Does this sound like anyone you know?
In the beginning:
- You met someone and even though they started off a bit stand-offish, being polite but barely speaking to you for a few weeks or maybe more – one day they came up and struck up a conversation, probably about a subject you are passionate about, and you instantly felt as though you had bonded on some level. After that, they performed many random acts of kindness for you – showed up with presents, food when you were sick, offered to help you with some work that needed to get done, etc., or they would say nice things to you and about you in front of others and make you feel genuinely liked and admired. They often seem to be completely selfless and sweet and generous and always out to help anyone “for the greater good” of something (family, organization, work, etc.). Despite all this, you may have felt a gut warning about this person – a feeling that something was not quite right. Perhaps you felt that you were being manipulated in some way, but since the person seemed so genuine and charismatic, you ignored your instincts – maybe even chose to ignore the warnings of others about this person because you like to give people the benefit of the doubt?
- This person was often he first to step up to help someone or to take on a project or multiple projects. (It wasn’t until much later that you noticed that they spent a lot of time whining to anyone who would listen about how no one appreciated all that hard work and time and effort they had exerted or how, despite the constant complaints, they also refused most offers for help on the projects they’d volunteered for – often using the premise that they were almost finished anyway and it wouldn’t be worth your time to help out now, with so little left to do. The end result would be that you walked away feeling really guilty for not making more of an effort to help out, admiring this person for working so hard and feeling ashamed that you couldn’t be as selfless as they were.)
- This person often confided in you, especially about their annoyances or grievances with others, and made you feel as though you were their friend. After awhile, during your conversations, after you’d established a seemingly close relationship, this person would begin making what seemed like harmless suggestions (introducing ideas about how you should perform a task or deal with someone) and, because they were confiding in you at the time and had made you feel close to them, you completely ignored the warning bells going off in your head many of those ideas or suggestions weren’t actually not good or totally inappropriate. (In hindsight, you now realize that every ridiculous idea they had or unethical suggestion they made was always presented in such a reasonable and logical way that it would have seemed silly to balk against them. You eventually found yourself doing things you would never normally do or treating people in ways you would never normally treat people because this person made it seem totally acceptable and encouraged and pushed you to do it.)
- As time progressed, you began to notice that if you happened to disagree with one of this person’s ideas or suggestions, they would somehow easily sway your opposition toward their way of thinking so you’d end up acquiescing to their demands. You would have absolutely no idea how it had happened or why you changed your mind, especially because you were still opposed to the idea and you’d walk away feeling that familiar gut twinge that you’d just been played somehow, but you could never pinpoint how.
- If you were actually able to stick to your guns and continue to disagree with this person, you would then be subjected to passive aggressive ploys when dealing with them – they would play the game of emotional “get back” with you by resisting cooperation, giving you the silent treatment or blatantly ignoring you until they needed something from you and then demanding you address their needs or wants immediately, pouting or whining, conveniently “forgetting” about something you wanted them to do because they were angry with you and didn’t feel like obliging you, etc.? You shrugged it off because you told yourself that they were too nice and too genuine to do something like that on purpose. You told yourself that they must have been having a bad day or something else was going on to make them behave poorly toward you. They couldn’t possibly be acting that way on purpose because it was completely immature and ridiculous – something a ten year old would do, not an adult.
- You started to notice inconsistencies in their stories, explanations or arguments, and alarmingly inappropriate behaviors, but continued to give them the benefit of the doubt because that is the type of person you are.
- You definitely started noticing that this person was always the first to jump on others’ mistakes – especially yours – and demand retribution or consequence, but that they brushed off their own mistakes as though they were inconsequential. They were experts at blaming their mistakes on others or accusing other people of doing the same as an effective evasion of owning up to their mistakes and accepting the consequences or attempting to fix them. In fact, the larger the mistake they made, the faster they brushed it off or insisted it was someone else’s fault.
- Slowly but surely, this person began to say things that hurt your feelings, belittled you, made you feel guilt, shame, etc., in order to get their way in all things. You still couldn’t put a finger on it, but they made you feel awful about yourself and second guess yourself on a constant basis while also accusing you of saying and doing hurtful things toward them or deliberately setting them up to fail, etc.
- You slowly started to wonder if they were deliberately doing things to undermine your authority or to trip you up somehow, but each time you thought about it too much, you shrugged it off as ridiculous because they always presented such a kind, genuine, helpful persona to others. You may have assumed that since they made you feel like a friend or a close colleague, they took out their frustrations on you because we always tend to do that to the people we are closest to.
- Despite your instincts telling you that this person could not be trusted and after a consistent tendency to shrug off their increasingly inexcusable behaviour, they suddenly did something or said something to make you fully realize who and what they truly are, but by then, it was too late and there was nothing you could do to avoid the outcome or fix it.
Maybe they ruined one of your friendships. Maybe they got you fired or forced you to quit a job you were truly passionate about. Maybe they ruined your marriage. Maybe they completely destroyed your reputation, your self-esteem, your sense of worth. Whatever they did, when you look back now, it is blatantly obvious that you were a chess piece being wielded by a master chess player who is able to think twenty or thirty moves ahead.
Unfortunately, you were dealing with someone with a Covert Aggressive Personality or, as I’ve come to call it, the Master Manipulator.
Covert aggressives have two goals in all aspects of their lives – to win (at whatever they perceive needs to be won) and one-up everyone around them. To do this, they use deliberate, ruthless, underhanded ways to get what they want and control outcomes while projecting a convincing, superficial charisma and air of innocence (a sort of “Who, me?” aura). They want to be seen by everyone as the best, the nicest, the most dedicated, the most generous, the most talented, the most reasonable, etc. and they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal and will use a ton of deceptive tactics to do it.
They are very good at what they do.
Most people don’t know they have been dealing with this kind of personality until it is too late and the damage has already been done and most people walk away from having been manipulated without ever understanding what happened or how it happened.
Recently, I fell into the elaborate trap of a Covert Aggressive personality, but I am lucky enough to have a degree in Psychology to fall back on with connections in the psych community who were kind enough to help me understand exactly what happened. I have been researching this for almost a month and have discovered a lot about my weaknesses and strengths and my own character and personality. One thing is certain, I will NEVER fall victim to a Covert Aggressive ever again and I will never allow this particular one to ever have anything remotely resembling the upper hand over me ever again, even though I still have to deal with them on a regular basis.
Even though it sucks ass crackers when bad things happen to good people, it really helps us to learn and grow and become stronger and more resilient in our dealings with the assholes out there in the world! I am glad I finally understand this situation and I am looking forward to the next chapter when I head out armed with the tools I need to beat this person at their own ridiculous and unnecessary game. 🙂
I’ve run out of time, but in a future blog, I will go more into the characteristics of this personality type – what makes them tick, how they operate, etc. – and also some ways to recognize and deal with people like this.
Have a good day, my friends. I wish you all enough!