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7 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships (And How to Handle It)

7 Signs of Manipulation in Relationships (And How to Handle It)

Manipulation is more common in relationships today than ever. With the rise in social media and the decline in interpersonal relationship skills, people are being more and more manipulative.

But manipulation in relationships is not always the result of an evil intent. In fact, a lot of times it’s innocent and harmless. In most cases, the person doing the manipulation is not even aware that they are manipulating their partner. In some cases, they are aware of it, but they believe it to be harmless. In a few cases, manipulation is part of a toxic pattern in the relationship and it keeps going on and on forever.

But you should be wary of any type of manipulation in the relationship. Even though it may sometimes be harmless, manipulation can soon turn into a toxic pattern if you don’t handle it properly and speak about it with your partner.

Signs of Manipulation in a Relationship

Let’s look at a few common types of manipulation in a relationship:

1. Covert Contracts

The term “Covert Contract” is described by Dr. Robert Glover in his book “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.[1] This type of manipulation is very common in men who are insecure in a relationship. But it can also be seen in women.

A covert contract is simply a contract that a lot of people make in their minds but never really discuss it with their partner. They will do something nice for their partner and expect something in return.

For example, “I’ll buy her the dress she liked. I am sure she will have sex with me tonight.”

Or an extreme case of such a contract could be something like, “I’ll pay for her education and support her in her career. In return, I am sure she will love me and stay loyal to me.”

Of course, when things don’t go as planned, they become angry and it leads to a fight. Sometimes, they hold the anger inside and it festers until it blows up. But such type of manipulation never really leads to anything good.

2. The Trap

“Do you think she looks good in that dress?”“Yeah, sure.”“I knew you liked her. How long have you been obsessing over her?”

A common type of manipulation that people use is setting up a trap for their partner. It could be as simple as a word trap. Or something extremely complicated and manipulative as getting a friend to hit on their partner.

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In either case, it’s wrong to do it and how you should react depends on their intentions and reasons behind the manipulation.

3. The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is the preferred type of manipulation for a lot of people. Instead of speaking about the issue at hand, they choose to give their partner the silent treatment.

Now, the silent treatment in itself isn’t bad. A lot of times, being silent and thinking about the issue can help you come to a conclusion. But some people do it with the intention of punishing their partner and winning the argument.

But if they keep the silent treatment going until you apologize, even if you weren’t wrong, then you have a master manipulator at your hand, and you need to address this issue as soon as possible.

4. Checking Your Messages

Another type of manipulation people use is they will constantly check your messages behind your back or in front of you.

It is, in most cases, a betrayal of trust and invasion of privacy. But some people learn to manipulate their partners into accepting this behavior. They will say things like, “If you don’t have anything to hide, why do you care?”

This type of manipulation is usually common in relationships where one partner has trust issues. These trust issues are often a result of something that happened in the relationship.

But in a lot of cases, these trust issues are simply the insecurity of one partner seeping into the relationship.

5. Social Media Shenanigans

Social media has made manipulation very easy. You will often find passive aggressive comments and a boatload of different manipulative tactics used by people who love social media manipulation.

If your partner is using social media to manipulate you, it’s most likely that they are doing it to make you jealous or to put you down. They may do things like,

  • Post pictures with someone of the opposite sex.
  • Post passive aggressive quotes that may be directed at you. Things like, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at your best.”.
  • Actively like and comment statuses or pictures of an ex or someone they know you are jealous of.

6. Withholding Sex to Get What They Want

The first thing that comes to mind is a very direct type of manipulation that a lot of people see in their relationship. It’s quite common with women but men have been known to do this too.

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They withhold sex from their partner because they are not getting what they want. Sometimes, they withhold sex to punish a partner for doing something they didn’t like.

“Didn’t take out the trash? Well, don’t expect any action tonight.”

“Didn’t buy me that necklace I wanted? You won’t be seeing me naked until you do.”

Withholding sex is not always a big deal in a healthy relationship. So, if your partner is doing it just to tease you or they are playing, it’s okay and you should not worry about it.

It’s also understandable if they are genuinely upset with you about something and they need time to let go of the anger before they can feel comfortable enough to have sex.

But it becomes a problem when they are withholding sex purely to punish you or to get something out of you.

To figure out if this is manipulation, or your partner is genuinely upset with you, you need to put on a little empathy hat and try to see how you would react if you were in their situation.

Did you lie to them about something big and they feel that they can’t trust you right now?

If so, it’s understandable that they don’t want sex right now because they don’t trust you. Give them some time and listen to them. Try to talk about the issue and come to a solution together. Treat them with respect and understanding and they will soon start trusting you again.

Are they upset because you didn’t get them the birthday gift they wanted?

If so, there’s a good chance they just want you for money and are trying to “train” you to do what they want.

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7. The Life Controller

This type of manipulation is subtle. Because you won’t even realize that they are manipulating you. It will feel like they are helping you. But in reality, they will be controlling your life and will be molding it the way they want it.

Now let me be clear, healthy couples support each other and help each other take major life decisions. But some people take this to the next level where it merges with manipulation.

If you have a partner who controls all aspects of your life, you will eventually stop feeling like yourself and you will feel like you are living someone else’s life. It’s a good idea to confront them and speak about it before you resent them and end up in a bad breakup.

How to Handle Manipulation in a Relationship

Handling manipulation in a relationship comes down to 3 things:

1. Introspection

The first step, introspection, is to look inside yourself and ask yourself if you have been doing something to warrant this manipulation.

Has your partner tried to talk to you, and you ignored them?

Have you been neglecting some needs that your partner has told you about?

And most importantly, have you been doing some type of manipulation that has caused your partner to manipulate in return?

It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you are unsure, it will help to speak to someone close to you and get their opinion on the topic. If you choose to discuss it with someone, make sure you give them an unbiased view of what happened.

2. Intention and Showing Empathy

The second step is figuring out the intention of your partner. In another words, it’s to put yourself in their shoes and try to feel what they were feeling. Your aim here is to try to understand them and figure out where they are coming from.

Is your partner being manipulative because they are insecure and don’t know how to communicate properly? Or is it that they are just upset about something serious and this manipulation is just a way to get some validation from you?

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If you are not sure about their intention, it’s best to not make any assumption. Instead, just speak to them about it.

When you speak to them, make sure you are doing it with the intention of understanding them and coming to a conclusion; not to blame them and get the moral higher ground.

3. Communication

The third step, communication, is the most important step of all.

With proper communication, you can pretty much solve any problem in your relationship. You may not be able to resolve childhood issues of your partner and bad habits formed over the years. But you can bring these issues to light and figure out a way to tackle them together.

Remember, whenever you choose to communicate, do it clearly and with the intention of resolving the issue. It’s best to follow the template below when you are tackling any type of manipulation issue.

“When you did [the exact manipulating action], I felt disconnected from you because it feels like manipulation and that means you don’t trust me enough to communicate directly. I want this relationship to work and I want us to communicate better. I really want to understand why you did it. Is it because [your guess of their intention]?”

If your partner gets angry, remind them that you love them, and you are not trying to blame them or make them feel any less. You just want to understand them and to make sure you both can communicate with each other.

If they are unwilling to work on the issues and discuss it, even after trying multiple times, then there is a good chance your partner is unwilling to learn and grow. And you should seriously consider ending such a relationship.

Final Thoughts

Manipulation can turn into a toxic behavioral pattern in the relationship. It’s best to address manipulation as soon as possible. The longer you ignore it, the harder it will be to acknowledge the behavior and change it.

It will take some effort from both the partners to get rid of toxic manipulation in your relationship. If one partner is unwilling to make the effort, it’s best to consider ending the relationship.

Featured photo credit: Ashley Schulze via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Dr. Robert Glover: No More Mr. Nice Guy

More by this author

Kevin Thompson

A breakup and relationship expert who writes about reconciliation and becoming a better person

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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