How do I manipulate a manipulator

Everyone manipulates: the power of the psyche

Which starts with an innocent smile

Our behavior, thinking and feeling are subject to certain mechanisms and can therefore also be influenced from outside - be it unintentionally or with intent. For example, there is usually no intentional manipulation behind a friendly smile.

However, we learned from an early age to gain sympathy with the other person. In this respect, even a simple smile is a kind of psychological means, because it speaks to the other person's emotions in a positive way. So we instinctively use it to achieve something in the other.

There are many such means, and they range from smiling at them to deliberate manipulation. Every day we are exposed to countless manipulation strategies: Politics, advertising, the media, our superiors, our partners - everyone wants something from us at some point and everyone uses psychological means to do so.

Everyone wants something from the other

What types of psychological manipulation are there in everyday life? How does the boss get what he wants from the employee? Like the wife of her husband or the other way around? And all of this without us perceiving it as manipulation?

If your boss says, for example, "You are the only one I can trust with the project," there is probably also a manipulative element in the praise. Your manager desperately wants you to answer yes.

When you get so much appreciation, it's hard to say no, even if you really don't want to. So you run the risk of unintentionally accepting an order. This is one of the common manipulations used consciously or unconsciously in our working world.

Influencing happens all the time, not just at work, but also privately. Everyone tries to influence the other more or less. An example from everyday marriage: The woman tries to get her husband excited about her dream holiday destination, but he doesn't feel like it. The woman wants to change her husband's mind and can use different psychological means.

She can argue, for example - that means her intention to manipulate is open, she wants to convince the man. But she can also put pressure on the man by pouting or seemingly relieving her wish. Such emotional manipulation mechanisms are not always conscious.

Of course we all want something from others, from our partner or from the boss. In interpersonal relationships there is usually a covert struggle to enforce one's convictions - so everything is human.

The question is, which means you resort to: whether you only want to enforce your own needs or whether you recognize that the other person also has needs; whether you are open to the arguments of the other and admit to yourself that they are sometimes right.

Openness in communication is a prerequisite for influencing others positively and for living together well. Because manipulation is not a bad thing per se. If, for example, the boss wants to and can get the best out of the employee, they will ultimately be satisfied with their performance. The only question is how it is manipulated - whether with pressure or with motivation.

A question of authority - today as it was in the past

The atrocities committed by the National Socialists in the Third Reich are just as incomprehensible as the fact that so many Germans surrendered to the Nazi regime without doing anything.

That preoccupied psychologist Stanley Milgram as well. In the early 1960s, he demonstrated how easily people can be incited to aggression if they are asked to do so by an authority.

In his psychological experiment, the subjects were supposed to take on the role of a teacher. You were asked by the experimenter (an actor) to punish a student with electric shock if he did not do the task of putting word pairs together correctly. The intensity of the electric shock should be increased after each error. The "student" could not be seen by the test subject, but his alleged screams of pain could be heard clearly.

When psychologists at a US university repeated the Milgram experiment in 2008, they assumed that far fewer people today allow themselves to be led into immoral behavior by an authority. Since then we have apparently become more liberal and more capable of criticizing authorities.

But far from it: just like then, only a third of the test subjects remained morally stable. The majority obeyed and gave the alleged test subject painful electric shocks because the alleged authority required it.

In 2010, French filmmakers wanted to point out the power of the media and brought the obedience experiment from the psychological laboratory to television. On a staged TV show, candidates were asked to shock a man with painful electricity. Here, too, more than two thirds of the test persons were ready to do so without hesitation.

Humans are and will remain manipulable, because as a social being it is very important to them to be recognized, noticed and respected by others. Even if we are questioning authorities more today than in the past - there are still influencing factors that manipulate us, such as advertising, the media or politics.

Powerful media and powerful advertising

Media is mentioned again and again when it comes to manipulating society. They pick up moods and feelings and want to serve them, because their requirements or audience ratings also depend on it.

The media is not just about the noble intention of informing the people, it must also make money. So it is important to know what is the best way to reach people and what sells best.

For this purpose, market research examines psychologically what people like to have, what they like to buy, what they want to enjoy, what prestige effects certain media and goods have. The more precisely you know people's wishes and motives, the more targeted they can be and the easier it is to influence people.

Advertising meanwhile also works with findings from brain research, which give clues as to which stimuli we are responding to.

People are particularly sensitive to animals, children, and sex. These are the great stimuli that are used again and again in advertising. Meanwhile, however, humor has also become very important. Smarter advertising knows that we like to laugh and be challenged mentally.

The appeal of politics

When it comes to manipulation, there is no getting around politics. What psychological tricks do our politicians use to convince us of their opinion? Today we judge politicians more strongly on their personality and less on their program, which means that self-presentation is more important than ever.

In addition to rhetorical and body language aspects, the appeal to our feelings is a manipulative medium that is common in politics.

In a democracy, arguments should actually be the decisive factor in forming an opinion, but feelings, inclinations and opinions that are not necessarily based on facts play an enormously large role. Politicians know how to influence feelings, which they use more or less skillfully in their speeches.

And even?

Everyone has their own interests and wishes that they want to enforce. However, these do not always meet with approval from others, which means that each of us tries to influence - manipulate others. So manipulation is something completely human, which is not good or bad per se.

In addition, the intention to want to influence others is not always conscious. If it is clear to you that manipulation is always around us, that it is simply part of it, you can protect yourself better against it. Fortunately, we cannot be manipulated without limits.