Ever wonder how an encounter goes so quickly awry? Doubt your own perceptions? Feel thrown totally off balance by another person? Find yourself acting crazy when you’re really a very nice person? Manipulation comes in many forms: There are whiners. There are bullies. There are the short-fused. Not to forget the highly judgmental. Or the out-and-out sociopath. But they often have one thing in common: Their MO is to provoke, then make you feel you have no reason to react—and it’s all your fault to begin with! Feeling deeply discounted, even totally powerless, while having to jettison the original aim of an interaction is a distressing double whammy of social life—and a cardinal sign you’re dealing with a difficult person. No, it’s not you. It’s them. And it’s the emotional equivalent of being mowed down by a hit-and-run driver.
I try to be open to negative feedback especially in work situations. Even though it might come with some hostility, manipulation or some other trash. Sometimes there is some truth in there. Not necessarily some great universal truth, but something about that persons sensitivities. One thing that I’ve learned from conflict is that it drives the truly manipulative ones crazy for you to be relatively patient and listen. It might feel good temporarily to vent, but you have also sent the manipulator the message, intended or not, real or not, that they know how to push your buttons. Many people on some level or other – maybe through personal discovery, philosophy, literature, observing the world around them, make some kind of commitment to try to lead a rational life. Einstein said that a rational man was an illusion. I’m not saying that someone has committed themselves to being a Vulcan, only they try not to let their lives become an ongoing melodrama. Sounds like a good thing, but the various kinds of difficult people you face in life can blow up that commitment relatively fast. You’re trying to operate within a set of guidelines and they have no rules.
Telltale signs: High, sometimes explosive, reactivity. Frequently disagreeable. Cynical. Mistrustful. Does not like to be wrong.
Where you’ll find them: Corner offices. The Internet, often under the cloak of anonymity.
Call in the wild: “I am going to come and burn the f**king house down.”
Notable Sightings: Mel Gibson. Mike Tyson. Naomi Campbell. Chris Brown. Russell Crowe. Courtney Love.
Telltale signs: Constantly scanning for slights real and imagined. All slights deemed intentional. Becoming unglued at the hint of disapproval. In extremis, stalking (primarily by males).
Where you’ll find them: Your inbox (most likely in an email demanding to know why you failed to respond to a note, overture, etc.). Backstage. Poetry readings. Call in the wild: “Are you annoyed with me for some reason?”
Notable sightings: Marilyn Monroe. Princess Diana. Michael Cartier. Liza Minnelli.
Telltale signs: Anxiety. Pessimism. Obstructionism. Naysaying. Shooting down the ideas of others.
Where you’ll find them: Online medical chat rooms. Political blogs. Doctors’ offices.
Call in the wild: “Yes, but…”
Notable Sightings: Larry David. Woody Allen. Harold Camping. Chicken Little.
Telltale signs: Own interests come first, last, and always. Takes everything personally. Unable to compromise, ever. Insists on being seen as right by everyone.
Where you’ll find them: Reality TV shows. Congress. Art school.
Call in the wild: “It’s my way or the highway.”
Notable sightings: Donald Trump. Kanye West. Chris Christie. Paris Hilton.
Our culture devalues stoicism and rewards overreacting to every little thing, especially on reality TV.
I’m not sure I agree with some of the examples. The writer seems to have fallen for the public persona rather than the actual person. Larry David seems to be relatively well adjusted, while Bill O’Reilly seems very neurotic, insecure and hostile.
We live in multiple ages – years from now, at least in terms of culture, one major feature of modern times is over sharing. Not everyone needs to know every personal detail and not every personal detail needs to be revealed. Though there are some people who have interesting stories to tell and know where to draw the line. What started out as the autobiography, a look back through the fog, trying to parse out the important details, in the modern sense, may have started with F. Scott Fitzgerald – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Essays From the Edge – the rise of autobiographical writing in America
The first readers to comment on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Crack-Up” essays made no pretense to literary criticism. They just wanted to dish—and diss. The dismay of old or former or soon-to-be-former friends came at Fitzgerald fast and furious, along with smack-downs from those critics who bothered to remark on the essays as they appeared in three successive issues of Esquire, in February, March, and April 1936.
John Dos Passos was particularly exercised. “Christ, man,” he wrote to Fitzgerald in October 1936. “How do you find time in the middle of the general conflagration to worry about all that stuff?” The “general conflagration,” presumably, was the Great Depression, but also National Socialism and fascism in Germany and Italy, and the Spanish Civil War, which had ignited in July. “We’re living in one of the damnedest tragic moments in history,” Dos Passos steams on. “If you want to go to pieces I think it’s absolutely OK but I think you ought to write a first-rate novel about it (and you probably will) instead of spilling it in little pieces for Arnold Gingrich,” the editor of Esquire, who had commissioned the essays.
By the standards of our own über-autobiographical age, with its appetite for revelation, its faith in the “redemptive” payoff of telling all, Fitzgerald’s essays seem decorously vague, cloaked in metaphor rather than disclosure. Though he describes his psychological and spiritual breakdown, his utter collapse, often in a wry, self-deprecating style, he doesn’t spill many autobiographical beans. We don’t learn of his despair over his wife’s mental illness. He doesn’t divulge his bouts with drinking, his imprudent affair with a married woman, his money worries, his literary woes. Mother, father, those stock figures of personal narrative—never mentioned. The master storyteller isn’t even very narrative, employing drifts of figurative language rather than episodes and scenes, feinting and lunging (mostly feinting) his way through his portrait of a breakdown that left him “cracked like an old plate.”