Have you ever heard the name “Machiavellian?” If you haven’t, it refers to someone who does and says certain things to keep you under their spell.
A master manipulator.
They will weave a web of deceit, and once they’ve trapped you, you’ll experience an emotional rollercoaster of note.
These skilled manipulators are very calculating. They will use you to meet their needs regardless of how they hurt you, and because their tactics aren’t always obvious, it’s incredibly hard to tell that you’re being manipulated.
In relationships or in the workplace, a skilled manipulator will always take advantage of you by creating confusion and self-doubt.
But whether it’s your intuition or you’ve picked up on questionable behaviors that have brought you here, if you recognize these 8 behaviors, you’re dealing with a skilled manipulator.
1) They are empathic and charismatic
These might not be traits that you associate with a skilled manipulator, and that’s what makes them so hard to spot. A manipulator can be charming and trustworthy, so you feel safe in their company.
They are good at reading others’ emotions and appear to understand what you’re going through. When you see them as sensitive and compassionate, you become vulnerable and share things about yourself they’ll later use to their advantage.
It’s all about control.
Once you trust them, they will exploit your emotions for their own gain. This isn’t obvious behavior. A master manipulator appears to genuinely care, and then they’ll do things that leave you shaking your head in disbelief.
By confusing you, it becomes easier to control you.
2) They use your vulnerabilities against you
If you’re having a conversation and try to tell them how you feel, they find a way to twist your words so you think that you’re wrong for thinking or feeling the way you do.
In a relationship with a skilled manipulator, you tell them what the problem is (which involves them), and they manipulate the entire situation. “Why do you always hold onto things?” “You could’ve brought this up sooner,” or “I’m under so much pressure at work.”
How can a manipulator look like the bad guy?
Rather than acknowledge how you feel or try to understand your perspective, they twist and turn the conversation so you feel guilty about bringing it up in the first place. You end up apologizing when none of it is your fault.
3) They avoid accountability
Manipulators never take responsibility for their actions. When things go wrong, they blame you or other people, but down the line, everything always becomes your fault.
Let’s say that you’re having an argument and a manipulator insults you. You express how much they’ve hurt you. They’ll turn it around by saying, “You’re taking it that way” or “You’re too sensitive; I was only joking.”
The problem always lies with you, not with them.
Whether they insult, hurt, or betray you, they won’t apologize for their behavior. You get blamed for the situation or for feeling the way you do.
This might sound familiar: “Why do you make me so angry?” “You know it upsets me when you do that.” They want you to believe that your shortcomings are the reason for something going wrong.
Sadly, it works.
If you feel confused after an argument or think that you’re always being blamed when things go wrong, then you’re probably being manipulated.
4) They humiliate you
“Machavalians” will humiliate and exclude you but make you think that it’s your fault. While this type of manipulative behavior can be as blatant as calling you names, most of the time, it’s underhanded and difficult to pinpoint.
What should you look for?
Manipulators are highly critical of others. If you have an opinion about something, they might respond, “Do you have evidence to back it up?” or “Show me the facts.”
They’ll talk over you in a conversation or get louder to validate themselves as experts.
In relationships, they target your way of thinking by making you doubt yourself. If you have an opinion, they’ll take a jab by saying that you’re too emotional to talk about it.
Another strategy is to bombard you with facts so it looks as if you lack knowledge on the topic and they come across as an authority.
In the workplace, someone in a higher position of authority will try to intimidate you by making you think that you don’t have the skills or qualifications for the job. They’ll ignore your communication, such as failing to respond to email, and then make you think that they never received it or that you couldn’t have sent it.
Their behavior is aimed at breaking you down and creating self-doubt so they can control you.
5) They’re the victims
Has it ever crossed your mind that your friend, partner, or family member is always the victim when they describe their version of events?
They’re always right, everyone else is to blame, and they never have a part to play when things go wrong.
Let’s say they receive a warning at work. A skilled manipulator will blame their colleagues or say it’s because their boss doesn’t like them.
In a relationship, the finger will get pointed at you for something that’s gone wrong. If they’ve betrayed you by lying or cheating, it will become a case of you leading them to do it. You made them angry, you put too much pressure on them, and you didn’t care enough.
It’s always you.
By twisting the situation and looking like the victim, they don’t have to account for anything they’ve done wrong. You feel guilty in every argument and apologize for your feelings as you constantly try to pick up the pieces.
It’s emotional manipulation.
6) They confuse you
A typical behavior of a master manipulator is to create confusion. When you doubt your memory of events or question what you said, it presents the perfect opportunity for them to swoop in and control you.
A very callous and calculating individual might be described as passive-aggressive. One day they seem cool, calm, and collected, and the next they’re sarcastic, ignoring or disrespecting you.
Rather than express what they really think or feel, they behave in a way that confuses you. This works in their favor, as rather than speak about what they want or what is bothering them, they use subtle behaviors to get you to change your behavior towards them.
You end up asking them what’s wrong, wondering if you’ve upset them, and apologizing for something you didn’t do.
Some of the most common behaviors they will use to confuse you include distorting the truth or acting as if they don’t understand what you’re saying.
These behaviors are incredibly hard to prove. Their ability to create confusion is so underhanded that you simply cannot detect it when it’s happening to you.
7) Their problems are more important than yours
When you’re talking to someone about a problem, do they trump what you’re going through with their own issues? This is the typical behavior of a manipulator.
By diminishing your problems, they want you to feel insignificant.
If you’re having trouble at work, they might respond with, “Well, I wish that was my only problem,” or they’ll say, “That’s nothing, this is what happened to me.”
You instantly think that you’re probably making a big deal out of nothing or that your concerns aren’t that important.
That’s exactly what they want you to believe.
You end up spending your time and energy addressing their problems, leaving you emotionally drained.
8) They use the silent treatment
It is so frustrating when someone ignores you to get their point across. I remember being ignored by my partner for days after an argument, and despite my best efforts to make peace, I got silence in return.
It achieves nothing but also serves as a clear sign of manipulation.
What you need to know about skilled manipulators is that they tend to use the silent treatment to punish you. Removing their attention and support is a tactic to get their way.
In relationships, the silent treatment goes beyond the absence of conversation. It often includes the withdrawal of physical affection.
It’s a cruel strategy.
But it works by giving them what they want. Again, by withholding affection and attention, you feel confused, as if you’ve done something wrong.
They are in control.
If you’re dealing with a master manipulator, the first step is to protect yourself by creating space. Distancing yourself from them can help you gather your thoughts and emotions and stop you from blaming yourself.
It’s incredibly hard to identify a skilled manipulator in your life because they’re so good at blindsiding you. Their charm leads you to believe that they’re really there for you, and then they change.
Blaming you when you get into an argument or feeling like you’re being taken advantage of are signs of their negative behaviors.
Once you’re aware, break free from the vicious cycle of emotional abuse. Do what’s in your best interests, and don’t allow anyone to control you.