People who are highly intelligent but also deeply manipulative usually display these 9 behaviors

Intelligence can often go hand in hand with manipulative tendencies. Smart people know how to get what they want, but sometimes, their methods can be somewhat underhanded.

The trick is recognizing the signs. Highly intelligent, yet deeply manipulative people often display certain behaviors that can be red flags.

In this article, I’m going to lay out the 9 behaviors usually showcased by these individuals. This way, you’ll be better equipped to spot manipulation when it’s happening and safeguard your interests.

So, let’s dive in and uncover the telltale signs of a highly intelligent manipulator.

1) Masterful control of emotions

These individuals are experts at controlling emotions, both their own and those of others. They’re quick to gauge your emotional state and know exactly how to exploit it to their advantage.

They’ll use tactics like guilt tripping, feigning innocence, or playing the victim to get you to react in a certain way. They can stir up emotions, creating confusion and doubt, making it easier for them to manipulate the situation.

The key is to recognize these emotional maneuvers for what they are: calculated moves in a manipulator’s playbook. If you can spot when they’re trying to sway your feelings, you’ll be better equipped to respond appropriately and protect yourself from their manipulation.

2) They’re always one step ahead

I’ll never forget this one instance with a co-worker of mine who was both highly intelligent and incredibly manipulative. Let’s call him Mike.

Mike was always a step ahead. He seemed to predict how conversations would go, or how people would react, and he’d adjust his approach accordingly. It was like he had a mental chessboard and he was always three moves ahead.

One day, we were in a team meeting, discussing the best way to handle a particular project. I had an idea that I thought was solid, but Mike had other plans.

Before I could present my idea, Mike subtly started discrediting it. He didn’t outright say it was bad. Instead, he’d drop hints about potential issues, raising doubts in everyone’s mind before I even had a chance to speak.

By the time it was my turn to share, the team was already biased against my plan, although they didn’t even know what it was yet. Despite my best efforts to explain and defend it, the seed of doubt Mike had planted had already taken root.

That’s when I realized how masterfully he’d manipulated the situation, steering the group towards his own preferred plan. He was always one step ahead, and used his intelligence to subtly manipulate others. It’s a classic tactic of highly intelligent manipulators – always staying one step ahead of the game.

3) They have a knack for identifying weaknesses

Highly intelligent manipulators are adept at identifying people’s weaknesses and exploiting them. This skill is almost second nature to them, much like an eagle spotting its prey from miles away.

They spend time observing others, studying their habits, preferences, fears and desires. They then use this knowledge to their advantage, manipulating people in ways that play on their vulnerabilities.

For instance, they might notice that a co-worker is keen on getting recognition for their work. The manipulator will then use this weakness by constantly praising the co-worker, making them feel valued and appreciated.

This way, the co-worker becomes more likely to go along with whatever the manipulator suggests.

This behavior isn’t just limited to interpersonal relationships. Even in the animal kingdom, predators often target the weakest in a group. For instance, wolves are known to single out the old, sick or young members of a herd during a hunt, as they are easier targets.

In a similar way, intelligent manipulators often focus on those they perceive as vulnerable or susceptible to manipulation. It’s crucial to be aware of this tactic and guard against it.

4) They’re excellent at playing the blame game

Highly intelligent manipulators have an uncanny ability to twist situations in such a way that they never seem to be at fault.

If something goes wrong, they’re quick to point fingers, shifting the blame onto others. They may use convoluted explanations or distractions to divert attention from their own actions. They can make you question your own memory or judgement, a tactic known as gaslighting.

At the same time, when things go right, they’re the first to take credit, even if their contribution was minimal or non-existent. This way, they maintain a positive image while others are left dealing with the negative consequences.

5) They use charm as a weapon

personality traits genuinely awesome people have according to psychology People who are highly intelligent but also deeply manipulative usually display these 9 behaviors

A common trait among highly intelligent manipulators is their ability to be incredibly charming. They have a knack for making others feel special and important, often using flattery as a tool to get what they want.

This charm often masks their true intentions, making it easier for them to influence others. People are more likely to agree to requests or overlook negative behavior when it comes from someone they find likable and charismatic.

However, this charm tends to be superficial and short-lived. It’s used strategically when they need something and quickly disappears once they’ve achieved their goal.

6) They exploit trust and kindness

 Manipulative individuals with high IQs often prey on empathetic and trusting individuals, exploiting their vulnerabilities for personal gain. They adeptly feign vulnerability or hardship to manipulate sympathy and support.

Time and again, I’ve witnessed kind-hearted souls fall victim to such manipulation, their trust and goodwill exploited without remorse.

While these experiences can be painful, it’s crucial not to let them embitter your spirit. Trust and kindness are precious traits that should be celebrated. Instead, arm yourself with the awareness to identify manipulation and establish firm boundaries.  

7) They’re masters of creating confusion

One of the most unsettling encounters I’ve had was with a highly intelligent manipulator, marked by a relentless cycle of clarity and confusion.

This individual possessed a talent for complicating the straightforward and obscuring the obvious. Conversations with them left me bewildered and uncertain, even about concepts I once grasped effortlessly.

They expertly twisted words, manipulated truths, and introduced irrelevant details to destabilize my understanding. It was their method of asserting dominance, as confusion breeds vulnerability, making manipulation easier.

So, if post-interaction confusion becomes routine, take heed. It may signal manipulation by an adept strategist leveraging confusion as a means of control.

8) They’re skilled at playing different roles

One of the key traits of highly intelligent manipulators is their ability to play various roles depending on the situation.

They may portray themselves as a victim in one scenario to gain sympathy and support, and then switch to being a hero in another to earn admiration and respect. They can be charming and friendly when they need something, and cold and distant when they don’t.

Their ability to switch between these roles seamlessly makes it difficult for others to pin down their true character. It’s often why people are shocked when they finally see the manipulative side of such individuals.

This chameleon-like behavior is a strong indicator of manipulation. It’s important to be vigilant and take note if someone consistently changes their behavior or character to suit different situations.

9) They lack genuine empathy

At the heart of all these manipulative behaviors lies a glaring absence of genuine empathy. Highly intelligent manipulators may be good at mimicking emotions and appearing empathetic, but it’s usually surface level.

They don’t genuinely feel for others or share their emotions. Instead, they use their understanding of emotions as a tool for manipulation. They can appear caring and understanding one moment, only to turn cold and dismissive once they’ve achieved their goal.

This lack of real empathy is perhaps the most telling sign of an intelligent manipulator. It’s also the most damaging, as it allows them to manipulate others without feeling guilt or remorse.

Always stay true to yourself

Navigating encounters with highly intelligent manipulators demands both vigilance and self-assurance. Drawing from personal experience, I’ve learned that clarity and assertiveness are our greatest assets.

It’s crucial to trust our instincts, recognizing when something feels off and maintaining firm boundaries.

Additionally, seeking support from trusted confidants can provide invaluable perspective and reassurance.

By staying true to ourselves, cultivating resilience, and leaning on our support network, we can effectively confront and disarm the influence of even the most cunning manipulators, emerging stronger and more empowered.

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.

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