Hi Psych2goers! Have you ever wondered about master manipulators? This phrase describes people who have extremely high manipulative tendencies, whether intentionally manipulative, or not.
Please know that this is only for educational purposes and not meant to attack anyone in any way. If you find yourself relating to one, two, or many of the following signs, it doesn’t automatically classify you as a master manipulator.
With that said, here are 10 signs that someone could be a master manipulator.
1. They don’t always seem intimidating
Did you know that many manipulators don’t come off intimidating? In fact, a classic characteristic of a master manipulator is their charm.
According to an article from Medium, master manipulators often use their charm to perpetuate a cycle of abuse (Johnson 2020). Though charm is often associated with a first impression, master manipulators use their trait to their advantage to reel someone back in or to mask negative thinking (Johnson 2020).
2. They assume that humans are inherently evil
Do you believe that humans are naturally good, or naturally evil? Well, according to Psychologist Susan Whitbourne from Psychology Today, many master manipulators tend to believe the latter (Whitbourne 2020).
Now, with that said, we wanted to emphasize that just because you may believe one way or another, you are not automatically characterized as a master manipulator, or a manipulator at all. These are simply trends, not hard-and-fast rules. Whitbourne explains that master manipulators tend to believe that humans are not only inherently dishonest, but also that they are likely to take advantage of each other (Whitbourne 2020).
3. They find practical necessity for manipulation
Can you justify bending ethics, misleading others, and taking advantage of others for a greater benefit? If so, your thinking could be in line with that of a master manipulator.
Whitbourne said that master manipulators tend to justify a practical need for manipulation, which could manifest in a number of ways (Whitbourne 2020). Providing reasoning or justification doesn’t necessarily make someone manipulative, but it’s a good indication that they aren’t strongly opposed to the idea.
4. They like to embellish stories
Do you know someone who likes to exaggerate or embellish details when they tell stories? Maybe they add in dialogue or moments that never really happened? It turns out that this could be a sign of a master manipulator.
Embellishment is pretty common, and usually not ill-intentioned. However, at its core, it’s still a form of manipulation. Often, people embellish to sway their audience to feel a certain way or to gain empathy (Garis 2019).
5. Their phrasing is ambiguous
Pay attention to the language of a master manipulator. Do they use phrases such as “Your choice, but…” (DiValentino 2017)? While these phrases are not usually used with manipulative tendencies, they do tend to sway others into a different thinking pattern.
6. They use the silent treatment
Has anyone ever used the silent treatment on you? It’s agonizing. It’s painful. You want to do anything possible, even against your will, to get them to talk to you again.
The silent treatment is one of the examples of passive aggressiveness that can make someone a master manipulator (Johnson 2020). Rather than face a problem head on or have a conversation, some people tend to let passive aggressive actions guilt or shame others into compliance. According to an article from Medium, other common examples of passive aggressiveness are snide comments and even gossip (Johnson 2020).
7. They often use others for personal gain
Do you know someone who tends to use others in the face of adversity? This is a sign of a master manipulator.
According to Psychologist Dale Hartley from Psychology Today, disorders which may encourage people to become manipulators can also come with a fair share of depression, anxiety and other potential effects on their moods (Hartley 2015). If their coping mechanism is to use people and take advantage of them, there is a chance that they could be a master manipulator.
8. You are scared to say no to them
Are you good at saying no, except when it comes to certain people? Are you scared of the way they might react? They might be master manipulators.
The Medium article explains that when you say no to a master manipulator, you might be afraid of the pressure they’ll put on you to change your mind (Johnson 2020). If this is the case, know that you aren’t weak for feeling the way you feel and that the most important thing is to prioritize your own peace! Being manipulated is never your fault, no matter how you’re made to feel.
9. They talk in circles
Master manipulators might dodge questions they don’t want to answer, change the subject a little too quickly, or deceive you into thinking you’re wrong, just to avoid admitting fault or compromising.
They tend to be so intentional and precise with their language in these situations to avoid answering a question directly, while still trying to cover up and make the conversation progress as it naturally would.
10. They are diagnosed with a personality disorder
Did you know that manipulation can be a sign for a range of personality disorders? Hartley explains that in addition to Machiavellianism, personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder can increase someone’s tendency to be manipulative (Hartley 2015). However, it’s important to note that acting on these tendencies is still a choice, and having a personality disorder does not automatically make anyone a master manipulator.
For more information about some of these disorders, please check out some of our other videos!
We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the signs that someone could be a master manipulator. Could you relate? Did we miss anything? Let us know. Thanks for reading!
- DiValentino A (2017, Sept. 27). “6 Ways You’re Being Manipulative Without Even Knowing It”. Greatist. Retrieved from www.greatist.com/live/ways-you-might-be-manipulative#1
- Garis MG (2019, Oct. 07). “3 Ways to Spot the Under-the-Radar Manipulative People in Your Life”. Well + Good. Relationship tips. Retrieved from www.wellandgood.com/am-i-manipulative/
- Hartley D (2015, Sept. 27). “What Makes Someone a Master Manipulator?” Psychology Today. Machiavellians: Gulling the Rubes. Schrader J, reviewed by. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/machiavellians-gulling-the-rubes/201509/what-makes-someone-master-manipulator#:~:text=When%20someone%20habitually%20responds%20to,does%20not%20excuse%20bad%20behavior
- Johnson EB (2020, Aug. 05). “The common tactics of master manipulators”. Medium. Retrieved from www.medium.com/lady-vivra/tactics-of-master-manipulators-69da1ebb2ed
- Whitbourne SK (2020, Feb. 18). “12 Signs That You’re Dealing with a Master Manipulator”. Psychology Today. Fulfillment at Any Age. Fagan A, reviewed by. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/202002/12-signs-you-re-dealing-master-manipulator