Can you help me? How many times have we made that request or responded to a request like that? We all need others to do things for us from time to time. Most of the
And then there are the other requests. The ones that come with a strong emotional appeal, a request for immediate action, and sometimes only vague reasons for complying. No, I’m not talking about supporting your local National Public Radio station. I’m talking about some of the form-letter, chain-mail style requests that get posted on Facebook.
Here are just two examples that I have seen several times.
I ask you a personal favor… and this is really personal to my family at this time. Only some of you will do it, (and I know who you are if necessary), if you know someone who has (fill in the blank), please add this to your status for 1 hour as a mark of respect, and remembrance. I hope I was right about the people who are going to do it.
I love the faux urgency and guilt. Imagine this conversation. It’s not just a favor, it’s a personal favor. Have you ever been asked an impersonal favor? And it’s really personal at this time. Sounds like you’re almost embarrassed to have to ask. Personal to my family. Many lives depend on me! You need me to do this Right Now! Only some of you will do this. Why should any of us? And I know who you are if necessary. So, if I don’t know whether I’m one of those people, I should ask you? As a mark of respect. For whom is this respect being shown? Not for the person suffering from the particular disease or illness, but rather for you, the poster who is requesting the favor. I hope I was right. Because if you’re wrong, I’m a better person that you thought me to be.
Or this one.
If no one reads my wall, this should be a short experiment. This is an experiment to see who reads posts and who just scrolls. So, if you read this, leave one word on how we met. Only one word, then copy this to your wall so I can leave a word for you. Please don’t add your word and then not bother to copy.
I can hear the real statements that are unspoken between these sentences, can’t you? If no one reads my wall. I’m afraid no one cares I’m here, please prove me wrong. Leave one word on how we met. I need others to know I’m so important to you that you recall this detail. Only one word. This gives me flexibility to spin the story how I see fit. Then copy this to your wall. To prove to me again that I control your actions. Please don’t add your word and then not bother to copy. Because I will feel better knowing others are as insecure as I am.
I have one word for both of these:
Psychological manipulation does not exist when there is respect. When respect exists, there is not room for the desire to advance your own purpose or feeling of superiority, control or power at the expense of another.
It’s important to recognize when we feel compelled to respond to manipulative behavior on Facebook – where there may be some notion of public accountability, at least that’s what the poster hopes – that we may suffer from one of these maladies:
- Deficient self reliance
- Addiction to approval or acceptance
- Fear of others’ negative emotions
- Inability to assert ourselves
- Malleable personal boundaries
I’ve learned to be alert to particular feelings that indicate I am suffering from one of these maladies. Then I look at what is happening in my life that might be contributing to this feeling. Whatever the cause, I give voice to it in conversation with myself. (The joy of talking to yourself is that you can be pretty sure at least one person is listening to you!) Then, in light of my new awareness, I make a decision about my verbal response and my actions.
It’s important to me that I recognize when someone is trying to manipulate me and to call the action by its rightful name. Manipulation. When I give voice to what is really happening, I no longer feel anxious about the request and I can be steadfast in my choice of how I respond.
Live Honest, Open and True
What about you? Can you recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you? What techniques have you found to be especially helpful in resisting their efforts? Do you think it is necessary to do more than to say no? Or, in the case of guilt-laden Facebook or your local station National Public Radio funding requests, to simply not take action?