Can you think of a time in your life where you have been the victim of manipulation because the other person made it seem urgent that you respond, help, or get involved? You may have eventually found out that there was no urgency at all.

I call this behavior “psychological/emotional urgency.” It is a “tactic” that users employ to manipulate in order to get you to respond. So how do you identify when a user is manipulating you using “psychological urgency?” Read further to find out.

This article will discuss the manipulative and sometimes abusive tactics of those who seek to use and abuse.

Have you ever interacted with someone who seemed to always be in the throes of emotional chaos in which you end up feeling depleted, used, or manipulated by the end of the event? Have you ever experienced a person who presented as very “histrionic” and highly reactive, often creating an atmosphere of high energy for no apparent reason? If so, perhaps you were dealing with a keen manipulator who knows how to use urgency or “psychological urgency” to control the atmosphere.

We must keep in mind that the following behaviors/attitudes can occur in people who are not trying to intentionally manipulate or control. We all have probably displayed some, if not all, of the following at some point in our lives. But the following tactics also describe people who intentionally seek to manipulate and control. Their tactics often include:

  1. Language: Some people are masters at using language to create “urgency” and chaos. Just saying the right combination of words can change an environment for better or worse. In some workplaces, a comment made by a colleague can make or break the atmosphere. The comment could be a subliminal jab at someone, a political statement, a religious statement, a racial or discriminatory statement, etc. These statements can be made in such a way as to cause someone to react. It is “environmental control” to say the least.
  2. Attitude and behavior: I have run into some people in public who walk around me, stand behind me in store lines, or drive around me a certain way that causes me to feel “out of control” or taken off guard. Have you ever experienced this? The person who is around you is moving in such as fast way that you begin to feel like your world is spinning. Perhaps they are using psychological urgency to keep others confused, off guard, or distracted from themselves.
  3. Emotion: Histrionic personality disorder is a rare personality disorder characterized by extreme emotional reactions, extreme vocal alterations or tones, profuse crying or crying spells, dramatic physical expressions (falling all over the place while crying, using very expressive hand gestures or arm motions while discussing something, etc),
  4. Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a tactic used by manipulators to cause you to second guess yourself or alter your perception of reality out of confusion. For example, say you approach someone you have been talking to because you sense, under the surface, that is, that there is friction between the two of you. Say you point it out and ask if everything is okay. What do you think the gas-lighter is going to say or do? They most likely won’t admit it because then they are admitting that they are creating the friction. Who would do that? So instead, they aim to keep you guessing and confused by making statements, asking questions, or reacting in a certain way so as to blindside you. If you say “I was wondering if everything is okay between us because I feel like you have been avoiding me.” The other person may respond “What?! I think things are okay between us. Maybe it’s just you because you’ve been under stress.” You may reply “well…no I don’t think so. I have been feeling this way for weeks now, long before I felt stressed.” Their reaction would then again be “I don’t know what you are talking about because things are great from my end.” You may also get this person asking questions like “is it me?” or “what can I do to fix things?” These are statements that not only admit fault, but point out that they are playing “the victim or rescuer card” subliminally.
  5. Story telling: Some stories are told with the intent of causing you to view the person or those in the story a certain way. You may listen to a story told by a friend or coworker and realize that the entire story seems focused on one person or on one ultimate goal. The purpose of creating urgency in a story is to cause you to see things from the eyes of the story teller. For example, lets say you are listening to your cousin tell a story about her marital troubles and she ends up crying while telling you the story. What are you most likely to do? You are going to want to comfort her, hear her side of things, rescue her, and maybe even go against her husband. Of course, this is an okay thing to do, especially if you trust the story teller. But in other cases, it is manipulation.
  6. Tone of voice or vocal sounds: Some people will elevate their voices or vocal sounds to get attention, change an atmosphere, or express excitement with the purpose of manipulating. AWWWWWWW! or WOWWWWWWW! both send the message that whatever is happening is exciting or purposeful. WhoHOOOOOOO or WHOaaaaaaaaa can also be an example. A house full of women having a baby shower will include many expressive and loud sounds to express excitement. This is totally normal. But some people will manipulate the use of these things to cause urgency or to change the atmosphere with an ultimate goal of controlling or manipulating in mind.
  7. Fast talk: Fast talk is nothing to be impressed by, at least in my mind. Fast talk says nothing more, to me, but the fact that the person is either trying to hide something, cover a flaw they believe they have, or has no idea how to communicate. Fast talkers are great sales people because they know how to create psychological urgency to influence your decisions. If you talk fast enough to keep the other person from thinking, you win. Car salesman do this too. They come up to you (knowing you already feel intimidated and may be unsure where to start) with a friendly smile, firm handshake, and high vocals with the intent of persuading you by creating urgency once you inquire about a car. I’ve had car salesman tell me by the end of the car searching day “I can’t promise this car will be here tomorrow if you decide not to purchase it.” I often reply “I’m sure it will and if it is, I will most likely buy it then. Thank you. Have a good night.” Don’t be afraid to play hardball.
  8. Confusing details:Some people will give you so many details to a story that you walk away asking yourself if you missed something. When this happens, you will need to decipher whether the behavior is unintentional or intentional. You may also have to slow the person down and make them repeat the story. Confusing detail keeps you confused and trying to figure out why the story doesn’t add up. If the person is telling you a confusing story, talking fast, and being very expressive, they are creating urgency because you will feel the need to respond, understand the story, or help. Innocent children may be a good example. A child who is young, afraid, and has had their feelings hurt may unintentionally create urgency by telling an adult something went wrong while crying and giving confusing detail. I often feel I truly need to understand in order to help. This is urgency.
  9. Circumstantial or tangential language: Someone who talks in circles (circumstantial language) or is so verbose that you cannot keep up (tangential), this can create urgency. Someone with severe anxiety may talk to you about an upsetting event nonstop (tangential) and then give so many details or examples that they sound as if they are talking in circles and are repeating themselves (circumstantial).
  10. Threats with deadlines: “You have until 5:00pm today to make up your mind,” “You have until Tuesday at 11am to pay your bill or your lights will be turned off, or “get this paperwork completed or you lose your job this Friday.”
  11. Time: Are you engaged or waiting to get engaged to someone? How did you feel before the engagement? Did you sense something was coming but then you realized it didn’t come at the time you thought? Or do you want to get engaged because everyone around you is? If so, you are being manipulated by the urgency principle of time. Time can create urgency because you feel “I better get married fast because my biological clock is ticking!” It’s interesting how time itself can cause urgency. Just looking at the clock on your way to work in the morning can create urgency. If I’m late because of heavy traffic, my heart-rate increases as I repeatedly check the clock on my car’s dashboard. If I have marked an important date on my calendar, I am likely to feel a rush of urgency by looking at the many days I have to wait before that event happens. All of these things are psychologically and even emotionally controlling. Can you imagine how a manipulative person could use time to control you? Just think of an action moving and how a criminal is portrayed as controlling police by telling them they are going to kill someone they have in their possession at a certain time.
  12. Manipulating your need to be first: “If you don’t act now, you’ll miss it!” or “Hurry while you still have a chance to….!” Do you remember seeing those commercials, primarily around holiday time, that uses urgency to influence you to pick up the phone and dial a number or rush out of your home to catch a sale before it’s over? This is psychological urgency that marketers use to control, manipulate, and influence. And quite frankly, it works. In fact, it has worked on me in the past and then I walk away saying to myself “was it really that big of a deal?” For the most part, it wasn’t. Manipulators know exactly how to use urgency to get a reaction out of you. I once had an encounter with an extended family member, while completing an internship years ago, who would call my phone repeatedly or send me repeated emails to “update” me or “get my opinion” on something. What she was doing was creating “urgency” because she wanted me to answer her when she wanted me to answer her. It’s wasn’t urgent at all. The “urgency” was that she didn’t want to wait and felt entitled enough to get my feedback at the time she wanted it.

Navigate to my website for the last 3 tactics used to control you. I will also post an audio blog next week on my website with tips on how to deal with these tactics.

What do you think of these tactics? Do you see yourself in them? Do you see someone you communicate with in them? If so, post your comment below.

As always, I wish you well

Photo by sc_yang