If someone displays these 11 behaviors, they’re a master manipulator

by Isabel Cabrera | May 23, 2024, 6:44 pm

Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling bewildered, questioning your own judgment? Like you’re in a haze of confusion, doubting your own beliefs? 

This might be more than mere coincidence. 

You may be dealing with a master manipulator. 

These cunning individuals have mastered the art of bending perceptions, and identifying their tactics can arm you against their influence.

Take notes, as these 11 behaviors may help you identify when you’re being manipulated.

1) Gaslighting (Making you doubt your own reality)

Have you ever been told, “You’re just being too sensitive,” or “That didn’t happen”? 

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where someone tries to make you doubt your own memory, perception, or sanity. 

They twist the truth, making you feel like you’re losing grip on reality. 

A dear friend once recounted her own encounter with a gaslighting partner. He would misplace items in their house and later accuse her of being forgetful. 

She spent months thinking she had memory issues before realizing the grim reality.

2) Using emotional blackmail

Ever heard something like, “If you really cared about me, you’d do this for me”? 

Manipulators are adept at pulling your emotional strings, making you feel guilty, ashamed, or even scared to deny their requests. 

They leverage your emotions against you. It’s a potent strategy because it targets your vulnerabilities. 

They know what matters most to you, and they won’t hesitate to use it as leverage.

3) They play the victim card regularly

One of the more insidious tactics employed by manipulators is consistently presenting themselves as the victim

By doing this, they divert attention away from their own wrongdoings and put you on the defensive. 

Instead of addressing the issue at hand, you’re left comforting them or apologizing. It’s a brilliant, yet devious way to shift blame and maintain control

You may find yourself thinking, “Maybe I was too harsh,” or “I should be more understanding.” 

However, remember that it’s not always your fault. Issues need to be addressed, not deflected.

4) Chameleon personalities (They mirror your desires)

Imagine meeting someone who just gets you. 

They have the same interests, dislikes, even the same dreams. It feels like you’ve known them forever, right? 

While genuine connections do happen, manipulators often mirror your desires to win your trust

By becoming your “ideal person,” they can influence you more easily. 

I once knew a colleague who would alter her stance on topics, mimicking whoever she was talking to. 

It took a while to catch on, but it was a chilling realization to see how swiftly she changed colors based on the company she kept.

5) Always needing a favor but never around when you need one

Reciprocity is the foundation of any balanced relationship. 

However, with master manipulators, the scales are often tipped in their favor. 

They might approach you with a sob story, needing your help urgently, but when the tables turn, they’re conveniently absent or too busy. 

Their promises of, “I owe you one,” rarely come to fruition. 

By maintaining this imbalance, they keep you in a perpetual state of owing them, ensuring you’re more amenable to their requests in the future.

6) Creating a sense of indebtedness

Manipulators are cunningly generous at times, offering help or gifts when you least expect it. 

But here’s the catch: these gestures often come with hidden strings attached

They’ll remind you of their kindness, making it seem like you owe them for their past benevolence. 

By doing so, they create an obligation, pressuring you to reciprocate in ways that may not align with your comfort or values. 

It’s their way of keeping a tally, ensuring they can call in a “favor” whenever it suits them.

7) Subtle belittling to shake your confidence

While overt criticism is easy to spot, manipulators often use understated ways to undermine you. 

They might share an anecdote, highlighting someone else’s achievements in an area you’re passionate about, making you feel inadequate

Or perhaps they hint that your success was just “luck” rather than talent or hard work. 

I recall a mentor from my early career days who, under the guise of offering advice, would highlight my peers’ successes, suggesting I had a long way to go. 

Over time, this eroded my self-belief, making me more reliant on his “guidance.”

8) Divide and conquer strategy

Manipulators know there’s strength in numbers. 

So, they employ a strategy to sow discord among groups, ensuring that they can control individuals more effectively. 

By spreading rumors, highlighting supposed slights, or exaggerating disputes, they create rifts between friends, colleagues, or family members.

This fragmentation ensures that there’s less collective resistance to their influence, and they can control narratives more easily.

9) They exploit your fears and insecurities

All of us have our own set of fears and insecurities. Manipulators are adept at picking up on these and using them against you. 

Whether it’s your fear of being alone, not being good enough, or any other deep-seated concern, they’ll subtly bring it up in conversations.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself being more reliant on them for validation and support. 

Remember, it’s natural to have vulnerabilities, but it’s another thing entirely to have someone use them as a tool against you.

10) Rarely taking responsibility for their actions

When things go wrong, it’s never their fault – or so they’d have you believe. 

A master manipulator avoids responsibility like the plague. Instead of acknowledging their mistakes and making amends, they find ways to shift the blame onto others. 

A close friend shared an experience where her partner, after making a costly error in a shared project, twisted the narrative so expertly that she felt responsible.

This happened even though she had no hand in the mistake. 

The mental gymnastics they can perform to avoid culpability can be dizzying.

11) Keeping score of every little thing

In any relationship, it’s natural to have give-and-take moments. But with manipulators, it’s always a scorekeeping game. 

They remember every tiny detail or favor they’ve ever done for you, not out of genuine kindness but as ammunition for future use. 

Casual comments like, “Remember when I helped you with that?” or “You owe me for last time” are their way of ensuring they have a constant upper hand. 

Genuine acts of kindness should never be transactional.

Shielding yourself against manipulation

While it’s important to be aware of manipulative behaviors, it’s equally essential to equip yourself with tools and techniques to guard against them.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you shield against manipulation while preserving your trust in others:

Self-awareness is the first line of defense

Before understanding others, you need to know yourself. What are your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and desires? 

By being self-aware, you’re less likely to be swayed by someone who tries to exploit your vulnerabilities.

Set and maintain boundaries

Decide what behaviors you’ll tolerate and which you won’t. 

Make it clear to others where your lines are drawn. If someone constantly crosses those lines, it’s a red flag.

Active listening

Pay close attention not just to what’s being said, but how it’s being said. Manipulators may use emotional language or loaded terms to sway you. 

By actively listening, you can discern the real message behind the words.

Trust, but verify

It’s okay to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if something feels off, trust your gut and double-check. 

This doesn’t mean you distrust everyone; it just means you’re being discerning.

Seek outside perspectives

If you feel someone might be manipulating you, talk to a trusted friend or family member about it. 

An outside perspective can often shed light on situations that might seem murky to us.

Learn to say “No”

It’s one of the shortest words in the English language, but often the hardest to say. 

Remember, saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s your right to decline something that doesn’t sit right with you.

Stay educated on manipulation tactics

The more you know about common tactics, the easier it is to spot them. Books, articles, and personal stories can all offer valuable insights.

Embrace open communication

If you feel uneasy about someone’s actions or words, communicate your feelings. Sometimes, it’s a simple misunderstanding that can be cleared up with a conversation.

Practice emotional detachment

This doesn’t mean becoming cold or distant, but rather not letting your emotions cloud your judgment. 

If someone tries to guilt or pressure you, take a step back and assess the situation rationally.

Seek professional help if necessary

If you believe you’re being manipulated, especially in a close relationship, consider seeking therapy or counseling. 

A professional can provide valuable tools and insights to help you navigate challenging situations.

Mastering awareness

Remember, protecting yourself from manipulation isn’t about building impenetrable walls around yourself. 

It’s about striking a balance – understanding when to extend trust and when to be cautious. 

It’s possible to navigate the world with an open heart without becoming a target for manipulators

Stay informed, stay aware, and trust yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *