What Does Psychology Say About Using Manipulation to Control People?


Quick Answer

Manipulation is distinct from positive, acceptable social pressures. Manipulators often look for ways to dominate a situation by, for instance, controlling the environment or allowing the target to speak first. Manipulation between individuals, which usually increases over time, can lead to psychological disorders.

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Full Answer

Positive social pressures include give and take between individuals. In contrast, manipulation occurs in an atmosphere of exploitation and an imbalance of power. A manipulator can try to control a situation by ensuring that interactions occur where the manipulator has more dominance than her target, for example by demanding that meetings take place at the manipulator's home or office. A manipulator might allow the target person to speak first during a negotiation because this allows the manipulator to determine the target's base line and look for the target's weaknesses.

Manipulation usually begins slowly between two people and then it increases. Manipulation is also teachable. That is, if a person's influences are consistently negative, he can learn to think negatively because of the influence. This form of manipulation can lead to depression.

Often, manipulators lie to their targets. Alternatively, a manipulator can exaggerate facts or withhold information in order to cloud the truth. Manipulators sometimes yell or respond aggressively during an argument in order to control the situation. In addition, belittling a target or criticizing the target's possessions or personal qualities is another proven manipulation tactic. Alternatively, a manipulator can choose victimization and self-loathing as a way to manipulate a situation by seeking sympathy from a target.

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