By Joyce Alexander, RNP (Retired)
Dr. George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D. received his degree in clinical psychology from Texas Tech University and has studied and worked with manipulators and their victims for many years. Dr. Simon has taught over 250 workshops on the subject of dealing with manipulative people. In 1996, he published In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. This book is in its ninth printing.
The book is divided into two principle parts. Part I is “Understanding Manipulative Personalities” and Part II is “Dealing Effectively with Manipulative People.”
Two Important Types of Aggression
Dr. Simon describes two types of aggression:
Two of the fundamental types of aggression … are overt and covert aggression. When you’re determined to have your way or gain advantage and you’re open, direct, and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you’re out to “win,” get your way, dominate, or control, but are subtle, underhanded, or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Concealing overt displays of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into backing off, backing down, or giving in is a very powerful manipulative maneuver. That’s why covert aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.
Though Dr. Simon doesn’t call the “manipulative” people he describes psychopaths, he seems to completely understand the manipulation techniques of psychopaths as we know them.
The tactics that manipulators frequently use are powerful deception techniques that make it hard to recognize them as clever ploys. They can make it seem like the person using them is hurting, caring, defending, or almost anything but fighting for advantage over us. Their explanations always make just enough sense to make another doubt his or her gut hunch that they’re being taken advantage of.
Therapists whose training overly indoctrinated them in the theory of neurosis, may “frame” the problems presented to them incorrectly … In other words, they will view a hardened, abusive fighter as a terrified runner, thus misperceiving the core reality of the situation.
Though Dr. Simon calls what we might term a psychopath an aggressive personality (overtly aggressive or covertly aggressive), he sums up both types of aggressive person as “Their main objective in life is ‘winning’ and they pursue this objective with considerable passion. They forcefully strive to overcome, crush, or remove any barriers to what they want.”
In Part II of the book, Dealing Effectively with Manipulative People, Dr. Simon gives some interesting and realistic ways to deal with the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
There are several things a person must do to ensure that the frequent contests of life are played on a level field. To guard against victimization, you must be free of potentially harmful misconceptions about human nature and behavior; know how to correctly assess the character of others; have a high self-awareness, especially regarding those aspects of your own character that might increase your vulnerability to manipulation, recognize and correctly label the tactics of manipulation and respond to them appropriately; and avoid fighting losing battles.
The suggestions Dr. Simon makes in the remainder of the book are simple, easily understood and are designed to empower us. I highly recommend this book.
In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People is available on Amazon.com.