Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Everybody Should Learn to Manipulate Their Partner

All human interaction involves at least some degree of manipulation.

Understand that idea and life gets a lot easier. 

In my last post, I gave a simple road map to become more attractive to your significant other via a classic seduction technique- alternate between periods of attention and inattention. 

An anonymous commenter referred to the tactic as "playing mid games." This isn't surprising, most people seem to have an aversion to the idea that our thoughts and behaviors have any tinge of persuasion. Unfortunately that perspective has two negative consequences:

1. It handicaps us in all our social interactions.
2. It makes us nearly powerless when others try to manipulate us.

I'm guessing most people reading this right now are telling themselves "Manipulate others?!? I don't do that!"

Ah, but you do. Here are some examples:
  • Parents: Ever try to get your children to eat a new food or brush their teeth? You used manipulation.
  • Employees: Ever try to get a raise from your employer? You used manipulation.
  • People in couples: Ever try to convince you partner to have sex? You used manipulation.
Once we understand we use manipulation all the time, we can effectively drop the holier-than-thou moral objections and have an open, honest talk. Our goal shouldn't be to not manipulate our partner, but to use manipulation techniques that help the relationship as opposed to hurt the relationship. If it helps swallow the pill, you can exchange the term "manipulate" with "persuade" or even "influence."

Here are a few ways people use manipulation that results in negative outcomes:
  • Complaining.
  • Nagging.
  • Inciting jealousy.
  • Clinginess.
  • Using guilt and/or shame as a persuasion tool.
  • Using blame.
  • Play the victim by becoming a martyr.
  • Use of name-calling.
  • Failing to accept your partner's flaws.
  • Use of physical or emotional abuse as positive punishment (operant conditioning terminology).
All of these behaviors are extremely common in relationships, and all have unhealthy results. We could pretend we're not using manipulation when inciting any of these tactics, but it merely justifies their use. 

A better solution is to recognize each of these tactics for what they are- an overt attempt to manipulate the thoughts and behaviors of our partner. Once we recognize them as such, we can work to replace them with positive manipulative techniques. Some examples:
  • Use of seduction (see previous post).
  • Bargaining.
  • Use of positive reinforcement.
  • Use of classical conditioning (can be used for negative things, too).
  • Mutual sharing of needs and desires.
  • Learning to frame discussions with pro-relationship language.
  • Compliments.
All of these tactics can be used to influence your partner's behaviors in a way that will ultimately help strengthen the relationship. Compare the two lists from above. Is there any doubt the latter list is far superior to the former list? 

Of course!

The latter list is just as manipulative as the former list, but makes use of tactics that will make your partner feel loved, build up their self-esteem, and bring you closer together. The "bad" list incites anger and resentment which ultimately creates a toxic environment. 

But wait, wouldn't it be better to just talk about these issues?


Open, honest communication and the use of positive manipulative techniques are not mutually exclusive. Shelly and I use these tactics on each other all the time. In fact, we often discuss how and when we use these tactics. In many cases, it results in more open communication. The net effect is overwhelmingly positive. Not only do we always get our needs met, we're in an excellent position to always make sure each others' needs are always met. 

The lesson- admit you use manipulative tactics in your relationship. Identify methods that have a net positive effect. Repeat those. Identify those methods that have a net negative effect. Stop using those. Learn more positive manipulative tactics. Practice them often. Your relationship will improve dramatically.




  1. Direct/indirect persuasion seems to be less provocative and more correct. You used the word yourself. Manipulation is usually associated with trying to force certain behavior through blackmail, extortion, emotional arm twisting, etc. Clearly, when you call someone manipulative, you aren't saying something positive. The connotation is negative. Persuasion, on the other hand, is understood as a method of achieving mutual agreement. Persuasion is more about framing the dialogue (verbal and nonverbal) to establish states of minds that are on the same page. Scarcity isn't the issue. Attraction is. Inattention can be a method of framing the dialogue for attraction (the gift of missing you), but if the attention that is given is the same as before, then maybe it is the person giving the attention who needs to change their behavior and state of mind about the relationship. "Clingy" attention for example, will almost always cause problems in a relationship even if periods of "inattention" are added. The inattention is dishonest in this case because the clingy person doesn't really want to stop being clingy. The dissonance between behavior and state of mind/emotions will harm the relationship even if the inattention seems to work at first.

  2. Good observation. The issue of changing yourself versus attempting to change your partner is an upcoming topic I'll be writing about.

    Re: the use of the term "manipulative" versus "persuasive" or "influential" (or any other term with a more positive connotation) was intentional. I like to stir the pot. ;-)

  3. I always say that Dog Training School is a misnomer. They should call them Dog Owner Training Schools to avoid confusion. If an owner has a problem with his dog, then he has to change HIS behavior before the dog will change its behavior.

  4. " I like to stir the pot." So admittedly, you're trying to use a negative manipulation on your readers, while warning them to be more aware of manipulation.

  5. Stir pot = reframe thought. What's negative about that?

  6. Can you give me an example of bargaining, classical conditioning and positive reinforcement? How could these be translated in the bedroom?