Have you ever known someone who can get whatever they want, whenever they want it? Have you looked at this person with awe, and yet, a little bit of distaste in your mouth because it doesn’t seem right?
Well, if you felt like they were taking advantage of you or someone else, you are probably right. Many people are master emotional manipulators in work, life, and relationships.
It’s a tough thing to spot and it hurts like hell when you realize someone has been playing you for their own advantage, but there are ways to recognize it so you can stop it before it even happens.
While some types of social influence are healthy, emotional manipulation can be quite damaging. And it’s important to distinguish what is healthy to what is not.
It is a healthy thing to socially influence someone to do better, to encourage them and motivate them. It is a part of the give-and-take of every healthy and constructive relationship in our personal lives and in the workplace.
Emotional manipulation is the complete opposite. It’s all about “taking” from one person for their own benefit. And when you are emotionally manipulated, you lose your power and become vulnerable for exploitation.
What is emotional/psychological manipulation?
Psychological or emotional manipulation involves influencing someone thoughts and emotions as a way to control them. This can be done through crafty and abusive practices, oftentimes unhealthy to the victim.
Manipulators will try to control people by using their weaknesses or vulnerability against them. They exploit these vulnerabilities to achieve their own goals, regardless of the harm they do.
Have you ever had a colleague talk you down to make you feel insecure at work? Has a romantic partner given you an ultimatum not to do something important, like move to another city, to keep the relationship?
Master manipulators are the worst kind. Their tactics are hardly obvious. And what’s worse, they make you feel like it’s all your fault.
Do you think you’re being emotionally manipulated by someone? Here are 10 ways people can emotionally manipulate you to get what they want. Watch out for these tricksters so you can stay ahead of the game.
10 ways people emotional manipulate to get what they want
1) They invite you to their space.
One way that master manipulators gain control over the situation is by inviting you to their home or office so that you are in their territory.
It’s a control thing and makes you feel like a guest so you won’t speak up against them. Keep your eyes peeled for sneaky people who are trying to take advantage of you in their homes.
2) They listen first.
You might think this is good behavior, but what they are doing is looking for holes in your story, finding things to criticize you about, and judge you for their own purposes.
They’ll let you talk all day just to turn around and use that information against you to your face or to others.
3) They twist the facts.
Even if you are very clear about what you want, need, or said, they will find a way to turn the truth around and work in their favor. And they’ll brush it off by saying things such as “oh yeah, but what you meant was…” and then you are left defending yourself.
4) They inundate you with information.
To overwhelm you, confuse you, and get you to agree with them, they’ll often put a great deal of information on you so that you don’t have time to respond. This is so you can feel overwhelmed enough not to want to process such an information overload.
As a result, they’ll make the decision for you and then you’ll just have to go along with it.
5) They block you with red tape.
At work, this is especially common. Bosses who don’t like subordinates will block requests or issues with tons of red tape to maintain power over that person. Give you enough road blocks and you become frustrated enough to give up and succumb to what they want.
It’s a power play and can really hurt organizations as well as individuals.
6) They speak louder.
For some reason, people think if they talk louder it makes them sound smarter or better. They also think it makes them right. Emotional manipulators do this all the time.
It’s their own way of intimidating you into submission.
They just keep talking. And can even accompany their tactics with aggressive body language. They talk louder and over everyone else to gain control of the room and then you have no choice but to listen to them.
7) They are negative.
Emotional manipulators are not happy people and so it comes through in their work and life. They yell and scream at everyone, or they are very quiet, but either way, they aren’t actually having a good time.
It’s probably their own unhappiness that makes them want to make everyone else around them unhappy, too.
Many times, they recognize they can control someone else, which they think makes them happy because it gives them a sense of control. But it just ruins life for everyone.
8) They use ultimatums.
They’ll give you a tight deadline, tell you to take it or leave it, or decide ahead of time that you need to do something specific in order to please them.
It can be hard to know if it’s a bluff or not. But with these people, it’s always hard to tell. And they are so good at what they do you actually believe them.
It’s tricky and if this emotional manipulator is your boss, you might not realize that they are trying to set up your for failure.
9) They make fun of you.
They might laugh at you and make you feel shitty about yourself or something you accomplished. It comes out as a backhanded slap and others might not even pick up on it, but they meant it and you sure as hell felt it.
They do it in such a way that is not obvious to everyone else but you. This is because they know your weak spots and how to really hit them.
It could be as simple as a comment about the way you dress, but you know they meant to hurt you.
10) They judge you openly.
They make no apologies for saying you are wrong or doing things wrong. And by wrong, what they usually mean, is that you are not doing it their way! You’ll always be wrong unless you do it the way they think it needs to be done.
They even enjoy doing it. Manipulators get a kick out of embarrassing you and showing others that they have power over you. They will keep doing so.
They’ll never be happy so stop trying to please this kind of person and focus on making yourself happy instead.
How to deal with a manipulator
Once you know what to look for in a classic manipulator, you might be a little thrown off your game to realize that these people are everywhere. It’s alarming really to consider how many people go out of their way to put you in a position that serves them and only them.
First, manipulators know how to detect your weaknesses. They’ll ask you very pointed and leading questions to discover things about you that you might not want people to know.
The second thing they’ll do is figure out how to use those weaknesses against you. For example, if you let it slip that you feel intimidated in front of a crowd, they might try to get you to give a speech at the next board meeting.
They’ll tell you it’s for your own good, but really it has to do with you making them look good because you’ll look so bad. Another thing classic manipulators do is they will work their black magic on you to make you think you are not worthy.
In the case of getting you to speak in a board meeting, they’ll be sure to follow up with you following the meeting to let you know that maybe you should think about a career change since it clearly gives you so much anxiety to be in that role.
Finally, a classic manipulator will continue to take advantage of this three-pronged approach in all kinds of situations. If this person is a co-worker or boss, you’ll be able to leave them at work, but if it’s a family member or close friend, it is even more difficult to separate yourself from the toxicity of the classic manipulator.
What to Do About a Classic Manipulator
Now that you can spot a classic manipulator from a mile away, it’s time to create a plan for dealing with these people. There is a lot to consider, but much of it starts – and ends – with you.
Knowing your rights, for example, related to the workplace can help you get a head in your job. If the manipulation is bordering on harassment or threats, you can always take your complaints to a senior authority in your organization.
Know your rights as a human being as well. You don’t have to let people treat you like this. One of the easiest ways to deal with a classic manipulator is to keep your distance from them.
Don’t put yourself in situations where they will have a chance to make a dig at you and compromise your integrity. You might not realize this is happening for some time, but once you do, you’ll need to take action to get them out of your life, if only physically, and for a little while at a time.
Remember that none of this is your fault. Manipulators are narcissistc and mean to hurt you. It’s not an accident. And since you would never want anyone to hurt you, it’s logical for you to remind yourself that this is not your doing.
One final strategy for cornering a classic manipulator is to give them a taste of their own medicine – turn the questions on them. Put the spotlight on them. Expose the flaw in their argument and let them know you are onto them. If nothing else, the shame might keep them out of your hair for a while and give you the space you need to figure out a longer game plan for helping them exit your life for good.
Whatever you decide to do about a classic manipulator in your life, decide that you are going to look after your best interest. The manipulator is not going to change. They can only be removed. They won’t learn, they won’t think about how it’s impacting you. So you can’t rely on them to fix this for you.
Take control, recognize you have a right to not be manipulated and get to work changing the situation.
It can be unsettling when you realize that the person in front of you is a classic manipulator. What is most disorienting about this discovery is trying to figure out what to do about it.
In many cases, a classic manipulator is someone close to us, or in a position of power over us. This can make it especially difficult to separate yourself from these people even if you muster the courage to do so.
But if you maintain your distance, know your rights, and turn the questions on them, you’ll be fine.