Though we are all manipulative to some degree, manipulators engage in set behaviors on a regular basis. They use deceptive and controlling tactics by exploiting another person for power, control and privileges at the other's expense. They play on your good intentions, vulnerabilities and weaknesses to get what they want. Do not be surprised if a manipulator is someone you trust or even love.
Manipulative behaviors are learned, most often in childhood. Thus, unfortunately it’s something that can’t be quickly unlearned.
Manipulators can be hard to spot, and even harder to deal with because they have a knack for making you feel like you are the problem.
There are a number of different forms of manipulation, ranging from a pushy salesperson to an emotionally abusive partner and some behaviors are easier to identify than others. Most manipulative individuals use these common tactics:
Habitual liars sometimes lie when it’s unnecessary. They aren’t lying because they are afraid and guilty, but to confuse you to do what they want.
Manipulators act as if you are making a big deal over nothing, they rationalizes and have excuses for their actions to make you doubt yourself or to gain your sympathy.
Manipulators want to avoid being confronted and taking responsibility at all costs. They may avoid conversations about their behavior by simply refusing to discuss it.
Avoidance can be subtle and unnoticeable, it can be camouflaged with compliments and pleasantries.
Blame, Guilt, and Shame
This is where the manipulator accuses others of their own behavior. They believe that by shifting the blame, and playing the victim, the other person is now on the defensive, they remain innocent and free to carry on, while their victims now feel guilt and shame. Guilt-tripping and shaming shift the focus onto you, where the abuser feels superior and you feel inadequate.
Intimidation isn’t always with direct threats, but can be subtle. Intimidation can be achieved with a look or tone and statements. Another strategy is telling a story meant to provoke fear.
Some people would push you off a bridge just to catch you and say they saved you.
Tactical manipulators do these things to get what they want and their behavior is so habitual that over time it becomes reflexive. And these tactics are destructive.
Over time, you can be traumatized and your self-worth severely damaged. Awareness is the first step. Once you’ve identified a manipulator, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand.
Write out conversations and try to identify the abuse and all the tactics used. Harder is not taking the words of the manipulator personally and learning how to respond. This will take time and that's ok.
I as many of us have been in situations where we were being manipulated; at work, in a relationship or as children. I remember often trying to help the manipulator in order to stop feeling guilty, because weirdly, I felt responsible for the circumstances.
Know that you can bring it to an end and heal from these traumas.
Looking back at my exchanges, I was puzzled and confused on how I had let this happen (again blaming myself) till I finally realized that in order to not be manipulated in this one particular situation, I needed to remove myself from that environment and let it go. I had to let them win at their game.
Maintaining an emotional and or physical distance requires awareness because manipulators don’t even think about it, they consciously do it. You might not be able to stop someone from pushing your buttons, but if you recognize when it’s happening, you can regroup and choose the best way forward. Don't be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.
For many manipulative people, they have simply learned how to ask for things the wrong way. This means that they can certainly change, but for a manipulator to change, someone needs to break through this and reach them on a core level. And that's a whole different blog post.
Tactical manipulators can undermine your sense of who you are and even make you doubt your own sanity. Remember: nobody can manipulate you without your consent and cooperation.