Note from Shae: what you’re about to read is based on my own personal experience.
“You seem so confused and unsure of yourself Shae. Why is that?”
His words stung me, took me back and they came out of nowhere. I just met this guy 30 minutes before and what I thought was going to be business meeting turned out to be 4 hours of bullying, intimidation and nasty manipulation tactics.
This man had me believe that I have no business, I’m a fraud and as a result, I almost quit there and then.
I could feel the tears welling up and then I lost it. This man proceeded to tear apart my business, he couldn’t understand why I only target women entrepreneurs and pretty much thinks I don’t walk my talk.
The first 30 minutes of our conversation, which took place last Friday, was about him telling me he recently lost a lot of weight by cutting out sugar, wants to settle down and start a family, how he watched his father pass away (and ultimately changed the direction of his life) and that he was looking for a super star internet marketer to manage all of his online marketing. I think I disappointed him terribly when I said I don’t manage Facebook campaigns and that I’ve never worked with high profile Internet Marketers that generated millions of dollars. I was immediately confused as to why I was referred to this person.
As a classic introvert, I’m often very sensitive to other people’s energy. During this encounter, I welcomed his feedback and I was prepared to accept a different point of view if someone wishes to share it. I went into this “meeting” with an open mind and I didn’t realise I was being manipulated until afterwards when some friends of mine made me aware that the behaviour of this person was completely inappropriate. Over the weekend, the anger started to kick in and I became annoyed at myself for giving my power away so easily and for not respecting my space and boundaries.
After he had me flooding in tears (in the middle of the day at a busy cafe), he then admitted he was a former Landmark participant of 5 years. I felt he immediately saw through my vigour and that I was “busted,” so I proceeded to let down my guard. I began to explain that running a business is the hardest thing I have ever done and that it’s hard to talk to people about it, because I’ll be honest, I don’t have many people that would understand to speak to about it. I told him of my dreams and desires. He knew I was vulnerable and he mentioned a couple of times I have a lot of nervous energy.
Now that I reflect back on this experience, I sensed he immediately felt a disconnect between what he saw of me in real life and my brand and image online and I think he felt disappointed and let down. This is something I am conscious of. I don’t mind admitting that if you were to meet me in real life, I am a little shy, especially around men, and as I admitted last week, a bit socially awkward. I am always getting tongue tied. Actually his words were I have a brand and photos that make men want to shag me but I’m not as confident as I appear in my photos. As unbelievable as it sounds, in that moment I didn’t think he was being inappropriate – not until later. He thought that was the perception I was trying to create, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In hindsight, his remarks were downright insulting.
But what the hell does he expect? Of course I’m not going to put crap photos on my website. I used to admit on my about page that I’m an introvert and that I used to be quite shy. He told me that it’s a big mistake that I only target women entrepreneurs because I’m eliminating half of my market, I should have built my own website and not paid for someone else to do it, believes I’m not putting myself out there enough, I’m not building solid relationships with people, and that nobody reads about pages (I’m sure Derek Halpern would heckle him for this). Please let’s not forget, this man only met me less than an hour ago.
The power and control over me on this day was staggering – I had no idea what I was doing, or how I allowed myself to stay there for four hours and listen to his “reasoning.” I was even asking for his advice, I welcomed his feedback, really believing that my business is all wrong and that I need to start from scratch.
But then again, Landmark been the subject of so many lawsuits and claims of being a cult.
Which brings me to my next point. Over the weekend I began feeling so angry and frustrated about what had happened I had a big rant on my personal Facebook page. I admit I used a couple of expletives, which interestingly, appeared to cost me three “friends.” The support from my real friends has been incredible and believed this man’s behaviour was horrendous. But then an interesting dynamic began to take shape. While most people were supportive, there was a small percentage that believed I was at fault. “You are in control of that part of your life,” “you stayed 3 hours and 59 seconds too long” and “you had the power to walk away.”
You know what? Those people are absolutely right. I did have the power to walk away. But at the time, I felt I was hypnotised by this man and it didn’t occur to me that he was overstepping my boundaries.
Then a friend of mine Kerry Jeffery reached out and offered me to talk this out with her. Kerry is a non-wanky Therapeutic Life Coach that helps people that are unhappy with any part of their life to release blocks that are holding them back and heal. Kerry said that this man displayed pretty standard Landmark induction behaviour – he was trying to break me down through bullying to “show me my ‘rackets,'” that there is no truth to what he said and he had no right to say it.
I mentioned to Kerry that no matter what he said he had an answer for everything. She said that people like him are skilled at turning anything you say back on you as being a racket or being in denial.
Kerry has such a healing quality about her and I’m already starting to regain my self-confidence. Not only that, while some people were quick to point out that I had the power to walk away and I stayed in that meeting far too long, Kerry never once judged for my actions and never made me feel guilty as to how I reacted on that day or afterwards.
So how do you recognise if you’re being manipulated and why am I sharing this with you ?
According to Psychology Today, psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense. Most manipulative individuals have common characteristics including:
- They know how to detect your weaknesses.
- Once found, they use your weaknesses against you.
I look back now and wish I was smarter so he wouldn’t have seen through my weakness and that I was more assertive.
The problem is manipulators rely on your self-doubt and lack of trust in your own perceptions. I’m at a point where I’m making some serious decisions on the direction of my business and what I should do next.
Now that I recognise the signs of a manipulator, next time I will walk away. Unless, of course, you’re confident to manage the situation and have the verbal skills to match.
I walked away from this encounter believing I was a failure. I believed (briefly) I was a SEO fraud and that I had no right to have a business. By the end of that meeting, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. It took me right back to high school.
I don’t want anyone else to ever go through this experience.
I’m just a regular person trying to make a go of it. I have dreams and aspirations just like anybody else. I’ve failed plenty of times before and I’m sure there will be more failures in future. I’m a one-woman show that wants to help other female entrepreneurs spread their message far and wide. I want to be of service and make a contribution to the world – he had no right to attempt to make be believe anything differently.
But more importantly, he had no right to question my transparency and integrity.
Have you been in a similar situation before? Can you recognise when someone is manipulating you? Do you have any strategies you can share that will help empower and educate others? I think it’s important that we share and learn from these experiences so please let me know in the comments below.