People who are charming on the surface but manipulative underneath usually display these 10 subtle red flags

by Isabella Chase | July 2, 2024, 11:14 am

People aren’t always what they seem. Some folks may appear charming, but underneath they might be hiding manipulative tendencies.

Those who are manipulative tend to be experts at presenting themselves in the best light possible. These master manipulators use their charm to cover up their less savory intentions. But if you know what to look out for, you can spot the subtle red flags that hint at their true nature.

In this article, we will be exploring the 10 subtle signs displayed by people who are seemingly charming but manipulative underneath. 

So buckle up, it’s time to peel back the layers and uncover the hidden truth about those who may be manipulating you without even realizing it.

1) They’re overly charming

It might sound counterintuitive, but excessive charm can be a red flag. Most people are not charming all the time; we all have our off days.

However, the manipulatively charming individuals always seem to be in a great mood. They are often excessively complimentary, and their charm feels over the top.

This is because they use their charm as a façade to hide their manipulative behavior. They know that people are more likely to overlook their manipulation if they are well-liked and charming.

So if you come across someone who is always the life of the party, always saying the right things at the right time, it might not be because they’re incredibly socially adept. They may be using their charm to manipulate those around them.

Watch out for this subtle red flag – it’s one of the first signs of a manipulator in disguise.

2) They always turn the tables

One thing I’ve noticed about manipulative people is their uncanny ability to turn the tables in their favor, no matter the situation.

I remember a former colleague of mine who was a master at this. Let’s call him John. John was always good at shifting blame and never took responsibility for his mistakes. Whenever there was an issue or a mistake made, he had a knack for subtly steering the conversation in a way that it seemed like it was someone else’s fault.

There was this one time when he missed a crucial deadline on a project we were both working on. Instead of owning up to his mistake, he turned the tables, saying something like, “Well, if you had reminded me about the deadline, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

It took me a while to realize what was happening. John’s charming personality made it easy for him to deflect blame, and his manipulative tactics often left me feeling guilty and second-guessing myself.

This is a classic move by manipulators – they expertly shift blame and avoid taking responsibility. So if you notice someone constantly turning the tables, consider it a red flag.

3) They’re always the hero

You know those people who always seem to have the most amazing stories? They’ve saved the day, they’ve achieved the impossible, they’re always the hero of their own tales.

It’s charming, isn’t it? Makes you admire them, doesn’t it?

Well, hold on a minute.

While everyone has their moment in the sun, those who are consistently at the center of their own stories might be showing a subtle red flag. This could be an attempt to manipulate your perception of them, to build themselves up so you see them in a certain light.

This isn’t to say that every story-teller is a manipulator. But when someone’s tales always cast them as the hero, it might be worth taking a closer look at their actions rather than just their words.

After all, actions speak louder than words. And in manipulation, it’s not about what is said, but rather what is done. So keep an eye out for this sign.

4) They always play the victim

Another subtle sign of a manipulative person is the constant display of a victim mentality. These individuals are experts at playing the victim, often making you feel bad for things that aren’t your fault no matter the situation.

They portray themselves as misunderstood, under-appreciated, or unfairly treated, often to elicit sympathy and divert attention away from their manipulative behavior.

By playing the victim, they manipulate people into overlooking their actions and instead focus on their supposed suffering. This often results in people feeling sorry for them and going out of their way to help or support them, further enabling their manipulative behavior.

So if you notice someone constantly playing the victim, even when they’re clearly at fault, consider it as another red flag. It’s likely they’re using this tactic to manipulate those around them.

5) They’re experts at guilt-tripping

Manipulative individuals have a knack for making you feel guilty even when you shouldn’t. They can twist a situation in such a way that you feel bad for not doing what they want, even if it’s against your best interests.

This is a subtle form of manipulation, as it’s often done under the guise of care or concern. The manipulator might say something like, “I thought you cared about me,” or “If you really loved me, you’d do this for me.”

Such comments are meant to make you question your actions and feelings, pushing you to do what they want out of guilt. If you find yourself frequently feeling guilty in your interactions with someone, it could be a sign that they’re manipulating you.

Keep an eye out for this red flag – it’s a common tactic used by manipulators.

6) They rarely show genuine empathy

There’s something warm and comforting about a person who genuinely empathizes with you. They understand your feelings, share in your joys and sorrows, and make you feel seen and heard.

Regrettably, manipulative individuals often lack this trait. While they may put on a show of empathy, it’s usually surface-level and self-serving.

True empathy requires understanding and caring about others’ feelings, but manipulators are typically more focused on their own needs and wants. They use feigned empathy as a tool to gain trust and control.

This lack of genuine empathy can be heartbreaking, especially when you consider the emotional connection you might have felt initially. It’s a subtle red flag, but it’s an important one to watch for when dealing with potentially manipulative individuals.

7) They’re masters of gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that makes you question your own reality and sanity. It’s a psychological game that can be incredibly damaging.

A while back, I had a friend who was an expert at this. Every time we had a disagreement, she would twist the facts, deny things she’d said, or outright lie to make me feel like I was losing my mind.

“I never said that,” she would insist, or “You’re remembering it wrong.” These statements were made with such conviction that I started doubting my own memory. It was an emotionally draining experience and it took me a long time to realize what was happening.

This is a common tactic used by manipulators. They gaslight others to gain control and create confusion. If you ever find yourself doubting your memories or sanity in the presence of someone else, it could be a sign of gaslighting. Watch out for this red flag – it’s one of the most dangerous signs of manipulation.

8) They’re rarely at fault

Ever met someone who never seems to make a mistake? Or if they do, it’s never their fault? It’s always someone else’s mistake, or the circumstances were against them. It’s a subtle way of maintaining their image while deflecting any sort of blame or criticism.

Manipulative individuals have a hard time accepting when they’re wrong. They’ll go to great lengths to prove they’re right, even when evidence suggests otherwise.

This is because being wrong undermines their sense of control. To maintain this control, they may twist facts, deny evidence, or shift the blame onto others.

This is a classic move by those who are manipulative. By never accepting fault, they ensure that they maintain a certain image in your eyes. They appear as flawless, always right, always the victim of unfortunate circumstances or other people’s incompetence.

The problem is, nobody is perfect. And a refusal to accept blame where it’s due is not only dishonest but can also be an attempt to undermine your perception and judgement.

So if you’re dealing with someone who never admits to being wrong and always insists they’re right, it’s a significant red flag. It shows a level of manipulation that can be harmful and exhausting in the long run.

9) They use your insecurities against you

The most dangerous manipulators are those who use your insecurities against you. They have a way of discovering your weaknesses and exploiting them for their own gain.

These individuals are adept at picking up on subtle cues and using this information to manipulate and control you. They may use your insecurities to make you feel inadequate, or to make you doubt yourself.

If someone consistently brings up your insecurities in a harmful or exploitative way, this is a major red flag. It’s a sign that they’re not respecting your feelings and are using your vulnerabilities against you, which is a hallmark of manipulation.

Always remember, anyone who truly cares about you will not exploit your insecurities but support you through them.

10) They make you feel indebted to them

This is perhaps the most insidious sign of a manipulator: they have a way of making you feel like you owe them. They might do you a favor, but then hold it over your head. They might give you a gift, but then use it as leverage.

It’s a way of creating a power imbalance in the relationship, where they’re always the giver and you’re always the debtor. It keeps you feeling like you need to repay them, giving them control over your actions and decisions.

Remember, genuine acts of kindness don’t come with strings attached. If someone makes you feel like you’re constantly in their debt, it’s a serious red flag. Stand firm and don’t let anyone manipulate your feelings of gratitude into control.

Understanding the charming manipulator

Recognizing these signs in someone you know or care about can be a disconcerting experience. It’s important to remember, though, that these behaviors don’t automatically make someone a ‘bad’ person.

People often develop manipulative tendencies as a defense mechanism or coping strategy due to past experiences or traumas. They wear their charm like an armor, using it to navigate the world in a way that they believe is safest for them.

However, understanding this doesn’t mean that you should tolerate manipulative behavior. Everyone deserves to be in relationships where they are treated with respect and kindness, where there’s an equal give-and-take, and where manipulation has no place.

So what do you do if you’ve recognized these signs in someone?

First, trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is. Second, establish clear boundaries. It’s important to protect your own emotional health and well-being.

This could mean limiting contact with the person, refusing to engage in conversations where they display these behaviors, or even seeking professional help if the manipulation is severe or causing distress.

It’s also possible that the person may not realize the impact of their behavior. Having an open conversation about your observations can sometimes lead to change.

But remember, it’s not your responsibility to fix them.

Coping with someone who is charming on the surface but manipulative underneath can be challenging. But by recognizing these subtle red flags, you’re taking the first step towards dealing with such individuals effectively.

Remember to be kind to yourself as you navigate this complex terrain. You’re not alone, and help is available.

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