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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.


Submit a Comment

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Suzette. Manipulation is something we all do to varying degrees but there are times when we have to be aware of intent and motives as well as be cautious so as to protect ourselves and those we love . Thanks again for your support!

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    4 years ago from Taos, NM

    Excellent article. You define manipulator a well and you give great suggestions on how to avoid being manipulated. Well done!

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your comment, Crafty. Recognition is key. Peace to you.

  • CraftytotheCore profile image


    4 years ago

    I have way to much experience being on the recipient end of manipulation. It made me who I am today and I am a better person for it. Now I know who to avoid. Forgiveness set me free.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for such a clarifying comment Flourish. We need to guard ourselves against toxic people. We can't allow others to make us feel less than we are or try to take over our lives and emotions. Appreciate you taking the time to comment, especially with your valuable insights and experience as an organizational psychologist.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting Happyboomernurse. I sincerely hope you don't have to deal with many manipulative people in your lifetime. Thank you for stopping by.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    When I sense that I am being manipulated, I try to confront it. If that doesn't work repeatedly, I avoid that person if I can, excising them from my life in order to protect myself from their harmful ways. No one likes to be made to feel guilty for something they did not do, lied to, nagged, given the silent treatment because they did not act "right," intimidated, etc. When it comes to games, I am DONE. I do not permit it.

  • Happyboomernurse profile image

    Gail Sobotkin 

    5 years ago from South Carolina

    Enjoyed this well written hub about manipulative behaviors and how to respond when someone is trying to manipulate you.

    I agree that a direct, clear and honest response is the best way to handle this situation. It is also the healthiest way to act in most other situations.

    I particularly liked the Wayne Dyer quote.

    Am voting this hub up across the board except for funny.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading and sharing Vinaya. Manipulation is connected to our power of intent and our selfish need to control others. That's why I love the quote by Wayne Dyer ,"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 Dye

  • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

    Vinaya Ghimire 

    5 years ago from Nepal

    My parents and siblings say I'm a great manipulator. However, I don't think myself as a manipulator; or, maybe I am, I don't know.

    I think being manipulated is as bad as manipulating someone.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Rajan. Your comment is the truth. Thank you for adding your wisdom.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Manipulators manipulate people at the emotional level and when they see they cannot do it they back out. Thanks for listing signs that the manipulators use.

    Voted up and useful.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting lovedoctor926. Your feedback is always appreciated. Best to you.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you, Romeos. Your comments and insight are greatly appreciated. I have really enjoyed reading your poetry and I look forward to reading and commenting more when time allows. Thank you again and have a beautiful, peaceful evening.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Excellent hub. voted up!

  • Romeos Quill profile image

    Romeos Quill 

    5 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

    Quite a useful, no-nonsense explanation of manipulation LkMore01, which illuminated, and completed a few unfinished thoughts for me. The video was indeed, educational. Thank you very much, for a fab article, and have yourself a lovely weekend. Sharing....

    Yours Sincerely,


  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading and sharing , Ebonny. Your comment is very much appreciated.

  • Ebonny profile image


    5 years ago from UK

    Thank you so much for sharing how to recognise a manipulator and how best to challenge them. Will share, link and voting up.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Ann.

  • profile image


    5 years ago

    Great hub. I was nodding my head while reading this. A family member is a manipulator to the point of being dangerous. At least I've known for years this person was manipulative. I had to finally break all ties - it was hard as this is a sibling, but absolutely necessary. Voted up and useful.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you reading and responding, Joe. What really inspired this HUB was current events. Trying to analyse and understand the minds of people who can and will do us the most harm.

  • LKMore01 profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Bill. The article was inspired by our most recent tragic event.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image

    Hawaiian Odysseus 

    5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Man is the only creature to analyze and apply labels to other living organisms.

    I have no problem with the science of it. What I have a problem with is that it goes too far. To prove my point, simply ask yourself this: Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or more years ago, were people writing, reporting, televising, telegraphing, telephoning, and generally communicating to each other about manipulators and narcissists?

    Today, just about every medium we engage in makes mention of these and other disorders.

    I'm old school. I can tell more about who someone is by their eye contact and handshake and whether or not they'll have a meal with me.

    All that other stuff? I'll leave it to the scientists.

    Aloha, Lisa!


  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Been there and been on the receiving end and I'm not going back. In a way, aren't we all manipulators to a certain extent, in that we all try to get our needs met?

    Excellent information and suggestions, LK!


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