Doyou know a particular person who always gets what they want, when they want? Have you been awed by this person’s perseverance, and yet, felt a little bit of distaste with the situation because something didn’t seem right? Well, if you thought that they were taking advantage of you (or someone else), you are right. There are many people who are master manipulators when it comes to relationships, work, and life. Usually, such manipulators are also incredibly narcissistic (1). They also have high emotional intelligence, which they use to tune in on other people’s needs that they then use to emotionally manipulate them (2).
Signs Of Manipulation
Manipulators are professionals at denying and lying. If someone hurts your feelings and you point out their bad behavior, they will deny it even though they obviously behaved badly. You should be careful here. Don’t let their denial confuse you or make you doubt yourself.
2. Charm And Niceness
A manipulator will use charm to achieve sex or power. Charm comes easily to them because they are ruthless creatures. They have no qualms about hurting others. A normal person will not use dirty tricks to seduce someone, but a manipulator will do so easily. Manipulators study human behavior. They spend time with others to find out their desires and needs. Once they find that out, they offer you the same thing to get you to depend on them. If someone is overly charming and alluring towards you, you need to think about what that person could want from you.
A manipulator’s most potent weapon is lying. They don’t have a conscience, so they don’t really feel bad about lying to others. If there is a chance to achieve what they want by lying, they will certainly do so. Manipulators generally lie in subtle ways. They often withhold a significant amount of information from you or distort the truth.
4. Excessive Flattery And Compliments
Excessive or untrue compliments should be a red flag for you. Pay close attention to what’s coming. You need to ask yourself – what does this person really want from me?
5. Generous With Favors And Gifts
A manipulator may appear very sympathetic, kind, and generous towards you at the beginning of a relationship. They may give you expensive gifts, which you may interpret as an expression of affection or love. But, in reality, they are just bribing you to get bigger favors in return in the future.
6. Forced Teaming
This is a strategy used by con artists and manipulators to create a sense of oneness with their selected victim. They make frequent use of the word ‘we.’ They will try to project a shared experience or purpose with you where none really exists. They may use phrases such as, “We are a great team”, “How are we going to handle this one?”, and”both of us.” The best manipulators make the victim want to participate.
7. Pretending To Be A Victim
Manipulators may pretend to be victims of situations, circumstances, or the misbehavior of someone in order to make you feel sympathy for them. When someone tries to seek your sympathy, observe that person closely and try to decipher whether they are really a victim. A manipulator will often talk about abuse or a stressful event in a cool, calm, and detached way.
8. Good First Impression
Manipulators often make great first impressions. They have dazzling looks, impeccable manners, or a winning smile to distract others from their real intentions. A manipulator may create a very good first impression, but their mask will come off when you spend time with them.
9. Pretend To Be Selfless
Manipulators keep their ambitions, intentions, and hunger for power quite well hidden, so the first few times you meet them, you may even find them to be a helpful and selfless person. They use this tactic to hide their self-serving agendas.
10. Silent Treatment
Using the ”silent treatment” is a warning sign that you may be dealing with a manipulator. It is a form of (passive-aggressive) emotional abuse in which disapproval, displeasure, anger, and contempt are exhibited by maintaining silence and using non-verbal gestures. If they are a sadistic manipulator, they might even use silent treatment just to torture you.
11. Guilt Tripping
Pay attention to people who try to make you feel guilty often. The chances are that this person is manipulating you. Manipulators exploit their victim’s good nature. They want to keep them in an anxious, guilt-ridden, self-doubting, and submissive position.
If a person often says insulting or hurtful things about your family, weight, appearance, or employment, take this as a warning sign. Manipulators pay close attention to others’ insecurities and weak points and use these against them. They use shaming to make their victim feel unworthy or inadequate and, therefore, be submissive to them.
Manipulators use covert intimidation. Their threats are often veiled. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, pay close attention to their expressions, glances, non-verbal gestures, and stares when they talk to you. A manipulator will twist the reality in order to make you doubt your own beliefs and perceptions.
Manipulative people always try to offer a “rational” explanation for engaging in inappropriate or hurtful behaviors. It can be quiet an effective tactic, especially when the explanations offered make just the right amount of sense to make any reasonably conscientious person fall for it.
15. Gas Lighting
This is a super powerful tactic used by manipulators. It means twisting the reality for a purpose. A manipulator can be considered a genius when it comes to twisting the reality in order to serve their own purposes. It doesn’t really matter what the truth is, they will make it seem that it is really your fault. By the time they are done with you, you will become so mentally ill that you won’t be able to trust your own perceptions.
Whenever you try to keep a discussion on a single issue or behavior, they try to dodge the issue or change the subject. At this point, you need to stay alert. They use diversion and distraction techniques to move people off-track, keep the focus off their own bad behavior, and promote their self-serving agenda.
17. Unsettling Stare
Eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes provide information about the person they belong to, especially when the message they convey appears inconsistent with their verbal behavior and facial expressions. In such cases, you should not ignore the information given out by their eyes. Some respond to this stare with discomfort, while others get hypnotized by them.
All of this may sound unsettling, but the good news is that you can deal with manipulative people effectively. Check out the next section to find out how.
How To Deal With Manipulative People
Manipulators can drive you completely crazy because their behavior can be so irrational. Make no mistake — their manipulative behavior goes against reason. So, why do you allow them to emotionally suck your energy? The more off-base and irrational a person is, the easier it should actually be for you to disentangle yourself from their trap. Stop trying to beat them at this game. Distance yourself from them and the situation them emotionally and conduct your interactions with them like you are their therapist. You are not required to respond to the emotional chaos they bring. Just focus on the facts.
However, maintaining emotional distance requires awareness on your part. You can’t stop a person from pushing the buttons that drive you crazy if you don’t even recognize when it is happening. Sometimes, you will find yourself in situations where you will need to retreat and regroup to think of the best way to deal with them. This is totally fine, and you should never be afraid to give yourself some time to do so. Most people think that because they live or work with someone, they have no way to extract themselves from the chaos. This could not be further from the truth. Once you have identified the manipulator, you will be able to predict their behavior. It will get easier for you to identify and understand the manipulations. It will also enable you to make rational decisions about when and where you should put up with them – and when and where you shouldn’t. You will have to establish boundaries, but you will have to do so proactively and consciously. If you allow things to happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly entangled in conflict. If you set proper boundaries and decide when and where you will engage a manipulative person, you will be able to control most of the chaos. The trick is to stick to your guns, not be afraid, and keep boundaries in place when a manipulator tries to cross them – which they will definitely try to.
Manipulators can affect and undermine your sense of self and force you to doubt your own sanity. However, you need to remember this – nobody can ever manipulate you without your consent.
Have you ever been emotionally manipulated by someone? Who was it, and how did you deal with all the stress and chaos? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment below!
- Trait-Emotional Intelligence and the Tendency to Emotionally Manipulate Others Among Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissists, Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Does Emotional Intelligence have a “Dark” Side? A Review of the Literature, Frontiers in Psychology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.