us.  Whilst growing up you might think that you are immune to psychological manipulation that other people fall into.  Can never happen to you, right?  But part of truly maturing as an individual involves understanding how you also are led by the environment, influenced by others, and driven by the needs you have as a human being.

Human beings can be manipulated precisely because we share innate psychological characteristics that render us ALL susceptible, to a point.  Although, like any other weakness, some people are naturally more prone to succumb, while others have higher levels of immunity to the external pressures that can make us do things we would normally never think of doing.

But assuming that we are already “immune” is naive and the surest path to being a victim of manipulation.

Basic Human Needs

We all have innate human needs.  If your fundamental psychological needs as a human being are not being adequately met, then, unless you understand precisely what’s happening and respond appropriately, you will be motivated to latch on to any source that appears to satisfy these needs.

Some of your basic human needs include:

  • The security of a safe environment in which to grow.
  • A sense of autonomy and control of your life.
  • A sense of self-worth earned through creative problem solving and the achievement of personal goals.

–    Being a part of a broader, likeminded community

  • A sense of status within social groupings (which includes feeling important or respected in some way).
  • Being emotionally connected to certain people (family, friends, etc.).
  • Meaning and purpose arising from being able to make a difference.

If any of these basic needs are not sufficiently met in your life, you will feel inexplicably attracted to anyone or anything that promises to supply what is lacking.  The awareness that this is happening can save you an incredible amount of trouble.

Most times the gullible people are disgruntled people who were not leading satisfying lives or meeting their basic needs in healthy ways.  People facing uncertain times or uncertain futures, people with low self-esteem and negative self-images, and so forth.  The cult leader will hold out the promise of certainty, social acceptance, community, self-respect, purpose and greater gift.

Universal Applicability and Susceptibility

If your needs are not being adequately met in a healthy way, and someone or something comes along that promises to supply all of your needs in one convenient package, then that can seem pretty irresistible. (Happens in affairs)

Rational Justifications for Irrational Behaviour

We all need some level of quality attention and strive to meet that need in various ways, but our thirst for it can blind us to the demonic aspects of the person (or entity) that’s tempting us.  Our emotional drive is so powerful that it will enlist the help of the conscious mind to invent compelling, logical arguments to support what we feel compelled to do.

Weapons of Influence and Manipulation

There was a study by famous social psychologist Robert Cialdini which identified a set of principles which he called the “weapons of influence”:

    Reciprocation – “But they’ve done so much for me!”  When you feel indebted to someone, then the law of reciprocation is influencing you.   If someone constantly reminds you how much they are doing or have done for you, they are being manipulative.  It runs all the way from free samples in product marketing/advertising to someone doing an unrequested favor for you just so they can ask you for a favor in return – the aim is to make you feel obligated to reciprocate.

    Commitment and consistency – If people publicly commit verbally or in writing to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment.  We like to appear consistent and dependable to both ourselves and others (think of the disapproval heaped upon politicians who change their minds).  To suddenly stop following orders or abandon once-deeply-held beliefs can simply feel impossible to many, even in the face of mounting evidence that disproves the belief.

   Social proof – People will do things they see other people doing.  Period.  “A thousand other people can’t be wrong, right?”  or “If everyone else is doing it then it must be OK.”  This kind of thinking is how people get swayed into being “fashion victims” as well as “cult victims.”

   Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform unjust acts.  Authority figures come in many different flavours and facades.

   Likability – People are more easily persuaded and manipulated by other people whom they like.  But likable people might not do very likeable things and that’s the problem.

   Scarcity – If something seems scarce, demand for it will increase.  “Limited time offer” or “while supplies last” or “only for the first 100 buyers” are all ways that the scarcity principle is used in marketing.  In manipulative relationships it may be used like this: “You will never meet anyone else like me!”  It’s subtle, but the implication is that I am rare, and therefore more valuable to you.

4 Smart Ways to Protect Yourself

To protect yourself from the more excessive and evil manipulations of organizations and individuals, you need to:

  1. Be aware that extreme “promise of gain” and “threat of loss” are basic universal tools for manipulating belief and behavior.
  2. Understand that if your basic emotional and physical needs are not adequately met, you become more vulnerable to being manipulated by anyone willing to exploit this gap.  Just understanding this can help immunize you against becoming a victim.
  3. Observe how Cialdini’s “weapons of influence” operate in everyday life (often in benign ways) and how they are indirectly linked to basic human needs.
  4. Stay calm.  Breathe.  A calm mind can perceive the world much more clearly and objectively.

The bottom line is that there are manipulative people in this world that will try to mess with your mind, but you can defend yourself.  It’s about arming yourself with awareness.

CHOOSE to be in control of your own self:

…Stand Strong.

…Stay Inspired.

…Live by choice, not by chance.

…Make changes, not excuses.

…Be motivated, not manipulated.

…Work to excel, not compete.

…Choose to listen to your inner voice, not the jumbled opinions of other.

Are you struggling with a manipulative relationship situation of any kind? What way have people tried to manipulate you? When and how did you realize this?  What did you do about it?

Write and share your thoughts and insights.


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