7 behaviors of people who play mind games with others, according to psychology

Ever heard the phrase “mind games”?

It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot. We encounter it in pop culture, in casual chats, and even in psychology. But do we truly understand what it means?

Here’s the thing.

Mind games, in essence, are behaviors aimed at manipulating or deceiving others. However, they’re often so subtle that it’s challenging to realize when you’re on the receiving end.

So, what if I told you there are telltale signs you can watch for?

According to psychology, there are seven specific behaviors commonly exhibited by people who play mind games. By identifying these, you could save yourself some unnecessary distress.

So, if you’re curious to uncover these mind game behaviors, stick around. We’re about to delve into some fascinating psychological insights that may just make your interactions a whole lot clearer.

After all, knowledge is power. And understanding these behaviors could be your first step towards gaining control over your interactions and relationships.

Now let’s unravel the mystery behind the mind games.

1) Constantly questioning your reality

Now here’s the first sign.

People who play mind games are often experts at making you question your reality – a manipulation tactic known in psychology as gaslighting.

Imagine this.

You’re confident about something you’ve seen, heard, or experienced. But then, this individual insists that your perception is wrong, or worse, that the event never occurred at all.

Ever been there?

If yes, you might be dealing with a master manipulator. They twist facts and experiences, making you doubt your judgment, memory, and sanity. It’s their way of gaining control.

Gaslighting can be subtle and insidious. But by recognizing it, you’re one step closer to not falling into the mind game trap.

Remember, trust your instincts, and know that your experiences are valid. Don’t let anyone manipulate your reality.

2) They’re hot and cold

Ever had a friend who was your best buddy one day and then distant the next?

I’ve been there.

A few years back, I had this friend – let’s call him John. John would be super friendly one day, sharing laughs, encouraging deep conversations, and showing genuine interest in my life.

But then, almost like a switch had been flipped, John would become cold and distant. He’d ignore my messages or act like our recent bonding session never happened. It was confusing and emotionally draining.

This hot and cold behavior is a classic sign of a mind game player. It’s a manipulation tactic used to keep you guessing, to keep you ‘hooked.’

One moment they make you feel special, and the next, they make you crave their attention and validation. It’s all about maintaining control.

So, if you notice this behavior in anyone around you, it might be time to reassess that relationship. You deserve consistency, not confusion.

3) They love playing the victim

Here’s a hard truth.

Not everyone who seems to be the victim is an innocent bystander. Some people love playing the victim card — and they do it strategically.

Take my neighbor, for instance.

Her stories were always filled with injustices she’d suffered, people who’d wronged her, and situations where she was the ‘poor, helpless victim.’ It was a never-ending saga of woe.

Yet I started noticing a pattern. She wasn’t just sharing her troubles; she was using them to manipulate others into giving her attention, sympathy, or even tangible benefits.

The ‘poor me’ attitude is a potent tool in the repertoire of mind game players. It’s a way to attract compassion and divert attention from their own destructive behaviors.

So, if you encounter someone who always seems to be the victim, take a step back. Consider if their tales of woe serve another purpose – one that keeps you wrapped around their finger.

4) They thrive on ambiguity

pic2718 7 behaviors of people who play mind games with others, according to psychology

Ever had a conversation that left you more confused than before it started?

That’s another sign of a mind game player.

They thrive on ambiguity. They’re experts at dodging questions, providing vague responses, or completely changing the subject.

I remember dealing with a coworker who was a pro at this. When confronted about missing deadlines, she’d weave an intricate web of excuses or shift the blame to someone else.

The way she danced around direct questions was both baffling and frustrating.

This behavior isn’t accidental. It’s a tactic used to evade responsibility and maintain control. By keeping you in the dark, they maintain the upper hand.

So, if you notice someone persistently avoiding clear communication, beware. You might just be dealing with a master of mind games.

5) They’re experts at guilt-tripping

Here’s a behavior that you might not expect – guilt-tripping.

People who play mind games are often skillful at making you feel guilty for things you shouldn’t be feeling guilty about. They twist situations so that you end up feeling like the bad guy, even when you’ve done nothing wrong.

Did you know that guilt is often referred to as the ‘control emotion’?

That’s right. Guilt has a powerful influence on our actions and decisions because nobody likes to feel guilty. And mind game players know this.

They use guilt as a tool to manipulate your feelings and actions, steering you in the direction they want.

So, next time someone tries to guilt-trip you, take a step back. Assess the situation objectively and remember that it’s okay to say no. You’re not responsible for managing other people’s emotions.

6) They’re always one-upping you

Ever shared a personal accomplishment, only to have someone immediately share their ‘bigger and better’ achievement?

It’s a subtle but common form of manipulation – always trying to one-up you.

I had a friend who did this all the time. If I shared about a great weekend getaway, she’d recount her extravagant overseas trip. If I talked about a promotion, she’d casually mention her higher-ranking job position.

These weren’t casual conversations. They were power plays.

But here’s the thing. You don’t need anyone else’s validation. Your achievements are significant in their own right, regardless of what anyone else has accomplished.

So, if you encounter a constant one-upper, don’t let it diminish your self-worth. Celebrate your victories, big or small, because they are yours and no one can take that away from you.

7) They keep you in a constant state of uncertainty

The final behavior characteristic of a mind game player is their ability to keep you in a constant state of uncertainty.

They’re unpredictable, inconsistent, and always leave you guessing. One day they’re affectionate, the next they’re aloof.

One moment they’re full of praise, the next they’re critical. This continuous cycle of confusion is intentional – it’s how they maintain control.

But here’s what you need to know.

You deserve stability, respect, and honesty in your relationships. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and that’s no foundation for a healthy interaction or relationship.

Don’t let anyone keep you in a fog of constant doubt. Stand firm in your worth and seek relationships that bring clarity, not confusion.

Wrapping it up

If these signs feel familiar, it’s possible you’ve crossed paths with someone who plays mind games. And it can be tough.

However, understanding is the first step to change.

Recognizing these behaviors is powerful. It enables you to step back, assess your interactions, and make informed decisions about the relationships in your life.

But here’s a crucial point – it’s not about becoming cynical or distrusting. It’s about seeking authentic connections built on respect and honesty. It’s about valuing yourself enough not to tolerate manipulation.

So, as you navigate your relationships, keep these behaviors in mind. Use them as a guide to identify manipulative tactics and steer clear of the mind games.

Remember, you deserve relationships that respect your worth and honor your individuality. So embrace this knowledge, and use it to cultivate healthier interactions that truly enrich your life.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.