About 10 years ago, Dr. George Simon wrote a book titled In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People and if you haven’t read it, I would strongly recommend it. When I read it, it shined a light on a few very toxic people in my life. These were relationships that didn’t feel quite right to me, but I didn’t have the words to say why. This book gave me the words.
Manipulation is a tactic that all of us have used at one point or another, and there is even evidence that animals engage in manipulative or deceptive behavior. Even though the word has a negative connotation, not all manipulation is harmful and at times it can even be protective. What makes it dangerous is intent and motivation.
Wolves are expert manipulators. In fact, it’s one of their primary ways of interacting with people. Their intent is to ‘win’ and to do it at any cost. Their motivation is to be perceived in very specific ways. They must be liked and will do almost anything to protect the persona they have crafted. You may think that there are lots of people out there like this, and there are. What makes someone a wolf capable of doing significant harm is their lack of empathy.
Empathy in its simplest form is being able to understand someone else’s feelings. Wolves either don’t care or in the worst case, don’t even have the capacity for empathy. They’re truly out to win at all costs (to anyone but themselves) and they want to appear helpful and charming while they do it. So, what do you do when you feel a wolf creeping up behind you?
Start with you. Make sure that you are firmly rooted in your own self-awareness and integrity. That foundation will allow you to stand in a place of self-confidence when confronted by the manipulative tactics of the wolf. From that place you can continually force the focus back to the issue at hand. You may have to do that several times, and you will likely have to be very direct while only accepting direct responses back. By keeping the focus on the issue, it prevents you from getting sidetracked or distracted, both common tactics of the manipulator.
Most important of all – protect yourself. Don’t allow them to get under your skin or force you into an emotional or aggressive position. Keep it charge neutral and remember that you get to decide how you are treated. You may have to take a break in a conversation to get grounded again or even walk away from it entirely. In some cases, you may have to just let it go and work on ways to not end up in the same type of situation again. It may feel like a defeat, but there’s a tough, but valuable lesson to be learned.
Sheep learned it long ago, and this is one lesson we can take from them. They don’t try and change the wolf or help the wolf understand that they really shouldn’t be behaving the way that they do. The sheep just walk (or run) away. They know instinctively that wolves don’t change and allowing them in their midst will only cause problems. They choose to surround themselves with other sheep or maybe a protective sheepdog because they share the same values and view of the world.
You deserve no less in your own life and life is too short to spend any of it sparring with a wolf. Take back your power and spend your energy on the good-hearted, friendly people in your life! It will change your life.