Here are 29 signs to look for if you suspect that your loved one or your partner is manipulating you.
Relationships have problems. It is a part and parcel of being in a relationship. One specific type of problem which can ruin a relationship is manipulation. It does not matter whether the relationship is with your partner, parents, loved ones, or even office colleagues. Manipulation can ruin any kind of relationship. Keep reading to know the 29 signs that you are being manipulated and what can you do about it.
Table of Contents
What is manipulation?
Manipulation is the exercise of influencing others with the intent of harm. People who engage in manipulating others do so in order to get what they want. They attack the other person’s emotional and mental state in order to mould them to a way of thinking so that they can get what they want from the person. The person who is manipulating is referred to as the manipulator and the person who is manipulated is referred to as the victim. The manipulator aims to gain power, control, benefit or privileges at the expense of the victim.
Manipulation can occur in any kind of relationship whether it is close or casual. However, manipulation is more commonly observed in the case of formed relationships. We all engage in manipulation at one point or the other in order to get what we want. However, if done unknowingly, it is not manipulation. If you specifically try to change someone’s emotion in order to make them act or feel a certain way, then you are manipulating the other person’s emotions.
Manipulators have many tricks which they use to make the other person feel irrational and to sway the victim enough to give in to the request. A few common strategies which the manipulators use are
- Behaving ignorantly or innocently
- Placing the blame on others
- Playing mind games with the victim
What are the signs of being manipulated?
There are many signs of manipulation. Kindness if done with harmful intent can also be manipulation. Manipulation done with either bad or good intentions is an attempt to change your thinking and make you feel irrational.
The manipulator will use your insecurities against you. He or she will make you feel guilty and convince you to give up something that is important to you. This is done as a move for a power grab. The purpose behind this action is to make you more dependent on the manipulator.
If a person is successful in manipulating the victim, he or she will continue to do the action again and again so that you can never get out of the situation.
Let’s discuss these actions in further detail
The manipulator makes you feel obligated, guilty, or fearful
Manipulation depends on three factors: obligation, guilt, and fear. The purpose of manipulation is to psychologically coerce you into doing something which you would otherwise not do. There are two ways a manipulator normally acts. They will either behave like a bully or they will behave as the victim.
If the manipulator behaves like a bully, he or she will make you feel fearful. They will use threats, aggression as well as intimidation in order to control you. On the other hand, if the manipulator acts like a victim, he or she will instigate feelings of guilt in the target. They will make it seem as if it was all the target’s fault that the problem occurred. They will get the target to help them in order to stop feeling guilty. Such targets most often feel responsible to help the manipulator by the use of whichever means possible so that they can stop feeling so guilty.
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They make you question yourself
If you are constantly questioning yourself, if you feel that the way you remember things is not correct, if you feel that your thoughts, memories or your reality is wrong, this is a huge red flag that you are probably being manipulated. This is also referred to as gaslighting. In such cases, the manipulator will get the victim to constantly question themselves about their memory, thought or reality. The manipulator will hijack your conversation and make everything about him or her. You will constantly feel as if you may have done something wrong when you are not even sure what you have done in the first place.
In case you are being gaslighted by the manipulator, you will feel a false sense of defensiveness and guilt. You will feel like a failure and the guilt will swallow you. In other words, manipulators are amazing at playing the blame game and do not feel responsible for themselves.
There are always strings attached
If your loved one or your partner does things for you and constantly expects you to give something back in return, this is a huge sign that you are being manipulated. A manipulator will do good deeds for other people but with high expectations of returns. If you do not return the favor endowed upon you, you will be made to feel guilty for being ungrateful. Manipulators are experts at showing how good they are, how much they do for you, and how little you do for them in return.
your partner bought you flowers and then accused you of not cooking a good meal despite giving you flowers. This is a clear indication that you are being manipulated and forced to feel guilty. Reciprocation of favors is normal but when someone constantly expects you to return the favor and does the favor insincerely in the first place, it is a sign that you are being manipulated
The door in the face and foot in the door techniques
A manipulator will most often try either one of the following two tactics. The first tactic is the foot in the door technique. In this case, the person will start with a reasonable request like, “Do you have some time right now“ this simple question will then lead to a larger request like, “I need some money to buy this or that“.
The second technique is the door in the face technique. This acts in the opposite manner. This involves making a huge request, getting the request rejected, and then making a smaller one so that the other person feels obliged to fulfill the smaller request. In this case, your friend, partner or loved one will ask you for a large sum of money and when it is refused outright, will reduce the amount to a smaller one so that you feel obliged to fulfill the request.
They are constantly using the home-court advantage
Being at your place of power like your home or office can be empowering. This is most often used by manipulators to create an imbalance of power and make the other person feel small.
- Come to my office when you can. I am too busy to come to you.
- You know I cannot take that long trip for you. So you better come to my home tonight.
They will stay very close to you in order to control you
Emotional manipulators are experts at making you feel like you know them. They will not bother to go over the traditional ‘get to know each other’ phase. Instead, they will directly jump and discuss their insecurities or problems with you. They will make you feel special so that you tell them your secrets. Once your secrets are out, they will easily use them against you.
- I like that we are connecting on a deep level. I have never had such an experience with anyone else.
- I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is so much like me and shares my version. It seems like we are meant to be together.
They allow you to speak first
Even though this tactic is most often used in case of business relationships, it can also be used in personal cases. When someone is trying to establish control and manipulate the other person they may ask questions that will get you to share your concerns and thoughts before time. You don’t know what the other person has in mind. However, they will use your answers to change and manipulate their own decisions.
- Oh my God, I have never heard anything good about that other company. You said you were there? What was your experience like?
- Well. you have to tell me why you are mad at me again. I do not know at all.
Rephrasing of questions
Manipulators are so desperate to get the information out of you that they will repeat the same question in different manners until they get the desired answer.
For example, if the manipulator wants to know whether the victim is attending a party, the questions would be as follows:
- Hey, I heard you are going to that party. What time are you leaving?
- Aren’t you going to that party being held at Rob’s house?
- What are you wearing to Rob’s party tonight?
These questions will be asked at random when the victim least expects it. The aim here is to get confirmation that the victim is going to the party so that the manipulator can use that fact against the victim and say that the victim previously lied about going to the party.
Manipulators are experts at twisting the facts
Emotional manipulators are experts at twisting reality with their statements or lies. The primary objective of this action is to confuse you or gain your sympathy and support. They may even exaggerate a situation or event to make themselves feel more victimized and vulnerable. They will also understate their role in a conflict so that they can gain your sympathy.
- I asked her a simple question about her progress and she just started yelling at me. You know I don’t deserve such behavior from her right?
- I cried all night and I could not sleep even for a second. That is how much this person has hurt me.
- She just pushed me and went over. I was lucky that I did not get hurt.
Masters at intellectual bullying
If your partner or anyone at your workplace tries to overwhelm you with a ton of jargon, facts or statistics when you ask a simple question, this is a sign that you are being manipulated.
Many manipulators will act as if they are an expert on the subject and will try to impose their knowledge on you. This is normally observed a lot in the case of financial or sale situations. This may also occur at home, especially when parents are trying to manipulate their kids.
- I have a ton of experience in this. I don’t expect that you to understand this right away.
- I know this is a ton of numbers for you. So I will try and go through it slowly for your benefit.
This type of manipulation is most commonly observed in business or professional scenarios. In this case, the manipulator will try and weigh down the victim with procedures, red tape, paperwork etc.
In case you question their flaws or express any kind of scrutiny they will turn their weakness into another question for you to throw you off balance.
- This is just too hard for you so I will stop this now and you can save yourself the headache.
- If you know it all, why don’t you do it all by yourself? Let’s see how far you can go.
- You don’t understand the amount of headache you are uselessly creating for yourself
You feel guilty talking about your concerns
In case you make a suggestion or even a hint that goes against the manipulator, they will respond to you in an extremely aggressive manner and draw you into an argument. The use of this strategy allows the manipulator to control as well as influence the decision you take. After this, you are most likely to change your decision.
- I just don’t get why you cannot trust me.
- You know how I am. I am just a little anxious. It’s not my fault if I just want to know where you are at all times so that I know that you are safe.
They will downplay your problems
If you are having a hard day, an emotional manipulator will seize this opportunity as a time to bring out their own issues. Their goal here is to invalidate your feelings and force you to focus on them and exert all your emotional energy on the manipulator’s problems.
- Do you think that is bad?. Imagine having to live with the person who is on the phone practically 24/7.
- Be thankful you have a mother. Imagine the condition of all those orphans who grew up without one.
They will make you feel that all problems are only because of you
Emotional manipulators are experts at turning the tables under any kind of circumstance. If you are having a bad day, they will make you feel responsible for the bad day that you are having.
- I told you this was not a good career choice for you. But you never listen to me and do what you want. Now, look at the work pressure that you are under. You brought this upon yourself so face it now.
They behave like a martyr
An emotional manipulator will be eager to help you out at first but then they will turn around and behave like the task is a huge burden and they just cannot do it. They will try their level best to make you feel guilty for putting so much of a burden on them and will try to use your sympathy to get out of the work.
- I understand that you need me to do this. but this is just too much work. I already have so much on my plate right now. I don’t know if I can manage all of this.
The ‘just joking’ factor
If your manipulator says something that really offends you, they will quickly cover it by saying ‘I was just joking. However, such actions make them successful in planting that seed of doubt in your brain about your capability.
- Oh my God! I never thought you would get here!
- Yeah right! It’s not like any of us have any work to do. You are the only one with all the work.
They refuse to be accountable for anything
Emotional manipulators never accept responsibility for their mistakes. They will try to find a way to turn it around and indicate that you are the reason for the problem. It doesn’t matter even if the problem does not concern you. They will find a way to force you to feel guilty. You will land up apologising for something which you do not do in the first place
- I did it because I love you.
- If you did not bother to go out and cheer for your kids, you could have finished the project on time.
Experts at ‘stealing your thunder’
If you find a reason to be happy, an emotion manipulator will find a reason to make you feel bad. If you are suffering from A tragedy, an emotional manipulation will portray his or her tragedy as being bigger than yours and will downplay your problem to the point of it being non-existential
- Wow, this is such a great pay increase. Others must also have received some promotion right?
- I am so sorry that you lost your grandmother. I lost both my grandparents within a week’s time. So it’s not as bad for you as you think it is.
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If you are with someone who constantly degrades and dismisses you, constantly critiques your work behind the curtain of trying to make you better, you are being manipulated emotionally. Their purpose is to marginalize as well as ridicule you. This is their way of throwing their own insecurities onto you.
- You think eating solves all the problems.
- You just have to get the highest-priced laptop in the market. As if that would make you the best at your work.
Use your feelings against you
If you are feeling upset, an emotional manipulator will make you further upset by making you feel guilty for the feelings that you have. They will accuse you of being insensitive, selfish, and unreasonable.
- You would not question me if you really loved me.
- I did not take the job because I wanted a better future for you guys. If I was at a job all day, who would look after your studies and all your other needs?
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They will use ultimatums
If you are stuck in a relationship with your partner or if your loved ones are constantly using ultimatums as threats, you need to understand that you are being manipulated. An emotional manipulator will target your emotional weaknesses with aggressive statements to bring out an apology from you
- I am sorry I even gave birth to you
- I did so much for you and this is what I get in return. Maybe this is what I deserve for being such a good mother.
- I don’t expect you to do anything for me.
They are experts at being passive-aggressive
If your partner or your loved one sidesteps confrontation and talks behind your back or pretends to communicate with you in an indirect manner, you need to understand that you are possibly being manipulated.
- I wanted to talk to you about this but it seems that you are very busy.
- I thought it would be better if someone else told you about this since we are so close
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This is the gold standard of identifying a manipulative person. They will not directly respond to your messages, calls or emails or any other form of communication. They prefer to stay silent to show that they are very angry and upset and you are responsible for their behavior.
They will do something but later deny it
Manipulators excel at committing mistakes and then later putting it on someone else’s shoulders. They will also make you question your memory of the event that occurred. Your manipulator will take advantage of you when you cannot exactly pinpoint what happened. They will twist to the events of the day and present it making it seem like it was your fault things went sideways.
- I would have never said that. You are imagining things.
- I wouldn’t commit to something like this. You know I am way too busy.
They are overly calm in a crisis
Manipulative individuals often aim to make their victim angry while staying calm themselves. This factor holds true especially in the case of emotionally charged situations. They do so, so that they can use your reaction to target you. They will say something to ignite and infuriate you, once you get infuriated, they will turn the tables around and say that I never said anything in such a tone or I was not so angry, why are you being out of line.
- I never screamed and shouted at you. You instigated the whole fight by starting to scream at me.
Manipulators never take no for an answer
This is another gold standard of identifying when you are being manipulated. If the manipulator asks you to do something, just say no. The moment you say no, you will notice that your manipulator gets flustered, stressed, and starts to lose control of the situation. Manipulators hate hearing the word no. They will try their best to form a situation where you cannot say no and if you do say no, it sets them off balance and brings out the real face which is hidden underneath layers of manipulative behavior.
They cry on cue
This is another gold standard of manipulation. Manipulators sxcel are crying. The moment they are confronted about their behavior or if it seems to them that they won’t get what they want, they will start crying. Crying is their biggest weapon. When a person really cries, the crying is accompanied by snot production. However, in the case of manipulators, there is no snot production. They just cry crocodile tears and will make their voice sound shaky in order to make you feel guilty and get what they want from you. They may also switch off their crying and laugh in the middle of a conversation. This is because they never cried from their heart in the first place.
If you notice that your partner starts to cry at the drop of a hat, keep a close watch on his or her behavior. You might be emotionally getting manipulated.
Make dramatic statements
Manipulators are experts at making dramatic sentences that would make you feel special or completely guilty Like, ‘you are the only one I have ever loved’, ‘you are my only family’ etc. If you notice that your partner or loved one is crying, shaming you, or showering you with too much affection in order to get you to do something that they want, this is a sign that you are being manipulated emotionally.
They will make you question your mental sanity
A crucial part of manipulating someone is making them feel that they do not know what is happening. Manipulators make sure that the victim is not able to trust their own experience or instinct. This is done so that the victim becomes more dependent on the manipulator. If you feel that you are losing a sense of what is reality and what is imagination, this should be a huge red flag that you are possibly being manipulated.
- How come you don’t know how to work this? Everyone knows it.
- I was not late. You just don’t remember when I said I had come.
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What to do if you realize that your loved one or co-worker is manipulating you?
Manipulation is not something that can be figured out very easily. However, it is not impossible to detect it either. The initial signs of manipulation are very subtle. However, the signs tend to grow as and when time passes and become more and more obvious. Over time you will realize that you are being manipulated.
Once you realize that you are being manipulated emotionally, trust your instincts and follow the following steps
Apologize and move on
You know manipulative people will not give you an apology. However, this does not mean that you have to keep telling what happened. Even though you were being manipulated, apologize for the mistakes you committed and do not talk about any other accusations.
Don’t try to play their game
Do not even try to manipulate the manipulator. Instead, it is better if you just learn to recognise the signs of manipulation so that you can prepare your responses and escape from the scene.
Set your boundaries
Boundaries are very important in order to escape someone who is manipulating you. A manipulative person will primarily focus on evading your boundaries. However, when they start to realise that they are losing their hold over you, their tactics will grow more desperate.
Some additional tips:
If you can afford to not be near that person, cut him or her out of your life completely.
If you have to live with that person or work closely with that person, you will have to focus on understanding his or her game plan and manage it accordingly.
It is best if you seek help from a therapist or a counselor about how to handle such situations. He or she will be able to guide you best.
You can also discuss your problem with a trusted family member or a close person who can keep a watch on the manipulator along with you and help you understand the manipulation tactics and what to do in those scenarios.
No one deserves to be manipulated. You are not an object, you are a person with feelings. No one has the right to mould your feelings in a way to cause intentional harm. Emotional manipulation does not leave physical pain, but the emotional scars they leave have an extremely long-lasting effect. It is not impossible to heal from these but it takes time.
If you decide to consult a therapist, he or she can help you understand the patterns which are dangerous. The therapist can also help you identify the manipulator’s game plan as well as control and confront the manipulator’s behavior and hopefully help stop it in the future.
You can also opt to go for a support group. Hearing others’ experiences of a similar kind will show you that you are not alone, it will also give you the strength to handle the situation better.
See you in my next blog post