9 Tell Tale Signs of Manipulative Behavior You Should Watch Out For

A common misconception is that manipulative behavior is always outwardly visible. This is not true, however, as manipulation can happen in very subtle ways. We at psych2go want to help you by educating people on the more subtle signs of manipulative behavior. Here are 9 signs of manipulative behavior. Not all of them may occur in all cases of manipulative behavior, but at least beware when you spot a significant amount of them.

  1. They somehow always say the right thing

The frustrating thing about consciously manipulative people, is that they’re usually quite good at working out where a person’s emotional vulnerabilities lie. Therefore they pick out what could be a soft spot for that person, and somehow always know what to say around them to get what they want.
manipulative behavior plays with emotions

  1. Too smooth

    There is a difference between smooth talking and manipulative talking. Are you tempted to do something you didn’t want to do at first because they worked you into it in a way that feels odd compared to normal convincing (like a friend would do)? Does it feel like they would be angry, or leave if you didn’t do the thing? Then it could be a case of manipulation.

  2. Possessive manipulative behavior

Do they act weird when you hang out with other people? Do they in any way try to make you dependent on them for ‘approval’?

You might also like this quiz: What is your mental age? 

  1. Words without actions

If people constantly say “you’re so important to me”, you would expect them to act like they feel that way as well. But if someone is constantly showering you with sweet whisperings but hardly ever has any actions to show for it, or only really approach you when they need something, it might just be manipulation.

  1. They push with manipulative behavior

Manipulative people know boundaries, but also know how to stretch or even cross them. Do you have the feeling someone is pushing you further and further from where you started off. Perhaps even until you are not comfortable anymore? Do you find it increasingly hard to tell them no, in fear of rejection or abandonment?
This also applies to physical boundaries, emotional and psychological boundaries.

  1. They rarely apologize, if ever

    manipulative behavior crying boy

People who constantly display manipulative behavior are also good at manipulating or explaining situations in such a way it’s never really their fault. Because of that they rarely feel the need to honestly apologize. They are also skilled at trying to change the topic when someone is rightfully criticizing them.

  1. Home is…

…where a manipulator plays their best game. Do you always have to interact with them in a space that is more theirs than yours? Whether it is their office, car, home or desk, if they hardly ever interact with you outside of a space that is essentially theirs it’s time to reassess. This is important in considering manipulative behavior because it would give them the ‘home court advantage’, a subtle way of establishing dominance.

  1. Displaying negative emotions in an…

    anger management manipulative behavior

…unusual way. Sometimes people who display manipulative behaviour tend to raise their voice at odd moments. They also get more angry than average at relatively small things, which messes up your baseline of what is acceptable behavior. Speaking loudly can also serve as a way to establish dominance and gain psychological advantage. Negative or degrading humor can also be used by manipulators to accomplish a similar effect.

  1. They give you…

… little or no time to decide. This is also used in a lot of sales tactics. By imposing a time related deadline the manipulator puts pressure on you before you’re really ready to make a choice. They give you very little chance to consider the situation in the hope you’ll crack and give in to them.


So these were 9 tell-tale signs of manipulative behavior. Do you know any others? Often the signs of manipulative are very subtle. If you have a gut feeling, at least try talk to someone about it.


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  1. I discovered I’m a real one of those bad people!
    Which is partly sad and interesting though.
    I’d try to behave,
    I promise.
    Luv u guys!

  2. I know a person who exhibits two of those traits. The thing is I’ve never met them in person. We have a strictly online relationship. They’re also good at mixing in gaslighting to go with their manipulation.


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