Advertising
Advertising

Are You Being Emotionally Exploited?

Are You Being Emotionally Exploited?

Have you ever been part of an interaction with another person that left you feeling drained, confused, and inadequate? You may have been dealing with an emotional manipulator. These people get an A+ in stealth coercion. Often times, you’ll walk away from these situations giving the other person exactly what he/she wanted without even realizing that you gave it to them in the first place.

It may start out as a completely normal conversation. Maybe you came to them because something they said or did upset you and, like the grown up person you are, you pulled them aside to try and talk it out. Or, maybe there’s actually no conversation at all. Maybe this person is someone you have to be around a lot: An in-law, a co-worker, or a boss. Maybe he/she uses body language and nonverbal cues that make it more than clear that you aren’t welcome, accepted, or liked, but then when he/she speaks with you, it’s in the most polite and sincere tone you have ever heard.

I'M Stabbing You In My Mind GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

    Emotional manipulators (or Machiavellian-Feeling Ninjas, as I like to call them) are skilled deceivers. They usually have high emotional intelligence and can bend and shape any social interaction to their advantage. They are shrewd observers, taking in the communication around them and easily establishing a baseline on individuals which they will use to analyze that person’s strengths and weaknesses. They may even ask probing questions in conversational tones in order to get a better fix on you. Once they have you down, they’ll use their knowledge to exert dominance over you.

    Winning Emperors New Groove GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

      There are several ways they could do this, from sarcastic cutting remarks disguised as “jokes,” to guilt-baiting you and trying to convince you that their happiness is your responsibility. I once dated a guy who actually told me that it was my job to keep him happy. “That’s how relationships work. You’re supposed to make sure I’m happy.” Yes, those words came out of his mouth, and when I tried to explain to him that his happiness was his own responsibility, he got upset and claimed that I didn’t care about him. This is another tactic these emotion ninjas use.

      If they know they can get away with it, they will play the victim. They want you to feel sorry for them because they know this will increase their chances of getting what they want, and sometimes what they want is just to feel good about themselves at your expense.

      http://gph.is/2eoWmPl

      Advertising

      Guilt-baiting and passive aggressive jokes aren’t the only strategies manipulators use to get their way. A friend of mine once dealt with a mother-in-law who used what I call the “let-down con.”

      Let me explain. My friend and her husband had a one-year-old son together. Their parenting style differed greatly from that of her husband’s parents, and this caused issues between them. In order to keep from disrupting the family relationship, my friend and her husband sat his parents down and let them know what their boundaries were. One of those boundaries included the fact that they would not be taking their son to his parents’ home without one or both of them present because of the environment.

      The mother-in-law would then make plans or offer to babysit for her and her husband, sometimes weeks in advance. Then she would cancel thirty, fifteen, and even ten minutes before the scheduled time. After putting the two of them in a bind, the mother-in-law would then make excuses or remarks on how she would have no trouble watching her grandson if they would bring him to her house. This is a classic example of how a manipulator can use negative surprises as a weapon against you.

      Excited Stephen Colbert GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - Find & Share on GIPHY

        Of course, one of the most well-known and obvious tactics that manipulators use is the distortion of facts. My ex was a pro at this. Not only would he lie frequently, but when I caught him in a lie, he’d turn the tables on me and try to make it my fault.

        I’m not even talking about the obvious cheater lies here either. You know the whole, “Well I cheated because you make me unhappy. You aren’t satisfying me…” blah blah blah crap? No, I’m talking about lies that make absolutely zero sense, or withholding information just for the purpose of making me look bad.

        For example, I once pointed out during a disagreement that he was trying to manipulate me. He then accused me of being the one manipulating him, naming off times that I had done so. None of the things he mentioned ever happened. In fact, most of them were easily disproved because I wasn’t even there on the specific date he mentioned. I knew that I hadn’t done or said any of the things he said that I had, but he held on so strongly and argued so convincingly that it actually made me question myself.

        Advertising

        Another thing he would do is tell me the wrong time for family get togethers so I would show up late. He’d then state in front of everyone, “I told you to be here at X time.”

        Late People GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

          Then there’s the whole cold shoulder treatment.

          I have a friend whose in-laws repeatedly threatened not to invite her to family gatherings or summer vacations at their lake house because she would not act the way they wanted her to. My friend is very down to earth. One of those “what you see is what you get” types of people. She isn’t rude or loud or trashy, but her in-laws wanted her to “toe the line” when it came to social outings with them. She was expected to agree with them and do what they wanted her to do without question. She was even told that she wasn’t accepted into the family because of her “behavior.”

          She explained politely that she wasn’t going to change who she was for anyone, and she wouldn’t behave a certain way just because they wanted her to. This is when they began to “ice” her out. Even though she really didn’t care to go where she wasn’t wanted, it still hurt her. These were people who were supposed to be her family, and she didn’t want to be the reason her husband had problems with them. Not to mention the effect this type of relationship had on her children.

          I tried to point out to her that standing up for herself was the right thing to do. Yes, it’s a sticky situation when you have family involved, but life is too short to have those kinds of negative people in your life. Truly, it’s not her job to be accepted by them. Her husband married her because of who she is. If his family doesn’t want to be a part of their lives, then that’s their choice, not hers.

          Tyra Banks Goodbye GIF by America's Next Top Model - Find & Share on GIPHY

            So what do you do when you encounter a Machiavellian-Feeling Ninja? How do you combat a slick and cunning manipulator who can out-argue logic and reason?

            Advertising

            One word: Boundaries.

            That’s right. You have to know your boundaries. In an article from Psychology Today, communications expert Preston Ni discusses fundamental human rights that apply to all of us. These rights are our boundaries, our lines in the sand. When one of these rights is violated, we have a responsibility to ourselves to defend that right. No healthy relationship, whether it be family, personal, or business related, can be maintained if these boundaries are crossed.

            1. You Have The Right To Be Treated With Respect

            http://gph.is/1MhGXN1

            No matter what the interaction is, you deserve to be treated with respect. This means that the other person involved is considerate, polite, fair, and open. They are not dismissive, belittling, or degrading. When you show someone respect, you practice gratitude, sincerity, and encouragement.

            2. You Have The Right To Express Your Feelings, Opinions, & Wants

            Sarcastic Talk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

              No one is ever going to agree with everything you have to say. That’s fine. It’s also fine for them to tell you so, or to offer a different point of view or counterargument. In fact, I strongly believe the best decisions are made after hearing opposing arguments and finding the middle ground. However, if someone tries to tell you that your opinion is wrong, or that you don’t have a right to express yourself, then you have a problem. No one should ever tell you that your feelings don’t matter, that your needs and desires aren’t important, or aren’t as important as theirs. We are all equal on this front.

              3. You Have The Right To Set Your Own Priorities

              Priorities GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

                Barring that physical harm to another human being is at the top of your list, what you choose to focus on is your decision. No one can tell you what’s important to you. Other people don’t know your values, principles, or beliefs. Other people aren’t inside your head. They don’t have the same life experiences as you. So how could they possibly know how you should live your life?

                Advertising

                They can give you guidance. They can offer advice and opinions on what they think is best, but only you know what’s best for you.

                4. You Have The Right To Say No Without Feeling Guilty

                Shake My Head No GIF by Originals - Find & Share on GIPHY

                  Let me state this clearly: NO ONE SHOULD MAKE YOU FEEL BAD FOR SAYING NO. EVER. I don’t care what situation it is. It could be something as innocent as a group of friends hounding you for saying you didn’t want to go out that night. It could be your boss pressuring you to work overtime when you have other plans. It could be your next door neighbor attempting to guilt trip you into joining the neighborhood watch, or your kids’ PTO pressuring you to cook for the bake sale instead of ordering from the bakery in town. Or, it could be more sinister: A boyfriend (or girlfriend) pressuring you to have sex, peers pressuring you to drink, a loved one pressuring you keep dangerous secrets.

                  Regardless of the context or people involved, no means no, and if they respect you as a human being, they won’t try to make you feel guilty for saying it. If they do, then it’s definitely time to rethink your relationship with them.

                  5. You Have The Right To Protect Yourself From Threats

                  Protection GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

                    Whether the threat is emotional, mental, or physical, you have the right to protect yourself against it. If someone has or is trying to cause you harm, you need to get away from them and seek help immediately. HelpGuide has a fantastic article on domestic abuse. It describes, in detail, how to spot abuse, what to do about it, and who to call. You can find the article HERE. For more resources, check out THIS article on the different types of abuse, or THIS article on emotional abuse.

                    Gaslighting has been in the media a lot lately. It’s really just a different form of emotional abuse. You can find information about gaslighting HERE.

                    6. You Have The Right To Create Your Own Happy & Healthy Life

                    Fuller House Ashton Live Blogs GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

                      Your life is your own, and no one has a right to prevent you from creating that life the way that you see fit. Again, as long as you aren’t harming others, you have the right to find happiness and to live in good health. Healthiness isn’t just about exercise and the availability of good drinking water. It also includes emotional and psychological health. No one should threaten these things. No one has the right to take them away from you. It is a fundamental human right.

                      These rights are a good starting point in creating boundaries for yourself. They’re also a good way to ensure that you aren’t violating the rights of others. Just as you have the right to healthy boundaries, so do the others you share this planet with.

                      Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pexels.com

                      More by this author

                      Jessica Willing

                      Freelance Writer

                      Are You Being Emotionally Exploited? 7 Ways to Connect to Family When They’re Far Away 5 Things Every Woman Should Say To Themselves

                      Trending in Communication

                      1 How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up 2 How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late 3 7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer 4 If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things 5 7 Practical Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

                      Read Next

                      Advertising
                      Advertising
                      Advertising

                      Last Updated on March 14, 2019

                      7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                      7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                      Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

                      For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

                      Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

                      1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

                      A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

                      It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

                      It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

                      How it helps you:

                      If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

                      Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

                      2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

                      Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

                      Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

                      Advertising

                      How it helps you:

                      Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

                      Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

                      If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

                      Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

                      3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

                      Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

                      Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

                      How it helps you:

                      This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

                      For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

                      Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

                      Advertising

                      A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

                      4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

                      To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

                      A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

                      How it helps you:

                      One word: hierarchy.

                      All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

                      In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

                      If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

                      5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

                      Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

                      Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

                      How it helps you:

                      Advertising

                      Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

                      If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

                      This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

                      6. What do you like about working here?

                      This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

                      Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

                      How it helps you:

                      You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

                      Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

                      Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

                      7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

                      What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

                      As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

                      Advertising

                      How it helps you:

                      What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

                      First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

                      Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

                      Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

                      Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

                      Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

                      Making Your Interview Work for You

                      Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

                      Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

                      More Resources About Job Interviews

                      Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

                      Read Next