The signs of someone being manipulative can be subtle and difficult to recognize at first. Manipulators can have a profound and very negative impact on others. It is important to be aware of the warning signs so that you can identify such individuals and protect yourself from their harmful tactics. In this article, I will mention ten warning signs of manipulative behavior and discuss how to spot them early.
Manipulative individuals often employ a range of tactics to get what they want. These tactics can be emotional, psychological, or physical in nature. They are designed to control and manipulate others, without their knowledge or consent, with little or no consideration of the well-being of the victim. It is important to understand these tactics so that you can recognize, in real time, when they are being used against you.
One of the key warning signs of someone being manipulative is a lack of empathy. Manipulative individuals often have little regard for the feelings or needs of others. They are primarily focused on getting what they want and will exploit and manipulate others to achieve their goals. This is a classical feature of those with personality disorders, psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.
They may dismiss or belittle the emotions of others, making them feel insignificant or unworthy. They will claim that your emotions are controlling you, or that you need to learn to control your emotions. While they are busy controlling your emotions, putting you on an emotional roller coaster, they then criticize you for having those emotions.
Another warning sign of someone being manipulative is constant blame shifting. Manipulative individuals are highly skilled at deflecting responsibility and making others feel guilty or at fault. They will find ways to twist the truth and avoid taking accountability for their actions. It's never their fault, it's always down to someone else's mistake, or stupidity, or carelessness, or thoughtlessness or whatever.
This can create a toxic dynamic where the victim is constantly made to feel guilty or responsible for things that are not their fault, including the manipulator's own nasty behavior!
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that involves making someone doubt their own reality. Manipulative individuals will often deny or distort the truth to confuse and control others. They make the victim question their memory, perception, or sanity by denying certain things happened or by claiming, falsely, that certain things did actually happen.
Gaslighting is incredibly damaging to the victim's self-esteem and is designed to make them doubt their own judgment and become more dependent on the manipulator.
Emotional manipulation is a fundamental tactic used by manipulative individuals. Fear and guilt are the two major emotions used by manipulators the world over to control others. Love, of course, is also a major factor used at the start of relationships to convince people that they have met their soulmate.
Emotional manipulation can be subtle and difficult to recognize because during emotional highs and lows, it is difficult for people to think rationally. During the euphoria of falling in love, for example, a victim will easily dismiss the manipulator's bad behavior because everything else feels so good. They ignore the warnings of friends and family about the new person in their lives because the euphoria prevents them from seeing any danger.
Well into the relationship this love is replaced by fear and guilt and with enough of these 2 things, you can get people to do anything, including things which they would otherwise not normally do.
Manipulative individuals often seek to isolate their victims from friends and family. They may discourage or prevent the victim from spending time with loved ones, making them dependent on the manipulator for approval and validation.
Isolating tactics can make the victim feel trapped and alone, further increasing the manipulator's control over them. They can criticize your friends and family, changing your perceptions, or they criticize you for having such people around you, saying you are a bad judge of character. Or they complain so much when you go and spend time with your friends and family that you eventually decide it's easier not to go out, it will avoid arguments if you simply stay at home. (And you think this is your own decision!)
Frequent guilt-tripping is a tactic commonly used by manipulative individuals and should be considered one of the important signs of someone being manipulative. The manipulators use anything and everything to build a strong sense of obligation in their victims. They tell you they have done you a favor when you haven´t asked for anything and then later remind you that you owe them one. They may buy gifts and do nice things, but there are always strings attached. "After all I have done for you, how could you...?"
They know that guilt-tripping is incredibly effective in getting others to comply with their demands, even if it goes against the victim's own desires or best interests.
This is a phrase that is often misused. Passive-aggressive behavior is actually indirect or covert hostility. Snide, or sarcastic comments don't really fall into this category, they are actually overt, abusive tactics.
Passive-aggressive tactics are where the manipulator does not respond where a response would be socially expected. For example, they don't do what they said they were going to do, and claim they were busy, they forgot, or give some other lame excuse. The may show up late to functions, or not answer questions, miss deadlines, not give you important information and so on. This often causes anxiety for the victim because what they percieve does not line up with what they hear from the manipulator.
This is part of a bigger picture of abuse where what the manipulator says and what they do are two different things. They lie, they have no sense of responsibility in fulfilling their promises and they have no sense of obligation in following the usual rules. If you spot this sign, you need to run! Unfortunately, this pattern is often very difficult to see because the victims are programmed to believe the excuses of the manipulator and it can be hard to recognize the lies of the manipulator.
Manipulative individuals are often skilled at using flattery (excessive, insincere praise) and charm to win others over. They may shower their victims with compliments and praise to gain their trust and manipulate their emotions. This charm offensive can be difficult to resist, (that's why they use it!) but it is important to be aware that it is a tactic used to manipulate and control others.
Is what this person in front of you saying true, or are they buttering you up? Do they know you well enough to actually say these things? (It's very different if a stranger starts telling you things about yourself versus someone who knows you for a long time.) Does if feel forced or excessive? Do you feel you are being pushed in a certain direction?
Manipulative individuals seek to control every aspect of their victims' lives. They may dictate what you wear, who you can spend time with, what you eat, or drink, how you spend your money, how you perceive things, what you believe and even how you should think and feel.
In fact, your whole life changes until it revolves around the manipulator. Your very existence is organized around making sure that the manipulator is as comfortable as possible.
Controlling behavior can be suffocating and oppressive, leaving the victim feeling trapped and powerless. The problem is that for a long time, the victim may not be aware of the techniques being used against them and they don't realize the extent to which they are being influenced. One of the tricks of mind control is that the victim believes that they are making their own decisions so that they are convinced that they have some control in their lives.
Manipulative individuals often use subtle and manipulative language to dominate and control others. They may use persuasion techniques, such as framing their desires as being in the victim's best interests (I am doing this for the benefit of our relationship) or using emotionally laden words to manipulate emotions. It is important to pay attention to the words and language used by others to ensure that you are not being manipulated or coerced into doing something against your will.
Things to watch out for are words or phrases that a person uses a lot. The manipulators understand the power of repetition (think news channels) and the things they want in your head they will repeat a lot. Watch out for apologies, too. Are they genuine? In other words, if a person apologizes for something, do they turn around and do the same thing five minutes later or do they actually make an effort to stop doing the upsetting behavior? Do they even apologize at all? Many abusers will not.
Spotting manipulative behavior early can be challenging, but there are a few key strategies that can help.
Firstly, ask other people for their opinions. If you cannot do this, this is also a warning sign. Do you feel that you would be betraying your friend/partner if you told others what they were up to behind closed doors? If yes, then there is a problem. A major difficulty for people who are being controlled is that their instincts have been distorted. If you are in an abusive situation, you may be overriding the warning signals because you have been trained not to give them any importance. Trusted friends or family members may be able to provide valuable insight and help you recognize the signs of someone being manipulative that you cannot see.
Secondly, pay attention to patterns of behavior. If someone consistently does things that are upsetting to you, that is not normal. It is likely that their behavior is intentional and not just a one-time occurrence. Do what they say and what they do match up? The trick here is to pay attention to the actual behavior and not the reasons you are given for that behavior. Remember that even torturers always have a justification for what they do!
Finally, learn more about mind control. This is fundamental. If you don't know what you are looking for, you won't be able to see it. You have to learn the subtleties of mind control. This knowledge is the only thing that will protect you.
There is all sorts of things written about what you can do if you spot the signs of someone being manipulative in your life, set boundaries, be assertive, etc. If you are reading this, then chances are that you have tried all of these things and you are realizing that they don't work. The manipulator is more assertive than you can ever be and they are experts at destroying any boundary that you dare to place in their way.
You need to learn about mind control, specifically how this person is controlling you, what techniques they are using, what effects the techniques are having on you, your sense of self, your thinking and your decision making.
It's useful to get professional help from someone who understands these things. A general therapist is not going to get what you are going through. You need an expert in mind control. Every day that you are with the manipulator is a day that they have stolen away from you.
Read more about how to spot a sociopath, why some people are emotionally abusive, what is a toxic relationship, the damage done by a controlling wife or a controlling husband, controlling behavior in the workplace and recovery from an abusive relationship.
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