Do you ever feel like you’ve lost control of a situation?
In other words, someone has you right where they want you.
Well, this could be because they have some serious leverage (and it probably didn’t happen by accident).
Here’s the thing.
Manipulative people can probe you with sneaky questions in an attempt to gain the upper hand.
They’re basically on the hunt for anything that can give them an advantage. Something they can use against you.
I’m talking about your deepest vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or secrets.
After all, knowledge is power.
It could be anyone. From your ex-partner or boss to a neighbor or even your own children!
How to spot it?
Look out for these seven questions. They may suggest someone is up to no good.
1) “What’s your biggest fear?”
Fear is one of the strongest natural human emotions.
This makes it a powerful motivator!
And guess what?
If someone with malicious intentions knows about your deepest fear, they can use it as leverage against you.
I’m talking about the safety of your loved ones, your health, or your reputation.
It’s an extreme example…
But kidnapping and demanding a ransom is the ultimate way to leverage fear. It’s thankfully not something we’re likely to experience in our lives, but gives you an idea of what I mean by leveraging fear.
There are plenty of less intense scenarios though.
Like a subtle hint from your boss that your job is at risk if you don’t pull your socks up.
They’re effectively using your job security as leverage. They know you fear losing it, so have a position of control and power.
It’s usually a good idea to not reveal your biggest fears to anyone if you don’t have to.
It makes you more vulnerable and open to exploitation.
2) “How are things with your partner?”
Now don’t get me wrong.
This question could be coming from a good place. It’s all about the context.
If a genuine friend asks about your personal relationships, they’re probably just trying to support you.
But if someone you don’t know is asking personal questions like this, it could be a sign that they’re trying to gain leverage. Maybe they’re jealous of your relationship or have fallen in love with your partner.
And it works both ways.
Let’s say things are perfect right now. You’re totally smitten with your partner and can’t imagine life without them.
Well, you just revealed a vulnerability that someone could potentially use against you. I’m talking about sabotaging your relationship by spreading rumors or straight-up lies.
But similarly, if you’ve got doubts about your relationship or you’re even thinking of ending it, this also lets the cat out of the bag and could be used to stir things up.
3) “How much money do you make?”
If you hear this question it should raise some concerns.
Another personal question, this time about your financial situation.
It might seem harmless enough and if you’re comfortable sharing money matters, who cares right?
Well, consider this.
People can use your financial situation as leverage against you. Firstly, by making you feel resentment when you learn you’re being paid less than them.
But there’s more.
If a rival employer knows exactly how much money you make, they also know exactly how much they need to offer you (should they want to lure you in). This can lead to exploitation (depending on how desperate you are).
4) “Do you have any dark secrets?”
This is a fun question you might get asked on a first date.
“You’re 35, attractive, and funny, how are you still single? What’s wrong with you!”
And probably warrants a tongue-in-cheek response.
But seriously, any mistakes you’ve made in the past could come back to haunt you (and be used as leverage over you).
Not just in personal relationships, but also in your professional life.
For example, during a job interview, you might get asked if there’s anything in your history that could damage the reputation of the company.
Bear in mind that whatever you disclose could be used against you.
5) “What are your insecurities?”
Whether it’s something about your appearance (like your height or weight), a lack of confidence around men/women, or your sexuality, revealing insecurities can put you at a disadvantage.
In fact, insecurities are exactly what bullies prey on.
By being open and sharing your anxieties, you’re providing fuel for anyone who wants to gain leverage over you.
In reality, bullies probably won’t ask about your insecurities directly (they’re not that polite). Rather, they’ll attack you in different ways until they hit a nerve.
Here’s the thing about playground bullies.
They’re usually insecure themselves. The only reason they feel the need to pick on others is to make themselves feel better.
And unfortunately, sometimes this behavior translates into adulthood.
6) “Do you want to start a family?”
This is a big one.
And can be used by your employer or your significant other.
If your boss knows you want to start a family, they may use it as leverage to negotiate your salary. They’d argue, it’s a big commitment and you may need maternity/paternity leave.
But your partner might also use this information against you (if they’re manipulative and controlling).
They’ll reinforce the idea of happy families to keep you around, only to later break that promise and decide they don’t want children.
Kind of like dangling a carrot on a stick.
I’m not saying you can’t talk about starting a family with your partner. But, just be cautious if they start trying to leverage your feelings to get what they want.
7) “What’s your biggest regret in life?”
We all have regrets (it’s hard not to).
And by revealing them, you’re creating a vulnerability that someone can use as leverage over you.
Maybe you never went to college. You tell your partner how much you regret this decision (it’s never too late by the way).
Weeks (or months) later, during an argument, they can use it against you.
“You’re a failure, you didn’t even go to college.”
They know exactly where to hit you hardest.
It’s pretty harsh, but this is exactly what manipulative people do.
So, be aware of these probing questions and toxic behaviors they might use. Steer clear or ditch anyone you think is trying to gain leverage over you.
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