6 behaviors that scream ‘manipulative personality’

by Brendan Brown | May 8, 2024, 2:06 pm

Sometimes, a manipulative person is hard to spot.

Especially when you only see snippets of them.

Just like a narcissist, they can come across as very charming and endearing.

And it’s only over time you realize that they’re slowly chipping away at your confidence. Or lying to you to make themselves seem better (all the while putting you down).

Someone with a manipulative personality isn’t always a narcissist. But they can share some similar traits.

Keep reading to learn whether someone you know has a manipulative personality with these 6 behaviors that couldn’t be more obvious.

1) Giving love and taking it away

People with manipulative personalities seek love and acceptance.

They want to be wanted. And they’ll do whatever they can to make that happen.

Including giving love and taking it away whenever they feel like it – all to make you more interested in them.

It’s a little like the saying, “Treat them mean, keep them keen”.

My very first boyfriend in school used to do something like this. Some days, he’d shower me with love and attention.

Then he’d disappear off the face of the earth for a couple of days.

As Katy Perry expertly put it, he was “Hot N Cold”.

And when he did that, I wanted to talk to him more. I wanted to see him more. I was more “needy” and showed him more love – all because I wanted him back.

Looking back at our teenage selves, I can see that he was being intentionally manipulative. He wanted me to want him.

And my young self fell right into his trap.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior isn’t something that people always grow out of.

At least, not when they have a manipulative personality.

Because manipulative people will still do this to people they love to get their own needs met.

2) Guilt tripping you into doing what they want

Another thing manipulative people will do is make you feel guilty for living your life outside of their “terms”.

I remember a story a friend told me once about an ex.

Whenever they were going out and their ex wasn’t, their ex would say something like:

“Well, what am I supposed to do, sit around and wait for you to come back?”

My friend said it made them feel bad for going out with their friends. And sometimes, they’d even cancel plans to stay home with their ex because they felt so bad.

Looking back, they can see it wasn’t love.

Because you don’t make someone feel bad about doing things they enjoy because you’re jealous of them when you truly care for someone.

And if you do, you have a bit of a manipulative personality.

3) Being very selfish all the time

When someone has a manipulative personality, everything they do is for the benefit of themselves.

They never think or consider how something they do may affect you.

Like if they don’t message you to tell you they’ll be late home for dinner.

Or that they’ve booked plans for the next three weekends – leaving you to cancel your plans and stay at home with the kids/dogs.

Or that they’re changing jobs and it means you’ll need to pick up more shifts or do more of the housework – without even discussing it with you first.

And if you’re going through something, they’ll probably find a way to turn it around to make it all about them ­– so you end up comforting them instead.

4) Putting you down to lift themselves up

As mentioned above, people with manipulative personalities tend to be pretty selfish.

So, they’ll do anything to get their own needs met. These types of people crave attention and acceptance from others.

They also lack self-confidence and think they don’t have much to offer.

So, putting you down makes them feel bigger and better.

Like they may tell you you’re wrong (even if you’re not) so they look right.

Or if you’re doing well at something, they may criticize your appearance or make you the butt of the joke to make you look stupid.

5) Acting nasty out of jealousy

Again, because manipulative people are selfish, they never want you to do “better” than them.

So they’ll never be happy for you or your accomplishments.

If it appears that you are doing “better” than them, they’ll try to one-up you to make themselves look superior.

If you got a promotion, they got one too and it was better than yours.

If you’re going on holiday to Bali, so are they.

If your job is going well, theirs is going even better.

And, if they’re feeling particularly jealous, they may even try to make your accomplishments or life happenings seem bad.

Like if you tell them you’ve booked a trip to Bali, they’ll tell you how awful it is there and what a terrible time you’ll have.

And then when you’re sitting there feeling bad about it a week later, maybe even considering canceling your trip, you see them post pictures about how they are currently living their best life in Bali.

Because it’s all a lie said out of jealousy. And they want to be the only ones with good things – without you “stealing their thunder”.  

6) Being very materialistic and never satisfied with what they have

Manipulative people often want, want, want.

Nothing is ever good enough for them and they’re always looking for ways to get “more” – no matter the cost.

They may be obsessed with money, power, and status.

They want to own expensive things and the latest version of everything – even if they don’t truly want those things – just to say they have them.

Overall, they’re never satisfied with what they’ve got – and this might extend to you, too.

They may say things like they wish you were skinnier or that you wore dresses like other girls do.

Or that they’d be happier in the relationship if only you weren’t so “needy” or “insecure” – when really, they are the ones causing those issues with you.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, letting someone who has a manipulative personality into your life can be detrimental to your mental health.

When someone has these personality traits, their whole goal is to bring others down to pick themselves up.

Which, unsurprisingly, chips away at the confidence and self-esteem of the people around them.

Spotting someone with a manipulative personality can take time.

And, sometimes, when you realize how toxic they are, it can be hard to break yourself away from them – especially if it’s a parent, partner, sibling, or close friend.

But if they’re not willing to face their flaws, get help, and/or take action to stop acting the way they are (so they stop hurting you), then it may be time to let them go.

Or at least distance yourself from them and set better boundaries to protect yourself and your own self-esteem. 

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