E020. Feeling vulnerable? Learn to recognize manipulations in your life - Sensibly Happy Podcast
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Have you ever felt vulnerable? Have you ever felt like you were manipulated? This episode will give you information about how to recognize specific manipulation and resist it. Also, you will learn the types of manipulative “strokes” and will find out the best ways to react to each of them.

What you’ll discover

  • How to recognize and resist manipulations
  • What are the types of strokes and how to differentiate them
  • Why the strokes are important
  • How to analyze your life using the Strokes theory

Quotes, keynotes

  • You’ve probably seen different videos with animals were animal parents have warm relations with their children. They’re licking their babies, covering with their hot bodies, searching for fleas in the hair, and other types of physical interaction. And it’s not only because of love that parents feel, but it’s also about natural behaviour, which helps their children to grow quicker and healthier. Because it’s a necessity for children to receive those touches and those strokes. And you know what? People are not very different compared to those animals.
  • Why do people need “strokes”? The main reason is that people need to be recognized, recognized that they exist and who they are. And without that recognition, people often fall into depression and apathy. And of course, they lose their sense of living. And without having that attention and recognition, the default behaviour is to get some of that attention in different ways.
  • You definitely saw that situation, or you were the part of the situation when a child does different strange or bad things just to get attention from his or her parents. Is that child bad? Definitely not! Because it’s a natural necessity to feel that other people, and what’s more important, parents recognize his existence.
  • Eric Barron described in his transactional analysis the theory about strokes. He stated that strokes are a fundamental unit of social action. The main idea is that adults the same as children require different types of strokes, but being adults, they understand that they cannot receive physical strokes often. So physical strokes are substituted with other types of recognition.
  • Imagine that situation. Some time ago, you were asked by your boss or by your partner to do some important task. You did your best by researching different approaches to implementation, different tools. And finally, by choosing the best approach, you completed the task by spending several days on it. You liked the result because it was really outstanding. You showed the result, as well as a story about how you had achieved that, to the requester. And now imagine three different reactions on that result: positive, negative, and no reaction at all. Try to feel which of those three results were the most pleasant for you and which of those brought you the most negative emotions. Based on researches, the worst reaction for the person is disregard, like the person doesn’t exist, like there were no efforts. Based on that example, we can feel that there are positive strokes, negative strokes, and no strokes. And that even a negative stroke is better than no stroke at all.
  • There’s another categorization of strokes: conditional and unconditional. Conditional is when a person tells about the different achievements and characteristics of another person. For instance, “I like the approach that you used,” or, “You have very good skill for doing that,” or the conditional negative one, “Why did you ask that stupid question?” In all those examples, one person recognizes others by giving feedback. And what are the unconditional strokes? Those are about our existence. For example, “I’m so glad I’ve met such an amazing person as you are,” or, “I’m glad you’re here,” or the unconditional negative one, “You’re so stupid!” All those unconditional strokes are about a person in general and about the existence of that person.
  • Unconsciously, we interact with others and hope to receive some positive strokes in the form of good feedback, of praise, or even for a smile in return. What would happen if we didn’t have enough strokes in our life? We would look for people who would give us those strokes. It is some kind of addiction. We’re upset and depressed when we don’t have enough strokes, and we fly high after the next dose. But the bad thing about that is that some people understand your need, or just feel it, and they give you those strokes only in case if you do what they want. Those are fakes strokes.
  • In general, fake strokes are actions without real ground, without explanation, or without feelings of the person who gives a stroke. For instance, the commonly used phrase, “Good boy or good girl!” is a stroke. But what is it about? Is it about feelings that parents love that child? Or is it about the real recognition that a person has just achieved something? None of those. This is just a fake stroke. And it’s often used in cases when parents need the child to be quiet, or to eat what was given to the child, or to stop doing what parents don’t want the child to do.
  • Often there is a bad practice when instead of growing a child in a friendly environment, parents grow that child using manipulations. And, as a result, that child becomes addicted to someone else’s thoughts or wishes. They become victims of their own need for strokes. Does such kind of manipulation exist only between parents and children? Of course not. That could be at work, or between a couple, or between friends.
  • Another example of a fake stroke, “You are the best!” This is definitely a conditional stroke, but there is no real background for such kind of statement. Best in what? Why do you think that I’m the best? A not fake alternative to that could be, “I don’t know any other person who can do it better than you,” or, “I don’t know what would I do without you,” or, “I was surprised by your results!” Do you feel the difference right now?
  • Why is it bad to accept fake strokes? First of all, you become dependable on that person’s wishes, but what is more important, on that person’s mood. Because in case one person has a bad mood, you will not receive a positive stroke. The second reason why fake strokes are bad is that by spending efforts, you don’t achieve your own goals, but goals which are established by another person. Because in that case, you receive strokes only in case you’ve pleased that person. And the third reason is that fake strokes mislead you.
  • What if you’ve just realized that you sometimes manipulate other people? The best way is to change the formulation of the message that you give to others. You should change it for the constructive feedback to let the person know why exactly you think that the person did something good or bad.

The task for the next week

  • The first step, analyze your childhood. What strokes did you receive in the past? What were the phrases? And was there some background for those phrases? How do you think, were those strokes manipulative or real?
  • The second step. How do you think, did your parents know at that time about your strong sides and your weaknesses? Did they reflect that knowledge somehow with strokes? Have you had a chance to understand yourself better by having constructive feedbacks and by having the feeling that you were beloved?
  • The third step. Analyze: do you have an addiction to different strokes from your colleagues, from your boss, or your partner? How do you think, do they use your addiction to manipulate you somehow?
  • The fourth step: analyze whether you manipulate others and even your children. How can you change that behaviour? If you didn’t know about that theory before, this would be an entry point to understand better what’s going on with your life, how you manipulate others, and how some other people manipulate you. And please, don’t get me wrong. Even if you think that your parents manipulated you, or are still manipulating you, I don’t say that they are bad. They just use a common approach which is widely used. And this is why I’m recording this episode right now, to let you start notifying and realizing those manipulations.
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