Ich und das Was auch immer
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Manipulation tactics that trigger my asshole alert.
Warnings: random capitalisation.
Let me start by saying that I like arrogance in a person. I like people valuing quality, so talking down on people making errors gives me that We Are Better Than That, Right? feeling. Somehow I'm still surprised when it's directed at me by people I like.
There are a lot of manipulation tactics that are dependent on But I'm Special Syndrome. Cheating partners telling their spouses they are different and the others are just for sex, or talking shit about fat people in the presence of The One Fat Friend Whose Fatness They Forgive. I rarely fall prey to those. If you are an asshole to others, I assume you might be an asshole to me, too. If you use people, you might use me. But with intellectual arrogance, I just don't see it. Because I'm Special. I'm clever, too. It can't happen to me, and hating stupidity means liking cleverness, right? What I fail to see time and time again is that condescension and talking behind people's back are habits that don't just apply to that one form of arrogance. They are bad habits. They are markings of assholes.
So obviously, there are assholes that I like having in my life. I'm very much over romantic attachments to people like that, but I do seek them out as friends. It's an itch I need scratched, something that feeds my ever-hungry superiority complex. Those people can be wonderful friends, intellectually stimulating, and still - they have asshole habits. And asshole behaviour is what makes assholes.
I've encountered my fair share of manipulation tactics. A narcisstic polyromantic something Close To A Boyfriend But Not Quite, some oh-so-free-spirited acquaintances, and lots of lonely people. Let me tell you lonely people are the WORST! I've been pretty lonely myself most of my life, so I've been a manipulator, guilt-tripper and all-around bad company, too, but I'm also good at spotting lonelyness patterns. Some of those:
You Should Be Friends With Me Because I Try So Hard (also called favor sharking)
It's So Unfair Nobody Will Put Up With My Antisocial Behaviour! I'm entitled to friends, because noone should ever suffer like I suffer (but they should in lots of different ways through my inflicted company)
Feeling That I Need To Get Laid Should Get Me Laid (the classic creep)
But there are more things that really, really should be a red flag, not just to me, but everyone. They are markings of abuse, and abuse should not be taken lightly, whether it's happening in the family, marriage, or friendship.
There's this potentially slightly asshole-ish friend of me. This is true: he's not so bad (which, yes, I do recognise as the classic non-apology), and in fact is very rarely insulting. At least to people's face. There is, however, a lot of anger and frustration that feeds itself in a devious circle of unhappiness and expectations. He can't seem to get used to the fact that people ARE stupid, and will always be, and that it's not his job to fix that through Making People See How Stupid They Are.
Yesterday, we had a disagreement. I was looking for praise for something I was proud of. He thought that thing I liked was not a good thing. Which is fine - I can live without a pat on the back for a day, or I could look for it elsewhere. Something about his wording triggered my Holy Shit Asshole response, though. Every try to Make Him See The Thing I Like Is Great, or to Make Him See I'm Still A Worthwile Person made it somehow worse. I took several tries to clear this up, and I'm not sure we're done yet. Because while I was absolutely overreacting, a lot of his responses triggered other warnings. Most of them through my interpretation, but still. Now I worry.
I know my asshole-o-meter was off. But: That he could even give me the idea is, in itself, not a good sign. That some parts of the communication could even remind me of Really Bad Manipulation. The feeling that I was making it worse by voicing the problems. That I was so quick to hear D when what was said was really much closer to q. I have identified some of the triggers that set me off, and most of them were definitely heard, not said. The conflict happened mostly on my side. He didn't even notice - which is the conflict that happened on his side. I voiced my feelings. Clearly. I communicated exactly what my problem was and what kind of reassurance I was looking for, and it was not coming forward and still isn't. I am not sure if I feel entitled to that reassurance because I'm needy or because it would prove that he actually does care.
Here's what I was hearing:
The Things You Like Make You A Bad Person
This is the first one, the one that triggered me and the rest of the conversation. I was told that The Thing I Like is a bad thing and makes me bad at my job. I tried to reset the context, to rephrase, to communicate what I like about Thing and why this is important to me and why I still think that I am a Good Person Doing A Good Job, and it somehow didn't produce the desired result. I did get an acknowledgement that I am free to like what I want. I didn't get an apology or a retractment of the Liking This Is A Bad Trait In Your Field. Which I honestly can't expect, because that is a valid opinion. It still hurts.
I Didn't Insult You, Just Part Of You
There is some disagreement on what is personal and what isn't. As liking This Thing is not some passing interest of mine, but something that I feel is just how I am, it's actually part of me, I plead personal. He (rightfully) states that he didn't attack me and just voiced an opinion about Thing. This will not be resolved and probably doesn't have to, but I do wish that this discrepancy would be acknowledged. I think both are valid opinions. It might not have been personal for him, but it was for me. I don't want to justify that feeling. I shouldn't have to.
There are more. I won't comment them all. They also don't actually apply to things he said - they are things I was expecting to hear at that point and that I was reading into our sparse communication. Did I mention this happened via Skypechat? Not a good medium for disagreements.
Those are patterns I look for - they happened exclusively in my head. This time. I have experienced them often enough to look for or expect them. This says more about me and past friendships than about him. These will all feel okay again when we meet in person, because I am sure they will not be present in our next conversation and the feeling they might be or might have been will pass. I am listing them for completeness.
My Insults Are Okay Because I Really Meant Them
You Feel Hurt So It Must Be Your Fault
Your Hurt Is Hurting Me
You Are Invested In This Relationship So Its Your Job To Patch Things Up
I Forgive Your Feelings Because You Apoligized For Feeling Hurt By Me
This breakdown made my head look a bit more organized. That was helpful. It was also very much Not Fun. I'm writing this down to remember those triggers, to examine them earlier in the future, and to keep myself from dwelling on them now. I hope I'm done with this now and All Is Good.
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