Do you feel like someone you know is a manipulative person? Maybe you’ve seen them manipulating someone, or you’ve felt they’re doing it to you. But if you’re not completely sure of it, you may feel uneasy confronting them or accusing them. Manipulative behavior sometimes might not be so easy to recognize – the person can seem totally honest and well-intentioned from the outside, but they know exactly what they’re doing. Through different techniques and behaviors, they might try to control your behavior, thoughts and emotions.
Today we’ll be discussing the topic of manipulation – what are some manipulative behaviors? How can you spot them? And most importantly, how do you deal with it?
1. Playing the victim
Guess who plays the victim game the best? Manipulators!
In order to get what they want, they make themselves seem like victims or martyrs. They say things like “Nobody understands me!” – they feel sorry for themselves and want to make others feel the same way. By acting this way they’re trying to gain your sympathy and make you feel bad if you don’t help them or do as they say. They keep throwing pity-parties for themselves, and make everyone else seem like terrible people who are plotting against them.
“No, that didn’t happen, it’s all in your head, you’re just overreacting again…”. Classic manipulator lines: making you question your own reality, also known as gaslighting.
Manipulators use this technique when they want to make you believe that what you think or remember is wrong. When they first start you might be confused, because why do you remember the situation differently? But after some time, you may start blindly believing them and questioning your own mind. You may even start feeling like you’re going crazy, and that’s what makes this manipulative behavior dangerous for your mental health.
3. Passive aggression
Another behavior that manipulators exhibit is passive aggression. Passive aggression means indirectly expressing anger, instead of directly saying how you feel. A passive aggressive person desperately needs to feel dominant and in control, and they do it by making others feel inadequate. They often have sarcastic remarks, tease you about your insecurities, often pick fights or give silent treatments if you don’t fulfill their wishes. Not only do they feel these tactics can ensure they get whatever they want from others, but it also makes them relieve their own feelings of deficiency.
When someone wants to manipulate you into doing something, they might use guilt-tripping. With this strategy, they make you feel bad about yourself so you end up doing the thing, even if you really don’t want to. Maybe it’s going out with them even though you’re too tired, or helping them with something even if you’re just too overwhelmed with your own responsibilities. They might say things like “Oh, but I do so much for you, why can’t you return the favor”, or “Well, I guess I don’t mean that much to you anyway”. By using guilt, they make you feel like you owe them something or make you seem like a bad person. And at first, you feel like helping them would make you feel better, but it makes you feel miserable instead.
5. Using cruel humor
This last tactic that manipulators often use is meant to poke at your weaknesses and make you feel insecure. If they make you look and feel bad, they get a sense of psychological superiority and think they gain power over you. They know your soft spots – no matter if it’s your looks, some embarrassing thing that happened to you or your recent breakup. They’ll bring it up like they’re saying a joke, and act surprised when you say it’s not funny. They’ll just simply say: “Oh, why can’t you take a joke!”. Even though they know very well it’s not just a joke.
What to do?
This is how manipulative behavior looks like, but how do you protect yourself from it?
Remember your rights
It is not easy to remember your worth when you’re being manipulated. You may feel like you can’t really trust yourself anymore. But that’s why you should remember the basic rights you have as a human. Everyone deserves to be happy, right? Everyone deserves to have a choice, to have boundaries, to be valued by others. If you believe other people have those rights, you do too. Tell yourself something kind everyday, and actively choose to respect and love yourself, in spite of that person who makes you feel the opposite!
If possible, try getting away from that person, as far as you can. Don’t return their calls or answer their texts unless it’s important. If they ask you to meet, use the good old “I’m busy” excuse. If you unfortunately live together, try going out for a bit when they become too much to handle. You could also try inviting someone over, since they are less likely to show their true colors if someone else is watching.
Don’t give any meaning to what they say
After (or even during) a conversation with them, challenge every word they say. Why would what they say be true? Did they say that because they have your best interest in heart? Is there a good and rational reason for you to believe them? Would someone else behave the same towards you? Finding faults in their words could make it easier for you to break free from their influence.
Ask for advice
Sometimes all we need is a change in perspective. So when a manipulator tries to sell you their own reality, it would be a good idea to use a different set of eyes. Is there a person you trust? Call them, tell them about what’s happening and ask for their opinion. Maybe they’ll be able to give you more insight – make you see that other perspective that the manipulator doesn’t want you to see.
In the end, the most important message is this – if you’re being manipulated, it’s NOT your fault. How people act towards you and the choices they make is not in your control. Try to be gentle on yourself, as much as you can. Try out some of the advice we gave, or browse for some more resources. You are not alone in this, and there’s always someone happy to support you. Even if it’s a comment section full of strangers, or a YouTube channel. We got your back!
10 Signs Someone’s Always Playing the Victim. (2020, February 12). Bright Side. https://brightside.me/inspiration-psychology/10-signs-someones-always-playing-the-victim-795792/
How Exactly To Respond When A Toxic Person Tries To Guilt Trip You. (2021, December 12). Mind Body Green. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/guilt-trips
Journal, T. M. (2019, April 15). 13 Ways Manipulators Use Passive Aggressiveness To Manipulate and Abuse You. The Good Men Project. https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/13-ways-manipulators-use-passive-aggressiveness-to-manipulate-and-abuse-you/
Laderer, A., & Mutziger, J. (2022, March 4). Am I being manipulated? Here’s 9 tell-tale signs, according to couples therapists. Insider. https://www.insider.com/signs-of-manipulation?amp
Sachdev, G. (2021, February 15). Dealing with manipulative people: This is the only guide you’ll ever need. Healthshots. https://www.healthshots.com/mind/emotional-health/how-to-deal-with-manipulative-people/amp
Teresa Newsome, & Steber, C. (2021, August 3). 13 Signs You’re Being Manipulated In A Relationship, According To Experts. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/wellness/signs-youre-being-manipulated-in-relationship
What Is a Guilt Trip? (2021, September 20). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-guilt-trip-5192249