I’ve exited several conversations in the past with physical tension, unable to specify or place what occurred between myself and the other person. Confused and heavy-hearted I move on with my days, unaware of the growing effect of the disturbing conversation on my mind, body, and spirit. 

Then, without warning, the veiled intent of the conversation is revealed in a moment of clarity: I gave up control of my feelings and beliefs as a result of emotional manipulation. 

Emotional manipulation occurs when a person subtly applies deceptive strategies for power or control over another. Even the most seasoned survivors may not be aware of the tactic until after the fact that they have been manipulated into feeling guilt or shame, which can lead to unconscious revictimization. 

We may experience uncomfortable feelings in our bodies that do not match the manipulator’s shrewd words. We may acquiesce only to realize later, sometimes much later, what occurred and shame ourselves for “missing the red flags.”

We can’t be certain of what we are feeling when veiled shaming or ridicule occurs in a conversation. So, how do we recognize the manipulation? Through awareness of our intuition and behavioral cues of the other person. Let’s take a look. 

•  The person takes control of the conversation through avoidance tactics designed to give them the home-court advantage.

•  Even though they have the home-court advantage they make it seem appealing because they usually let you speak first. This gives them the opportunity of using your conversation to establish their manipulative points, twist your words, and cue your self-doubt.

• They utilize intellectual bullying, such as “I won’t go into details since you wouldn’t understand” as well as jargon or words which have no bearing to the topic, meant to confuse/distract you. 

• They use bureaucratic bullying by putting you through nearly unattainable processes and procedures, prolonging your reaching a goal or resolution. 

• They’ll minimize your problems, stressing how their problems carry more weight, even playing the martyr. 

• They refuse to accept accountability. 

• You’re left feeling small for voicing your concerns,  perhaps even apologizing for wasting their time. 

This is not limited to occurrences with partners in a relationship. It occurs frequently with figures of authority, especially if that authority is limited. 

So what do we do “after” the fact when we recognize we have been manipulated?

1) Give yourself understanding and compassion that these are skilled people who have used this malicious strategy on others. 2) Set and maintain firm boundaries with this person. 3)Acknowledge and accept that this is not a point of right vs wrong; it’s now about protecting yourself. 4) Maintain awareness of your intuition. 5) Set the parameters of future conversations, including the presence of an unbiased or supportive person. 

From personal experience, it’s not always worth your peace to press your views, unless you are willing to call attention to the misalignment of actions vs words. Is being right worth the risk of dysregulated emotions? 

Emotional manipulation is dangerous and exhausting, and depending on the context it is abuse. 

In the end, you are the one with the power of positivity when you shine with confidence instead of being weighted with shame. 

🤍🕊️ Sher