I was told to wait one more time. I was frustrated. The negotiation started 30 minutes prior and was a slow and tedious process. Most of the time I had spent alone in an office because the salesperson left the room to meet with the sales manager to discuss my offer. This was the third time he had left me in the room.
When he was walking out the door this time I told him, “I’m tired of the back and forth, I know this is your game. Come back with an approval or I will not be buying the vehicle.”
The deal was done within 5 minutes of that statement.
Am I a great negotiator? No. I just picked up on the tactic, saw the direction of the conversation, and stood up to it.
You have likely experienced a salesperson using this negotiation tactic when you were buying a vehicle. The tactic is known as Fatigue Inducement. It’s used religiously by law enforcement and military interrogators to extract information or get compliance. The goal of fatigue inducement is to get you tired, warned down, and frustrated to the point that you will give up, give in, and comply.
Fatigue inducement is pretty easy to spot when you know the tactic, but many other dark psychological and manipulation tactics are not as easily detected. There are dozens of ways people use manipulation, unethical persuasion, and game playing tactics to get what they want. It would take an entire book to explain all the tactics, but I will highlight some of the most common ones.
Love Flooding – Love Flooding happens when someone provides you with a great deal of attention and love. Gifts, compliments, touch, attention, and compliments are often used to flood you. The more you are in need of acceptance the more susceptible you are to this mode of manipulation. Once the manipulator creates a bond with you and has generated a dependency on their love and affection, they will then manipulate you by withdrawing their love and attention.
Bribery – Famous psychologist B.F. Skinner taught the world about the power of shaping and reinforcement. Unfortunately, many have used it as a form of bribery. There is a difference between reinforcement and bribery. Reinforcement, if not managed well, can become perceived as bribery by the recipients and the relationship can quickly turn into bribery expectations. This happens when the other party says what they require you to do or give them in order to carry out an action.
Love Withdrawal – Love Withdrawal involves withdrawing love, attention, or affection in order to get a certain response or behavior. This is a very dangerous tactic when parents use it with their children. This tactic is often used in combination with Love Flooding. However, the manipulator doesn’t have to use love flooding if they already have a relationship with the person they are trying to manipulate.
Lying – Lying, spinning the truth, telling half-truths, and exaggeration are probably the most common manipulation tactic. You can often detect lying by observing the body language of a person. The “tells” of lying include a lack of eye contact, fidgeting, contradictory body language, talking too much, sweating, and blushing.
Choice Restriction – Choice Restriction is used when someone is trying to get you to make a decision in compliance with their desires. Many sales professionals are taught this tactic in order to increase their volume of sales. This tactic is seen during the “closing” phase of the sales pitch. It is usually applied to a question. For example, the sales person might ask, “When would you like to start, Monday or Wednesday?” or “Will you be paying with cash or credit card?” The idea is to provide only two options and distract you from an alternative option, that they would not want you to choose. In the example above, the salesperson is hoping to distract you from the “no” choice.
Gift Giving – A person will give you a gift in order to put you in a position of reciprocation. I was at a home and garden show a few years ago, and a man at one of the booths was giving candy away. My three children ran up and happily made their candy choices. Then the man pulled a clipboard off the table and asked me for my name, email, and telephone number so that he could give me an insurance quote. Do you think I felt obligated to supply the information? Of course, I did. It took a second, but when I realized the tactic, I took a stand. I thanked him for the candy for the kids, but I told him I didn’t think much of his tactic. There’s a reason that most convention and exposition booths have give-a-ways like candy, pens, and promotional items. When you take one, you feel a sense of obligation.
Passive-Aggressiveness – Passive Aggressive behaviors seek to avoid direct confrontation, yet seek to get a specific response. Passive aggressive techniques include sarcasm and guilt inducement. People who don’t want to be perceived as aggressive or overly assertive use this tactic. Passive Aggressiveness is also used by people who fear direct confrontation. See sarcasm and guilt inducement tactics below.
Leading Questions – Leading Questions is a manipulation tactic that uses a process of asking questions to set a standard and attain a commitment. Once the person gets a level of commitment and enough “yes” answers, he or she will ask the victim for a commitment and appeal to the person’s need to be consistent with his or her words and action. This is a tactic that is often used by unethical fundraisers. The presentation is a series of questions to get you to say “yes” as many times as possible including affirming the needs of the foundation, the needs of people, your desire to help, then the final questions will be to ask for money. This then puts you in a position where if you say no, you fear being seen as inconsistent with your beliefs, commitments, and affirmations.
Subliminal influence – Subliminal Influence is a tactic that uses visual and auditory stimuli to seed familiarity of a product, service, action, or belief. Subliminal messages appeal to the visual and auditory processing parts of your brain. Your brain detects it and processes it, but at a subconscious level. While videos that show an image that you can’t see (.003 seconds is the standard according to research) has some effect on you, it is quite small. Subliminal influence is most effective when used as a subliminal prime.
This happens when words or images are used to get your mind more familiar with an idea. Later it is more probable that you will make a decision based on the word or image you were primed with. Have you ever wondered how those mentalists and magicians are able to know what you are going to say or what person you will select? It’s because they have primed and seeded your mind in a way that you will revert to the priming word or idea. Many marketing tactics are built on this approach.
Guilt Inducement – Guilt Inducement is used by a manipulator as a way to get someone to do something by invoking a sense of guilt or obligation. Guilt Inducement is often passive-aggressive in nature. A person might make a comment like, “I’m sure you don’t want to help me move,” or “It’s unfortunate that I don’t get to see you very often.”
Sarcasm – Sarcasm is an effort by the manipulator to get what he/she wants through negative or cutting statements but ends with laughter or saying they are only joking. Sarcasm is indirect and a passive-aggressive tactic.
Reverse Psychology – Reverse Psychology is a technique involving the advocacy of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what actually is desired which is the opposite of what is suggested.
Mind Games – Mind Games are psychological techniques used to create a struggle between people for psychological superiority and one-upmanship. These techniques often employ passive–aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject, making the aggressor look superior. Mind games can also include communication tactics including semantic manipulation (see below) and social embarrassment.
Semantic Manipulation – Using words that are assumed to have a common or mutual definition, yet the manipulator later tells you he or she has a different definition and understanding of the conversation. This is often used in a negotiation to create a sense of agreement by both parties, but the manipulator will later explain that his/her understanding of the words used was different than the other party, thus excusing the breach of the agreement. Words are powerful and important.
How to Avoid Being Manipulated
Being aware of the tactics mentioned above will help you protect yourself and know when you are being exploited. You don’t need to be paranoid, but you do need to protect yourself and those that you love. When you suspect that someone is manipulating you, there are steps you can take to stand up against their dark tactics.
It’s important to understand that anyone can use these tactics, but the level of danger you might find yourself in will be dependent on who is using the tactics. For example, if a friend or family member is using manipulation tactics you are likely in less danger than if someone you don’t know is using them.
Be aware of relationship dynamics. You can usually feel when someone is manipulating you. You will often feel stressed, guilty, pressured, frustrated, or even angry. At the same time, you may not understand why you are feeling these emotions. This is a red flag to evaluate the interactions you are having with the other person.
Question it. A manipulator (whether intentional or unintentional) will usually reevaluate and withdraw from using manipulation tactics if you question the person’s reasoning and intention. Ask questions in a way that doesn’t accuse yet highlights the fact that you’re not feeling comfortable with the interaction and are able to stand up for yourself. You can ask, “Does what you want from me sound fair?“, “So, what do I get out of this?“ and, “Are you really expecting me to…?”
State your stance. If you feel strongly that someone is trying to manipulate or is playing mind games with you, make a strong and confident statement that clarifies that you won’t be involved in relationships or interactions with the person if they choose to use dark tactics. A statement you might use is, “I’m not comfortable with where this interaction is going,” or, “I don’t operate this way.” A more direct statement you can use is, “I don’t like the way you are approaching this interaction (or treating me). Your attempts to manipulate me won’t work.”
Decide to continue or leave. Finally, you need to determine your next action. Will you give the manipulator the option to use a better interaction approach or will you move on and leave the situation. You may also have to make the decision to continue the relationship or end the relationship. You are the only one who can determine the answers, and you will need to base this on how the person accepts your feedback and responds to your boundaries. If the person is in your family or a coworker, it may be difficult to cut off the relationship. In this case, you may have to just keep your distance and have a plan for managing your interactions with that person.
The intricacies of human interaction and communication are deep and complex. We can use our brain power and relationship skills for both good and for ill will. Unfortunately, there are people who use them to manipulate to get what they want. However, if you want to be a leader, it’s critical that you understand manipulation tactics and not only stand against them for yourself, but also do so for the good or others.