I got to thinking this morning about what motivates us to do whatever it is we do at any given point in time. Specifically, I was thinking about ulterior motives. Collin Dictionary defines ulterior motives as follows: (Noun): if you say that someone has an ulterior motive for doing something, you believe that they have a hidden reason for doing it, as in “Sheila had an ulterior motive for trying to help Stan.” (Quote source here.) And at YourDictionary.com the following definition is stated: “An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason.” (Quote source here.)
We are all familiar with the concept of ulterior motives, and we have all been guilty of, or a victim of, our own or others’ ulterior motives. And sometimes it is very hard to tell when we are being manipulated by others who have ulterior motives. In an article published on PsychCentral.com titled, “How to Spot Manipulation,” by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, author and licensed marriage and family therapist, and relationship and codependency expert, (the entire article is a 4-minute read available at this link), here are a few highlights from her article:
We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, it’s veiled hostility, and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.
If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on because it feels familiar. You might have a gut feeling of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy, so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also easy prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths, and other codependents, including addicts.
Favorite weapons of manipulators are: guilt, complaining, comparing, lying, denying (including excuses and rationalizations), feigning ignorance, or innocence (the “Who me?” defense), blame, bribery, undermining, mind games, assumptions, “foot-in-the-door,” reversals, emotional blackmail, evasiveness, forgetting, fake concern, sympathy, apologies, flattery, and gifts and favors. Manipulators often use guilt by saying directly or through implication, “After all I’ve done for you,” or chronically behaving needy and helpless. They may compare you negatively to someone else or rally imaginary allies to their cause, saying that, “Everyone” or “Even so and so thinks xyz” or “says xyz about you”….
Fake concern is sometimes used to undermine your decisions and confidence in the form of warnings or worry about you….
[The article ends with this statement] The first step is to know with whom you’re dealing. Manipulators know your triggers. Study their tactics and learn their favorite weapons. Build your self-esteem and self-respect. This is your best defense. Also, learn to be assertive and set boundaries. (Quote source and full article available at this link.)
A key element to a happier life is being surrounded by a supportive and influential network of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, though, we can mistake influencers with manipulators and it can be hard to tell the difference.
It’s rare to find those who will invest time and energy into something that doesn’t have the potential for some personal gain. Just like in business we calculate the ROI (return on investment) for our friendships, maybe not in such a black and white way, but it happens.
A manipulator knows how to get what they need with little effort from themselves but at great cost to others. They find ways to work around the system (or you) for their benefit, so even though your ROI is low, you still take the time to invest in the relationship.
Manipulators spend a lot of time and energy creating an environment where they can control the outcome, so their needs are constantly met by others. The biggest problem of a manipulative relationship is we often don’t even know it’s happening, and we allow it to continue.
HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO DISARM A MANIPULATOR:
RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM
It should come as no surprise that you must recognize there is a problem before you can solve it. The first sign of a problem is leaving an encounter with someone not feeling quite right and questioning the outcome. If you have questions and doubts around something you promised or agreed to, it might be time to start questioning the motives behind the request.
Here are some characteristics of manipulators:
- Their needs take precedence over everyone else’s.
- They expect you always to be available on a moment’s notice.
- They are often in a crisis that requires immediate action.
Another key indicator of a manipulative relationship is when other friends start to notice the imbalance of the give and take with someone else. Pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from the outside looking in.
Part of a manipulative relationship is the never-ending demands that are put upon us. They are usually phrased in such a way that we should feel privileged at the opportunity to help.
Because a manipulator thrives on control, it is helpful to take away some of that control by putting the focus back on them by asking questions. The right kind of questions can help make them aware of the one-sided value to the request and can signal that you are aware of their behavior. For example:
- I see how this helps you. Can you help me understand how this benefits me?
- Do I have a say in how this goes forward?
- Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?
- Does it seem fair to you that you are asking me to do…?
When you ask probing questions, you are shining a light on the true nature of their request. If there is any self-awareness, then they will usually see the situation for what it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.
SAY “NO” AND STAND FIRM
You can only control your actions. That is important because you will not be able to change the behavior of a manipulator, but you can stop being their victim. That happens when you start saying “no.”
We are manipulated because we allow it and refusing to be manipulated is the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their response. They are likely to say or do things that pull at the heart strings. We should stand firm in our “no,” knowing that we are taking the first step towards freeing ourselves from their influence.
USE TIME TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Manipulators are good at what they do and will have all sorts of responses to our objections. They also know their best opportunity to get us on board with their scheme is to get us to agree immediately. Instead of committing to the request, we can try using time to our advantage.
“Let me get back to you.”
That one statement puts the power of the situation back in our court. It gives us the ability to really assess the situation and allows us to find a reasonable and respectful way to decline if that is what we want to do.
We stay in a relationship for all sorts of reasons, but we should only stay in it if it is serving us. And one of the ways our relationships serve us is by us serving them. So while someone important might need more attention and help from us because of a major life change, over time the relationship honors the needs of everyone.
Needless to say, a manipulator doesn’t buy into this philosophy. Remember it is okay to create boundaries and say “no” for our well-being. After all, we are better prepared to help others when we put ourselves first. (Quote source here.)
We’ve all been on the giving end and the receiving end of ulterior motives, and it’s not fun being on the receiving end. As far as our own responsibility goes as to being the person with ulterior motives, when it comes to the topic of motives, ulterior or otherwise, the following article comes from a Biblical perspective on motives and answers the question, “What does the Bible say about motives?” at GotQuestions.org. Here is their answer:
The Bible has a lot to say about our motives. A motive is the underlying reason for any action. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Because the human heart is very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we can easily fool ourselves about our own motives. We can pretend that we are choosing certain actions for God or the benefit of others, when in reality we have selfish reasons. God is not fooled by our selfishness and is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Human beings can operate from a variety of motivations, often negative. Pride, anger, revenge, a sense of entitlement, or the desire for approval can all be catalysts for our actions. Any motivation that originates in our sinful flesh is not pleasing to God (Romans 8:8). God even evaluates the condition of our hearts when we give offerings to Him (2 Corinthians 9:7). Selfish motives can hinder our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Because our hearts are so deceitful, we should constantly evaluate our own motives and be willing to be honest with ourselves about why we are choosing a certain action.
We can even preach and minister from impure motives (Philippians 1:17), but God is not impressed (Proverbs 21:27). Jesus spoke to this issue in Matthew 6:1 when He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Those involved in ministry must stay alert to this tendency toward selfishness, because ministry begun for pure reasons can quickly devolve into selfish ambition if we do not guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).
So what is the right motivation? First Thessalonians 2:4 says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts” (NLT). God is interested in our motives even more than our actions. First Corinthians 4:5 says that, when Jesus comes again, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” God wants us to know that He sees what no one else sees. He knows why we do what we do and desires to reward those whose hearts are right toward Him. We can keep our motives pure by continually surrendering every part of our hearts to the control of the Holy Spirit.
Here are some specific questions to help us evaluate our own motives:
1. If no one ever knows what I am doing (giving, serving, sacrificing), would I still do it?
2. If there was no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
3. Would I joyfully take a lesser position if God asked me to?
4. Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel?
5. If I had to suffer for continuing what God has called me to do, would I continue?
6. If others misunderstand or criticize my actions, will I stop?
7. If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
8. Do I judge my success or failure based upon my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?
Personal satisfactions, such as taking a vacation or winning a competition, are not wrong in themselves. Motivation becomes an issue when we are not honest with ourselves about why we are doing things. When we give the outward appearance of obeying God but our hearts are hard, God knows. We are deceiving ourselves and others, too. The only way we can operate from pure motives is when we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25). When we allow Him to control every part of us, then our desire is to please Him and not ourselves. Our flesh constantly clamors to exalt itself, and only when we walk in the Spirit will we not gratify those desires of our flesh. (Quote source here.)
The above information gives us plenty to think about regarding our own motivations as well as the motivations of others. Proverbs 21 is full of advise regarding our motives (the MSG version titles that chapter, “God Examines Our Motives”). I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 21:2 (NIV)–A person may think their own ways are right…
But the Lord . . .
Weighs . . .
The heart . . . .
YouTube Video: “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”– Lauren Daigle: