E020. Full Transcription - Sensibly Happy Podcast

Hello, everybody! You are listening to the 20th episode of Sensibly Happy podcast. This episode is about how to recognize and resist manipulations.

You have probably asked yourself: “what makes one person more successful than another?” And this is a really valid question. Because if it’s something which we can control, we can use it in our daily life and be more successful as well. I’m convinced that there are some reusable ingredients of success. In this episode we are talking about why do we feel vulnerable, what are the types of manipulations and how we can recognize and resist them.

Let’s speak about manipulations

Hello, everybody! Welcome to the 20th episode of the Sensibly Happy podcast! And today we’re going to speak about manipulations: how other people can manipulate you and make you depend on themselves. And after this episode, you will be more aware; you will have more chances to recognize that manipulation and become more resistant. Want to know more? Continue listening.

Touches help to develop

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. Human babies also require such types of interaction to grow and develop healthily. There were several pieces of research made in orphanages which showed clear results: babies who don’t receive touches and good words much more often have physical, emotional and mental deviations, because it’s required for babies to receive strokes. Is it only about childhood? Definitely not. Grown-ups also need that kind of interaction, with close people and not only. But of course, in society, it’s not a common practice to stroke each other not being in close relations. But we have an alternative form of stroking and this is verbal and nonverbal strokes.

Why do people need strokes?

Why do people need those 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. All those details are described in the transactional analysis, and that part of the theory is about strokes which the author – Eric Barron – describes as 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.

Types of strokes

Of course, that all is just a theory. But 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.

First reaction, “Amazing! How did you do that? I’ve never seen anything like this before. You are a genius! I’m really glad that I’ve asked you to do that and not someone else!”

Then the second reaction, “You know what? I don’t like the result. I don’t feel you worked good enough with that. Probably next time I should ask someone else to do that.”

And then the third reaction, “Okay, later.” And that’s it.

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. That’s why often when children don’t get attention to them when they don’t get positive strokes, they start doing bad things because in that case, they receive negative strokes which are better than disregard.

We already spoke a little bit about physical strokes. But what about other types of strokes? That could be handshaking, that could be a smile. And sometimes keeping talking is also a stroke, because it’s recognition of existence.

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.

Why am I explaining to you all that theory? Because understanding that you will start to recognize how other people interact with you, and how you interact with others, because there are strokes in your life every day, and you can recognize it.

Fake strokes

And now we’ll return to the topic of this episode – to manipulations and how the previous theory relates to manipulations. We need strokes. This is our necessity.

The best option is to have positive strokes, conditional or unconditional, doesn’t matter. Not the best case, but also a case, to receive negative strokes. We need this, and we are looking for this.

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 look for people who give us those strokes. It is some kind of addiction. We’re upset and depressed when we don’t have those 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.

I understand that it’s not so easy to accept that whole theory, and especially to see the difference between fake strokes and real 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.

Manipulation with strokes is similar to dog training

We get treated the same way as a dog with pieces of dog food that are used to train it. Every time a dog does what the dog owner wants, it receives a piece of food, but when the dog does different things, no reward will be given. And the same between parents and a child. When a child does what parents want, the child receives positive fake stroke. Otherwise, the child receives a negative stroke. The same training as with a dog, but not as obvious, and often not a conscious process for parents.

How people become addicted to strokes

I don’t think that those parents are bad. They just use common practices. But those are bad practices because 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.

More examples of fake strokes

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? Again, strokes without the real base are often manipulative. The person who gives strokes can do it with a purpose or not intentionally, but it’s always better to recognize those kinds of strokes.

Accepting fake strokes – bad idea

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. For instance, when you receive constructive feedback, you understand what was good, what was bad, what should you improve, and what should you continue using. And also, having such feedback, you learn a little bit more about your personality because every time you do something new, you can show your skills or your hidden features. And in most cases, you don’t notify it by yourself, but by other people who surround you. And by having feedbacks, you’re complementing the picture of yourself. But when you get fake feedback, will you receive any insights about yourself? I doubt it.

Use the Strokes theory to analyze your life

You can use this knowledge to analyze your past, to analyze your current situation with your boss, with your colleagues, or with your employees. And also if you have children, you would also be able to recognize some unconscious manipulations towards your children.

Replacing fake strokes with good ones

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. Like, “You know what, son, you do it much better than a year before! The more developed technique, more confident moves, for sure noticeable improvement!” Or you can replace a fake stroke with unconditional stroke by telling about your feelings, like, “I’m so glad I have such amazing children! You bring me a lot of joy!” or, “I am proud to have such people in my team!”

Your 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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