From Manipulation to Authenticity

From Manipulation to Authenticity

As promised (last week), today I want to focus on offering ideas for those of you who see this pattern in yourself but want to grow.

Here is the tricky part. Manipulation often gets people what they think they want. It reinforces itself.

If I don’t want to feel pain and by lying I avoid the pain then I’m likely to try that again.

If I want you to feel bad for me and do something nice for me and that works then I’m likely going to use that perspective of myself as a victim again.

The patterns around manipulation really tie to self-protection strategies - some were birthed out of an initial legitimate need. Think of a child growing up in a family that is not meeting their healthy normal needs. That child will get creative in finding ways to decrease their pain and increase having needs met, whatever way they can. As we move in to adulthood these patterns backfire and keep us from being able to have healthy loving relationships.

In family systems therapy they look for these patterns. It may show up as a child being sick a lot, etc.

So, what is the problem? Sadly, when we use layers and personas (like the victim or the rescuer) we never get truly loved. We never let someone really see us for who we are, warts and all. 

If we are not honestly seen we are not loved for who we are. click to tweet

Often at the core is a belief that if you really saw me for who I am you would not love me or you would love me less.

Sometimes we shroud manipulation in the cloak of protecting others from something that would hurt them. I was the “nice” child. It was self-protection - if I’m always nice to you then you can’t get angry at me - and I feared anger in a big way. My niceness was still self-protection.

Manipulation can show up in many ways:

  • Using guilt trips
  • Lying
  • Gift-buying to obtain a result
  • Bullying
  • Complimenting for a result

The list could go on and on. It works because manipulative behavior is normal behavior but with a hidden motive. Sometimes it is hidden so well that the person doing the manipulating is not even aware that they are using an illegitimate way to get their needs or wants met.

So, how to change?

Do some reflecting - What are the tools you use to “protect” yourself? What are you not letting people see about you? How has your practice of manipulation served you in the past?

Consider healthy alternatives - Once you are clear on how manipulation has supported you (but kept you from really being loved) then you can consider healthier alternatives. If you showed up more honestly and vulnerably in one relationship, to start, which one would it be?

Take test steps towards authenticity - sometimes it helps to preface these steps with a statement about how hard they are. This is a legitimate way to let someone closer. For example “I’d really like to tell you what you want to hear right now - that would be easier - but I value our friendship so I’m going to be honest. …"

Get support - Pick someone you think will keep loving you and come clean. Tell them you’ve noticed a pattern of manipulation in your life and you want to change. Let them support you.

Visualize - Get a clear picture of what it would be like if someone met the real you, raw, authentic, and really loved you just the way you are. Let that picture draw you. 

Nothing in life is better than being deeply loved for who you are! click to tweet

Obviously, for some of you reading this, the support of a therapist or coach to work on changing old habits will be wise. The beauty of starting a professional relationship is that you have no history and can start off vulnerable and honest. I highly recommend it, obviously, not because I’m a coach but because I know the power of both therapist and coach in my own healing and growth.

Until next week,


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Marilyn Orr is a Professional Certified Coach, who, through her coaching business “Capacity Building Coaching”, thrives on building both personal and organization capacity through leadership coaching and development.

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