If you recognize these 9 behaviors, you’re dealing with a low-key but highly effective manipulator

Manipulation can be subtle, and often those who are most successful at it are the ones who do it in ways that are hard to detect.

Recognizing the signs of manipulation is not always easy. It often comes down to spotting certain behaviors that can indicate someone is low-key but highly effective at getting what they want without you even realizing it.

In this article, I’m going to help you identify these behaviors. If you spot any of these 9 signs, you’re probably dealing with a stealthy manipulator.

So, let’s dive into it, and empower you with the knowledge to spot a master manipulator in action.

1) They’re always playing the victim

Manipulators are experts at playing the victim card.

It’s a classic move in the manipulator’s playbook. By presenting themselves as the victim, they can evoke empathy and sympathy from others. This can divert attention from their manipulative behavior and make others more inclined to support them.

They may tell sad stories about their past, or constantly complain about their current situation. They might even exaggerate or fabricate problems to gain sympathy.

It’s a clever strategy because it’s hard not to feel for someone who seems to be struggling. But don’t let your empathy cloud your judgment.

If you notice someone playing the victim more often than not, it could be a sign that they’re trying to manipulate you. Be cautious, and try to see through their sob stories.

2) They’re masters at guilt-tripping

One thing I’ve noticed about manipulators is their uncanny ability to make you feel guilty, even when you shouldn’t.

I remember dealing with someone in my past who had a knack for using guilt as a weapon. Every time I made a decision that didn’t align with what they wanted, they’d make me feel like I was letting them down.

For example, on one occasion, I had to decline an invitation to a gathering because of prior commitments. Rather than understanding my situation, they said something along the lines of, “Oh, I see. I guess my events aren’t important enough for you.”

The intention here was clear: to make me feel bad about my decision and pressure me into changing it.

Guilt-tripping is a common tactic used by manipulators. They know that by making you feel guilty, they can influence your decisions and actions in their favor. 

3) They’re experts at gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative technique where someone makes you question your own reality, memory, or perceptions. The term actually comes from a 1938 play (and later a movie) called “Gas Light,” in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her sanity.

In real life, a manipulator might deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. They might accuse you of misremembering or exaggerating.

The goal of gaslighting is to make you doubt yourself and your judgment, which can make you more dependent on the manipulator for what’s “real” or “true”.

If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your own memories or feeling confused and disoriented after conversations with a certain person, it could be a sign of gaslighting.

4) They use charm to distract and disarm

Don’t be fooled by a charming exterior – it’s a common trait among manipulators. They know how to use their charisma to attract and engage people, making it easier for them to exert influence.

Charm can be used as a distraction, diverting attention away from the manipulator’s ulterior motives. It can also disarm you, making you less likely to suspect that you’re being manipulated.

If someone is excessively charming and always seems to say exactly what you want to hear, be cautious. They may be trying to win you over for their own gain. Always make sure to look beyond the surface and question the motives behind their charm.

5) They’re always one-upping you

Have you ever met someone who always seems to have a better story, a bigger achievement, or a more dramatic experience than you? This could be a sign of manipulation.

Manipulators often use one-upping as a tactic to maintain control in relationships. By making themselves seem superior, they hope to diminish your confidence and make you more susceptible to their influence.

It’s not just about bragging or showing off. It’s about making you feel like you’re always one step behind, which can lead you to question your own worth and abilities.

If someone constantly tries to outdo your experiences or achievements, it might be time to question whether they have your best interests at heart.

6) They seldom show genuine empathy

At the heart of every meaningful relationship is empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. However, manipulators often lack this crucial trait.

While they can mimic empathetic behavior when it suits their purpose, their responses often feel hollow or superficial. It’s like they’re reading from a script rather than genuinely connecting with your feelings.

This lack of empathy can leave you feeling unheard or invalidated. You might find that they divert conversations back to themselves or dismiss your emotions outright.

7) They use silent treatment as a weapon

Silence can be golden, but when used by a manipulator, it’s often anything but. Silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation where someone refuses to communicate or engage with you in order to punish or control you.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this before. A person I was close to would go completely silent whenever we had a disagreement. No calls, no texts, no communication whatsoever. It felt like I was being punished for having a differing opinion.

The silent treatment can make you feel anxious, guilty, or even desperate to fix things, often leading you to give in to the manipulator’s demands just to restore communication.

If you find yourself constantly walking on eggshells out of fear of being iced out, it could be a sign that you’re dealing with a manipulator. Don’t let the silence control you. It’s important to remember that healthy relationships involve open and respectful communication, even in times of conflict.

8) They’re always shifting blame

Blame shifting is a common tactic used by manipulators. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they’ll find a way to put the blame on you or others.

For instance, if a project fails or a problem arises, a manipulative person might say something like, “Well, if you hadn’t done X, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

This tactic not only absolves them of responsibility but also makes you feel guilty and question your actions. It’s a way of maintaining control and keeping you on the defensive.

So, if you notice someone consistently shifting blame and avoiding accountability, it could be a sign of manipulative behavior. Remember, everyone makes mistakes and it’s important to take responsibility for our own actions.

9) They always demand your time and attention

One of the most telling signs of a manipulator is their insatiable need for your time and attention. They might constantly demand your presence, monopolize your time, or become upset if you’re not available when they want you to be.

This can be exhausting and can often lead to you neglecting other relationships or responsibilities. It’s also a way for the manipulator to maintain control over you by making you feel like you owe them your time and attention.

Remember, it’s important to set boundaries in all relationships. You have the right to your own time and personal space. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for needing time for yourself.

Final thoughts: Awareness is power

Navigating the complexities of human behavior can be a challenge. Recognizing manipulative behaviors is particularly important as it can impact our relationships, mental health, and overall well-being.

The philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” This quote holds true when it comes to identifying manipulation in our lives.

By staying aware of these 9 behaviors, you arm yourself with the knowledge to spot potential manipulation. Understanding these tactics can help you maintain control over your own decisions and emotions.

Remember, it’s not about becoming paranoid or suspicious of everyone around you. It’s about being informed so you can make the best choices for yourself.

So, keep your eyes open, trust your instincts, and never be afraid to stand up for yourself. Your mental and emotional health is worth it.

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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