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January 28, 2009

Manipulative Behavior

Have you ever had a client or colleague who could talk you into doing something you didn't really want to do? Somehow, against your will, you find yourself agreeing to change your plans or yourself while a little voice inside you is saying, "no! don't do it!" So, you've been roped into a situation and you're angry about having to do it, and you don't know how to get out of it gracefully.

Then you're being manipulated. I had a client very early in my practice who came into my practice full of demands and expectation. Because I was still growing my practice and had yet to have a steady clientèle, I considered this person a beneficial addition to the health of my business.

After several weeks, they pitched a proposal where they would set up a standing appointment with me, if I would give them a discount on the price of their massage. Though it wasn't ideal, I was highly motivated to keep this client and agreed to the discount. In the guise of being helpful, they were full of ideas about how I should make all sorts of posh changes to my practice in order to make it seem more like a high-end spa. Never mind that my business model was for a therapeutic practice.

At one point, I found myself agreeing to water their plants on a daily basis while they were away for vacation. One such favor led to them asking for others. Luckily for me, I was able to parry these requests and successfully set limits with this person. However, over time, my resentment grew as I found myself altering my practice in little ways exclusively for them. Finally, I made the decision to increase my prices across the board, and did not give them an opportunity to negotiate a special price.

They eventually blew up at me and never came back. Even though I felt hurt and angry, it was a relief to see them go. In reality, this was some day going to happen anyway. It was inevitable and I had been avoiding it for as long as possible because I hate being yelled at.

I had a conversation with another therapist who put an interesting light on manipulation. They call it a two way street. If I allowed this client to use and manipulate me, then I needed to ask myself in what way had I used and manipulated that client, as well? It was an interesting question. I was desperate to grow my practice and I wanted, believed I needed, this persons money. Also this client had received a lot of massage when they traveled and, as a new therapist, I wanted reassurance about my abilities. I believed this client had connections to the right kind of people in a small city who could be consumers of massage therapy and would refer these people to me.

At the time, I did not know how not to be manipulated. Everyone has "chinks in their armor" that leaves them open to manipulation. However, if we know how to listen to our authentic selves, we can recognize when we're being manipulated by how it makes us feel. Then the question becomes, why are we letting ourselves be manipulated? How will we benefit from this manipulation? Approval? Shirking responsibility? Fear? Hiding weakness? Side-tracking attention from something shameful? Whatever the reason, be aware and act from a place that speaks from your true self, not your fearful self and you will not likely be easily manipulated.

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Posted by linda at January 28, 2009 10:11 AM

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