I often got taken advantage of by manipulative people, until I learned how to recognize these 7 tricks

We’ve all crossed paths with people who seem to have the uncanny ability to manipulate situations to their advantage.

You might look back on your relationships and feel a sense of being cheated or used, questioning whether your experiences were normal or not.

How do you know if you’ve been a victim of manipulation, or just experienced the regular bumps and turns of human interaction?

After enduring my share of manipulative relationships and studying the patterns of manipulative individuals, I’ve compiled a list of 7 tricks these people often use. If these ring true, it may be time to reassess and protect yourself from future manipulation.

1) Playing the victim card

One of the most common and effective tricks in a manipulator’s playbook is portraying themselves as the victim.

This strategy is emotionally disarming. It’s human nature to feel sympathy for someone who appears to be suffering or dealt a bad hand in life. Manipulators know this and use it to their advantage.

If you find yourself constantly feeling sorry for someone, even when their actions are questionable, it might be a sign you’re being manipulated. They might weave elaborate tales of misfortune or subtly frame every situation so that they are always the innocent party.

By doing this, they make it difficult for you to hold them accountable for their actions without feeling guilty or cruel. This allows them to get away with behaviors that you would normally object to, effectively turning the tables in their favor.

2) Overwhelming kindness

Surprisingly, excessive kindness can be a manipulation tactic too.

At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive. After all, kindness is a virtue, right? However, manipulative individuals often use an overabundance of kindness as a tool to create a sense of obligation.

If someone regularly goes out of their way to help you, give gifts, or shower you with compliments, you might feel obliged to reciprocate their kindness. This can make it challenging to say no when they ask for a favor or manipulate you into doing something you’re not comfortable with.

3) Gaslighting

A more insidious form of manipulation is gaslighting, a psychological tactic where a person makes you doubt your own perceptions and sanity.

Manipulators who use gaslighting will often distort or outright deny facts, making you question your own memory and judgment. They make you feel like you’re losing your grip on reality, causing you to depend on them for a sense of what’s true.

For instance, if you confront them about their hurtful behavior, they might turn it around and accuse you of being overly sensitive or misunderstanding the situation. This not only diverts attention from their actions but also makes you second-guess yourself.

Gaslighting can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem and mental health. If you frequently find yourself doubting your recall of events or feeling confused after interactions with a particular person, it’s possible that you’re being gaslighted.

4) Feigning ignorance

It isn’t fair to get upset with someone who doesn’t know any better, right? According to popular wisdom, ignorance absolves one of guilt – after all, you can’t be held accountable for something you’re not aware of. Yet, this, my friend, is precisely every manipulator’s pretext. 

Manipulative individuals often exploit this by pretending to be ignorant about things they very well understand. This is another way for them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

For example, if they’ve done something that upsets you and you confront them about it, they might claim that they didn’t realize it would affect you that way. By feigning ignorance, they shift the blame onto you for not explaining your boundaries clearly.

5) Exploiting your insecurities

Manipulative individuals often prey on your insecurities. They may subtly belittle you, make backhanded compliments, or highlight your weaknesses in front of others. This is not done out of concern or to help you improve, but to undermine your self-confidence.

When you’re feeling insecure, you’re more likely to seek their approval and less likely to stand up for yourself. This gives them the upper hand in the relationship and allows them to control your actions and decisions.

6) Being overly agreeable

It might seem odd, but excessive agreeableness can also be a manipulation tactic.

Typically, we view agreeable people as friendly and easy to get along with. However, manipulators often use this trait to their advantage. By always agreeing with you, they can gain your trust and make you feel like they’re on your side.

Once they’ve established this rapport, they’re in a better position to take advantage of you. For instance, they might suddenly disagree with you when it serves their interests or subtly steer you towards doing what they want while making it seem like it was your idea.

7) Triangulation

Another manipulation technique that’s often overlooked is triangulation, where a third person is used to validate or reinforce the manipulator’s perspective.

In this scenario, the manipulator might bring another person into the conversation to back up their views or actions, making you feel outnumbered and less likely to defend your stance. This can also be used to create rivalry and jealousy, dividing and conquering those involved.

This tactic is particularly effective because it’s not just the manipulator against you anymore; it’s them plus another person, making it much harder for you to stand your ground.

Understanding manipulative behavior

Manipulative behavior is often driven by a deep-seated need for power and control. This urge may stem from personal insecurities, past traumas, or a fear of being vulnerable or perceived as weak. By controlling others, manipulators create a false sense of security and self-worth.

However, this doesn’t excuse their actions. It’s important to remember that everyone has a choice in how they treat others. Using manipulation to gain power is a conscious choice that causes harm to others.

Understanding the reasons behind manipulation doesn’t necessarily equip you to change a manipulator’s behavior. Change typically requires the individual to acknowledge their problematic behavior and seek help, which unfortunately isn’t always the case.

What you can change, however, is your response. You can learn to recognize manipulation tactics and take steps to protect yourself. This might mean setting clear boundaries, seeking support from trusted friends or professionals, or in extreme cases, severing ties with the manipulator.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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