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12 Warning Signs of Manipulation

Updated on July 14, 2014

What is Manipulation?

Manipulation is the process of trying to change another persons feelings, beliefs or behaviors through subtle and not so subtle tactics. Rather than being straight forward and asking for what they want, manipulative people tend to use deception, coercion and even physical threats to get their selfish needs met.

* guilt- superficial sympathy "If you loved me you would do this..."


* shame- "If you don't do this, you are a bad person.."


* excessive lying or evasion


* minimizing others feelings, nagging, silent treatment


* withholding and altering information or leaving out important details


* pretending to be confused or ignorant of the situation


* playing victim


* denying emotions and feelings


* claiming something is "God's will" or they are serving a higher calling or political cause


* seduction, using money or sex to get what they want


* covert intimidation- assault, temper tantrums, angry outbursts, verbal abuse


* rationalization - " They don't believe what I believe. They deserve to be punished."

Observing Manipulators-Understanding Motive

Have you ever observed the way children act when they want something really badly? Have you been in the same aisle of a toy store with a three year old child who relentlessly won't stop screaming until Mommy or Daddy takes a doll or truck off the shelf? Manipulation is learned at an early age. Over time, most children and adolescents develop an understanding, becoming conscious and aware when they recognize coercion or manipulating people is wrong. Unfortunately, this consciousness or the concept of right and wrong may never fully develop in some teenagers. There are many adults with narcissistic personality disorder who think it is their "right' to get what they want by intimidation or throwing temper tantrums. Emotions play a major role in manipulation. The whole point of manipulating someone is power and control. Outbursts or displays of extreme anger evoke feelings of fear in most people. Fear may cause us to feel so powerless and intimidated we relent to a manipulator's demands.

* Be aware of the way people act when they want something from you. Do they become unusually kind or sweet? Do they turn on the charm when it benefits them?

* Manipulators want you to feel inferior. If they make you feel like you're not good enough it makes it easier to blame you for their anger. You are easier to control.

* Manipulators will try to make you feel guilty or ashamed for who you are and what you believe. You're views are inferior. They seldom consider the thoughts and beliefs of others. You feel anxious, confused or unhappy most of the time you share their air space.

*They try to use money, gifts or other things you may value to get what they want. Then they will continue to make you feel like you "owe" them for the gift. "But I bought you that expensive dinner the other night the least you could do is....." or the more extreme version, " If you don't believe what I say, you are going straight to hell."

"When you get enough inner peace and feel really positive about yourself, it is almost impossible for you to be controlled or manipulated by anyone else." -Wayne Dyer

How to Challenge Manipulators

*Avoid being shamed or guilted into a situation. Recognize the feeling of being manipulated and confront the person or group immediately.


* When a manipulator is making a covert or outward threat, call them out. Ask them why they are threatening you. Ask them to explain. Most manipulators don't have a clear understanding of what or why they feel the need to use coercion.


*Ask them to tell you exactly what they want. Ask them to be clear and concise.

*Avoid sharing how the manipulator makes you feel. Guard emotions or feelings. A manipulator will use them against you as a tactic to get what they want in the future.

*Be direct, clear and honest with a manipulator. Let them know immediately when you sense you are being manipulated and prevent the escalation of further mind games.



Narcissism, Manipulators and Lack of Boundaries

Why Do People Manipulate?

*The number one reason psychologists and criminologists provide for manipulating behavior and narcissistic personality disorder is power and control over others.

* The need to raise their own low self-esteem.

*Manipulators have a great fear of abandonment. If they are alone who do they have to control? They use all of the above tactics to keep or confine another person or population under their rule.

* Manipulators actually hate themselves. They may feel worthless, helpless and hopeless and compensate for these feelings of powerlessness by trying to control others.


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