Manipulation 101

view_from_the_airplaneYou’ve all heard the cliche – true diplomats send you to hell with a first class ticket and pretty flight attendants. I don’t know if it’s something in the blood or if it’s something you can acquire, but I have had a rather interesting few days, and if I’ve learnt anything, it’s how the mind of a manipulator works.

Let’s not call it manipulation – that sounds too … female. let’s call it … PR. Yes. Some people are so good at PR that they can sell you a rope, teach you to make a noose, and then sell you a casket for the funeral. And when they’re done, your ghost will come back to say thank you.

Now I am not manipulative. I do get people to do things, but usually I do it minus tact. My approach is “I want XYZ, will you do it or not?” This approach may be nice and honest, and it may leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but it gets very little done.

See, nobody likes to feel used. So the most effective way to use someone is to make sure they don’t know it, and even if they do, make sure they can’t help it. Speaking as someone who’s been recently and consistently copulated with my garments on, here are a few tips.

Always catch the manipulee offguard. The thing with alpha types is you can spot them from hukooooo aka a land far away. After a while, all your friends know you can wheedle them into things. That’s when they start to avoid you. So you have to catch them when they least expect it. Like at the shoe store. Nobody expects to get screwed at the shoe shop.

Which brings me to the second law of manipulation. To catch someone offguard, you need a blue herring. Forget red herrings. They are handy but ultimately fake, so they will eventually fail. A blue herring is an actual detractor, not just an empty distraction.

For an example, let’s go back to the shoe store analogy. If you want to corner someone at the shoe store, the perfect red herring would be to walk in and window shop. Once there, you can nab your target, and they won’t realise what you did until you leave the shop without new shoes.

A blue herring, on the other hand, would be to stand at the corner, safely out of sight, smash your heel to bits, then walk the 100 metres to the shop with a lopsided shoe, so that when you walk into the shop, the frustrated limp will be genuine. That way, if the manipulee sees through your trick a few hours later, they will remember your bruised foot and painful limp, and will actually feel guilty for doubting you.

Blue herrings don’t have to be quite that drastic. They are everywhere, you just have to keep your ears open.  A manipulator’s best weapon is her power of observation. A blue herring could be when you ‘overhear’ that she is planning to make an overseas call, then conveniently sambaza her some credit. That way she owes you.

Once the blue herring gets you in the door, apply rule four. Do not let on that you need a favour. Make the manipulee feel like they are the ones doing you a favour. Playing damsel helps a lot here. Back to the shoe store, talk about how you loved those shoes, how they were the perfect fit, how they have this fabulous cinderella effect. Make sure the conversation is genuine, and let it last a minimum of thirty minutes. The longer it is, the more genuine it sounds.

Then tell them how you have a meeting/date/wedding reception and need to find the perfect shoes. Don’t ask, just bait the into advising you on what to buy. Pull the distracted look and puzzled frown and say someting like  “I like red, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate … and after this morning I’m not sure about heels…”  Play it well and they will even buy the shoes for you, to make your awful day better.

This is where rule five comes in – swoop for the kill. While you still have the sympathy and good will, you can stretch it into a ride for your errands. After all, you still have to get the ultimate date dress/wedding gift/atache case.

And while you’re at it, could she pass by the grocery next door to the gift shop? Oh and are those flowers? Now you have to dash to the meeting/date/reception, could she maybe drop off the stuff at your house? It would be soooo awesome and you would owe her forever!! Would she please let you fuel the car? It’s the least you can do, after all she’s been such a good friend. Chances are she won’t let you.

It will take her a while to realise that what you wanted all along was a ride around town to run your errands, and if she does, she’ll declare herself paranoid. After all, your shoe broke.

Pretty easy, isn’t it?

Now, to figure out how to outwit the manipulator and quit my job as resident manipulee…

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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through