12 Manipulations of Rebels, Fools, and Backstabbers
Novice manipulators are obvious.
Skillful manipulators come off as kind and helpful.
Avoid being manipulated by spotting the strategies used by manipulators.
#1. Pretend you agree when you disagree.
#2. Pretend to help when you intend to harm.
#3. Make self-service look generous.
12 specific manipulations:
- Use questions as resistance. If you don’t want to take on a task, question it to death. Pretend you want to help but you need greater clarity or instruction.
- Feign weakness to avoid undesirable tasks. “I’m not sure how to do that.” After feigning weakness, ask lots of questions.
- Create tension between others to avoid responsibility. Skillful manipulators drive wedges between people. “He doesn’t like you.” “She’s after your job.”
- Question motives to undermine management. “They’re doing this to make their own lives easier.” A questioned motive attacks another’s character and intention.
- Use compassion to gain compliance. Have you been manipulated into doing something because a manipulator spoke softly or expressed hurt feelings? A backstabber might say, “I’m so sorry they took advantage of you.”
- Raise your voice so others will lower theirs. Rebels love to rage to silence opposition.
- Use the compassion of the tenderhearted against them. “Don’t you care for me?”
- Talk about what you plan to do when you’re asked what you’ve done.
- Use aspiration to hold people back. “If you hang in there, the next promotion is yours.”
- Use flattery to hold back others. “You’re so talented I can’t afford to lose you right now.”
- Affirm and then attack suggestions and new ideas quickly so you don’t have to change. “This is a great idea, but…”
- Seek advice from people who confirm your decisions. (Foolish self-manipulation)
Skillful manipulators let others do their dirty work.
What manipulations have you seen?
How might leaders deal with manipulators?
Simple Sabotage (Book)
10 Ways to Deal with Two-Faced Backstabbers (Leadership Freak)
I am wondering if you are advocating manipulation as a leadership skill or helping leaders to identify when people are trying to manipulate them or the situation?
Thanks Stephanie. Perhaps I need to change the title. The answer is the former?
I added this sentence at the top: Avoid being manipulated by spotting the strategies used by manipulators. Hope that helps.
Dan, what’s the line between influence and manipulation? I’ve seen very skillful communicators discuss behind closed doors I what I thought was influence was in fact manipulation to get to desired outcome. Often used under the guise of preserving ego or being nice, it’s blurry.
How I spot the difference, was “influencer” really listening and changing their view to based on others responses or just asking closed queations guiding to predefined outcome?
Try equating influence to power …
it can be coercive/dominating (i.e. manipulative),
or it can be cooperative/seductive (i.e. persuasive).
The spectrum is from persuasive to manipulative, cooperative to coercive, influential to dominating.
The lines are very fine, but the extremes very noticeable.
The trouble comes when we can’t believe what we are seeing/hearing is real (“This can’t be!”), manipulators are very good at affirming your denial.
A different post for you Dan… but I get it.
Thanks Bob. Cheers
Excellent outline of passive-aggressive behaviours.
You can tell that these things are going on when there is a delta between what is being said and what is being done, as in,
“The truth in what one says is in what one does.”
Two more indicators:
bully/provoke others into behaviours that make you, the bully, the victim;
isolate the Other by silence (as in the silent treatment) when they are on to you and your bad intent.
We all do these things sometimes. Just don’t do them all the time. And if you are self-aware, you will stop it, apologize publicly and specifically state what it is that is unacceptable. This actually the best way to contain personalities that abuse us most of the time.
These patterns are pervasive, because they work (in the short term). In the long term, they corrode whatever trust may have existed, and are therefore toxic.
Thanks Rurbane. Your suggestion to bring manipulation into the open by modeling the way is powerful. Perhaps the best way to ease the problem of clandestine behaviors is to take out a flashlight. A great way to shine the light on something is to first shine it on yourself.
I agree that this is a different kind of post. It is a very important issue for leaders to know how to navigate. Skillful manipulators and politicians can be very toxic to a team. Knowing how to identify those behaviors can help with important decisions. Who a leader promotes, rewards and affirms speaks massive volumes. If a leader can identify manipulators and focus on promoting, rewarding and affirming appropriate behavior, it can lead manipulators to modify their behavior or take flight. It encourages appropriate behavior to continue.
Thanks Ron. Things that are affirmed/rewarded are repeated. When manipulators are rewarded, you demotivate those who seek to serve in more noble ways. We begin to think, “What the point?”
Dan, this is like reading the Screwtape letters! Understanding the darker side of “leadership” behaviors helps us to respond with wisdom, insight, clarity, and character. All the best.
Thanks Paul. You stated the positive intent of this post better than I did. 🙂
What is your suggestion if leadership are the ones doing manipulating?
Thanks Jesse. First, consider the manipulation itself. What goals do you notice. When you see manipulation is it designed to harm others? Is it possible there are noble ends, even though methods aren’t desirable?
The other thing to consider, if you would like to do something about it is the relationship you have with leadership. If you are strongly connected and trusted, feedback might help. (If the feedback reflects an understanding of leadership issues and offers positive suggestions.)
If manipulative leaders intend to harm others. And if you are not strongly connected to the leaders. Best to steer clear. Do a great job. Maybe a transfer.
Focus on who you want to be.
Learn from a negative example. Figure out what you WANT to do based on what you don’t want to do, ie. be like a manipulative leader.
Also, note Rurbanes comment above.
Even though this post is different, it is spot on! I appreciate, and am amazed at all the great ideas and suggestions Dan is able to share each day. Thanks, and please keep up the great work! I enjoy reading the daily posts.
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What a fantastic article – I really appreciated your perspective and validation of behaviors I have witnessed. I’m not crazy! Thank you for posting –
Thanks Christine. I wish you well as you move forward.
You’ve touched on yet one more abusive strategy …
They will pull others in to make you think you’re the one that’s not right in the head – you aren’t seeing it correctly- yu cray. Also known as gaslighting.
You have to be careful with No. 1. Sometimes questions are viewed as resistance if the manager has made the decision and doesn’t want any input. The label of resistor shouldn’t be placed because of a question. Seek to understand first why the question was made.
Thanks Randy. Great point. I’m a question-asker and it’s not resistance. No 1 first came into my awareness when a staff member told me that was her strategy with the boss when she didn’t want to do what the boss asked her to do.
One way to distinguish healthy curiosity from resistant questions is the result. Does the person asking the questions end up doing the job, or does the boss do it because it’s too much trouble to answer all the questions.
Niccolò Machiavelli’s-“The Prince” would be a good read if you want a deeper and fuller understanding of some these concepts.
delsheehan … I’m in the camp that has landed in the worldview that The Prince was a satirical attempt to ingratiate himself with the winners/de Medici’s to be recalled from exile from Florence … it does not comport with his other treatises he wrote defending the republican point of view at all.
It was a diplomatic resume that failed … the Medici’s never accepted him back into the fold (the center of things). They didn’t need to be told what they already knew. Food for thought. His other writings influenced many of the “founding fathers.” In particular, Jefferson, who often wrote in the margins of his writings and readings, “nil repente,” which to him meant, “nothing suddenly.”
This from the guy that anguished over the Louisiana Purchase as being unconstitutional … doubling the size of our country (USA) and capturing New Orleans (the bottleneck of the Mississippi) for the US, who Madison (the Father of the Constitution) basically said, “Just shut the F up and do it!”
Let’s be careful out there … Dan has written an excellent piece of satire here.
Weaponized praise. “You’re the expert. I’m sure you can provide a more precise estimate for this project.” (Which then morphs into a commitment you failed to keep).
Leverage the victim’s own confidence. “A professional like yourself would approach this analysis with more rigor.”
I’ve come to believe that keeping manipulators out of positions of authority, and containing those already present, is the most underrated leadership skill there is in the cultures I know.
One final thought on an excellent conversation …
Strategic point #3 … reworded …
“Make the gratuitous seem altruistic.”
Bringing a third person in?
Thanks luce. That could be helpful.