Sometimes in relationships there comes a time when we realize we are being manipulated. Manipulative communication subverts respect for selfish gain. That may be achieved but the cost will be trust in the relationship. It’s best to spot manipulative communication tactics and know how to avoid them.
1. Making statements disguised as a question. For example, “ I’m sure you agree?”. Instead of stating it this way, shift gears: Ask real questions. Like, “What do you think?”
2. Using absolutes. When you speak about others in negative absolute phrases, it manipulates others into defending who they are. For example, “You always…., You never….”. Shift Gears: Don’t use the words always and never; use “sometimes, or this time.” If you are being manipulated in this way, don’t defend yourself. Simply say that absolutes are never true.
3. Claiming that data, facts, and other’s opinions are on your side. What data, facts or opinions? Shift gears: Offer specifics versus making general claims. Specifics show respect to others and as such build trust.
4. Starting and spreading gossip: Whether what you are stating is true or false, spreading rumors about others is manipulative. Shift gears: If someone is telling you gossip about others, ask them “Why are you telling me this?” “Has this been discussed with them?” Let them know you think it can be harmful and that you aren’t interested.
5. Lying. This is the fastest way to erode trust. Shift gears: Always check your facts. Be truthful. Even if you must give difficult news to others. If it is difficult give truth with grace.
When you sense someone is being manipulative, pause for a moment, and then say, “Let’s break all this into pieces and look at it. Manipulation is a lot of things thrown together—falsehoods, generalized claims, gossip, lies, etc… Separate it out and stop its power.