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The Hammer Under the Velvet Cloth -- How to Detect Manipulative People Via Their Language
I feel like this is something many more people need practice with, and to understand. Nice words don't always mean nice intentions. It should go without saying, but it doesn't. The most supreme mindfuck you will ever feel is when someone's words (and even actions) feel extremely kind, warm, and welcoming, but there is an uncomfortable inconsistency to their behavior. Every now and then, consistently, they take bizarre, inexplicable digs at you.
Of course nobody is perfectly kind, and we all manipulate one another to some degree. In fact, well-intentioned, healthy give and take is what civil society is all about. Further, even the best of us will sometimes cross the line of honesty to bring about our personal desired outcome in a situation. As one of my favorite speakers and philosophers of all time, Anthony DeMello said: "I'm an ass, you're an ass. What more would you expect of an ass?"
That said, there is a consistent inconsistency to look for in manipulators, to discover whether or not you are being made a target by a snake. That feeling of discomfort in your gut. Pay attention to that. Now process that discomfort through your heart and emotions. How do you feel? Now finally your brain. Are there red flags that you are consistently ignoring because you want to like someone or want them to like you? Or because you are attached to an outcome, and facing the reality of betrayal would be too uncomfortable/painful?
For example, maybe you have a close friend who is always there for you, always kind, always in a good mood...except...there is this one little inconsistency they consistently do. This friend says hurtful things about an insecurity you have, or a personal struggle you are dealing with, and when you react to defend yourself, they simply tell you to "calm down" because they were "just busting your balls" or "just joking."
The further you probe, the more a manipulator will try to make you feel you are crazy. Instead of stepping back and thinking how you may be struggling, and trying to connect with you -- even if you were overreacting -- they will brush it off and try to blame anything and everything else for their actions.
There are a million and one different tiny red flags and underhanded jabs such as this to watch out for. The key word is just that: watch.
The purpose of these underhanded jabs and slights -- whether the manipulator realizes they are doing it or not -- is to place the victim in a position of dependence and vulnerability, doubting their very sanity, so the manipulator can gain something. This could be a financial benefit, improvement of their life/social situation, an ego boost, or just an accountability-free sounding board for all of their preaching, venting of emotional problems, etc.
More serious manipulation can even lead to someone putting themselves in actual physical danger for the sake of approval. The key in all cases is that the victim becomes dependent on the approval or other gifts of the perpetrator to some degree or another. The key to breaking out is to cut dependence.
You may misjudge some people sometimes when you feel manipulated, but if the person really wants a relationship with you, and really cares about you, they will listen and try to reconnect/communicate. Even if they think you are wrong. Even if you may be overreacting. If they listen genuinely and try to engage, that displays intention. If they call you crazy and shrug everything off. It's a reflection of their own character flaw, and the lack of intention to treat you well. You'd do well to watch out.
Under that pretty velvet cloth they are presenting you, is a heavy hammer designed to crush you, and carefully crafted by their own past traumas to smash any emotional accountability they may be confronted with in relationships.