Dealing with Poor-Me Manipulation

Many people become quite addicted to the poor-me manipulation technique, because it can work very well. They go around saying "poor me" and people feel sorry for them, listen to them, pay attention to them. They get all this positive feedback for what they are doing, and so they keep doing it more often.

Of course this gets VERY wearying for the people who have to listen to the eternal woes!

If you have someone in your life who is constantly coming to you with "poor me" complaints, often they will say things like "Nobody likes me" or "I shouldn't even try to do xxxxx, I know it won't work" or "Everybody else has YYYY, I guess I'll just never have one." All of these statements are designed to elicit sympathy, to have you say "Of course you will! People do like you! I'm sure you will get X someday!"

I want to comment here that this is different from someone who says "I wish I had more friends, how can I do that?" That person is stating an actual goal and seeking help. Usually that is a good way of dealing with an issue. We are talking about people who try to manipulate attention through complaining that they are faulty.

The key here is that people do this because it works. The only way to get them to stop doing it is to get it to NOT work. People will keep doing something that works.

There's two ways of dealing with this, the short and long term approaches depending on how much you care about this person.

The short term approach is just to say "I'm sorry you feel you don't have any friends," and then go on to a new topic. You accept their statement and go on with things. They will be upset that they didn't become the center of attention, pout, and realize after a few tries that this scheme will no longer work well.

The long term approach is to say "I'm sorry you feel you don't have any friends. Let's make a list of friends and potential friends and work on it." Maybe once they write down the list they'll be made aware that their complaint is invalid and you can say "Look at that! You have more friends than you thought!" If they really do only have 1 or 2 friends, you can then come up with an idea to join a local group that does a hobby they enjoy. Find a concrete path to finding a new friend or two.

The key is not to give into their technique. Don't go into a "you poor thing" and attention granting. That will only reinforce to them that they should keep up their poor-me manipulation.