When some of us think about manipulation we have visions of clever politicians and strategists plotting our control. We imagine the personal effects of manipulation but we almost always attribute the manipulative plot to some faceless, clandestine, monolithic secret state organisation such as the KGB, CIA or MI6 etc.

In reality, most manipulation is rather commonplace. Governments and corporations do manipulate and sometimes with appalling consequences. But we should remember that most manipulation is actually the work of people and organisations much closer to home, for instance our employers, local authorities, supermarkets and yes, even our friends and family.

So whether we are in the office with our colleagues and boss, in the local shop picking up the groceries, or even with our own family and friends, we can actually quite easily find ourselves in a manipulative trap. Regardless of the participants, we will experience all the adverse effects that manipulation involves with all the effects that this has on our own plans, our relationships and our self-respect.

Examples of mundane manipulation:

  • At the office, a colleague does not give you enough time to complete the report that you are working on for that important meeting tomorrow. Alternatively, you are given a poorly defined, low quality task to complete before tomorrow when you start your prolotherapy session. Either way you are angry and stuck for time. However, your colleague is charming and humorous and you feel your anger is disarmed.

  • You are unhappy at work and you want to discuss your problems with your boss's superior. Your immediate boss reacts immediately by saying that if you're not happy, he can put someone else in your place and that many people would be happy to have your job. Under these veiled threats, you decide to keep your mouth shut.

  • At the supermarket your child starts screaming because he wants something he is not allowed. Drained by the torrent of tears and under pressure from the dirty looks of the other customers (who wonder why you are torturing your child and are perhaps thinking of complaining to the children's department about your cruelty), you cave in and give the little fellow what he wants.

  • During a regular visit to an elderly parent you have to listen to a litany of complaints about how lonely they are, and to constant mentions that their elderly neighbour gets daily visits from their kids. The conversation implies that everyone would be much better off if the ageing mother or father departed from this world. Despite your initial good intentions, you start to feel guilty and unhappy. You decide to visit your elderly parent again that same evening or the next day, putting aside any of your existing obligations.

Generally speaking, the most serious forms of manipulation occur at a political or commercial level where manipulative influences are exercised on large groups of people or over entire populations.