4 Steps to Stop Others from Manipulating You Like a Puppet on a String

Personal Development
Puppet on a string

Our Basic Need – We Want to Be Loved

One of the strongest driving forces of human behavior is our need to feel loved. This could come in many ways. From someone telling us that he or she loves us (partner, parents, children), to people praising us, expressing admiration, or giving us things that we connect with these states. That also includes getting a raise from your boss. We are interdependent people who need others to survive. And therefore, the need for love and its many facets is one of the basic survival skills we adopted. Pleasing other people can secure our survival. But it is also one of our weakest points that allows us to be easily manipulated.

3 Ways to Control You

1. Threatening Trough Withdrawal of Love

One of the best combinations of manipulation through carrot and stick is threatening you with withdrawal of money, love, fame, affection, etc. when you don’t do what is expected from you and promising you all those things when you do it. You can look in private and professional areas, and you will find, that this method of leverage is very often used.

  • You will stay late in the office because you feel the threat of not getting the raise otherwise or being let down.
  • That leverage is also used very often in raising up children (unfortunately) by direct mentioning the withdrawal of love to the child. This is one of the most frightening consequences for a young child and can do so much harm that it may take a lifetime to recover (if at all).
  • In relationship there is a (sometimes sublime) threat of losing affection. That is why people do a lot of strange things in relationships.
  • Of course also in Marketing this has been used: behind it is the mechanism of installing fear of loss and the only prevention is buying the product. Insurance companies make billions through this. And also a lot of other companies use it too.

2. Installing Guilt

Installing guilt is another great tool of making you do things others want from you.

But what is guilt in itself?

It is a negative feeling that you are expected to experience when you have violated a common agreed rule. Now really ask yourself whether you consciously agreed to that rule and whether that rule is really valid and useful for both sides. Very often these rules are defined by one side and are only there to serve your further enslavement.

3. Adding Urgency and Importance

Another method of others to manipulate you to do something they want, is to make it urgent and or important. Categorizing tasks in to do lists in different categories of urgent and/or important has always been one of the key concepts of time management. But let’s face it, who decides about importance and urgency of tasks. Most of the time it is the importance and urgency that others put on it and is depending on how much leverage they can use on you through their different tools (like the threat of withdrawing something). So urgency and importance are not really helpful for deciding what to do or not, because they keep you enslaved in this vicious cycle of needing to please others.

4 Steps to Deal With This Kind of Manipulation

Step 1: Detach Yourself from the Threat of “Love”-Witdrawal

Love comes without any condition. All else is Business.

Make it clear to yourself and others that love never asks for anything you have to do in order to get it. If someone really loves you, that love should be given unconditionally. That is especially true with the love of parents to a child. Whenever there is a condition to it – it is not love. It’s a business deal where someone wants you to do something and promises to give you something back that will make you feel good. However don’t mix that up with love. And it is ok to do those deals. If you can accept it as it is and don’t think that it is about love, then you are free to accept or reject the deal. Since we are then really are talking about a business kind of negotiating, we can use this terminology and talk about prices to pay for decisions.

Step 2: Love Yourself As a Strong Foundation

Of course you should make sure that you have some source of unconditional love (if possible parents, your partner and your children) but the most important source for yourself are you. You need to love yourself without any condition upfront. Accept yourself as you are and don’t put any conditions on that.

If you can honestly say “I love myself.” … and not add “because …” or “when …” behind it, then you have a strong base and should not feel threatened by someone elses games of “Love”-withdrawal.

You should wake up and say “I love myself” and you should really feel it. Whenever you look at yourself, you should think it. This is not about narcism but about developing a healthy self-respect and self-love that are the basis of any form of personal power. So don’t laugh about it. Do it.

Step 3: Get clear about the consequences

It comes then to the point where you need to get clear about the possible consequences and your options.

You need to ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What is the real price to pay if I do or don’t do this thing?
  2. Am I willing to accept this kind of deal?
  3. What options do I have?

Let’s go into the questions with a little more detail.

Question 1: What Is the Real Price to Pay if I Do or Don’t Do It?

No matter what decision there is in front of you, there is always a price to pay – if you do a thing or if you don’t.

  • Leaving your job early to have enough time with your family might lead to you not getting the raise you wanted.
  • Staying at the job late and not spending time with your family might lead to several problems with your loved ones including possible divorce or drifting away from being in touch with your kids.

Now at first that might sound like a Catch 22, and it surely often feels like.

But you have to make sure, that you are in control of your time, and that you are the only one being able to decide where to put your focus on.

  • You could go to your boss and tell him, that you need more time with your family and that you would like to restructure your work, so you could manage to do more in less time.
  • You could spend quality time with your family while at the same time explaining to them that you need to spend a certain amount of time at work. If you communicate on an honest level with them, they will understand it.

Question 2: Am I Willing to Accept This Kind of Deal?

Now someone else tried to negotiate a deal with you (although they don’t want you to see it that way, since it takes away a lot of power from them). You must find out, whether you want to go with that deal. Often it comes in an either-or form. At this point, you know the price to pay for that deal, and now you must find out whether the whole deal is acceptable to you. If not, you should tell them and be willing to pay the price for not following their way of reasoning.

Question 3: What Options Do I Have and What Are Their Prices?

Make sure you know all the options (not only the few presented by the other person). So of course not accepting the deal is an option. However maybe you can come up with an alternative that will keep you happy and the other person as well. If you detach yourself from the threatening need for love you can think much more creative and can come up with much better options.

Step 4: Decide!

Make a Decision and Stick With It and Its Consequences

After you have evaluated all the options you are then free to decide which way to go. You should know that you MUST make a decision. Even not deciding is a decision and will have an associated price to pay. But if you detached yourself from the threat of “Love”-withdrawal then you are much more capable to make a good decision for all persons involved.

State your decision clearly and let the other person know that it was a real decision (meaning you won’t allow them to threaten you further since you are willing to pay the price associated with that decision).

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35 comments… add one

  • Hi Patrick, thanks for writing this. I particularly like the second step: love yourself as a foundation. Stumbled!

    Oscar

    • Patrick

      @Oscar: Yeah, “Love Yourself” is the foundation upon everything else builds upon. If you don’t get this right all else will be like a house build on sand.

  • Dorit

    Again, enjoyed reading this! I must agree with Oscar. Love yourself as a foundation- really makes it clear that to achieve most things in life, at least those we entitle as “big” you must learn to love, and trust yourself first. Beautiful!!! :-D

    Dorit

    • Patrick

      @Dorit: Trust is the next step after loving yourself. This will be part of one of my next posts, which will be on the art of self-commitment. Look out for it (Teaser) ;-)

  • Hi Patrick. This is really a good post. I love Point 2 as well – Love yourself. But i don’t really agree with Point 1 though. I think it is important to acknowledge that everyone of us expect something out of others. Be it, small or big. A reasonable mother would expect her son to be good and not hurting others or committing crimes.

    And if he does, withdrawal of love is normal as he doesn’t even meet the very basic expectation of a mother. But then again, i was never a parent so i might be wrong. I think in part, where it’s reasonable, one should try meeting other people’s expectation of him.

  • Patrick

    @Karlil: You are right – and we are talking about 2 different thinks. We all do expect some behaviors by others and it is okay that we state them. And if I would expect a specific behavior by my children I would need sometimes to make sure that they do what I want them to do. So this is not a post against discipline.

    But you should keep love out of that equation. You can love a child and still not let it watch TV if it misbehaved. Being consequent is a needed ability when dealing with other people. They want something from you, you want something from them – it’s a deal situation.

    But as far as I know punishing children by withdrawing love never develops healthy children who are able to respect others while having a healthy form of self-respect. I even guess that most Egomaniacs had a traumatic lack of love in their lives and now they are about to compensate that with extreme behavior.

    I am currently reading a fascinating book by Marc Rowlands: “The Philosopher and the Wolf” where he talks about disciplining his wolf and educating him about the rules that will allow them to exist together. In that you have to be absolutely consequent and at the same time never take it personally when he misbehaves. Although there are obviously differences between raising a child and a wolf this element I could agree on.

    You must be consequent in education and never take it personally.

  • Hey Patrick, point 2 sure seems to be getting a lot of attention, but I know a lot of people who have no idea how to even start loving themselves. Could you write an article on that?

    • Patrick

      @JSDixon: Great point. I picked that up instantly and have just jotted down the raw draft of my next article. In it you will find one of the best ways to grow and establish love for yourself and others. Watch out. It will be on this site within the next 2 days. (Teaser)

  • Patrick, I like the idea of guilt as something negative we are expected to feel. That throws a strong light on it as something separate from the still small voice of conscience. Feels more free and more grounded to me.

    Paradoxically, if the emotion of guilt is removed, I think maybe the clear inner sense of what is right, can be attended to more easily. One is maybe more free to act according to a deeper knowing.

    Thank you…

    Kye

    • Patrick

      @Kye: You are right – your inner voice of knowing doesn’t work with guilt. It is a soft voice and waits until you listen to it.

      Only if you are able to drop the wrapped layers of guilt and bad feelings about yourself, are you able to access those inner senses that will then guide you to where YOU really want to go.

  • Most people are not aware of these manipulations. One needs to realize these common ruses. However, it will not be easy because our emotional involvement is powerful that it prevents our effort to detach.

    It takes courage and determination to emanate from it. :-)

    • Patrick

      @Walter: It may need courage and determination to start, but once you’ve done it several times, it becomes easier. Acting like yourself is a habit that could also be formed.

  • I think step #2 is the key. Before you can break free from guilt, fear of rejection, and all the other things that tie you down, you have to learn to value yourself. It seems like such a simple thing to do, loving yourself, but in reality it’s a difficult lesson that takes a lifetime to learn.

  • “Make it clear to yourself and others that love never asks for anything you have to do in order to get it. If someone really loves you, that love should be given unconditionally.”

    Excellent points, Patrick, especially about the need to love yourself. I’ve always had trouble with the idea of unconditional love, thought, as it applies to love between adults. Can you love someone who often lies to you, for example? And, if not, does that mean that you’re imposing conditions on your love? And if you are imposing conditions, aren’t you doing that because you love yourself and won’t let yourself be treated in a disrespectful way?

    Maybe one answer is to define an adult as someone who’s psychologically and emotionally healthy, someone who does not try to take manipulate others. What do you think?

    • Patrick

      @Madeleine: “Can you love someone who often lies to you?” Yes, you can love him as a human being with all his shortcomings.

      But that doesn’t mean that you must put up with his behavior. You can set up a rule that you don’t want to be lied to, and if he violates that rule for the n-th time, you can make a decision (e.g. leave him). It is a broken deal (and I know also a broken heart – I don’t want you to believe I don’t know what feelings are involved).

      Although it is hard to do, we should differentiate between love and the feelings we associate with it. Love can not be hurt – but our expectations and beliefs can. With this I think that stating conditions are necessary and healthy for any being on this planet.

      And it is normal to manipulate someone else, to get him to do something. I don’t know if we can free ourselves from this. But it might be a great start to ask yourself why you are doing it. From a deep place of love inside yourself – or from a place inside yourself that is hurt and wants to compensate this with gaining power over someone else. There are many shades of gray between these 2 extremes though.

  • sanddy6969

    Hi patrick
    Thanks for writing this, it was really helpful . Honestly I love myself. But i do get scared at times about what others think about me. I make myself not to do it. Right now I am staying at my aunt’s place. She is good but she feels very insecure and she tries to manipulate me into everything. I do avoid her a lot because when i tried to help her she misunderstood me. So I decided to stay away from her. Now the main problem is we have a cousin I do not know why but everybody believes him, and this fellow talks so confidently that he keeps telling everyone so negative about me. I mean trust me even when I avoid talking to him he keeps doing it. What shall I do.

  • sanddy6969

    I know I did sound like a paranoid in the above paragraph. But I am not. I want to leave my aunt’s house as soon as possible. But that isn’t possible at this moment.
    Please do reply.

    • Patrick

      Sandy, you must realize, that you have absolutely no direct control over what other think about you or talk aboout you. Once you realize, that trying to control what your cousin is talking about you or trying to control what other believe about you is not within your powers, you can relax. You don’t need to control the outside world. If your cousin wants to talk bad things about you or others decide to trust in him and not in you, that is fine. I know it feels uncomfortable for you, but let people do, what they decide to do.

      The only power you have is within you. You can detach yourself from all of this. Refuse to be a part of that game, acting like a puppy everytime your cousin pushes your triggers. You must become aware for yourself, who you are and what you are about. You must find the strength that comes from self-acceptance and self-love and once you are firmly grounded within yourself (this only takes a conscious decision that you no longer need the control of others) you can then express your opinions and tell your cousin as well as your aunt that you don’t care, what they think about you. You’ve made the decision to live your life the way you want it, and whether others like that or not is their decision. Don’t stay away from them because you feel vulnerable. Learn to be in her vicinity but in a detached way, with no interest in any outcome. Whether she likes or dislikes you – you should be fine. Whether she tries to manipulate you or not, you should be fine. As long as you know who you are and accept your own way of living, others opinions shouldn’t make you feel guilty.

      Some people walk all over you, until you become strong enough to resist them. That is one way of the universe to make sure you become a strong person.

      You should thank your aunt and your cousin for becoming a chance for you to grow stronger through that conflict.

      And from this strength – manipulation and badmouthing will stop – not because you changed the others, but you radiate a strength and power that won’t allow such interference from others.

      Don’t be afraid of your aunt and your cousin. Send them honest prayers of love from your heart, but stand firm in your ground and become a rock of strength inside. You might also look at What Butterflies and Mountains can teach you about Self-Respect and
      How to Love Yourself – the Master Key for Your Life

      .

  • Hey Patrick… I wanted to let you know that your article was of great help to me and really puts things into perspective. I am a very nice person and I always tend to try and help others in whatever way I can but in many ways, I do not know where and when to separate myself. I have been struggling with this problem my whole life and have been taken advantage of repeatedly but I still am weak to stand up for myself. One of the biggest problems that I had and still have is that I had a roommate who was also a really good friend of mine who had a lot family problems which caused me to sympathize for him and really try and help. Every time I helped, it seemed as nothing would change and I would get taken advantage of. I always cared about how he felt, and neglected my feelings in return. I had numerous problems when living with him in which I never voiced my opinions about ( he doesn’t live with me anymore) but I still hold a lot of resentment and anxiety when I see him because of how I was conditioned in the past. He is still a good friend of mine but I do not know if I should let him tell him how he has made me feel or just by pass it all together. It really takes a lot out of me..

    I know I have written my problem to you and I don’t know if you will respond, but if you could give me any advice on top of this article, it would be greatly appreciated.

    I will continue to read your other articles and will try to learn to love myself more.

    • Patrick

      @Alex: I know that for many people who have a lot of love to give in their lives it is a tough realization that people select their own paths -ALWAYS – even if we don’t like that path. If you see your friends going down, it is a natural tendency to want to help them avoid it, but it is always there choice, and not yours. Even if you love people you sometimes have to let them go on a path that you don’t want them to go. Yes, you can show them alternatives. Yes, you can encourage them, but in the end it is always there live and their decision.

      And it is the same with you – your primary directive in life is to take care of you. Now that doesn’t mean to be egotistical, but if you neglect your own well-being, how can you serve your friends. Like it’s always stated in the airline emergency instructions, always put up the oxygen mask first on your mouth, before taking care of your kids. If you are empty and not stable within yourself, you cannot be a beacon for others.

      The best way you can hep others is by becoming an example of possibilities, a beacon of choice. That is the way of love – only if you develop the love for yourself, you then are able to show others how to develop that same love for themselves. And truly loving others is only available from someone who is full of love for himself. Everything else is always an expression of an unfulfilled need, like I give you love, because I want you to love me back, since I don’t have enough love for myself within me. That is not love, that is a bargain of energetic exchange.

      And one step for learning to love yourself is to allow yourself to express your feelings towards others freely and overcome the fear about their reactions. If your friend can’t handle you expressing your feelings, then you might ask how strong your friendship is anyway.

  • nick chan

    Hi patrick,
    i have been living with a god aunt for about 6 months, due to my work commitment i have to continue to live with her family for another year and a half. living with her and her 2 adult children was somewhat a welcoming affair for the first 3 weeks, but due to a miscommunication/ misunderstanding event one day, i have always been in her families radar sight as thou i am being scrutinized for every move or gesture that i make. Although the 2 adult children have “forgiven” me on the issue, seems that lately another issue has popped up citing “respect” and “initiative to show appreciation”, whenever the children do something nice for me i always make it a point say positive things without thinking twice even thanking them, but because of this one issue where i forgot to wish them for their birthdays being that i have a busy schedule it seems that my god aunt is kicking up alot of dirt trying to bring up the old issue and link it to me not being respectful to her family. i have been giving her a small monetary token for letting me stay with her family, i am always cautious about utility bills offering to chip in and help out, i always try to offer them things let alone treat them to a nice meal, but their refusal to all my offerings has left me in-between a stone and a hard place.
    i mean she has told me not to put any of these issues to heart and that she has mentioned that her family has no culture of celebrating birthdays and that her children where not even annoyed that i did not wish them happy birthday, they even to foot all the bills and meals we have together as a family.

    feeling super helpless, even my own family don’t know what to do about it.

    • Patrick

      Hi Nick,

      I am sorry to hear that there is so much trouble within your family due to misunderstanding and miscommunication.
      To me it sounds like a classic example of misunderstanding definitions. The problem occurs because you and your family (esp. your aunt) have totally different (internal) definitions about the terms “Respect” or “Showing appreciation”. If I would ask them what needs to happen for them to feel respected and appreciated, the list of things they want to see and experience would be totally different than yours. Since both of you didn’t communicated upfront what these terms mean to you and what each one of you would need to feel respected / appreciated – each of you assumed the other party would have the same definition as yourself – which mostly never is.

      How to get out of this trouble?

      Clearly communicate – tell them that you are sorry if there have been miscommunication. That you care about them feeling respected / appreciated, but that from your family, background, etc. you have a different way of showing that. And then ask them what they want from you to feel respected. Next after they came with their definition (what they want you to do) – tell them what you need to feel respected (what you want them to do) – and tell them that both parties need to work on this.

      If they won’t accept this and won’t cooperate, then you must detach yourself emotionally like I’ve written in the article and know that you’ve done everything that you could, and there is nothing more you could and should do unless they are ready to do their share of the deal.

      Hope these thoughts help you a little bit.

  • Carol

    am I the only one who can’t see Step 4 in the “4 Steps to Deal With…” section?

    • Patrick

      Carol: Thanks for noticing this. Step 3 and 4 have been falsely mixed in a revision. I separated these points again, so that you now have 4 distinct steps.

  • Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time
    deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  • Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time making
    a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and
    Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    • Patrick

      Hey sac á main,

      that’s no secret, UYM is running on Wordpress using the Thesis 2 Framework and the Personified skin.
      Thesis 2 is a highly customizable paid framwework. You can get it at http://diythemes.com.

  • Hello there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form?

    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having
    difficulty finding one? Thanks a lot!

  • Mountain Mike

    Puppets don’t have strings, they’re worn on the hand. It’s marionettes that have strings.

  • Dear Patrick, I would like to thank you for sharing this Wealth of infomation, I will recommend it to all i know, I tried the .2 Love your self trick This morning, Now What happened next ild like you info on, I looked deep into the mirror and Said i Love you, then all of a sudden i Cried like a baby, now i havent cried like this since i was a wee boy, So I used another one of your methods to get some awnsers,
    Communicated with my higher intelligence, This one straight forward for me As I Use the Rear part of my Brain Every Day, Im a Internal Wing Chun Kung fu practicioner, I got some awnsers that took me back to when my father stole me of my mother and took me to his house, I dug deaper, I recalled his Wife saying horrible things about my Mother which i cant pin at the moment, Just This Has changed my life, Thanks to You, I knew there was something bugging me my whole life but couldnt put my finger on it till now, Ive Been anti Social, Didnt feel loved by my parents, Man i cant thank you enough, Bursting into tears with the i love you trick, whats that tell you? Reagards Daniel

    • Patrick

      Daniel,

      I am glad that those techniques worked so well on you and were able to break through such a long lasting barrier. In fact, crying while maybe saying to yourself “I love you” in the mirror (maybe for the first time in years or even your life) is a response that happens quite frequently. The feeling of not being loved (and often not being able to fully love oneself) might be the deepest spiritual scar that most of us carry around.
      Your subconscious kept that memory away from your conscious to protect you. But now you’ve come along the path were you are strong enough to tackle this scar. And I am glad that destiny has chosen my humble advise to help you grow by overcoming this hurt.
      Thanks very much for this notice. You made my day with it. Keep up with the “Loving Mirror” exercise and you will notice that this gets even deeper with further repetition. Since you are a Wing Chun Practitioner you know about energy flow and energy blockages. I truly believe that love is the master key to overcome most of those spiritual and energetic blocks. I am not a Wing Chun practitioner myself (though I’ve trained several martial arts in my youth) but I always loved the quote from Morihei Ueshiba (founder of Aikido) which shows how love even changes the approach of a grand master to its art.

      “If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth.
      Morihei Ueshiba

      And as Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” But we often forget that loving ourselves truly is even more difficult than loving someone else. And vice versa we can’t really love someone else fully, unless we love ourselves.

      So keep up the good work. Thanks again for the lovely news. And lots of success with your training and your school.

  • Sabrina

    I need help.
    I just realized that I’m the manipulator, not the manipulated.
    In this case, I’ve been trying to manipulate an ex into getting back with me.
    What do I do to stop this? I still love him though..

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