Bullying Management and Psychological Manipulation

October 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behaviour of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. This is done by advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another’s expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, deceptive and bullying. Yep psychological manipulation is often the modus operandi of the workplace bully. Knowing their mindset allows you to nip at source their power and rendering them weakened and ineffectual.

However, before we begin I should point out that not all Social influence is necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to persuade patients to change unhealthy habits. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject and is not unduly coercive. But depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation and bullying. In the case of our manager/employer you can decide for yourself whether they are socially influencing you for the right reasons or manipulating you into a destructive mindset for their own agenda.

If you are resistant to the social influence and the manipulator applies undue pressure and assault then you are probably being bullied and you need to take charge and learn the skills necessary to turn the tables before you become ill.

What the Bully requires for successful manipulation

According to psychology author George K. Simon, successful psychological manipulation primarily involves the manipulator:

  1. concealing aggressive intentions and behaviours.
  2. knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine what tactics are likely to be the most effective.
  3. having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Consequently the manipulation is likely to be accomplished through covert aggressive means.

Motivations of bullying manipulators

Manipulators can have various possible motivations, including:

  • the need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others
  • a strong need to attain feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others
  • a want and need to feel in control (aka. control freak)
  • a desire to gain a feeling of power over others in order to raise their perception of self-esteem

How bullying manipulators control their victims

The following basic ways that manipulators control their victims:

  • Positive reinforcement: includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologising, money, approval, gifts, attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition.
    • Negative reinforcement: involves removing one from a negative situation as a reward, e.g. “You won’t have to do your homework if you allow me to do this to you.”
    • Intermittent or partial reinforcement: Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist – for example in most forms of gambling, the gambler is likely to win now and again but still lose money overall.
    • Punishment: includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trip, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.
    • Traumatic one-trial learning: using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behaviour to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behaviour can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.
    • Lying: It is hard to tell if somebody is lying at the time they do it, although often the truth may be apparent later when it is too late. One way to minimise the chances of being lied to is to understand that some personality types (particularly psychopaths) are experts at the art of lying and cheating, doing it frequently, and often in subtle ways.
    • Lying by omission: This is a very subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth. This technique is also used in propaganda.
    • Denial: Manipulator refuses to admit that he or she has done something wrong.
    • Rationalisation: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behaviour. Rationalisation is closely related to spin.
    • Minimisation: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalisation. The manipulator asserts that his or her behaviour is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting, for example saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke.
    • Selective inattention or selective attention: Manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.
    • Diversion: Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic.
    • Evasion: Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling, vague responses, weasel words.
    • Covert intimidation: Manipulator throwing the victim onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats.
    • Guilt trip: A special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.
    • Shaming: Manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm. Manipulators can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.
    • Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behaviour in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.
    • Vilifying the victim: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator.
    • Playing the servant role: Cloaking a self-serving agenda in guise of a service to a more noble cause, for example saying he is acting in a certain way for “obedience” and “service” to God or a similar authority figure.
    • Seduction: Manipulator uses charm, praise, flattery or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defences and give their trust and loyalty to him or her.
    • Projecting the blame (blaming others): Manipulator scapegoats in often subtle, hard-to-detect ways.
    • Feigning innocence: Manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional or that they did not do something that they were accused of. Manipulator may put on a look of surprise or indignation. This tactic makes the victim question his or her own judgment and possibly his own sanity.
    • Feigning confusion: Manipulator tries to play dumb by pretending he or she does not know what the victim is talking about or is confused about an important issue brought to his attention.
    • Brandishing anger: Manipulator uses anger to brandish sufficient emotional intensity and rage to shock the victim into submission. The manipulator is not actually angry, he or she just puts on an act. He just wants what he wants and gets “angry” when denied.

Vulnerabilities exploited by bullying manipulators

Manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities (buttons) that may exist in victims:

  • the “disease to please”
  • addiction to earning the approval and acceptance of others
  • Emotophobia (fear of negative emotion; i.e. a fear of expressing anger, frustration or disapproval)
  • lack of assertiveness and ability to say no
  • blurry sense of identity (with soft personal boundaries)
  • low self-reliance
  • external locus of control
  • naïveté – victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that some people are cunning, devious and ruthless or is “in denial” if he or she is being victimised.
  • over-conscientiousness – victim is too willing to give manipulator the benefit of the doubt and see their side of things in which they blame the victim.
  • low self-confidence – victim is self-doubting, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, likely to go on the defensive too easily.
  • over-intellectualisation – victim tries too hard to understand and believes the manipulator has some understandable reason to be hurtful.
  • emotional dependency – victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.

Bullying Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim.

Here is a list of those who are vulnerable to psychopathic manipulators:

  • too dependent – dependent people need to be loved and are therefore gullible and liable to say yes to something to which they should say no.
  • too immature – has impaired judgment and believes the exaggerated advertising claims.
  • too naïve – cannot believe there are dishonest people in the world, taking for granted that if there were they would not be allowed to operate.
  • too impressionable – overly seduced by charmers. For example, they might vote for the seemingly charming politician who kisses babies.
  • too trusting – people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest. They are more likely to commit themselves to people they hardly know without checking credentials, etc., and less likely to question so-called experts.
  • too lonely – lonely people may accept any offer of human contact. A psychopathic stranger may offer human companionship for a price.
  • too narcissistic – narcissists are prone to falling for unmerited flattery.
  • too impulsive – make snap decisions about, for example, what to buy or whom to marry without consulting others.
  • too altruistic – the opposite of psychopathic: too honest, too fair, too empathetic.
  • too frugal – cannot say no to a bargain even if they know the reason it is so cheap.
  • too materialistic – easy prey for loan sharks or get-rich-quick schemes.
  • too greedy – the greedy and dishonest may fall prey to a psychopath who can easily entice them to act in an immoral way.
  • too masochistic – lack self-respect and so unconsciously let psychopaths take advantage of them. They think they deserve it out of a sense of guilt.
  • the elderly – the elderly can become fatigued and less capable of multi-tasking. When hearing a sales pitch they are less likely to consider that it could be a con. They are prone to giving money to someone with a hard-luck story. See elder abuse.

Help for Those Feeing Bullied.

If you feel you are being bullied, harassed, harangued or stressed by a bullying manipulator then you need to learn how you can regain the controls of your life. Learn to Stop the Bullies Now! It is time to put an end to your suffering.

Get in touch and together we can build your strategy.

wilf@mindskills.co.uk

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