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Dictionary definition: "Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. ... But this word also has some negative connotations — a manipulative person knows how to twist words, play on emotions and otherwise manage a situation in a sneaky fashion to get what he or she wants."

As a child, I practically worshipped the older sister who was particularly skilled at manipulation. Many who are empathic and inherently kind are more susceptible because we are trusting and inclined to see the best in people.

We project our own fervent desire to be honest, kind, and honorable onto others and assume everyone operates with a moral code of sorts and strives for integrity.

These days, it's even more vital to perceive the blatant manipulation occurring on a daily basis. Using buzz words to stir up vitriol or tug at our emotions is common in the media. Just like the whole concept of "Breaking News" triggers alarm and the desire to find out what's so important.

Advertising has utilized these techniques for ages. So have politicians, pundits, and cult leaders. Yet they also happen within everyday life, just like what happened with my sister and me.

She instinctively knew how to use the right 'buzz words', how to manipulate my emotions to feel guilt or believe certain choices were my idea, and she was especially good at using my own integrity against me. She knew I didn't like to hurt others, that my core identity was focused on love and kindness, so she simply had to imply that calling her out or exposing her deception made me a monster and I would dissolve in puddles of guilt.

Abusers utilize the same techniques.

They gas-light: when you begin to suspect something's wrong, they convince you that your perception is incorrect. "You're imagining it."

They project: simply put, they imply you're really at fault. "You're just too sensitive! Don't be so dramatic."

They trigger your guilt: when you object to mistreatment or feel wounded, they suggest that if you confront or object, then your actions are cruel. "How can you be so mean? I'd never say that about you." (At one point my sister said, "That's not unconditional love. I'd love YOU even if you were a Russian Spy.")

They couch their manipulation as a favor: as they sell their narrative, they convince you it's in your best interest and they're actually watching out for you. "I only want what's best for you, trust me."

The bottom-line is that manipulation is the art of selling a story and unless we learn to read between the lines, we will eagerly buy into the story without ever realizing the truth. The only way to change that is to develop awareness and when we note manipulation, walk away.

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