6 classic tactics manipulative people use to gain the upper hand

When we’re young, we’re told to trust our instincts, trust our elders, and trust authority figures.

But what happens when the person asking you to “trust them” isn’t being entirely honest? 

I’m talking about manipulative people. 

Oftentimes, they’re hiding in plain sight. It could be your friend, family member, partner, or next-door neighbor.

The thing is, these Machiavellian puppet masters can be tough to spot. And they might be pulling your strings without you even realizing it. 

All to get ahead. 

Look, I’m not saying everyone is inherently bad. 

For the most part, people are good. But by knowing what to look for, you can avoid getting exploited and caught up in their lies.

So, if you suspect someone is playing mind games, here are six classic tactics manipulative people use to gain the upper hand.

Remember, some tactics are subtler than others.

1) They play fast and loose with the truth

Manipulative people are very good at covering their tracks. They have a truckload of mind games and tricks just sitting at the ready.

But their most significant go-to tactic is lying. 

These slippery individuals have a knack for telling half-truths or twisted versions of the truth to suit their agenda. 

And they strategically omit facts or change details to make themselves look better or to deceive you in some way or another. 

It’s a tangled web of lying, denying, and deception.

The aim?

Well, to avoid blame and coerce others into doing exactly what they want. All without suffering the consequences.

Of course, we all lie from time to time. It’s proven. 

In fact, according to statistics, the average person lies up to four times a day. 

But when it comes to manipulators, it’s almost pathological and always for their own gain. And those lies also come in various forms. 

2) They use flattery to disarm you

We all know someone who can sweet talk their way out of any predicament – the angered party is somehow mesmerized by their words.

Honestly, it’s almost awe-worthy to watch. 

And when it happens to you, it can be difficult not to be hypnotized by their finesse, wit, and charm. No matter how hard you try or how mad you are.

But here’s the thing.

Flattery is another form of manipulation. It’s emotional leverage, and they’re stroking your ego to gain your favor, trust, or compliance.

Sure, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a genuine compliment and flattery. 

But there is one – and that’s sincerity. 

For starters, flattery is often excessive or hollow and it’s used to lure you in

In contrast, compliments come from an authentic place and they’re often brought on by legitimate appreciation or admiration for you. 

And that brings us to the next tactic. 

3) They “love bomb” you

Similar to flattery, this dirty manipulation tactic is cleverly masked by pleasant words, compliments, and praise. 

It’s confusing. 

On the one hand, you’re being showered with affection, which is great. But on the other, that excessive attention can leave you reeling and suffocated. 

Not only that, but it’s all happening way too fast. As if love wasn’t complicated enough.

But there’s a reason for all those grand gestures and over-the-top gifts – it’s to control you

And that tactic? Well, that’s called love bombing.

So what is it?

In short, love bombing is a form of psychological and emotional abuse. 

It may not seem like it at first. You’ll probably tell yourself that they’re just being nice or that they must really be into you. 

Frankly, all that attention is enough to sweep anyone off their feet – at first.

But think about it for a minute. 

Why all the pressure? And why are they so against you spending time alone or with friends and family?

It’s intense and overwhelming to the point where it’s almost aggressive – especially if you don’t reciprocate. 

4) They play the victim

Have you ever been wronged by someone only for them to turn the tables on you? 

You’re upset, but before you know it, they’ve somehow become the innocent victim and you’re the one in the wrong.

Well, my friend, you’ve you’ve just been manipulated. 

That’s right.

They played you like a finely tuned instrument. And they’re hitting all the right emotional notes to make you question your actions and feel responsible for their supposed suffering.

It’s like a guilt trip on steroids. 

And just like any good guilt trip, they sob, act hurt, or pretend like they’ve been victimized. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

But that’s the idea. They make you feel guilty to force you into doing things you might not want to do. In the process, divert attention away from them and their manipulative behavior.

Talk about emotionally draining.

And then that’s when they hit you with this masterful play – gaslighting.

5) They gaslight you into submission

Gaslighting. You’ve probably heard that term thrown around before. It’s a hot topic, but it’s far from new.

But what exactly is it?

In short, it’s psychological abuse. And it’s manipulation at its finest – or worst, depending on how you look at it. 

Let me explain.

The term gaslighting comes from “Gaslight,” a film based on the 1930s play of the same name. 

In it, the husband uses deceit and trickery to make his wife doubt her sanity over a period of time.

He was playing the long game.

And if you’re a victim of gaslighting, that covert emotional abuse has been going on for a while. You just didn’t notice it right away.

After all, it takes time (and skill) to make someone challenge their perception of reality. 

Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. 

It’ll most likely start small. A comment here, a disapproving gesture there. They might say things like, “You’re just too sensitive,” or “I never said that – you must be imagining things.” 

But before long, that false narrative has the victim questioning their judgment, memories, and opinions. 

It makes you doubt yourself.

Eventually, that can leave you feeling insecure, confused, and lacking any remnants of self-esteem. And that’s exactly what the manipulator wants – to devalue and undermine you. 

Ultimately, they keep moving the goalposts.

6) They give you the silent treatment

Ah, the silent treatment – a classic tactic in the manipulator’s toolkit.

One minute you’re chatting with your SO. Then, the next thing you know, they’re giving you the cold shoulder and ignoring you.

It’s like you’re invisible. No matter what you say or do, they refuse to engage in conversation with you. They even avoid eye contact.

And ultimately, you’re sat there scratching your head wondering – “Was it something I said.”

But here’s the thing.

That “silent treatment” (or ostracism) is a psychological game designed to mess with your emotions and leave you desperately seeking their attention or approval.

Basically, they’re punishing you through manipulation. Leaving you with low self-esteem and unsure of where you stand. 

It’s like you have no control and that’s exactly how manipulators like it.

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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