If someone is manipulating you, they’ll usually employ these 8 subtle conversational tactics

There’s a thin line between influence and manipulation, and it all boils down to intent.

Manipulation involves steering someone towards certain actions or decisions, often for personal gain and without their full awareness. It’s an art, and manipulators can be crafty.

On the flip side, when someone influences you, they’re merely offering a different perspective, leaving the final decision up to you.

But how do you spot manipulation? It often sneaks into conversations through subtle tactics. As someone who’s been on both sides of the coin, I believe it’s crucial to know these tactics.

So let’s dive into the 8 conversational techniques manipulators commonly use.

1) They’re always right

Spotting manipulation isn’t always easy, especially when the manipulator is skilled. However, one sign you’re dealing with a manipulator is their belief in their infallibility.

Manipulators have an uncanny knack for presenting themselves as experts on every topic. They’ll often use their supposed knowledge to convince you of their viewpoint or to make a decision in their favor.

You might find yourself on the receiving end of a barrage of facts, statistics, and arguments designed to paint their perspective as the only logical one. The underlying aim? To undermine your confidence in your own judgment and make you more susceptible to their influence.

Remember, though, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. No one is an expert on everything. So if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.

2) They use guilt as a weapon

Manipulators are experts at making you feel guilty, especially when you’re not following their script. They’ll use guilt as a weapon, turning your emotions against you.

I remember a time when a friend of mine, let’s call her Jane, would constantly make plans on my behalf. She’d invite people over to my place, or arrange for us to meet at events I didn’t have an interest in. When I confronted her about it, she’d turn it around on me, making me feel guilty for not being more social or flexible.

It took me a while to realize that this was a manipulation tactic. Jane was using guilt to control my actions and get what she wanted.

If you find yourself constantly feeling guilty around a particular person for seemingly no reason, it might be time to take a step back and reassess the relationship.

3) They dominate conversations

In any healthy interaction, there’s a give and take. Each person gets a chance to speak, share their thoughts, and be heard. But with manipulators, it’s a different ball game.

Manipulators often dominate conversations, making it all about them. They’ll steer the topic towards their interests or issues and keep it there. You might find yourself listening more than you speak or struggling to get a word in edgewise.

Interestingly, a study found that people who talk more are often perceived as dominant and influential. Manipulators are aware of this and use it to their advantage.

So if you notice that your conversations with someone are consistently one-sided, it could be a sign of manipulation. Remember, your voice matters too.

4) They give you ultimatums

Manipulators are masters at cornering you with ‘either-or’ situations. These ultimatums are designed to force your hand and make you act in their favor.

They’ll put you in a position where it seems like you only have two choices, and one is clearly worse than the other. “If you really cared about me, you would do this,” or, “If you don’t do this, then we can’t be friends,” are typical examples of the ultimatums a manipulator might use.

In reality, there are usually more options available than the two extremes they present. Recognizing this tactic can help you stand your ground and find alternative solutions.

5) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that involves making someone question their own reality and sanity. It’s a potent and damaging form of manipulation that can leave you feeling confused, anxious, and doubting your own perceptions.

Imagine a friend consistently showing up late for your plans. When you confront them about it, they deny it ever happened or insist you’re overreacting. Over time, this kind of behavior can make you question your own memory and judgment.

Remember, your feelings and experiences are valid. If someone constantly makes you doubt your own reality, it’s a sign they might be gaslighting you.

6) They play the victim

Manipulators can often adopt a victim mentality to gain sympathy and manipulate others. They’ll recount tales of their hardships and portray themselves as the innocent party in every situation.

I had a colleague who was constantly late on projects, but instead of owning up to his procrastination, he’d spin tales of how he was overworked and didn’t have enough support. His stories were so convincing that we often found ourselves sympathizing with him, even volunteering to help with his workload.

Only later did we realize that he was using his ‘victim’ status to avoid responsibility and manipulate others into doing his work. So if someone always seems to be the victim, it might be a sign they’re trying to manipulate you.

7) They’re always “just joking”

Manipulators often use humor as a way to disguise their harmful comments or actions. They’ll say something hurtful or inappropriate and then brush it off as a joke if you react negatively.

This tactic allows them to express their true feelings without taking responsibility for them. If you call them out, they can claim you’re overreacting or lacking a sense of humor.

Watch out for this pattern. It’s okay to let someone know when their ‘jokes’ overstep the line and make you uncomfortable. You have the right to express your feelings and set boundaries.

8) They use your secrets against you

The most potent weapon a manipulator can wield is your own vulnerability. If you’ve shared personal information or secrets with them, they might use this knowledge to manipulate you.

They could bring up these sensitive topics to make you feel guilty, insecure, or indebted to them. This tactic is designed to control your actions and keep you under their influence.

Remember, trust is a cornerstone of any relationship. If someone uses your secrets against you, it’s a clear sign of manipulation and a breach of trust. Protect your personal information and share it only with those who respect your boundaries and confidentiality.

Final thoughts: Knowledge is power

Understanding the subtle tactics of manipulation can be a powerful tool in navigating your relationships.

So whether it’s recognizing when someone is always playing the victim, using your secrets against you, or constantly gaslighting you – being aware of these signs can help you assert your boundaries and take control of the situation.

Remember, everyone deserves respect and kindness in their interactions. If someone consistently uses manipulative tactics, it might be time to reconsider the role they play in your life.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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