By Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Connie Podesta
Oh, this topic is a doozy, but it’s universal. Everyone on the planet has come into contact with people who use manipulative emotions like hurt and anger to get their own way. Sometimes it’s obvious. Other times, interactions leave us blindsided by feelings of guilt or fear. No doubt about it, manipulative behavior can be powerful. It’s also a skill that gets tested and perfected from a very young age.
I call it the “birth of a jerk” phase. Sounds harsh but stay with me here. Somewhere around three or four years old, kids begin testing their boundaries in an effort to get what they want. Imagine the little girl who asks her mom for a cookie right before dinner. Of course, the mother says no. Let the testing begin!
The child’s first attempt at manipulation might come in the form of HURT, sounding something like this: “You never give me what I want. Susie’s mom always gives her a cookie when she wants one. Don’t you love me?” Add in some tears and whining. The result? GUILT.
Or, the girl might take ANGER out for a spin. That’s usually in the form of a fit or tantrum that sounds like this: “I hate you! You never do anything I want! You’re a mean mom! Susie’s mom is way better than you!” The result in this case? FEAR.
If parents repeatedly give in to that kind of emotional manipulation, the children’s brains record the pattern of success. “Hey, manipulation works!” They’ve learned a strategy to get what they want and, sadly, it often becomes a long-term habit. Fast forward several decades, and these adults might still be using manipulation to get what they want in their personal and professional lives.
I teach my audience members to keep a sharp eye out for hurt and anger so they can recognize them instantly for what they are. Think about your colleagues, partner, family members and friends. Do any of them slip into manipulation mode when they are trying to get their way? Maybe they turn on the tears or fire up for a fight. Your best response in those situations? “That doesn’t work for me. And it certainly won’t get you the outcome you want.”
Here’s the cool thing about responding in that manner. It not only snuffs out the current emotional outburst, but it might also be a catalyst for change. By showing others that you won’t become a victim of their manipulation, you could also be helping to reprogram the way their brains think about hurt and anger. If they realize the old strategy no longer works, they may feel compelled to explore more positive ways to communicate.
That’s a big win in my book. And it just might make your life easier. Let me know what you think!
Watch this video to learn more:
If you’ve got a team who could benefit from strong, timely communication skills with a serious psychology spin to help them listen more, connect on a stronger level, and develop better client, customer, and colleague relationships – give me a call. I’ve got just the topic for your next event.
You might also want to check out my series The Top 10 Things You Need to Quit to Be a Better Communicator on YouTube.