When I can, I’ll always set the captives free.
But doing so is very hard work. It’s a subtle art, getting people to realize they are in a prison, then pointing out the exit. Game itself is a means to setting people free. Yes, it could be called manipulation, but the end product is making people less dependent on me. It’s actually more about speaking a language they understand.
Toddlers are extra hard work, in one sense. You can’t simply explain anything. Instead, you have to establish right away the proper roles. I have a rather wild niece, and I have to Game her pretty hard. If I don’t, her sexual identity will be confused, since she has no daddy at home. So regardless how she relates to other men, I have to play the precise Alpha Male with her so she sees it right in at least one place. I’ll play with her, and give her a very exciting and rowdy time, but only on my terms. I’m very strict about those terms, unvarying every time, making sure she pays attention when I inform her she has crossed the line. When I visit, she’s all over me, but is respectful.
She’s adorable, exceedingly cute and even flirty, but otherwise wild and rough. I’m setting her free from the delusions of feminist culture, showing her she can’t manipulate every man. I don’t cater to her.
With older children, things get a little simpler. You can soften at times, provided you are consistent and careful. I always make it clear they get the goodies when I say so, and it’s always contingent on how they respond to me. Not so I control them, but get what I have to have from the encounter. The context decides what it will be, and I always declare the context in terms they can understand. To retain influence, I always make time for them, even in the context, taking them seriously. I let them express their feelings before I respond.
With adults you can talk much more, but you have to decide what they are ready to hear. There is a set of neutral actions I can take which are simple civility, and see how they respond. Few people are complex enough to make it challenging. When they are complex, they make good friends. Others take a little longer, because you can’t afford to let someone still in the mind prison get too close. They’ll simply incorporate you into their false world and you’ll never have a chance to help them.
Notice how the thread is aloofness here. Not disengaged, but not entangled, either. It’s not about me, so I keep myself out of it except so much as it takes to let them see what’s required to deal with me. They really should be free to break it off. No one who doesn’t want to should have to put up with me.
So I’ll accept suggestions of things I might do differently, but I simply don’t listen to messages which attack my character. It’s easy to dismiss the defensive posture, and simply keep myself out of it. If someone insists on trying to label and characterize me, I break off the contact as much as possible. Being wrong about me is no crime, but I don’t have to tolerate pushing it in my face. I let them be wrong, unless explaining things serves a bigger purpose.
In my own mind, it works like this: What difference does your opinion of me make? If you are quick to run the wrong way, trusting you enough to let you inside is folly. It’s like using a filter in an email or newsgroup. When someone annoys you too much, you put some part of their idea in a filter. Folks who were placed in such filters were notified via the word, “PLONK!” It’s pretty much the same in meatspace. Folks who refuse to see the free path, accuse me of causing trouble for them, I just plonk them. That’s not to say I can simply stop dealing with them — they might be the boss. But that means I don’t engage them personally. They are handled like balky machinery.
Really, you get to choose.