Can Empaths Avoid Manipulation?
Every Friday morning, Irving Naxon’s grandmother would prepare an uncooked pot for dinner that evening. Unlike you or I, Irving watch her schlep the full, heavy pot to the local bakery to be cooked all day, go home, then return at sundown to get it for dinner piping hot and get it back home for a late evening meal.
As Irving watched her make four heavy trips, he felt and was driven by his grandmother’s pain and inconvenience to find a better way to cook her Friday meals. He was determined to get to work on grandma’s cooking dilemma.
Irving went to work and invented the modern crock pot. By his death he had over 200 patents to his name influencing how we cook today- all in response to his Grandmother’s challenge.
Of course, it's about what causes us to react emotionally.
Irving’s challenge is similar to how empaths approach most problems they see around them. They feel the emotional pain someone is experiencing, and are compelled to help that person solve their challenge in a personalized way.
But this reaction isn’t simply a response to a question someone poses casually, no. It’s an impulse to move into help model, and often it can’t be ignored without causing severe emotional distress to an empathic person.
Often it comes from an internal drive that longs to help others solve personal issues or develop themselves in a way that will heal what’s not working. But when there is personal misalignment for someone with others or themselves, it sparks the need to react and help.
At the core, empaths have a strong need to relate to other people, through feelings and emotions. This often leads to jumping into other people’s emotional space, feeling what it’s like to have the challenges and disappointments of others. This drive to react and reconcile what’s not working and resolve conflict is potent.
It’s not that there’s a conscious decision to get hooked.
Empaths can instantly ‘crawl into the skin’ of another person, or sympathetically move deeply into another’s the heart space. This gives them a gauge on someone’s emotions and feelings.
Their main goal is reconciliation and restoring integrity for that person or group so things work better. But the hook can be so strong they automatically jump into service mode without seeing the signs of manipulation mind games people play, often for years.
What kinds of mental games? Your answer’s never good enough is a type of game where the empaths insights and ideas are never good enough, so you need to generate more. It’s a form of dark brainstorm the answer to someone else’s problem. Another kind of game is ‘do what I request or I’ll cry’ often with fake crocodile tears.
Ever notice how good people can get suckered into a double bind?
A double bind is where no matter what you do, you’re stuck and all options are less than ideal causing you to suffer or lose in one way. Similarly, when empaths emotionally react and engage their help, it signals to the other person you’re willing to play their game and took the bait. Sound fishy? It is.
Now, because you reacted positively, it opens the doorway for more requests and more advice you need to give, often failing limit what you can provide. Being empathic often means you don’t like to disappoint others and feel the conflict and retaliation from other people, you agree to help most or all of the floodgate request. Soon you’re drowning in the sea of other people’s concerns, emergencies and desires.
At this point trying to get out of any of this creates more internal conflict by not wanting to upset the other person or rock the boat and speak up. This can lead to overthinking, feeling bad about ourselves and ultimately fear you’ll damage the relationship.
But here’s the kicker. At this point we’re caught up and can’t fight the onslaught of requests and neediness, but if they don’t feel bad taking advantage of your kindness, they why should you feel bad to put in a boundary? The mutual respect is out the window anyway.
Now it's time to discern manipulation from true need.
Here are four core questions you can ask yourself to see if there is a genuine need, if you are the right person, what is the intention for the request and if you choose to help.
- Are they capable enough to do, achieve, manage or get what’s needed without your help?
- Are you the best person to help, or can they do this themselves?
- What is their real intention making this request? If you know them well, this is often easier to answer.
- Do you really want to freakin’ do what they are asking? It’s your choice and the most important aspect to avoid manipulation.
Great, you’ve checked in, but now what can you do to keep reactions in check before responding?
If you don’t have the time to sit and think about the four points, you can do a few simple things. Buy yourself time to think about the request. Never accept a first offer, always think of the pros/cons and counterpoints before you commit to something.
Of course, if you have to make a decision right away, excuse yourself for a few minutes to ‘run to the restroom’ and give yourself a few minutes to think before returning to the conversation. Finally, I recommend checking in with your intuition, ask yourself what is it that you really want right now. What’s so important that should help them out more than doing what you want?