Don’t dismiss the red flags of manipulation and deception

Have you noticed the red flags but decided not to say anything?

What do you do when you catch someone red-handed and the red flag of deception or manipulation rears its ugly head? Do you honor your boundaries and speak up or instead choose to dismiss it, thinking you must be wrong?

It’s important to keep your red flag radar turned on so that you don’t get sucked into a bad situation.

The word abuse comes up in the term “emotional abuse,” and people don’t think that their relationship is abusive. They’ll say, “My partner (or friend, or coworker, or boss, etc.), they’re just a nice person. So how could they possibly be being abusive? I know what abuse is – abuse is leaving marks on my body. Abuse is shoving me. Abuse is so many other things.”

But it has not been told enough in this world how much emotional abuse leaves scars. I don’t mean physical scars; I just mean when you are dealing with someone who is doing any type of manipulation or emotional abuse, or trying to con you in some way, it leaves emotional scars. In other words, you have feelings about it.

And if you’re in a romantic relationship with someone like that, those feelings are a continuous thing. You get stuck in a long, drawn-out process that continues to expose you to abusive behavior day after day.

The problem with emotional abuse is that it’s very hard to pinpoint without the context of the long haul.

If I were to take a day out of the life of someone experiencing emotional abuse and look at what their partner is doing, almost everyone on the outside would think, “Well, their partner’s not so bad. I don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing. I might even do what they’re doing.”

That’s the trouble with emotionally abusive relationships: we could get into a situation that no one else recognizes as abusive.

This show is all about helping you recognize what emotional abuse, verbal abuse, manipulation, coercion, and bad behavior are, in general, so you are prepared – so that you are armed with knowledge – so that when you go out into the world, or when you experience your family at the next get-together or the family you live with now, you understand a lot more about yourself than you did before.

This helps you not to get sucked into that cycle, so you don’t get trapped.

And it’s not a continuous degradation, depreciation, diminishing, dissolving… pick a D word! Where all of these things happened to you, that happened to your soul and spirit.

This isn’t the same thing when you’re dealing with a salesperson and they’re trying to con you. Not all salespeople do this, and most of them don’t, but there are some salespeople out there that are just so driven to make the sale that they’ll say anything to get you to buy.

Again, I’m not making fun of salespeople. I’ve been there; it’s a noble profession, absolutely, but there are some people that are so driven by money and so driven by that profit that they will do anything to get you to buy. So they will just tell you things that are plainly wrong just so you’ll sign the document – just so you’ll hand over the money.

And that’s different than a relationship that has manipulation or deception. That’s different because you see this person once, and then you’re gone. I was talking about an event that happened to me on my other show, The Overwhelmed Brain, where I walked into a music store, and the salesperson that I’ve always dealt with (nice guy, you know, I think), I walked up to the counter and was purchasing something, and he threw in some extended warranty.

I started realizing he fast-talked me into thinking that all this was part of the normal pricing. “You get the two-year warranty, thirty-seven dollars…” and he just kept talking and talking. I finally said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, stop for a second. What is this extra money on my bill here?”

He said, “Oh, that’s the two-year warranty.”

I said, “I didn’t want the two-year warranty, but you just threw it in there. I never agreed to that.”

I told him I have personal boundaries and values that were being violated. I told him it was unethical, and I didn’t appreciate he added that to my bill.

He just stopped and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

And he really didn’t know how to respond after that. It wasn’t like I caught him on a fluke, or he misunderstood something I said. This was a buildup over time. I had been there several times to purchase things, and I noticed how he tried to throw extra charges in there. Like he always tries to sell me the highest-priced product, even if I didn’t need it.

And this particular sale just felt coercive. It felt like he was influencing me in an unethical way. And when that kind of builds up inside of you and you have these feelings of doubt, your instincts are kicking in, and the hair on the back of your neck might be raising like ‘something’s going on here, but I just can’t prove it. I just can’t figure it out,’ and then you finally catch someone red-handed, and everything you thought was happening is substantiated.

But then you have to face the moment where you either address it or you don’t. And in a lot of relationships (and this is the difference I’m talking about), we get to that moment when we finally catch someone red-handed, then we can choose to say something or not.

Hopefully, we do say something when the appearance of a red flag comes up, so that we don’t swallow it, diminish it, invalidate ourselves, and make ourselves think that perhaps we’re misunderstanding something. After all, that’s what happens, isn’t it? We can misunderstand things, so perhaps that’s it.

This is the main point of this episode: we overlook the red flags when they first start.

I overlooked the red flags when I first started dealing with this salesperson. And because he was convincing, and he seemed nice, and ‘why would he want to screw me over? You know, why would he want to manipulate me?’

But it turned out that my suspicions were right. So I did have my gauge on, my radar on when I worked with him. So I was still cordial and civil with him. But I had my radar on, and I think that’s important when you detect any red flag.

Keep your radar on. Keep your observation skills tuned. Because you need to know if something else happens, that is the compound effect of what continues to happen if you don’t nip it in the Bud.

It’s so important to address the red flags right away. Someone who’s very skilled at manipulating you will explain away and rationalize those red flags so you have to be very careful because, more likely than not, the red flags are real. And when they’re real, you’re exposing yourself to danger.

Be careful not to diminish or invalidate yourself, thinking, “Well, it’s probably a fluke. Maybe he or she didn’t mean that. I don’t see them as that type of person. So maybe I’m just perceiving this incorrectly.”

It’s okay to dive in and trust yourself, then say something. Be aware that this is something that maybe you don’t want in your life. It’s very helpful for you to keep that in mind in any situation and in any conversation.

Because what’s going to happen is that if you let it go, the other person will realize, “The first time it worked, so the second time it should work as well. At that point, I’ll just explain it away again.”

But we get sucked in. We get sucked in with our emotions. I mean, not necessarily with a salesperson like in my case but in relationships, we get sucked in. And we think, ‘Wow, we love them, and we are compassionate, and we want them to be happy and, of course they wouldn’t manipulate us!’

My point with this episode is to help you stay aware of the red flags and be aware that when a red flag comes up. Turn on your red flag radar and make sure that you stay observant and become highly attuned to what is going on so that if it happens again, and you can substantiate the first red flag, you’ll know it’s time to say something.

I like to say something on the first red flag. I didn’t do so with that salesperson because his deception was just so cleverly disguised, so I couldn’t really tell.

That’s what happens to us. We can’t really tell sometimes. But always trust your instincts. Even if you’re wrong, saying something like, “When you said that, it didn’t feel right” (or whatever words you use), will at least open the situation up for conversation. It could be an innocent thing or something else.

You just want to either address what’s going in the moment or file it away for later so that you can bring it up just in case it does ever happen again. At that point, you can say something about it.

Don’t let too many red flags go by because then you’re going to turn into a client I had once that ignored many red flags for years and years and just kept dismissing them. She felt completely powerless and stuck in a relationship that drained her every day.

Every time you dismiss a red flag, you dismiss yourself. Don’t dismiss yourself. If you do, you’re going to get into a situation that’s going to make you unhappy as the red flags will continue to show up. That makes everything you’re experiencing appear as more chinks in your emotional armor.

It’s another way of disintegrating who you are. And pretty soon, you end up in a relationship that takes years from which to recover and you still might be in the relationship ongoing. You won’t be able to figure out how to get out because you lose all the confidence that you have in yourself and you lose the ability to make good decisions because you can’t trust your own decisions anymore.

We’ll talk more about that in future episodes (being in deep and not knowing how to get out). We’re also going to talk a lot about terminology in this show because I need you to know terms like breadcrumbing and silent treatment (which I’m sure you’re familiar with), also terms like triangulation, isolation, minimizing, and intimidation.

When those behaviors appear in the context of manipulation, emotional abuse, coercion, or just bad behavior in general, when you’re involved with somebody doing that to you, sometimes we just can’t see outside ourselves to see what’s happening inside the relationship.

That’s why it’s vital that you know these terms and understand the concepts behind them so that you can tell what’s happening in the relationships in your life.

You don’t want to get bamboozled like I almost did that day when the salesperson tried to add that extra charge, and he was like, “Sorry” and I said, “That’s fine, just take the charge off.”

I told my girlfriend I was just talking to our “friend”, the salesperson. I said, “He just tried to screw me over.” Though, I forget if I used those exact words or not. I might have been more upset using a bit stronger language. But I told her that guy tried to scam me, so I probably won’t be returning to the store.

I think we went back to the store one more time after that but since then, we have not returned. The last time we were there, we saw him again and there was an awkward tension.

This is why some people don’t want to mention anything when they see a red flag. They don’t want to create awkward tension. They don’t want to create uncomfortable communication between each other, so they don’t and simply pretend it didn’t happen.

I hope that as you listen to this show more and more, you get more comfortable in creating those uncomfortable situations. Not that I want you to become uncomfortable with everything you mention to everyone every time they do something, but because you will become more confident in yourself when you do.

And you get to learn about and know your boundaries. You learn what you will and won’t accept.

You’ll understand your values and what’s important to you. For example, what’s important to me is that people are honest with me and respect me.

I determined that what that salesperson did was a sign of disrespect. And I made it clear to him that’s what it was. Maybe from that point on, he changed his behavior toward others. Maybe not.

Maybe it’s the way they teach their salespeople. Maybe it’s not him at all, and it was just passed down through training. But I wanted to make sure that he knew that I did not accept his behavior. And I want you to be there too.

I want you to be in a space where you let people know that you won’t accept certain behaviors. Stay observant. Watch for those red flags. And don’t let people take advantage of you.

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