Recently I was talking to a friend that went on the first date and was completely shaken by the experience.
She met a man for cocktails and left after only one drink.
The stream of text messages that followed took her completely aback.
He told her that she had come off as “crazy” but that he would give her a second chance. He said that he knew some of her connections and threatened to talk to them about her if she didn’t respond to him. He also distorted stories she had told him in the short time that they had met.
My friend felt trapped, confused, and frightened by this man’s sudden behavior.
This was a unique situation because most manipulators will not be this obvious in the beginning stages of knowing someone. Their manipulation will be more subtle as they are playing the long game to total control over their victims.
Here are four tactics that a manipulator will often use to control you.
#1. They will deny your shared experiences
A common behavior that I have witnessed in every single manipulated person was constant denial.
I had an extremely toxic friend that would lash out when she didn’t get her way. Afterward, if I brought it up she would deny my account so adamantly that I would second-guess myself if it had happened “exactly as I remembered.”
“hey lie to themselves and others about their malevolent acts and intentions as a tactic to get others off their back. If their denial is forceful and convincing enough, others will likely be successfully manipulated.”- Dr. George Simon
What better way to control someone than to make them question their reality? It is the reason why gaslighting is such a harmful form if not the most harmful of psychological abuse.
#2. They will avoid your attempts at confrontation
Manipulators don’t want to take responsibility for any of their actions or behavior. Because of this, they will often use avoidance tactics to ensure they don’t have to own up for any of their wrongdoings.
“Avoidance can be subtle and unnoticeable when a manipulator shifts the subject. It may be camouflaged with boasting, compliments, or remarks you want to hear, like, “You know how much I care about you.” You might forget why you were upset in the first place. “- Psychology Today
When I would confront my narcissistic and manipulative ex about something he had done, he would change the subject, or distract me by spinning the conversation in another direction entirely.
#3. They will play the victim
My ex had quite the sob story. His mother hadn’t been kind to him growing up, his father had left him, he had to raise himself, it went on and on.
When those stories no longer served as an excuse for his increasingly volatile behavior he began telling me that he wanted to kill himself.
Because of this I felt trapped and couldn’t confront him about his behavior because if I tried he would shift it to focus on how everyone he had ever encountered just mistreated him.
A manipulator will play the victim because in that narrative they are always in the right whereas everyone else is the big bad wolf out to get them at every turn.
#4. They will project their behavior unto you
I have a close friend who was in a relationship with a toxic and manipulative partner that abused mind alternating substances.
When she tried to talk to her partner about his addiction he would shift the conversation until the blame fell on her. He said that if she weren’t so needy and nagging that he wouldn’t want to drown her out with substances.
“When we project, we are defending ourselves against unconscious impulses or traits, either positive or negative, that we’ve denied in ourselves. Instead we attribute them to others.” Darlene Lancer MFT
Master manipulators know that if they blame everyone and everything else they will be free of the burden. If you shame, blame, and put guilt on everyone but yourself there will be none left for you.
How can you protect yourself against manipulation?
It sounds so simple and easy but the only way to keep others from manipulating you is to have boundaries.
If you cultivate boundaries you aren’t going to allow someone to control you. You aren’t going to feel the need to be someone else’s “savior.” You aren’t going to feel the need to explain your behavior constantly, and you will realize that your own self-worth doesn’t lie in what someone else says to you.