10 Types Of Emotional Manipulators And How To Deal With Them

In one of our YouTube videos we discuss the top 10 types of emotional manipulators. Emotional manipulators are people who, whether they realize it or not, use emotions as weapons. They get what they want in their relationships no matter the cost. If it takes playing the victim or blaming the other person, they’ll do it without batting an eye. If they have to give the cold shoulder or tear down their partner’s confidence, they’ll do that too. It seems scary if you’ve never experienced it before, and it can get even scarier if you realize you’ve been friends with an emotional manipulator without knowing it. Luckily, we’ve created this comprehensive list to help you deal with emotional manipulators in your life. These tips should help you keep your power in a manipulative relationship, and hopefully will help you help them.

1. The Constant Victim
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If you know someone who’s always making themselves out to be the victim, no matter what the circumstances seem to be, you’re dealing with the Constant Victim kind of emotional manipulator. These people might not know that they’re doing anything wrong; they’re so used to playing the victim they don’t know how to take responsibility for their actions. The best way to deal with these people is to help them learn how to take responsibility for their actions and reactions. Keep things light and positive, and it will slowly let them know that it’s okay to not be the victim. They’ll still be loved and respected, even if they made a mistake.

2. The One-Upsmanship Expert
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We all have that one friend who insists that they have it the worst; every time you have a bad day, they’ll tell you how they had a worse one. Every time you succeed on a project or at work, they tell you how they’ve ultimately still done better than you. This manipulator needs these comparisons in order to hold on to their power. They get their high status and confidence by putting down other people. They might seem impossible to deal with, but all it takes is one sentence to get them to stop. By saying “I appreciate you sharing that story, and I’m glad you can empathize with what I’m going through, but what I need is advice/comfort/someone to listen.” By accepting what the manipulator is doing and then saying ‘no thank you’, you’ve taken away their power without hurting them at all. Hopefully they’ll now give you what you need!   


3. Powerful Dependents

A misleading title, as these folks actually pretend to be powerless. Yes, this manipulator is one that doesn’t push their higher status on you. In fact, they default to you as the higher status individual. If you’re in a relationship where you feel like everything is on your shoulders (including the well being of the other person), you might be dealing with this type of manipulator. Your best bet is to slowly put them into positions of decision-making power, and to tell them why you’re uncomfortable with their lack of agency. While there might be some hard feelings, slowly the Powerful Dependent will realize that being equal is much better. They might even enjoy being given responsibility!


4. Triangulators
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These are the folks people most often think of when the phrase “emotional manipulator” is thrown around. These are the people that will say anything to get someone on their side, even if it means breaking up a relationship or a family. The more support they have the more they feel like they’re in power… And the more they continue to act like this. The best way to deal with a Triangulator is to keep open channels of communication going. No matter what the Triangulator is saying, you and your family, friends, and other relationships need to keep talking to each other. This way you’ll all be on the same page when this emotional manipulator comes in.


5. The Blaster
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Steamrolling over anything and anyone, Blasters use anger (and sometimes violence) to ‘blast’ the other person out of the argument. You don’t have any opportunity to ask questions if they’re yelling and screaming, which means they win by default. While they might be the scariest emotional manipulator, they’re also the easiest to deal with. Stay calm, and don’t let yourself be pushed over. They’ll tire themselves out eventually, and then you’ll have a proper discussion.


6. The Projector

These emotional manipulators believe that they’re the epitome of perfection. Or, at the very least, that they’re never wrong. They have no flaws and never make mistakes. In fact, it’s only the people around them that have flaws. What’s the best way to deal with this emotional manipulator? Don’t buy in. If they made a mistake, call on them to fix it. If they’ve said something wrong, then make sure they know you know. While we’re not saying point out all their flaws, we are saying that you need to call them on their bull. Nobody’s perfect, and mistakes are the only way we can grow.


7. The Deliberate Mis-Interpreter
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In any sort of relationship there’s going to be miscommunication. It’s difficult to be on the same page all the time, and the best friends, family, and couples know they’re able to work through it when it inevitably happens. They also know that it’s nobody’s fault. This manipulator, however, blames the speaker for the miscommunication, and uses their misinterpretation to frame the speaker negatively. The speaker is then worried about their communication skills, and they’re having their words used against them. The best way to deal? Make sure there’s no room for miscommunication. Speaking in “I feel” sentences are a great way to talk to this manipulator, as they can’t twist your feelings around as easily as they can twist a condemnation (for example, saying “I feel grossed out and sad that there’s week old dishes in the sink” instead of “You’re being gross leaving your dishes there for so long.)  


8. The Flirt
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We can all identify a little with this, but most of us don’t take it to the extreme that an emotional manipulator does. Regular people who are flirting don’t fall into this category. Flirting with someone is a fun experience, and shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. Using flirting to have everyone admire you, without any regard for the true feelings or good of others, is a bad thing though. These people use charm and sexuality to get what they want, no matter the hurdles. If you want to block this manipulator in their tracks, don’t get fooled by their wit and charm. Really make sure you know what they’re saying and what they’re asking for, and don’t get taken in with their flirtatious attitude.


9. The Iron Fist

These people are harsh, heavy, and not afraid to bash people down to get what they want. They’re tough, and they aren’t afraid to use force. The best way to deal with this emotional manipulator? Don’t let yourself be pushed around. Stand up to them, and hold your ground. If you feel physically unsafe though, do talk to someone in a position of authority. Sometimes we can’t deal with manipulators on our own, and need some help. There’s safety in numbers!


10. The Multiple Offender
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These manipulators are tricky. These people use any number of the above techniques to get what they want, and aren’t afraid to switch between manipulation methods. They also tend to combine methods. For example, they might be using flirtation and triangulation to get what they want, by getting people to love them while tearing down someone else. How can you deal with someone like that? Well… Our best advice is to get them out of your life. If they’re too important to you to cut out, then be prepared to deal with any and all manipulation methods; it might take time and energy, but you will eventually be able to get out of the manipulative relationship! Use the tips above, and let us know if you’ve had any success dealing with emotional manipulators!

Emotional manipulation is a frequent sign in abusive relationship. Watch this video on how to recognize these signs:

How do you guys normally deal with emotional manipulators or manipulations? 

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  1. Great article, I realized my SIL was one of these a while back. Ever since I started studying her, I’ve come to realize there have been many of these people in my life. Just not all get to the point of evil, like my SIL. The triangulate thing is unreal, they can literally get people, (people you’ve known your whole life) mad at you, for no reason.

  2. I suspected that I was actually manipulating people in some ways and hurting those I care about, and now that I read this I can certainly relate to multiple of these. How do I learn to stop this?

    1. I think the simple fact that you realised you might be hurting someone and want to stop that is a sign you’re absolutely not a sociopath! And I think to some extent everyone tries a little manipulation to get what they want and that’s perfectly normal and just human nature. If you really want to change some of your behaviours I’d recommend trying to imagine what a person must be feeling. Ask them if they get hurt what it was that hurt them so much and really remember it. Write it down if that helps you. Have interest in people’s life and try to see the big picture. Do that with yourself as well. Figure out what is hurting YOU as well as often we do these things to defend ourselves so maybe you have encountered a manipulative person as well? You don’t need to take all the blame on you every single time but you should reflect on your actions and always try to understand others. And again your comment shows me that you have a good heart because you do actually care about the people around you. So focus on that. Focus on how important they are to you and how you want to make them feel better. I wish you all the best and always keep going even if things seem hopeless. Best regard, Denise


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