If someone displays these 9 behaviors, they’re being subtly manipulative without realizing it

There’s a thin line between persuasion and manipulation. The difference lies in the intention behind the actions and the level of awareness about them.

Persuasion is more about helping others see your point of view, while manipulation is about controlling others without their knowledge.

But when someone is subtly manipulating you without realizing it, how do you spot it? Here are some behaviors that could be indicators.

Below are 9 subtle behaviors that might reveal if someone is unknowingly manipulating you.

1) They always play the victim

Manipulation is often rooted in the desire to control situations or people. And one of the most common ways this manifests is through playing the victim.

It’s a subtle manipulation tactic that’s often overlooked. The person using it may not even realize what they’re doing.

They tend to paint themselves as the underdog, subtly making you feel guilty or sympathetic towards them. This way, they lure you into doing what they want.

I’m not saying that every victim is a manipulator, but some people are just playing the victim card to get under your skin. 

Bottom line – you can show empathy and understanding, but set clear limits. Recognize their feelings and experiences to let them know you understand. However, make it clear you won’t accept manipulative behavior or them always acting like the victim.

2) They use guilt trips

Manipulation often comes disguised as guilt, and trust me, I’ve been there.

I remember a friend who would often cancel plans at the last minute. But if I ever had to cancel, she would make me feel terrible about it.

She’d say things like, “Oh, I guess I just value our friendship more than you do,” or, “It’s fine, I’m used to people letting me down.”

At first, I felt bad and found myself going out of my way to accommodate her. But over time, I realized this was a pattern. She was subtly manipulating me with guilt to always get her way.

Guilt tripping is a manipulation tactic used to control someone else’s actions. Fight back by remembering you have the right to put yourself first and make choices that are good for you.  

3) They take advantage of your empathy

Empathy is a beautiful human trait. It allows us to understand and share the feelings of others. But, unfortunately, it can also be exploited by manipulative individuals.

Manipulators often target empathetic people because they’re more likely to give in to their requests. They use your empathy as a tool, knowing that you’ll want to help them.

Researchers have found that individuals high in empathy are more likely to comply with unfair requests. This is because they find it more distressing to say no.

When you sense that someone is trying to take advantage of your empathy, start defining your limits and communicating them assertively. Be firm about what you’re willing and unwilling to do, and don’t be afraid to say no when necessary.

4) They twist your words

Manipulators have a knack for twisting your words and using them against you. It’s a clever yet sneaky tactic that can leave you questioning your memory or even your sanity.

They might take something you said out of context and use it to their advantage or make you feel guilty. In more extreme cases, they might deny something ever happened, even if you’re sure it did.

This behavior is often associated with gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator makes the victim question their reality.

If possible, keep a record of your interactions with the manipulator. This can be useful if you need evidence or if the situation escalates. Documentation helps you maintain clarity and objective understanding of the manipulator’s actions.

5) They’re always right

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who never admits they’re wrong? No matter how logically you present your argument, they always have a way to twist things in their favor.

That’s a subtle form of manipulation. These individuals are often so adept at arguing their point that you start doubting your own perspective. Their goal is to maintain control over the situation or conversation.

This stubborn insistence on always being right can make honest, open communication nearly impossible. It’s crucial to recognize this behavior and stand your ground when you know you’re right.

6) They make you feel inadequate

Nothing can erode your confidence faster than someone subtly making you feel inadequate or lesser than them. It’s a quiet, destructive form of manipulation that can be devastating over time.

They might make negative comments about your appearance, your intelligence, or your abilities. These comments are often masked as jokes or constructive criticism, making them hard to confront directly.

This tactic is designed to make you more dependent on their approval and less likely to challenge them. It’s a manipulator’s way of gaining control and power over you.

When this happens, start establishing clear boundaries with the manipulator. Let them know that you won’t tolerate attempts to undermine your self-worth.

7) They use silent treatment

Silent treatment can be a powerful tool in a manipulator’s arsenal. It’s something I’ve experienced, and it left me feeling confused and anxious.

A colleague of mine would often resort to cold silence when things didn’t go his way. Instead of discussing the issue, he would shut down all communication.

This would leave me guessing about what I had done wrong and how to fix it. It felt like walking on eggshells, always afraid of triggering another round of silence.

In this situation, try to have a talk with the manipulator. Stay calm and assertive, letting them know that giving the silent treatment isn’t the right way to solve problems. You might as well let them know that you’ll consider disengaging from the relationship if the silent treatment persists.

8) They’re overly charming

Charm can be delightful, but when it’s used as a tool for manipulation, it can be dangerous. Manipulators often use charm to get what they want.

They might shower you with compliments, make grand gestures, or always agree with you. While these behaviors can be appealing, they’re often calculated moves designed to win your trust and make you more receptive to their demands.

However, keep in mind that genuine charm is not manipulative. The key is to understand the intention behind the charm. If it’s used to deceive or control, it’s a red flag.

9) They make constant demands

Manipulators often have a knack for always getting their way. They do this by making constant demands, often packaged as simple requests or favors.

These demands might seem minor at first, but over time, they can become more significant and more frequent. The manipulator is banking on the fact that you’ll keep saying yes, allowing them to control the relationship.

When faced with a demanding request, take your time before responding. This allows you to consider the situation objectively and prevents you from being pressured into a decision you might regret.

Final thoughts: It’s about awareness

Understanding human behavior is a complex and ongoing process. Recognizing manipulative behavior, particularly when it’s subtle, can be quite challenging.

Awareness is a powerful tool. Knowing these signs of manipulation and understanding their impact is the first step towards dealing with them effectively.

Whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague displaying these behaviors, remember it’s not about blaming but about fostering healthier interactions.

In the end, it’s about understanding and empathy – for yourself and for others. Because everyone deserves respect and fairness in their relationships.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

14 signs you’re dealing with an emotionally immature adult

People who dislike being told what to do usually have these 7 character traits