Manipulation is all too common in relationships. At the heart of such behaviour is the Drama Triangle. If manipulation is about filling an empty hole inside of you with power and control of others. The opposite of this is about taking responsibility for how it affects you and others.
The Drama Triangle is a helpful model of dysfunctional social interaction, which was created by psychotherapist Stephen Karpman. Each point of the triangle represents a common and ineffective response to conflict. Those participating in a drama triangle can create a misery for themselves and others. The purpose is to transform this lose-lose situation and create a more positive outcome for everyone.
There are three roles associated with the Drama Triangle
Victims are helpless and hopeless; they deny responsibility for their negative ways and deny the power of change.
Rescuers are constantly applying short-term repairs to a victim’s problems, whilst neglecting their own needs. They are always looking to help others in need; they are tired and often have physical complaints.
Persecutors blame the victims and criticise the behaviour of rescuers, without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the problem.
The Drama Triangle players sometimes alternate roles during the course of a game. For example, a rescuer pushed too far by a persecutor will switch to the role of victim or counter-persecutor. Victims depend on a saviour, rescuers yearn for a basket case and persecutors need a scapegoat.
Top 10 ways to recognise manipulators:
1. Too early in the relationship, every need seems to be filled
2. Emotional manipulators start to charm, but are never accessible
3. You will end up apologising a lot
4. Manipulators persuade you to do things out of your comfort zone
5. They lie by exaggeration
6. Your opinion is never good enough
7. Manipulators have huge reactions over small situations
8. Manipulators promise a future that never materialises
9. Problems are never to manipulators fault, they never take responsibility
10. The manipulator is successful when they give only vague indications
How you can deal with manipulative behaviour at work:
1. Step out of the drama triangle. Observe the manipulator’s behaviour. Make a list of the ways you see him/her manipulating. Many different manipulation tactics are in a manipulator’s arsenal, minimizing an event or situation, playing servant, seducing, lying, intimidating, making others feel guilty and trying to divert attention.
2. Continue your observations for at least a month, documenting everything you can and gathering other written records that show manipulation is occurring. Look through your notes for trends, such as if the manipulation only seems to happen with certain co-workers or under certain stressors.
3. Review company policies, job descriptions and project objectives to analyze the potential impact the manipulation could have on others and the company as a whole.
4. Meet with the manipulative employee. Manipulation often occurs as a defence mechanism, which means that some manipulators are not aware of. Give the manipulative person a chance to open up about why she behaves as she does.
5. Talk with the manipulator about the problems his/her manipulation could cause. Point out disciplinary policies the company has for handling manipulation and subsequent interpersonal and productivity issues.
6. Answer only questions, not statements, from the manipulator. Forcing questions requires the manipulator to be more direct and reveal her true purpose or informational desire.
7. Point out confrontational statements the manipulator may make in order to antagonize and get her way. Offer an example of how she could rephrase the statement in a cooperative manner.
8. Draw a firm line between you and the manipulator. Stand your ground and do not waver, restating your position in a polite but no-nonsense manner by keeping out of the ‘game’. Distance yourself from the manipulator if necessary to give both you and the manipulator a chance to re-evaluate the situation and brainstorm a solution.
9. Inform the manipulative person that disciplinary actions will be taken for whatever issues the manipulation causes.
10. Enforce disciplinary actions against the manipulative employee. Terminate the employee if he/she reaches her limit on disciplinary actions.
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