Have you ever felt like someone took advantage of you? Or of someone else?
You’re probably not wrong. The sad truth is that you’re likely to run into a master manipulator at least once in your lifetime. They work their psychological ‘magic’ at home in their personal lives, and at work in their professional lives.
Manipulative people can often get whatever they want, whenever they want. And while they may often be viewed as winners, they also wreak psychological havoc on those around them.
If you’ve ever been duped by a manipulator, you know how much it hurts when you realize you’ve been deceived. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs of manipulation — before you become prey to a manipulator.
Let’s explore how these masterminds use psychological and emotional tactics to get what they want — at your expense.
Number 1 — They Bring You to Their Territory
It’s a powerful thing. Master manipulators always keep tabs on the power dynamics of any situation, and if they can gain control, they will. One way of maintaining that control is by having you enter their territory — be it their home or office.
If someone you don’t know very well invites you into their space, it could be a nice gesture. It could also be a move that ensures you won’t speak up against them. Watch out for suspicious invitations, especially if the host tries to take advantage of you in their home.
Number 2 — They Listen… and Dig
If you’ve ever encountered a salesman (or have been one), you know that there’s a technique for making a sale. The first step is prospecting — and manipulators do it, too. They will ask general and detailed questions under the guise of friendliness.
What they’re doing is determining how you think, how you’ll respond, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Be wary of those with too many questions. They might have a hidden agenda.
Number 3 — They Overwhelm You With Information
Another sales tactic that manipulators use is to overwhelm you with information. They throw enormous amounts of facts at you (often with confusing data sets or statistics) in the hopes that you’ll deem them an expert.
This strategy is called “intellectual bullying,” and it often occurs in the workplace during financial negotiations.
It can also occur in social or relational arguments. With the added status that knowledge brings, the manipulator assumes more power over you. Sometimes there is an end goal, and other times the manipulator simply relishes a feeling of superiority.
Number 4 — They Twist The Facts
Sometimes miscommunication happens. Other times, someone will purposefully twist your words and feign innocence — making you feel crazy in the process.
When you confront the manipulator about it, they’ll often brush it aside or make you feel like you’re in the wrong. Avoid people who twist the facts in their favor when they’re called out.
Number 5 — They Block You With Red Tape
The next strategy is another power move. It is especially common in the workplace when a higher-up unjustly exercises their power over a subordinate. They will block requests with red tape as a way to maintain power.
They’ll continue creating roadblocks until the subordinate eventually gives up and succumbs to the manipulator’s power. This power play can injure the individuals involved — and it can also harm a business or organization.
Number 6 — They Speak Louder
This tactic isn’t especially thought-provoking — but it is another power play. Sometimes, people who speak louder think their increased volume makes them right. They believe it grants them more intelligence or proves their argument to be better. It doesn’t. Yet, manipulators still do it. Their angle, however, is to intimidate you.
They might also encourage your submission by talking endlessly — leaving you no space to talk without interrupting. Their aggressive body language and brash tone allow them to take control of a conversation, forcing their victims to listen.
Number 7 — They Give You Bad News
Manipulative people also use bad news to unpleasantly surprise their prey. This puts the victim of emotional manipulation at a psychological disadvantage as they process the news. It could be something seemingly innocent like a low ball in a negotiation.
It could also hurt the other person — such as in an instance where the manipulator suddenly admits they can’t or didn’t do something they said they would. After a manipulator delivers negative information with no warning, you’ll be caught off guard. As you process, you might not be thinking clearly — and that’s when the manipulator will ask (or demand) something of you.
Number 8 — They Give You Ultimatums
An ultimatum is essentially a demand, sometimes with a very limited choice involved. Manipulators often present tight deadlines or demands with a “take it or leave it” approach. It is yet another sales tactic that emotionally manipulative people use to gain your consent or submission — even if you’re not 100% sure.
This act of tension exerts control over the manipulator’s chosen victim, and often times their power play works. Even if the manipulator is bluffing, nothing about their actions will let you know the truth before you’ve made your decision.
Ultimatums leave no room for compromise — which is essential in any healthy relationship, and something manipulators are not fond of.
Number 9 — They Make Fun Of You
Manipulators love power — and they gain power from your insecurities. Sometimes, manipulative people will make unjust critical remarks to put you down and make you feel inferior. They’ll claim it was humor or sarcasm, and when called out, they’ll often turn it around on you — with a remark like, “Can’t you take a joke?”
This psychological torment could revolve around anything ranging from appearance, possessions, experiences, or knowledge. A master manipulator will discover your insecurities and use them as a tool against you.
Number 10 — They Judge You Openly
While some manipulators claim judgment in the form of sarcasm, others openly disregard another’s feelings by attacking them with judgment and criticism. A manipulative person will marginalize, ridicule, and dismiss you without hesitation. By picking on you relentlessly, they can maintain their power over you.
Usually, the aggressor imparts the idea that there is something inherently wrong with you. They’ll tell you that no matter what you do, you will always be inadequate.
When a manipulator makes you believe that you’re not good enough, they target your self-worth. This makes it easier for them to exert control over you. You’ll know that someone is doing this to you if they focus on the negatives — without giving you constructive criticism on how you could improve.
Number 11 — They Give You The Cold Shoulder
Manipulators often deny love, affection, or attention as a form of control. They will deliberately ignore your attempts of communication — whether it be calls, text, emails, or something else. They maintain power by making you wait, implanting doubt and uncertainty in your psyche.
If you’ve ever experienced silent treatment or a cold shoulder, you should recognize that this tactic uses interaction as leverage.
Number 12 — They Play Dumb
Like a small child who despises chores, a master manipulator will pretend that they are incapable of doing something they simply don’t want to do. Manipulators will play dumb as if they don’t understand what you are trying to communicate. This gets them out of doing a task or owning up to something they don’t want to face — making you bear the weight of responsibility.
Avoiding obligations — and giving you the short end of the stick — is easy for manipulative people.
Number 13 — They Play The Victim
Whenever a manipular gets called out on their actions, they quickly turn on you. Even when you are the victim of their selfish acts, the manipulator will blame you and claim to be the victim. It takes the attention off of them and may seem to justify their behavior.
Manipulators are often extremely defensive and use gaslighting as a tactic to make you feel crazy for confronting them or even feeling or believing something, to begin with.
Don’t believe a manipulator when they divert all the blame onto you. In most situations, everyone should assume some responsibility.
Number 14 — They’re Your “Friend” Only When It’s Convenient
Some friends are always there for you — and others are only there when it’s convenient for them. If you know someone who only contacts you or acts friendly when they need or wants something, chances are, they’re a manipulator.
Watch out for manipulators who try to embed themselves into your life — not because they want to be your friend, but because they want to use you. Manipulative people are selfish. They don’t truly care about you and will choose their own needs over yours, any day.
When you realize that someone in your life is manipulating you, it can be hard to digest. What’s even harder, though, is learning how to respond. Often, a manipulator will hold some power over you — whether you work together, are family members, or are in a relationship.
Even if you have the courage to stand up for yourself, these situations can be difficult to remove yourself from. The best thing you can do to protect yourself from manipulators is to maintain distance, know your rights and boundaries, and keep the focus on them in conversations.
If you notice that you still struggle with your emotional well-being after attempting to resolve your emotional turmoil, consider asking for help. You don’t need to suffer alone. Talking to a trusted friend, therapist, or counselor can help you discover how deep the manipulator has hurt you and how to respond in a healthy way.
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