If your someone displays these 11 behaviors, they’re emotionally manipulating you

by Brendan Brown | February 19, 2024, 9:39 pm

We all want others to like us.

Unfortunately, some people know exactly how to use that desire to be liked to manipulate others.

You see, while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be liked, it can leave you open to other people using your emotions to try to get you to do what they want.

And these people never have your best interests at heart.

Whether they are manipulating you for money, attention, sex, or some other reason, it’s never good to be on the receiving end of other people’s games.

Fortunately, some signs can tip you off that somebody is trying to manipulate you emotionally.

Keep an eye out for these behaviors that can warn you of a manipulative person.

1) Excessive attention/love bombing

This emotionally manipulative behavior is straight out of the narcissists’ playbook, but it’s not only narcissists that engage in love bombing.

Essentially, love bombing means showering someone with affection. Although that may not sound bad, it is when it’s a tool for manipulation.

Psychologist Alexander Burgemeester points out that the excessive attention provided during love bombing is designed to make the target feel dependent on and obligated to the person doing the love bombing.

In other words, by showering you with gifts, attention, and affection, a manipulatorwill try to make you feel indebted to them. 

And by acting like they really love you, they hope that you will come to love them, which makes you easier to manipulate.

2) Ignoring boundaries

Boundaries are how we create healthy relationships. Reasonable boundaries allow us to determine the kind of behavior we will and won’t tolerate from others. And those who love you ought to respect your boundaries.

On the other hand, manipulative people won’t.

In fact, manipulative people hate boundaries because they prevent them from doing what they want.

That’s why many manipulators will often ignore your personal boundaries.

As therapist Quinelle Hickman states, one sure sign of someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries is that they will continue to engage in a behavior even after you have clearly asked them to stop.

They may also try to argue with you over your boundaries, saying that they aren’t reasonable or that you’re being too sensitive.

However this boundary-ignoring behavior manifests itself, it’s a good sign that someone is manipulative.

After all, the only reason people have a problem with the boundaries of others is because they intend to violate them.

3) Disconnect between words and actions

Sometimes, the best way to judge a person is not by what they say, but by what they do. After all, actions speak louder than words.

I’m not talking here about someone occasionally failing to keep a promise or an appointment.

I’m talking about somebody who never seems to be able to stick to what they say.

They may miss appointments. They may break promises. Or they may behave in other ways that are inconsistent with the things they say.

For example, maybe they say they are family-oriented, but in reality, they hardly ever speak to their family.

If somebody talks a big game but doesn’t follow through, you have to wonder why they say things that are clearly untrue.

Often, it’s because they are trying to manipulate you.

4) Lying

The next step up from actions that don’t match words is actual lying.

Lying is one of the main ways that people try to manipulate others. After all, by distorting the truth, it’s possible to get people to act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

If you often catch people out in lies, they may just be bragging. On the other hand, they may be trying to emotionally manipulate you.

5) Guilt tripping

Trying to make other people feel guilty is another classic tactic from the manipulator’s handbook.

By making people feel bad about what they’ve done or what they haven’t done, the manipulator aims to control the behavior of those around them.

Psychology educator Kendra Cherry writes that signs of a guilt trip include:

  • Bringing up mistakes you have made in the past
  • Acting angry but then denying there is a problem
  • Exaggerating the effect your actions have had on them or others
  • Making it clear through body language, tone of voice, or words that they disapprove of your actions
  • Making sarcastic comments about your efforts

Guilt-tripping can take place in romantic relationships, but it can also often be a common dynamic within families.

Manipulative parents can guilt-trip their children into behaving however they want, and children can sometimes guilt-trip their parents.

No matter who does it to who, it’s manipulative behavior.

6) Isolation

Humans are social animals. That means we fear being isolated from our group of friends and peers.

Manipulative people use isolation as a weapon of control.

This often happens in a group of friends, where a manipulative person will try to turn others against someone who won’t do what they want.

It can also happen in romantic relationships, where one partner tries to control who the other partner spends time with socially. They may isolate the other person from friends and family to increase the control they have over that person.

7) Gaslighting

I spoke about lying earlier, but gaslighting takes it to another level.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and abuse that relies on using false information, distortion, and lies to make a person question everything they once believed, even about themselves.

Gaslighting is a particularly damaging form of manipulation, as it makes people doubt themselves and their perceptions. The goal is to control a person’s view of reality so that the manipulator can then more easily control their behavior.

8) The silent treatment

Like isolation, this tactic relies on the human need to be part of a group.

There are times in any relationship where we get mad at one another, and sometimes, it’s best to avoid talking to a person until our temper cools.

But the silent treatment means a prolonged and deliberate tactic of not talking to someone, shutting them out from social interaction.

As psychologist Kurt Smith points out, the silent treatment can be a form of emotional abuse and a threat to a person’s self-esteem.

9) Projection

Often, a manipulative person will project.

That means they accuse others of behavior that they themselves are engaging in.

A liar will accuse everybody else of lying. A narcissist will accuse everyone else of being self-absorbed.

Projection is part of the well-known manipulation tactic that goes by the acronym DARVO. Coined by researcher Jennifer Freyd, DARVO means:

  • Denying their bad behavior happened
  • Attacking the person who points out their bad behavior
  • Reversing the accusation by claiming that they are really the
  • Victim, and the person accusing them is the
  • Offender

10) Smear campaign

Manipulators know just how powerful isolation can be. That’s why they will often try to turn friends, other family members, or work colleagues against you.

One of the ways they do this is by using a smear campaign.

This means they talk behind your back in an attempt to get others to dislike you.

They may exaggerate your flaws and failings, or even lie about things you’ve said or done to get people on their side and away from yours.

11) Playing on your insecurities

Manipulators hate strong, confident people, as it makes their manipulation tactics less effective.

That’s why they often try to tear down others any chance they get.

One way manipulators do that is by playing on your insecurities. This is especially effective if they know you well and have a good idea of what you’re most insecure about.

Maybe they will criticize your looks. Maybe they will try to diminish your intelligence. Maybe they will belittle your achievements.

However they do it, manipulators will play on your insecurities to make you feel worthless so that they can continue to control you with their manipulation tactics.

Beware of manipulative people

Unfortunately, it’s possible to meet manipulative people in all walks of life.

It could be your parents or other family members. It could be a romantic partner. It could be a boss or a work colleague.

But wherever you encounter them, manipulative people are always dangerous.

So keep an eye out for these behaviors, which can tip you off to someone who is trying to emotionally manipulate you. Because being aware of their tactics makes it much easier to avoid their games and escape their control.

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