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A Stoic Approach to Dealing with Manipulators

I'm currently studying the problem of dealing with manipulative people. Harriet Braiker, in her book Who's Pulling Your Strings?, takes a very Stoic approach to this problem which everyone faces at times in their personal relations.

Braiker (107-106) says:

"All manipulative relationships depend on certain levers of control that are used to hold out the promise of gain or the fear of loss or the means to avoid something that is undesirable. For example, common levers of gain or reward include:

Status (e.g., titles, promotions, admission to a school or club)
Commitment (such as to a relationship)
Material gifts

It's easy to see that these things which a manipulator might hold out as "the promise of gain" are in fact externals, things not worthy of our desire and attachment.

"When a promise of gain is the lever of control, the manipulation can seem soft or subtle" (108). But harder, direct manipulation uses the common levers (108-109) of loss, avoidance, or fear:

Loss of money
Loss of power
Loss of status
Loss of job
Loss of opportunity for advancement
Loss of any of the other rewards
Loss of the opportunity to gain such rewards"

And "there are more levers of control when loss, avoidance, and/or fear are threatened (109-10):

Fear of conflict
Fear of anger
Fear of rejection or abandonment
Fear of conditional love being withdrawn
Fear of failure
Fear of exposure (e.g., of secrets, flaws, inadequacies)
Fear of shame
Fear of guilt
Fear of criticism
Fear of the loss of communication (i.e., the silent treatment; withdrawal of willingness to talk about the problem)
Fear of withholding of affection or sex"

Manipulators use our desires for and fears of externals, our passions, to control us. The only way to deal with manipulators is to control our reactions to their promises and threats. And this is done only by making correct valuations of things external.

Braiker offers these additional excellent tips:

"Do not try to out-manipulate a skilled manipulator.

Always pay attention to what the manipulative person does, not what he or she says.

Do not ask why this person is behaving in a particular way and expect to get a useful or truthful answer.

You cannot and will not change a manipulator by pointing out his or her shortcomings.

The only effective way to change a manipulator is to make his or her tactics ineffective by changing yourself. When you stop rewarding the tactics, you will alter the nature and dynamics of the relationship.

Instead of trying to make the manipulator more aware of your feelings, put your energy into raising your own level of awareness and into altering your behavior so that you will no longer be a victim."

The Enneagram Institute Discussion Board - Book: How to stop manipulators

Harriet Braiker (2004). Who's Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life.

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