Anti-Manipulation Techniques (and armband update)

A New-Age-y blogger put together a neat list of ways to counter ways people try and manipulate you. (e.g “I understand *sad puppy dog look*”) Short versions: – Verbalize the subtext. “You mean I’m breaking your heart by not doing X?”
– Get in touch with your inner Aspergers-stereotype and ignore all subtexts. “I knew you’d understand! *big smile*”
– Exaggerate the subtext. “Absolutely, I’m such an awful person, life’s lost all meaning.”
– Delay, and say you’ll let you know when you’ve reached a decision. (Of all the tactics on the list, by far the most powerful and generally useful.)

I’ve used all of these to great success. It’s neat to see them in once place. And doubly neat to see other people going to the trouble of thinking along these lines: all too many people just focus on new ways to manipulate.

(Very much related to the usual balance between exploits and defenses in computer security. The joke is, defenses are a lot more useful to a lot more people. Unfortunately, exploits tend to connote easy power —
while defenses ask patience and thoroughness to prevent a loss rather than realizing a gain.)

Armband update: Placebo or no, I observed a strong correlation between wearing the armband at night and a (subjectively-evaluated*) inability to enter delta-wave sleep. Despite delta-wave photic entrainment.

Similarly, the energy during the day was great… except when I needed to sit down and really focus. Not to mention a slight discomfort with the whole armband idea for historical reasons.

If my theories are correct, the latter ought to be easy enough to solve (rebuild it with a direct connection between both coils and wear it as e.g a pendant), but it’ll be a bit before I have time to experiment.

* I actually did end up building one of those NeuroSky-based sleep EEG logger projects, only to find out it’s too noise-sensitive for my use. And the headset (a repurposed “toy” EEG) is not compatible with long-term wear.

“The translator method

The translator method is the easiest and the most efficient anti-manipulation technique I have found. It works like this: you are in a situation where you are being manipulated by someone whom I will call your opponent to keep it general. Then you simply translate what your opponent is expressing both verbally and non-verbally into a simple sentence. And you ask them if this is what they mean.

Example: you don’t want to attend the family gathering. Your mother says “OK, I understand.” but with a very sad look on her face. You feel guilty, and now you’re trapped. You really don’t want to attend, but you feel bad about your mother being sad because of you. What to do?!

Translator method: you say “Do you mean that I am breaking your heart by not attending?”

This can be done in a very friendly, loving tone. You can sit down next to your mom and ask “I’m not sure I’m understanding you correctly. Do you mean that …”.[…]

The literal method

The translator method consists in making the subtext (= the underlying, unspoken message) clear and conscious by talking about it. A completely different approach is to simply ignore the subtext. React only to what’s being said. Basically, feign emotional stupidity.

Example: You don’t want to attend the family gathering. Your mother says “OK, I understand.” and looks very sad. You ignore the sadness, give her a kiss on her cheek and say “I knew you’d understand!”.

Another example: Your neighbor wants you to help her assemble her new book shelf. Instead of saying it, she tells you what a nice apartment you have, and how talented you must be with your hands, talks about furniture, all this innocently followed by a description of her problem with the book shelf. She looks up at you with big helpless eyes and says “I don’t know what to do.”.

Now instead of thinking that you have no other choice than to help her, you reply by quoting Steve Pavlina for her edification: ““I don’t know what to do” is pure nonsense. Of course you know what to do. You’re just scared that you won’t be able to handle it.”. Or you simply tell her that you are sure she will soon get an idea.[…]

The subtext exaggeration method

Here, instead of ignoring the subtext, you ignore the rest and react only to the subtext. That is, you don’t react to it. Instead of having the reaction that your opponent expects, you openly agree with the subtext and even exaggerate it, but without taking action.

Example: Again you don’t want to attend the freakin’ family gathering, and once more your mother says that she understands, but looks very sad. Let’s assume that she’s generally manipulative and you know she’s just trying to make you feel guilty. You say “Yes absolutely! I am such a bad son for breaking my old mother’s heart like this. Really, I should immediately go commit suicide!”.

Another example: Your helpless neighbor behaves like I explained above, looks up at you and says “I don’t know what to do”. You reply with a big grin: “Oh wow, I would be a true hero then, if I rushed to such a helpless victim’s aid!”. But you don’t do it of course. You just say it. You can even lean back and cross your arms while saying it to clearly show that you won’t do it.

And then just look straight into their eyes.[…]

The time delay method

Use this one if you feel that you are being manipulated without knowing exactly how. If you aren’t able to translate the subtext, or not aware of what’s going on exactly, but just feel uncomfortable and under pressure, then just refuse to make a decision immediately. Ask for a time delay.

You could say something like “I’ll think about it. I’ll let you know what I have decided.” or “I cannot decide this right now. I need more time to think about it. I’ll come back to you when I have made up my mind.”.

What’s important is to tell them that you will let them know when you have made up your mind. This shows that YOU are in control, not they. You are free to think about it as much as you want. You are free to decide whatever you want, whenever you want. You will inform them of your decision – which means that your decision is entirely yours.”

%d bloggers like this: