8 signs that signal someone is turning into a manipulator without realizing it

If someone starts deflecting blame, you sense they’re turning defensive. If someone makes you feel guilty for no reason, you know they’re playing mind games.

That’s the bare basics of identifying manipulation.

But not every manipulator is as easy to spot. 

In fact, the act of manipulation can be so subtle and subconscious that even the person doing it may not realize it.

Some signs, however, are more telling than others. And these are usually found in these specific behavioral traits.

1) Shifting blame becomes second nature

It’s a universal truth that no one likes to be held accountable for mistakes.

But there’s a difference between saving face occasionally and consistently passing the buck. When you notice that someone’s always avoiding responsibility for their actions, it’s a sign that something’s off.

Manipulators, knowingly or unknowingly, are experts at this game. They have a knack for making others feel guilty for their own missteps, turning the tables to always appear as the victim.

So, if you realize that someone is constantly deflecting blame onto others, it might be an indication they’re developing manipulative tendencies, even if they don’t realize it.

A bit alarming, isn’t it? But being aware is the first step in addressing it.

2) Their words don’t match their actions

One thing I’ve noticed from personal experience is that actions speak louder than words.

Let me share a story. 

I once had a friend who would always promise to be there for me, to support me in times of need. But when the time came, they were nowhere to be found. Their actions didn’t match their words, and it was a clear red flag.

Manipulators often say one thing and do another, creating confusion and distrust. It’s a subtle way of gaining control, without the other person even realizing it.

So, when someone’s actions consistently contradict their words, it might signal they’re unknowingly turning into a manipulator.

3) They have a need to control

When it comes to manipulators, control is their bread and butter. They thrive on having the upper hand, dictating the terms of situations and relationships.

Neuroscience has shown that power and control can actually alter the structure of the brain, leading to increased dopamine levels. This chemical is linked to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

This desire for control can creep into someone’s behavior subtly. It might start as a preference for organizing group outings or making decisions in a project. 

Over time, however, this can escalate into a need to dominate every situation, even at the expense of others’ comfort.

It’s crucial to spot these changes early and address them before they escalate further.

4) They use charm as a weapon

Charm can be a beautiful thing. It can make people feel special, listened to, and valued. But in the hands of a manipulator, it can turn into something quite different.

Manipulators often use their charm to gain trust and influence people. They might shower someone with compliments and attention, only to use that goodwill for their own advantage later.

It’s like a classic bait and switch strategy. They draw you in with their charisma and then exploit your trust once they have it.

So if you notice someone using charm excessively, especially in contexts where it’s not warranted, it might be a sign they’re developing manipulative tendencies without realizing it.

It’s essential to stay vigilant and guard against such manipulation.

5) They’re masters at playing the victim

If you recognize these behaviors youre dealing with an emotional manipulator 8 signs that signal someone is turning into a manipulator without realizing it

This is something I’ve seen time and time again. Someone always seems to have the world against them, and they’re not shy about letting everyone know it.

The truth is, manipulators are great at playing the victim. They have a knack for twisting situations to make themselves seem like the innocent party, even when they’re not.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. A person close to me would often create drama and then portray themselves as the one being wronged. 

It was a subtle form of manipulation that took me a while to recognize.

6) They’re overly agreeable

It might seem strange at first, but being overly agreeable can be a sign of manipulation.

We often associate agreement with positivity and harmony. 

But when someone agrees with everything you say, it could mean they’re trying to win your favor or avoid confrontation, both of which are classic manipulation tactics.

Manipulators use this tactic to build trust and create a sense of closeness. Once they’ve gained your trust, they can then use it to their advantage.

So if you encounter someone who never disagrees and always seems to be on your side, it might be worth taking a second look. It could be a sign they’re developing manipulative tendencies without even realizing it.

7) They lack genuine empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s a fundamental aspect of human connection. But for manipulators, empathy often takes a backseat.

Manipulators may appear empathetic on the surface, but it’s usually a means to an end. They use it as a tool to gain trust and establish control, rather than as a way to genuinely connect with others.

When someone’s empathy feels insincere or self-serving, it might be a sign they’re unknowingly adopting manipulative tendencies. 

It’s crucial to discern genuine empathy from manipulative tactics to protect oneself from potential emotional harm.

8) They exploit your insecurities

The most telling sign of a manipulator is when they exploit your insecurities for their gain. They have a knack for identifying your weaknesses and using them to their advantage.

If someone consistently uses your insecurities against you, it’s a clear sign they’re turning into a manipulator, even if they don’t realize it. 

Recognizing this behavior is crucial in preventing further emotional manipulation and protecting your well-being.

Final thoughts

If you’ve stayed with me till this point, you’ve armed yourself with knowledge. Knowledge about subtle signs of manipulation that often go unnoticed.

It’s important to remember that nobody is inherently bad. Often, people who exhibit these behavioral traits may not even realize they’re heading down a path of manipulation.

The key takeaway here isn’t to label or judge people but to be aware and protect yourself from potential emotional harm.

After all, understanding is the first step towards change. And perhaps, through your awareness and compassion, you might just be the catalyst they need to shift their course.

Let this be a reminder that everyone has the ability to grow and change their behavior, even those unknowingly turning into manipulators. 

And everyone deserves the chance to do so.

So keep these signs in mind, not as a tool for judgment, but as a guide for empathy, understanding, and resilience in the face of emotional manipulation.

Picture of Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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.

0:00
0:00