When we were assigned teams for our senior project in college, Sheila impressed us with her confidence and apparent expertise. But Terri, Dan, and I ended up doing all the work, while she contributed only empty promises and a world of excuses.
Our team agreed to meet each week during the hour before our senior seminar to work on the project, but Sheila kept missing the meetings. Instead, every week, she’d come waltzing in to class, claiming that we hadn’t told her, or she’d never gotten our e-mails, or she’d been stuck in traffic, or she had a migraine.
The project was worth more than half our course grade and the rest of us were getting worried. We continued to meet regularly, preparing the research articles for our project. When Sheila finally came up with an article, it was all wrong. So Terri found another one, Dan and I wrote it up, and the three of us finished the group work together. The day of our presentation, Sheila appeared in class, all smiles, as our group got an A.
Using charm, denial, and lies, and playing the victim, Sheila demonstrated what psychologist George Simon has called “covert aggressive” behavior. While some people would describe this behavior “passive aggressive,” as Simon points out, there is nothing passive about it.
Deceiving and manipulating us to get what they want, covert aggressors very actively try to control other people.
Here are some of the tactics Simon describes in his book, In Sheep’s Clothing (2010, pp.118-134):
Do any of these tactics sound familiar? Have you ever been emotionally ambushed by a coercive friend, coworker, or family member? Knowledge is power. Recognizing these tricks can help keep you from being ambushed.
Reference: Simon, G. (2010) In sheep’s clothing: Understanding and dealing with manipulative people. Little Rock, AR: Parkhurst Brothers, Inc.
Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, personal coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.
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