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07.14.2015 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

How to Avoid the Destructive Manipulation of a Taker

Manipulation is about using language or emotions to handle or control someone else. Takers are masters of manipulation. They’re destructive to the generous spirit of a giver because they have an agenda to get whatever they want—no matter the cost to someone else.

It doesn’t matter how big or small the taking—when we use our skills and talents to undermine another person’s good intentions, we slip into manipulation.

The Brokenness of a Giver/Taker Relationship

The giver/taker relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen because essentially both parties are broken. For the taker, the giving is never enough. The giver keeps on giving and the taker always needs more. Paradoxically, the taker often thinks that she’s the one doing all the giving.

The actual giver in the relationship allows for manipulation because he’s unable to receive. A relationship that is based on the scarcity of not-being-enough results in a chasm that grows darker and deeper until it’s destroyed. Both parties come away splintered and empty.

The Wholeness of a Giver/Receiver Relationship

Few relationships are sustainable when one party is doing all the giving and the other party is doing all the taking. This is because we’re designed for healthy relationships that include an equal measure of giving and receiving.

In a healthy relationship, no one is keeping score or trying to gain more than what they give. Both parties are in service to one another. It’s called unconditional love and regard. This unconditional love and regard is lived out as a commitment to the greater whole.

Sound complex? No doubt. Most relationships are, but they don’t have to be.

How to Change the Course

There are several red flags that can alert you to the destructive nature of a Giver/Taker connection. If you suspect that you’re living the empty promise of an unfulfilled relationship, here are a few things that might help you move in the right direction.

1. Pay Attention to the Taker’s Expectations

When the giving starts to be anticipated or expected, watch out! This usually means that the scales are tipping in the wrong direction.

The giver will often miss the subtly of expectations. The easiest way to determine the expectations of another is to listen. People tell you exactly who they are.

We sometimes choose to ignore those warning signs. If someone in your world is hinting at something that they want, and you have it to give—Beware! This may be the taker’s way of planting a seed in the giver’s heart to offer up something that the taker has already claimed as her own.

What the taker intuitively knows is that the giver has a need to fix and rescue. The role of the taker is to help the giver realize that need. It’s a co-dependent relationship that’s built on one-sided expectations: You give. I take.

In a giver/taker relationship, both parties theoretically get what they need, but neither party is ever whole.

2. Pay Attention to the Giver’s Need to Fix and Rescue

Because a giver has trouble receiving, a giver can also be a taker.

A giver takes the joy of giving, but, they also rob others of the joy of giving when they refuse to receive.

Note to all givers: robbing another of the joy of giving is also a form of taking.

The inability to receive can look like humility, but it’s actually a form of pride. Yes, the giver offers his time, money, and talent, but if he cannot receive, the giving often stems from brokenness —a need to fix, rescue, or even control another with kindness.

Painful as it is to admit, even kindness can be a form of manipulation and control.

If you’re a giver, you’ll want to examine your motives for giving to make sure that you’re truly coming from a generous spirit. You’ll also want to set boundaries on how and why you give and to whom.

Takers can’t rob alone. They need a giver to drive the get-away car.

3. Recreate a Giver/Receiver Relationship

If you’re in a giver/taker relationship, don’t despair. Giver and taker habits are often formed in early childhood. With the right help and support, such habits can be broken and recreated if both parties are willing to do the hard work.

What this essentially means is that the giver must learn to give from a healthy spirit of generosity even as he learns to receive. Examine the source of not-being-enough and rewrite that story.

For the taker, the challenge is to face any propensity toward manipulative behavior that is destructive to the health and well-being of the overall relationship.

This process begins with deeper awareness of what thoughts and behaviors are contributing to manipulation of the other person. The taker must also learn to give—to be less ego-centric and to perhaps do things that are uncomfortable.

Recreating a giver/receiver relationship is not an easy road. Habits on both sides must be examined, acknowledged, and transformed.

Remember this: A healthy relationship is about each party being eager and willing to do that which will love, nurture, and support the other. When both parties are committed to giving and receiving, wholeness prevails.

Stop keeping score of what you give and get. Focus on the joy of giving and receiving, and you will build a relationship that is strong enough to stand the test of time.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. July 14, 2015