10 red flags you’re dealing with a manipulative person

If you ever crossed paths with a manipulative person, you’re not alone. Manipulators are all around us. You might be working with one or even be in a relationship with a manipulative person.

If you still aren’t sure whether a certain person is a manipulator, here are 10 red flags that will definitely remove any doubt from your mind.

1) They use guilt as a weapon

Arguably the strongest weapon of manipulators is to guilt trip you into doing something. They love to make you feel guilty or even ashamed for things or circumstances that aren’t your fault.

Their favorite remarks include:

“If you really loved me, you would do what I’m asking,” and, “I can’t believe you would do this to me after everything I’ve done for you.”

If you’ve ever dealt with someone who wanted to manipulate you, I’m sure these sound familiar.

I’m not saying my mom was manipulative, but she used to guilt trip me when I wanted to move out of the house and start my own life.

Although I don’t live with them for almost 20 years and have a wife and a kid, my parents STILL try to guilt trip us into coming back to our hometown and LIVING with them.

Some things never change, I guess.

2) They use flattery

Listen, who doesn’t like to receive compliments from other people? They make us feel better, especially when they target an area we are conscious about.

Master manipulators are well aware of this fact, and they will weaponize it to wrap you around their little finger.

But they’ll go even further and make you feel unique and loved to gain your trust and do their bidding.

What do you think why so many people fall for so-called Romance Scams, where people they’ve never met in person manipulate them into giving them large sums of cash over several weeks or even months.

It all comes down to the next point.

3) They are controlling

It’s all about taking control of one’s life. What you should do, wear, spend your time with, or even think about.

Manipulators want to have total control over other people’s lives

A master manipulator loves to take control of your whole schedule. They’ll dictate when you need to wake up and go to sleep. They’ll tell you what and how much to eat, when and where to work, etc.

They may say things like, “I wouldn’t do it that way,” or “Are you sure that’s the right thing to do?”

Do these sound familiar to you?

4) They twist your words

Talking about words and comments that sting, did someone ever twist your words and made them sound completely different?

Taking things out of context and misrepresenting what you said is a common tactic you can encounter in your workplace, relationship, school, or anywhere else.

Manipulators will blame you for their behavior. You are the one who’s to blame for the way they acted.

Here’s an example of something they might say to you:

“If you had just done what I asked, I wouldn’t have had to get angry.”

In my experience, this brings us to my next point.

5) They play the victim

Twisting your words goes hand in hand with playing the victim.

This can be infuriating when you’re making valid points. Still, the manipulator makes it all about themselves, and they exaggerate their problems or make them seem worse than they actually are in order to gain sympathy.

And it doesn’t stop there. They can casually escalate things by making statements such as  “Everyone is always out to get me” or “Nobody understands me.”

Here’s another gem I heard before “I’m just so hurt and sad, I don’t know how I’ll ever recover.”

Oh, brother! If I didn’t know who it was coming from, I’d be really concerned for them, but when someone uses it against me, they are mistaken.

By now, I know you get it. Red flags can be seen easily if we just pay attention. However, there are other red flags you need to know about. Like the next one.

6) They use silence

Ah, the old silent treatment. We encounter it at a young age, mostly from our parents or siblings at some point or another.

However, we shouldn’t be “treated” like that at any point in our lives. Everyone deserves an answer or at least a short explanation.

Manipulative people use silence as a weapon against us while we’re standing there dumbfounded and annoyed.

It’s important to recognize when a partner, a colleague, or someone else we have to deal with is using silence as a form of punishment. We also can’t just gloss over it. We need to address this behavior.

If we set boundaries, communicate assertively, and generally stand up for ourselves, we could nip this behavior in the bud.

Let’s move on to something I personally struggle with and am working on.

7) They are always right

I am someone who likes to think I’m always right. It’s just a trick my mind plays with me, and I have to stop myself and acknowledge that I just might not be right in that particular situation.

I’m not the smartest person, far from it. For that reason, there are many things that I don’t know and that many people would know better than me. I now let other people voice their opinions and admit they are right and I’m wrong.

That doesn’t mean I roll over and let anyone think they know what’s best. I just pick my battles and rationalize things out loud.

However, that’s not something manipulators do. They always make the other person second-guess their thoughts until they come out on top.

8) They try to isolate you from others

If someone is trying to isolate you from your friends and family, without a solid reason behind it but to make themselves the center of your life, you know you’re in deep trouble.

This can go as far as controlling your communication with them or demanding to read your messages or listen to your phone calls with others.

If you’re also entirely dependent on them, it can make it very difficult, or even impossible, to speak out against them or even exit the relationship.

9) They gaslight you

Although this term wasn’t popular until the mid-2010s, gaslighting, the term, originated in the 1930s.

The play it originates from was called “Gas Light,” and it’s about a husband who mentally and emotionally manipulates his wife into thinking she is crazy by altering the intensity of the gas lamps in their home.

It comes in different forms and can include downplaying significance or dismissing something altogether, deliberately withholding information that the victim needs to make informed decisions, victim blaming, denying the truth, etc.

Gaslighting has profound effects and can cause you to feel confused, anxious, and powerless. This brings us to my last red flag.

10) They use fear

Fear is one of the most effective strategies manipulators use to gain control of others. They will intimidate you into complying by using physical and emotional harm, as we’ve seen in the example of gaslighting and others on this list.  

Revealing embarrassing or damaging information, true or untrue, it doesn’t matter, is their favorite strategy and one that works exceptionally well.

Manipulators can leave you anxious, helpless, and trapped, and it’s essential to seek help and support from trusted friends and family members.

Final thoughts

Being at the receiving end of a master manipulator isn’t fun. However, once you know how to recognize a manipulative person, you are better equipped to deal with them.

We all need to learn how to stand up for ourselves and get our point of view across.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Picture of 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.

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.