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FOG - Manipulation techniques!

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Who should read?

  1. Those who regularly feel guilty of falling short in their relationships, office deliverables etc.

  2. Those who work in corporates and don’t even know they are getting manipulated.

Research: Susan Forward and Neil Sattin

"IT" engineers build products with Python, while ‘social’ engineers build relationships with Manipulation. Let me first show who is vulnerable to manipulation and then detail on “FOG” an acronym coined by Susan Forward for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. Manipulation works with two people the manipulator (M) and the Compliant (C). M is a narcissistic. C is a giving person who has low self esteem and difficulty in setting personal boundaries.

M uses ‘FOG’ to keep C is compliance. How? Lets see with some examples.

Fear - To ride on fear, a manipulator (M) can use ‘Fear and Relief’ technique to aggravate C’s fear on let’s say job security and make the person work for 10 hrs extra per week. The fear can be tipped to a point where M fudges data on increasing layoffs and then at that tipping point provides a sense of relief by saying that C is not the list and is safe. At the relief point, C will be disarmed and will agree to M’s proposition to a no raise, no promotion, work another 20 hrs or even feel lucky to have M around. A lot of scared employees often become stagnant because of manipulative bosses. C’s trait list does not list “un-smart”, then why does not C fight back. You will always hear C in coffee conversation with his friends that guys it is not worth the hassle. I will show M next year and procrastinate the fight.

Obligation and Guilt – ‘I get paid so much, I can’t take my holidays or leaves’. ‘Reyan, you’re leaving at 5:00 PM, half day huh!’ Used socially, guilt-tripping is common. Parents often talk children into being responsible and study harder by displaying the effort parents put in for them. Children use it against parents when they want to work less hard by quoting other parents. Sam’s mom lets her go to all school trips. Ayush’s parents gave him a phone on his 10th birthday even though Ayush got an ‘F’ in two subjects. Why C does not fight back here? C discusses with her spouse at dinner that giving in is no big deal, if it results in 'M' calming down. Children often comply to please parents and stay confused about what they want. Various styles of pursuing obligation/guilt are: comparing, complaining, flattery, fake concern, lying, sympathy etc. A typical example of fake concern is endorsing an unneeded gift as a well-thought gift to a relative in-law. Out of obligation, C or the recipient will praise your choice and embrace it.

So what can “C” do? C needs to regularly keep a check on giving in and practice three steps:

Thought: Is what I need/want malicious, cruel, abusive, insulting, belittling, demeaning, and truly harmful? If no, then live with your guilt and don’t give in.

Pragmatic Tip – Set boundaries. I don’t take phone calls when working. It is not about disrespecting others, but about keeping focus intact and reducing workday stress level.

Thought: People will test your boundaries. My boss/My mom/my husband/in-laws will get angry. Immediately ask a question – What is the worst that can happen? Can you deal with it?

Pragmatic Tip – C needs to decide the consequences if M breaches boundaries beforehand. If M keeps calling you repeatedly during work hrs even after they C tells M that taking calls at work is tough. Then C simply doesn’t pick M’s phones. C will get healthier with time and will eventually be able to avoid the phone without reacting emotionally. C can practice a more severe action for breach of a boundary like monogamy.

Thought: I don’t want to endorse victim attitude, so all Cs need to understand, that by being compliant, Cs also try to manipulate Ms to get their love and acceptance.

Pragmatic Tip – Rather than crying or feeling victim, which further lowers self-esteem, C needs to focus on knowing his/her needs/boundaries and find easy ways to put across C’s point. On something unagreeable, always ask M, why is it so crucial to M. These questions will lead to better understanding of other's rationale than our own assumptions. All the best in setting boundaries!

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