On the last track, we discussed helping teen clients understand four aspects of the ‘clique chick’. These four aspects are, what makes the clique chick tick, the clique squeeze, rapid responses, and the bottom line.
On this track, we will discuss three factors regarding the impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure. These three factors are, the emotional toll of manipulation, diminished self-reliance and self-esteem, and entrapment and victimization. At the end of the track I will explain the Take Five technique I used with Debbie.
As you listen to this track evaluate if playing it during you next session might be beneficial to a teen client of yours. Debbie, 15, recently moved cross country with her parents, just in time for Debbie to start tenth grade at a local school. Debbie had been one of the popular girls at her old school. Both of Debbie’s parents had high-paying jobs, and were able to make sure their daughter had the latest clothes and threw the coolest parties. It was a big shock to Debbie when she found the popular clique at her new school very closed off.
Debbie stated, "I was really determined to get in with the popular girls! When they finally let me sit at their lunch table, I found myself bragging about how much money my parents made. Then the other girls suddenly started being a lot nicer, talking shoes and clothes with me. By the end of that lunch period, I felt I was making some real social headway!" The clique girls quickly figured out that Debbie would do anything to be popular, so they arranged for ways for Debbie to ‘buy’ her way into their good graces.
This culminated in Debbie manipulating her parents into paying for a spa day for Debbie and 14 of her new ‘friends’ at a cost of $250 per person. Debbie stated, "The night after the party, I was so excited. I knew we’d be friends forever! But when I got to school on Monday, everyone ignored me!"
3 Impacts of Manipulation
Impact # 1 - Emotional Toll
Clearly, a first factor regarding the impact of the clique’s manipulation of Debbie was the emotional toll. The cold attitude of the popular clique presented Debbie with a strong negative stimulus, and she quickly learned to perform the desired behavior of paying for the cliques fun in order to reduce the negative stimulus. As you are well aware, aversive conditioning such as Debbie experienced is very effective in controlling behavior, but does not produce a happy or well adjusted subject.
In addition, the clique’s ‘gifts’ of positive attention were random and unpredictable. Debbie stated, "I never was quite sure when they were going to be nice to me! Sometimes when I paid for lunch they’d act like nothing happened, but sometimes they’d all start complimenting me and invite me out to try on new clothes." This randomized partial reinforcement added a very strong and unpleasant component of anxiety to Debbie’s experience.
Debbie also stated, "No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to make them really happy with me. Even when we were all having fun, I’d worry about whether I was really ‘in’ yet or not. I got a little frustrated… but I was afraid to say anything!" As Debbie’s own needs continued to be unmet, her needs became more exaggerated and pressing. I am sure that you have heard the phrase "If I show them how good I am, they’ll treat me differently!" many times in your practice.
Although Debbie kept her feelings of frustration to herself, her toxic levels of frustration and hostility took their toll physically in the form of severe headaches. As you are well aware, research has shown that sustained or frequent frustration from unmet needs can raise an individual’s risk of stoke, heart attack, and hardening of the arteries.
Impact # 2 - Diminished Self-Reliance & Self-Esteem
A second factor in the impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure is diminished self-reliance and self-esteem. The more Debbie succumbed to the wishes of the clique, the less she perceived herself as independent and self-reliant. Her identity began to revolve around serving the demands of the clique.
Debbie stated, "Finally belonging meant everything to me, so I did whatever I had to. It got to the point that I couldn’t pick out an outfit for school without calling one of the other girls to make sure it was cool. I felt funny about it, but I didn’t want to take any risks. I felt so dumb that I felt if I made a choice like that myself, I’d just screw up and lose whatever ground I had gained."
Impact # 3 - Entrapment & Victimization
In addition to the emotional toll and diminished self-reliance and self-esteem, a third impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure is entrapment and victimization. The stress Debbie found herself under had a predictably distorting effect on Debbie’s perception, thoughts, and judgment.
Debbie stated, "I didn’t really have a choice. I either did what the other girls wanted, or I’d be a social reject for the rest of my life!" Clearly, Debbie’s perception that she was still trapped in her relationship with the clique was in-fact trapping her in the vicious cycle of the relationship. To Debbie, standing up to the manipulation from the clique members would surely result in a full-blown catastrophe.
7-Step Technique: Take Five
I suggested to Debbie that she might try the Take Five technique in order to deal with the passive pressure tactics of silent treatments and ignoring used by the clique. I stated to Debbie, "It seems like you’ve learned to very quickly respond to any of the clique’s requests. One small step you can take to help build your confidence without confronting the girls directly is to find ways to take at least five minutes to think about a request before you give the girls an answer. I refer to this as the Take Five Technique because you take five minutes out to think before you act. Here are the steps:"
-- Step # 1. Since you may be in the bad habit of always responding to a request with a knee-jerk "yes," to the clique consider making a new rule for yourself that you need to break this habit.
-- Step # 2. Plan out a list of responses you can make to make sure you can take at least five minutes to consider any request the clique girls make. Some simple starter responses might be, "I need to figure out how much homework I have to do tonight first. For example if another Spa Date is suggested at your expense you might respond. ‘That sounds like something I need to ask my parents about first. I’ll give you an answer after I talk to them.’ Write this list down and keep a copy with your phone and in your wallet. Remember, you are not asking permission. You are informing the other girls that you will need to take a minute.
-- Step # 3. Practice these phrases at home until you are comfortable using them.
-- Step # 4. When a request is made, use one of your practiced phrases with a smile.
-- Step # 5. After you have stated to the clique that you need to do something else before giving an answer, leave the area for a few minutes. Get a drink of water, use the bathroom, anything that will get you off by yourself so that you can think.
-- Step # 6. Breathe deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 20.
-- Step # 7. Once you are calm, decide what your answer to the request will be. Do you want to say yes because it sounds like a good idea, or because that is what you feel is expected of you?
I stated to Debbie, "Even if you end up saying yes to the request, give yourself a pat on the back. Just taking five minutes puts you back in a position of control. You have asserted your right to think before making a decision." Think of your Debbie. Would the Take 5 technique be helpful to him or her? Would playing this track in your next session be beneficial?
On this track, we have discussed three factors regarding the impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure. These three factors are, the emotional toll of manipulation, diminished self-reliance and self-esteem, and entrapment and victimization, as well as the Take Five coping Technique.
On the next track we will discuss a technique for desensitizing to clique manipulation tactics. Steps involved in the desensitizing technique are, defining terms, recognizing emotional reasoning, creating a tape, relaxation, practice, and desensitization in practice.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Irwin, A., Li, J., Craig, W., & Hollenstein, T. (2019). The role of shame in chronic peer victimization. School Psychology, 34(2), 178–186.
Rueger, S. Y., & Jenkins, L. N. (2014). Effects of peer victimization on psychological and academic adjustment in early adolescence. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(1), 77–88.
Smithyman, T. F., Fireman, G. D., & Asher, Y. (2014). Long-term psychosocial consequences of peer victimization: From elementary to high school. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(1), 64–76.
What are the three factors of the impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure? To select and enter your answer go to .