10 Forms of Subtle Manipulation

This issue is one of personal significance to me. My hope is that perhaps the compiling of this information will be helpful to someone else as well someday.

10 Subtle Manipulations
These 10 examples are all things I have experienced first hand. Though from an outside perspective they may not seem to be that bad, the weight and total accumulating effect of these manipulations are more devastating than I can describe in words. I pulled these examples of manipulation from a book on spiritual abuse:
(Johnson, David, and Jeffrey VanVonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1991. Print.)

Forms of Subtle Manipulations:

  1. Shaming people out loud.
  2. Can’t Talk Rule – tries to keep people quiet by labeling them the problem if they notice and confront a problem.
  3. Coding – verbal manipulation where messages are sent in a way that they have to be decoded in a sense, but generally only those directly involved will get the message.
  4. Triangling – sending a message to someone through another person instead of delivering it directly.
  5. Obscured Reality – anything that could expose those in authority is denied or ignored. Interacting with people outside of the system is condemned because it is threatening to them. Problems are denied and therefore remain.
  6. Performance Based – When behavior is legislated from the outside, instead of coming from a heart that loves God, it cannot be called obedience. It is rather compliance with external pressure. This orientation squeezes people from the outside in, they are not transformed, but rather they are conformed.
  7. Unspoken Rules – you don’t find out what they are until you break them. Rules like this are never written down because if they were written down they would be easily exposed as anti-Christian.
  8. Humiliation and Scare Tactics – you can be ‘exposed’ for asking too many questions, for disobeying unspoken rules, or for disagreeing with authority. People are made public examples in order to send a message to those who remain. Many methods are used to warn their friends and others about how ‘dangerous’ or ‘divisive’ they are.
  9. Misusing or Abusing Scripture – using scripture incorrectly in order to manipulate.
  10. Double Talk – the leaders sound very religious but there is a sense of vagueness. They will give you the ‘right’ answer but rarely the ‘real’ answer. You cannot confront them or pin them down because they never truly answer the question.

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