Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Deal With Manipulative People

(By Ryan Murdoch, extracted from a two-part article first published in Early To Rise at the following website:
Part One -
Part Two -

How to Deal With Manipulative People–Part One

Following your life's purpose with single-minded devotion is a challenging task at the best of times. But it's even harder when faced with people who try to impose their priorities on you in an effort to benefit from your work.

In a prior Early to Rise article about Simplifying Your Life, I talked about removing those things from your life that pull you off track and prevent you from working toward your goals. That includes those people who drag you down, who you spend time with out of sheer obligation, who prey on your good nature, or who pull you back into bad habits when you're trying to change.

You're going to need that support as you go forward on your journey, because not everyone has your best interests at heart. I must warn you, today's topic is a dark one. And I'm going to be very blunt about it.

There's another obstacle in the path to your success that can be much more difficult to deal with...

Today I want to talk about a personality type I call The Manipulator. I'm sure you've encountered this character before. Not content to pursue their own path while you pursue yours, The Manipulator imposes on your time and resources to serve their own ends. They co-opt your labor, play on your emotions and try to impose their worldview and philosophy on you.

We'll look at several common examples of The Manipulator. And I'll give you a few strategies you can use to keep them out of your life.

So who are these shadowy figures that hide in plain sight?

If you've ever worked in a company or an office, you know the type. It starts with "I need to talk to you. It won't take long." And it usually concludes with an "urgent" request for you to do something to help them out. Something that imposes on your time, that takes you away from your own work, that they need you to do right now, and that adds a burden while giving you nothing in return.

This is not the same as asking a favor of a friend. We help our friends out of a genuine desire to do something good for that person. And when we ask a friend for help, we're reaching out to someone we know is looking out for our best interests. It's mutual and it's genuine.

The Manipulator's "requests" are very different from this. They involve coercion. And with The Manipulator, if you give in you send a signal that you're willing to do more of the same.

Before you know it, you're working weekends and staying after hours, putting in time to further someone else's agenda while totally neglecting your own purpose and goals. Step by step, these people take over your life. You're especially at risk if you have a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility, or if you hate seeing work left undone.

Another major area where manipulation has been raised to an art form is, of course, the family. I'm not suggesting that all families involve such power struggles, of course. It's just a typical pattern when things go wrong.

The family is often the realm of the Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. This type masters such tactics as The Sulk, The Huff, and above all, Poor Me.

They browbeat you into submission by making it easier for you to give in to their demands than put up with their constant level of low-grade psychological warfare.

If you've ever heard a phrase like, "I'll never have any grandchildren and I'm gonna die alone!" then you've seen this tactic at work. Or how about, "If you loved me you wouldn't make such a big deal of helping me with this" —immediately placing refusal on the side of not loving or caring about this person. Okay, the first example was a bit of a joke and an imitation of my mother at Christmas dinner. But how many unhappy couples have you seen playing out some variation of the second example?

Unfortunately, there's no arguing or reasoning with a Passive-Aggressive Manipulator. They don't respond to logic, and they change sides and arguments at the drop of a hat. Their chief goal is to get you embroiled in conflict in the first place. Swallow your reply, nod politely, and go about your work. Oh, and good music and headphones help to block out the huffs ;)

There are other types of Manipulator too, but they all have a few things in common. They use emotion to lure you in. They play on your sense of obligation or duty. They're experts at guilt. And they all have an agenda that involves you doing something for them. Once they've drawn you into their world, it's very difficult to put things in perspective and see the relationship for what it is.

If you're reading Early to Rise, then you don't have time to waste on these sorts of games. You've got dreams to fulfill, projects to complete, and exciting visions to bring to reality. And unlike the manipulators, you're doing it through the sweat of your own brow–and with the help of others who pitch in because you're adding value to their lives.

So how do you smoke out these sneaky time wasters?

I'll tell you exactly how to spot The Manipulator in Part Two. And I'll give you a set of strategies you can use to protect yourself and your business. Stay tuned...

How to Deal With Manipulative People–Part Two

In Part One of this article I introduced you to a personality type I call The Manipulator: a covert operator who imposes on your time and resources to serve his or her own ends. If you didn't read Part One I strongly advise you to have a look here.

Today I'm going to tell you exactly how to smoke out these sneaky time stealers.

How to Spot a Manipulator

Here are some common warning signs that will help you spot the manipulators in your life:

Manipulators use a lot of "I" focused language. "I need you to do this" or "It would really help me if you did this." They rarely consider how to give value back to the person they're asking for favors.

Manipulators use a collective "we" that really means "I." Try translating what they just said by substituting "I" for "we". If all the benefits that will supposedly help the group, team or community really end up profiting that person alone, you've just spotted an attempt to manipulate you.

Manipulators "size you up" to assess where you're vulnerable. They use this to determine which tactics to use against you. Strong work ethic? You can be manipulated through your sense of duty. Empathetic? They can make you feel sorry for them. Intensely loyal? They'll use that sense of friendship to their advantage. Just remember, the problem is NOT that you're loyal, caring or a hard worker. The problem is the person who uses that to manipulate your thoughts and actions. Most people don't stop to think that their strengths can also be a weakness. But your strengths and values can be used against you because they make your behavior predictable.

Manipulators make a big show of talking about how dedicated they are to serving others. According to George K. Simon, author of In Sheep's Clothing, they use the "servant role" to cloak a self–serving agenda in the guise of service to a more noble cause, for example acting in a certain way out of "obedience" and "service" to some authority figure. I've known a few incredibly genuine, spiritual, charitable people in my time. They spoke at great length about those they wanted to help, the needs they were trying to meet, the good works they hoped to do and the resources it would take to accomplish their vision. But I never once heard them talk about themselves or how devoted they were to "service."

Manipulators often make a great show of their humility, and they take any opportunity to remind you of it. This makes them look harmless, and like they're "only trying to help." Have you ever heard the Dalai Lama talk about how humble he is? Me neither.

The frustrated Manipulator often drags a history of drama in their wake: broken friendships, failed partnerships, stories of sabotaged projects and detractors lashing out at them from every dark corner. They love to tell you all about these things, sorrowfully and with a pious expression, in order to play on your sympathy. And despite the obvious pattern in these incidents, Manipulators never take responsibility for their behavior. It is never their fault. Someone has always betrayed or taken advantage of them.

Manipulators rationalize. Their explanations seem to make sense. And you want to believe, because honest people want to believe that others are honest too. But their story never holds up upon further reflection. Up close, it's filled with obvious inconsistencies and holes.

Manipulators flatter you. They pretend to like the same things you do. To believe the same things you believe. To hold the same values. They ingratiate themselves very subtlety in an effort to win your loyalty, so you'll want to help them. Watch them with a totally different group of people and see them do the same thing. They have a history of swapping beliefs and convictions the way hikers change socks.

Manipulators make a point of telling you how honest they are–right before they rake you over. Honest people don't need to drone on about their virtues. Their actions and integrity speaks for itself.

This list is not exhaustive, of course. And not every red flag will be present in each case. But it does send a clear warning. If you encounter any of these behaviors, be on your guard.

How to Protect Yourself–And Your Dreams

Unfortunately there's no easy answer to this. Expert manipulators are good at pressing your buttons, and if you have even a shred of compassion you won't be impervious to every form of guilt.

In a work setting, I think the key is to set clear priorities and goals–and stick to them. Master the phrase "I'm not available right now." Defend your territory from the beginning, because once you give in it sends a message that you can be worn down. If you answer the phone on the 15th ring, it doesn't send the message that you're busy and don't want to be bothered. The Manipulator interprets this as "It takes 15 rings to get him to answer."

You must also be very clear about your own personal values. Think about them. Write them down. Stick to them. Having a clearly thought out code of conduct makes on–the–spot decisions much easier. If something conflicts with your code or your purpose, don't do it.

And that brings us to the next defense. Learn how to say "no." It's healthy to have boundaries and to know what you stand for. If you feel bad about turning someone down, you're a prime target for a manipulative personality. Remember: "I'm already committed, I'm not available right now." Manipulators have no power over you unless you give it to them.

Don't engage, and don't explain. The manipulator will try to call your values into question and put you on the defensive. You have no need to defend yourself, and you've done nothing wrong. You're free to follow whatever path you choose. Don't forget this when the pressure is on.

And what about those manipulators who operate closer to home?

It's a lot more difficult to set clear boundaries when it comes to close personal relationships, because you can't remove yourself from the situation or just stop interacting with them. In my experience, the best thing you can do is communicate your intentions clearly and firmly. And then stay true to your word. You'll have to ride out some flack regardless, but the Passive–Aggressive Manipulator will move on to easier targets if you consistently stick to your guns. 

Above all, never feel guilty when dealing with these people. You never have to apologize for following your dreams and working hard on your goals. You never have to make excuses or justify your decision when you say "no". And you should never feel bad for refusing to drop or postpone your most cherished dream to contribute to someone else's purpose.

And that's what it comes down to in the end. Your best protection against guilt is having a clear, strong sense of your purpose.

I remind myself each day that life is short. That I have only a limited amount of time in which to fulfill my dreams. That time spent on other things is time taken away from the fulfillment of my purpose. I take full responsibility for my life, my choices, and my success. And I keep my eye on the road ahead, and get back to work.

NB: Ryan Murdock is coauthor of the Shapeshifter Body Redesign program. When not helping people rediscover the body of their “glory years,“ Ryan travels the world’s marginal places as Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost magazine. Ryan's work has also appeared in Alo Magazine, the anthologies Traveler's Tales Central America and Traveler's Tales China, and Toronto’s Eye Weekly. His Outpost feature "Taklamakan: The Worst Desert in the World" was nominated for a National Magazine Award in Canada.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Random Thoughts: 延年



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Understand Your Brain: 6 Tricks to Help You Avoid Overspending

(By Mikelann Valterra, Contributor at Forbes' Money Wise Women, taken from Forbes' website first published on 13 March 2012:

Whether you need to spend less when you go out shopping or you want to be a more conscious spender, it helps to have a few tricks under your belt. Stores spend billions on the science of getting you to part with your money. They understand how your brain works and then use this against you. Well, with these tricks under your belt, you can beat them at their game and feel more in control. And you’ll be able to enjoy shopping without coming home with a spending hangover. (This article is focused on brick and mortar shopping. My next one will be on Internet shopping.)

1. Be wary of stores that are new to you. Why? We spend more money when we are in a new-to-us store. This is because dopamine- a wonderful feel good drug in our brain– is activated when we experience something new or exciting. (This is one reason we spend more when we are on vacation. We are in a novel situation experiencing new stores.) So try hard to come back to the store to buy your discovery. You may want to hit the new store at the beginning of your shopping trip and then tell yourself you’ll come back to the store later to make your purchase. Trust me, it simply won’t be as exciting the second time around and you’ll make a more reasoned choice.

2. Leave your credit cards at home when you go out shopping. Stores desperately want you to use a credit card because they know you’ll spend more if you do. (Macy’s is the worst offender, by the way. They are very aggressive in trying to get you to use a Macy’s card. Have you noticed?!) If you know the money is going to come directly out of your bank account, you will be more mindful and usually spend less. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming that when you buy items with a credit card, particularly things you enjoy, and you spend 20-30% more. There is simply too much of a delay between basking in the pleasure of buying those sh oes and feeling the pain of having to pay for them– later. You want to “feel” the purchase in the moment. Macy’s be damned. Leave your credit cards at home.

3. The magic 90 minutes. Stores and malls do many things to get you into the “zone” of shopping. Notice that there are never any clocks on the walls of a store, and they often don’t have windows. They are hiding the passage of time. Well, after 90 minutes, you do start to zone out and mindless spending goes up. So do this: set the timer on your phone for 90 minutes. When it goes off, simply stop for a bit. Take a break and have a cup of tea. Look at what you’ve purchased and think about your plan. (Do you want to return anything you just bought?) I’m not saying go home. But taking a break every 90 minutes keeps you from overspending.

4. Limit the number of stores you visit. It’s very simple: the more stores you visit the more you buy. People may tell themselves that they are comparison-shopping. But often people feel like they need to buy something for all the legwork they’ve put in! You become very “invested” in how much time you’ve put in. You’d better at least get something….

5. Don’t carry items around with you that you are contemplating purchasing in a store. The issue is that when you carry products around with you, they begin to feel like yours. You get used to them and you feel a little “pain” if you have to put them back. You feel like you are losing something. (Humans are funny. We actually hate pain and loss more than we love pleasure and gain. It’s a brain thing.) Hence, items that get carried around are more likely to be bought. So if you are eyeing something, keep it on the rack or shelf until you decide. And if you’re worried someone will swoop it up before you decide, “hide” it on a different rack or shelf. Come on; don’t tell me you’ve never done that.

6. Don’t interact with sales people too much. Yes, they are quite friendly. But the more you interact with them, the more likely you are to purchase from them, for several reasons. One is that they are often skilled at selling to you. But people often unconsciously feel, after a point, that they don’t want to let down a sales person who has helped them.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

AONC: Business Secrets from a Cambodian Tuk-Tuk

(By Chris Guillebeau, Editor of The Art Of Non-Conformity:

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia I met Mr. Rhet, who held up a copy of my book to greet me at the arrivals area. Mr. Rhet, also known as Rhett or just Ret, is a professional tuk-tuk driver.

The open-air taxis of Southeast Asia, tuk-tuks serve as an interesting introduction to life in the region, and I've had both good and bad experiences with them.

In Bangladesh, I rode in a death-trap tuk-tuk with a driver determined to provide me with a Formula 1 experience on the road to the Dhaka airport at 11:00 at night. To no avail, I kept yelling "Please slow down!" every time we rounded a corner or ducked in front of a sea of motorcycles. Almost an hour later I arrived at my destination, covered in sweat and shaking with fear. I survived, but aged at least a year in that 50-minute ride.

But in Cambodia last weekend (and plenty of other places), all was well in tuk-tuk land, and I felt safe using them as my primary means of transport. In fact, I enjoyed my time with Mr. Rhet so much that I decided to learn more about the whole tuk-tuk industry.

The Experience

If tuk-tuks are not available to take you around to cafes in your part of the world for $1-2 a ride, these videos from the back of Rhet's chariot will give you an idea of what you're missing.

Tuk-Tuk Cha-Ching

Informal surveys of expats and other drivers confirmed that most tuk-tuk drivers earn around $2-5 a day. But Mr. Rhet earns up to $50 a day in Phnom Penh, a princely sum in the world of Cambodian transport. How is this possible?

It helps that Rhet speaks some English, although he learned on the job and didn't have access to any formal training. To learn more, I talked with Rhet off and on for three days as he drove me around the city last weekend. These are the business secrets of maxing out your income as a Cambodian entrepreneur.

Work smarter AND harder. According to Mr. Rhet (and much firsthand observation), the average tuk-tuk driver is lazy. He spends his days sleeping, drinking tea, and playing cards. While it's nice that the tuk-tuk lifestyle allows for so much leisure time, multiple naps throughout the day are not conducive to getting paid. Rhet works hard, always staying "busy busy" as he explained. He gave me his number and told me to call anytime. "I will come to you right away," he said.

A good work ethic is critical, but Rhet also learned to focus on foreigners who live in Phnom Penh, not the backpackers and other short-term travelers who come and go. The difference is important, since it allows him to get paid for more trips, and also earn referrals to other expats as his client list grows.

Diversify your income. Mr. Rhet has a banner on the back of his tuk-tuk for a local coffee shop. He is paid $7 a month to display the banner, and a small commission for bringing foreign customers to the shop. (Interestingly, despite the commission he never tried to bring me to the shop. I took this as another good sign, since he wasn't trying to push me on something I wasn't interested in.) At the request of clients, Rhet also arranges trustworthy taxi drivers to ferry passengers on longer distances -- for which he also earns commissions.

Provide reassurance. No matter your business, you should think about the reasons why people will NOT hire you or buy what you sell -- then be sure to preemptively respond to those concerns. The concerns about riding in a tuk-tuk are a) safety and b) trustworthiness. "I am a careful driver," Mr. Rhet told me when I first met him, and unlike my death-wish driver in Dhaka, he really was.

Furthermore, some tuk-tuk drivers are dishonest, cheating foreigners who don't know better and lying about market rates. As you'd expect, Mr. Rhet isn't like that at all -- he sometimes dropped me off without taking any payment at all, and other times told me to decide for myself what to pay. Being trustworthy and reliable goes a long way in Cambodia... just like everywhere else in the world.

Be reliable. If I had an appointment with Rhet, he would always be there -- in fact, he was usually early. In almost every developing country in the world, people talk about "Cambodian time," "African time," or similar. But Rhet understood that Silk Air flights to Singapore and meetings in town operate on Western time, so I didn't feel the need to tell him to come any earlier than I really needed. If I told him to come at 4:30, I could walk outside at 4:25 and see him turning the tuk-tuk around the corner to park.

Get to know people and show initiative. Mr. Rhet was very friendly from the beginning. He asked when my return flight was and if he could take me back to the airport. I'm normally hesitant to answer questions like that, but I had a good feeling about Rhet, so I didn't mind telling him. This ensured he got paid twice for airport runs, a nice wage of $7 each time since the airport is a half-hour out from the city.

After we said goodbye, he asked me to tell anyone I knew about his service. (I don't think he expected me to tell 50,000 people, but perhaps that's another lesson on where initiative can get you.)

Back to the Airport

As we passed the "King Pizza Burger Bubble Tea Restaurant" and the "Johnny Walker On the Rocks Nightclub" on the way back to the airport, I thought about the divide between people all over the world. Most people spend their time playing cards and drinking tea, while a smaller group of people like Rhet are hustling. Which group are you in?

Then as I left Cambodia, I thought about how I could apply Rhet's lessons to my own business. I think I'm generally reliable... but how can I be even more reliable? Yes, I get paid from several different sources, but what else could I add? How can I show more initiative and creativity in the projects I'm building?

These "business secrets" may sound very simple -- but the point is, most tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia don't implement them, so they make $2-5 a day while Rhet earns ten times as much. Not everything that refers to tuk-tuk drivers is universal, but I'm pretty sure that most of us could apply at least one lesson from Rhet to make real improvements in the work we produce.

What about you -- how can you use these simple ideas to improve your own business or work?

Feel free to share a response for our community and any other tuk-tuk drivers who happen to be reading AONC.

Oh, and if you're visiting Phnom Penh and need a reliable driver, you can hire Mr. Rhet yourself by calling +855 12 543 767. (Please don't call him otherwise, so he can spend his time working and being with his family.)