10 signs an emotional manipulator is trying to control you

by Isabel Cabrera | March 15, 2024, 1:13 pm

You may have experienced it… that sense of being manipulated, controlled, even toyed with. Like a puppet in someone else’s hands.

We’re all familiar with the feeling, aren’t we?

Often, you’re left wondering if it’s just your imagination or if there’s some truth to your suspicions. Emotional manipulation can be subtle and sometimes we don’t realize we’re being played until it’s too late.

If this has been your experience, trust me, you are not alone.

This behavior is more common than we’d like to admit, and recognizing it can be quite tricky.

But don’t worry – that’s what we’re here for!

In this article, we will highlight 10 signs that reveal if an emotional manipulator is trying to control you.

1. They downplay your feelings

I remember a time when I had a disagreement with a former colleague. I felt hurt by his words and when I expressed my feelings, he shrugged it off saying, “You’re just too sensitive”.

Sounds familiar?

This is a classic move by emotional manipulators. They dismiss your feelings, making you question your emotional reactions.

It’s a way of controlling you, distorting your perception and making you feel guilty for what you feel.

2. They make you doubt your reality

Ever been in a situation where you recall an incident one way and the other person insists it happened differently? And they are so convincing that you start doubting your own memory?

This is gaslighting – a powerful form of emotional manipulation.

I once had a friend who was a pro at this. She’d twist events to her advantage and insist that her version was the right one. It took me a while to realize what she was doing.

Gaslighting is subtle but very damaging. It makes you question your sanity and erodes your confidence in your own perception of reality.

3. They use your weaknesses against you

Emotional manipulators are often remarkably perceptive. They’re able to quickly identify your insecurities and use them as leverage.

It’s a bit like a cheetah, who can identify the weakest member of a herd and single it out for attack.

In fact, in the wild, cheetahs are known to observe their prey for a considerable time before deciding the perfect moment to strike.

Similarly, an emotional manipulator observes and then uses your weaknesses against you at the most opportune moment to manipulate and control you.

4. They constantly play the victim

Have you ever tried to address a problem, only to have the other person flip the situation and make it about them?

Suddenly, they’re the one who’s hurt and you’re left comforting them, completely forgetting about your own feelings.

This is a sign of emotional manipulation.

By playing the victim, they divert the attention from your needs to theirs.

It’s a heartbreaking reality, especially when you care for the person, as it leaves you feeling neglected and unheard while you’re busy tending to their wounds.

5. They give you the silent treatment

I can still remember a time when a friend wouldn’t talk to me for a whole week because I didn’t lend her my favorite dress.

She ignored my calls, my texts, and even pretended not to hear me when I tried to speak to her in person.

The silent treatment can feel extremely punishing and is a common tactic used by emotional manipulators. It’s their way of expressing disapproval or disappointment, and it’s done in such a way that it pressures you into complying with their wishes just to bring an end to the cold war.

It took me some time to realize that this behavior was a form of control

6. They guilt-trip you

Emotional manipulators have a knack for making you feel guilty even when you haven’t done anything wrong.

They might say things like “After all I’ve done for you,” or “I can’t believe you would do this to me,” making you feel like you owe them something.

In my own experience, I’ve found that recognizing when you’re being guilt-tripped can be a game-changer.

It allows you to respond in a way that doesn’t let the manipulator win.

7. They rarely express genuine gratitude

A study found that expressing gratitude has a positive impact on relationships.

However, emotional manipulators often avoid expressing sincere thanks.

Instead, they tend to focus on what they haven’t received, making you feel that your efforts are never enough.

8. They make you feel responsible for their happiness

I remember an old boyfriend who would always say things like “You’re the only one who can make me happy.”

At first, I felt special and valued. But over time, I realized this was an unfair burden to bear.

No one should be made to feel solely responsible for another person’s happiness.

It’s manipulative and controlling.

9. They keep score

Ever had someone bring up old mistakes or favors they’ve done for you in the past?

Emotional manipulators love to keep score. They’ll remind you of their good deeds or your past mistakes to tilt the balance of power in their favor.

10. They make subtle threats

Emotional manipulators often use threats to maintain control.

These are not always blatant; they could be veiled as jokes or hypothetical scenarios that leave you feeling uneasy.

Recognizing these subtle threats is crucial in protecting yourself from manipulation.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that nobody deserves to be manipulated or controlled.

If you recognize these signs in a relationship,  consider putting some distance between you and the manipulator.

Taking care of your emotional well-being is vital, and you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

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