By: Danny Brooks

Your defense is only as good as your weak points. If you have weak points that can be exploited, other people with bad intentions will target them. That’s why armor exists. I want to share the armor you can put on to protect yourself from people with bad intentions.

In the Go For The Gold program, we teach the basics of what grooming or manipulation looks like. I will use these terms interchangeably. In this post, I’ll be breaking down some information, but if you want more of the basics of grooming, go check out our podcast on it! A lot of what I talk about will be my original thoughts mixed with influences from a book called Who’s Pulling Your Strings that I’m currently reading and it’s been awesome! So credit for some of these ideas goes straight to the book and the author, Dr. Braiker.

Dr. Braiker identifies 7 buttons that manipulators can push. I like her analogy of buttons, but I like to think of them more as 7 weaknesses in your defense. Imagine if you had a wall around your castle and it had 7 holes in it that the enemy could walk in through! That’s why it’s important to be aware of your own weaknesses. For some of you, you may feel like you are constantly the target of manipulation. Hopefully, this post will help you understand why and how I can relate to you on most of them as well. I’m not going to list all 7 of the buttons she lists. Instead, I’m just going to talk about some general themes that make us weak to manipulation.

The first is being too nice or being a people pleaser. We’ve been told our whole life to be nice in and out of school. The problem is, this is only helpful to the kids who tend to be mean. Some people need to be told to stop being so nice. This is actually a huge weakness that can set you up for manipulation. Say this to yourself everyday if you have to: I CANNOT MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY NOR DO I HAVE TO. Some of us, me included, are people pleasers. We worry so much about being seen as nice and making sure everyone else is okay that we forget to take care of ourselves. This behavior makes you an easy target. A manipulator just simply has to act like you’re hurting them because you said no or say that you aren’t being very nice and you lose it and do whatever they want. Stop. Who cares if they think you’re nice if they aren’t being nice to you and they are trying to use you for something. I’m saying this for a particular type of person who feels guilty at the drop of a hat like I used to. Obviously we should care what people think and I do want people to think I’m nice, but if you think I’m mean for saying no every once in a while and setting a boundary, that’s a you problem. Being a nice caring person is a gift that your shouldn’t get rid of altogether, but it’s just something to keep in check so that it doesn’t go too far.

The second is being afraid of conflict. This relates to boundaries and saying no, too. I have had to learn how to say no to people and not be afraid of their reaction. No is not a curse word. If a groomer can see you’re afraid of saying no, conflict, or anger, they will ask you to do something knowing you can’t refuse and if you try they will argue and get mad because they know it will work. Put some armor on. Stop caring if they throw a fit. If they are crossing a boundary of yours and they are mad because you call them out, that is a sign that they don’t respect you or your boundaries. I still don’t like conflict because I have seen a lot of negative conflicts and anger in my past, but I have to put my armor on and be ready to experience it anyway. If I don’t, I will be showing my weakness to every groomer I encounter.

The third is low confidence and a lacking sense of self identity. It is important that you know your boundaries, your self-worth, your beliefs, your morals, and your goals. If you don’t, someone will come along and try to tell you what they are for you. Groomers can project what they want you to be onto you if you let them. Someone who has a strong sense of identity will be harder for a groomer to mold. This also feeds into decision making. If you don’t trust your own judgment and ask everyone around you for their opinion about decisions, groomers will come in and decide for you or convince you that your decisions were wrong. Just because a person is confident doesn’t mean they don’t need help. Confident people can still ask a few trusted friends and mentors for advice, but they are picky about whose advice they trust.

The fourth and final is an external locus of control. This is just the belief that other people have more control over you than your own determination, decisions, and actions. The opposite is an internal locus of control. This is someone who truly believes they can do meaningful things that determine the outcome of their life. If you don’t take responsibility for your actions and you blame other people, such as another political party, another race, another social class, or another individual person, then you are an easier target for groomers. Having an internal locus of control is empowering. Obviously you have to know your limits, but it’s having the belief that your choices do matter and you have the ability to make your life better, despite the obstacles!

Hopefully this has been helpful in identifying weaknesses in your defenses so you can armor up. I know it has helped me. If we are aware of these things and work to improve them, we can better protect ourselves from being manipulated. How can you grow in these areas? How can you strengthen your defenses without losing the good qualities of being a nice, caring person?