11 ways to instantly recognize a manipulative person

by Brendan Brown | April 25, 2024, 8:21 pm

Manipulators are everywhere.

I’m not saying that to freak you out. I’m saying it to remind you that we all need to be careful.

Because there are thousands of people out there who see you as nothing more than an object for them to use.

Manipulators use your emotions to control you and get you to do what they want. But for manipulation to be successful, it usually has to be hidden.

That means manipulators get very good at hiding their true intentions and making you feel like you’re not being manipulated when really, you are.

And like vampires, manipulators tend to disintegrate when you shine light on their schemes.

So with that in mind, let’s go over some of the ways you can instantly recognize a manipulator. Because spotting these dark personalities early can save you a lot of heartache and hassle down the line.

1) They come on too strong

Sometimes, you just click with another person.

Whether it’s a romantic relationship or just someone you want to be your friend, meeting those people that you seem to share an instant connection with is one of the great joys in life.

Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s not real.

Manipulators know that the best way to control others is to use their emotions against them. So the first thing a manipulator does when they meet a new target is try to get you to like them.

This can make them extremely charming people.

It can seem great that this charming person is so into you, that on a first date they are already talking about seeing you again and the relationship you will have together. 

Or that you have sparked up this instant friendship, and they are already making plans to see you again.

“It might feel great at first, but it usually leaves you isolated and makes you lose sight of who you are,” counselor Maggie Holland says. Ultimately, we all want to feel valued, and manipulators know exactly how to exploit that impulse to get you under their control.

2) They are overly generous

Giftgiving is a normal sign of affection in human relationships. For some people, it’s a primary love language.

But beware of people who are overly generous, especially early on in a relationship. Because this can be a sign of the love bombing that is a classic tactic of manipulative people.

A little gift here and there is fine, and is not necessarily an attempt to control you. But overly generous gifts that are out of proportion to the relationship you have with this person are a red flag.

If someone is trying to whisk you away on a vacation they paid for after a second or third date, for example, you might want to think carefully about why they are doing it.

3) They compliment you too much

The same goes for compliments. But this form of manipulation can be even harder to spot.

That’s because giving compliments is a normal part of human relationships, especially romantic ones.

If a guy doesn’t compliment a girl on a first date, for example, he’s probably pretty unlikely to get a second date.

On the other hand, there comes a point when the compliments become too much. 

It’s fine to tell someone that they have a cool jacket or that you like those shoes. It’s even fine to tell someone they are beautiful – if you mean it.

But if someone is constantly complimenting you to the point that it seems they think you can do no wrong, it may be a sign of manipulation.

4) They are superficial

There are lots of reasons why people are manipulative. Sometimes, it’s a sign of a personality disorder such as narcissism.

Other times, it’s a trauma response. Because they have been in relationships in the past when they had no power, now they have to control everyone around them.

But whatever the reasons that make someone manipulative, it often shows itself in superficiality, too.

That’s because to a manipulative person, all that matters is the surface.

Since they lack empathy, they are unwilling or maybe even incapable of understanding that people have intrinsic value and worth that doesn’t always show right away.

A manipulative person may make snap judgments about others based on how they look or talk without taking any time to get to know them.

And that can be a good sign of someone who is out to manipulate you.

5) They love to say ‘we’

In his book The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, author Gavin de Becker uses the term ‘forced teaming’ to describe a behavior manipulators use to get people to feel closer to them.

In other words, they like to use the word ‘we’ a lot.

“We should do this.” “We’re a team.” “We should go somewhere to talk.”

Here, the goal is to make you feel like you are in a select group with the manipulator, and that your goals are the same. This allows them to get closer to you and makes you more easy to control.

6) They lie

Lying is a very common tool in the toolbox of manipulative people

Unfortunately, that means they often get good at it.

Especially in the first meeting, it can be difficult to know if someone is lying to you.

But keep a careful eye out for any lies you spot, especially when you first meet someone.

Because if they are willing to lie to you when they barely even know you, their lying behavior is likely to get worse, not better.

7) They are evasive about their past

Manipulators are good at hiding, but not so good that they never get found out. So often, a manipulator leaves a trail of shattered relationships behind them when their sneaky ways are finally discovered.

That means they rarely have long-term friendships. It also means that they almost always end romantic relationships on bad terms, and get fired from jobs where they have created toxic environments.

If someone you just met is reluctant to talk about anything from their past and tries to change the subject when you ask, it could be a sign of lots of things. But often, it’s a sign of a manipulative person who is best avoided.

8) They blame everyone else

One of the most striking things you notice about a manipulator is that nothing is ever their fault.

So when something goes wrong in their life, they will play the blame game, pointing fingers at anyone and everyone to avoid taking responsibility themselves.

When you first meet someone like this, they will blame others for things that have gone wrong in the past. 

Maybe it was that crazy ex. Maybe it was their tyrannical boss. Maybe it’s their parents, the government, or society at large.

But if you end up in a relationship of any kind with this person, before long, the person getting the blame will be you.

“You can count on the manipulator to avoid accountability with phrases such as, ‘I warned you not to do that,’ ‘It’s too bad you made such a poor choice,’ or, ‘If only you had thought more about the possible consequences,’” says psychiatrist Carla Marie Manly.

And that’s a person you definitely want to avoid.

9) They use guilt trips

As your relationship with a manipulative person progresses, they may start to use guilt to get you to do what they want.

Guilt trips are another classic tool in the arsenal of abusive people. By making those around them feel guilty, they can help to discourage behaviors they don’t want and encourage those they do.

What’s really evil is that guilt trips only work on people who actually care about you. That’s how these people end up hurting those closest to them and leaving a trail of emotional wreckage behind them.

10) They create drama

Often, manipulative people crave attention. And they are definitely not above creating drama with others to get it.

A manipulator may pick fights with your family and friends, then paint themselves as the victim to make you feel sympathy for them.

Or, as psychologist Perpetua Neo points out, they may use something called a ‘drama triangle’, which allows them to flip instantly from victim to persecutor to rescuer, sometimes in the course of a single conversation.

11) They try to isolate you

People who are looking to exploit and abuse you need you at your weakest. And because good relationships make us stronger, they will try to damage or destroy them wherever possible.

That’s why they will often isolate their target.

They will try to separate you from friends, family, and the rest of your support network. They may try to turn those people against you, or you against them. Or they may try to get you to move to a new location.

However they do it, it’s a dangerous sign of soIt’smeone who is trying to control you.

Leave a Reply

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