If someone is plotting to manipulate you, they’ll display these 9 subtle behaviors

It’s one thing to influence people, quite another to manipulate them.

Manipulation is all about controlling someone’s actions or emotions without their knowledge. It’s sly, it’s sneaky, and it’s not always easy to spot.

But fear not, I’m here to help you out. If someone is trying to manipulate you, they’ll likely display certain subtle behaviors. And I’m going to share with you what these are.

Let’s get started. 

1) They’re always playing the victim

Manipulators often have a knack for playing the victim card.

It’s a clever strategy, really. By presenting themselves as the ‘poor, innocent victims’, they’re subtly trying to gain your sympathy and emotional investment.

They might share heartbreaking stories of their past or constantly complain about how unfair life has been to them. It can be quite convincing and might make you feel obligated to help them.

The aim here is to make you feel guilty if you don’t comply with their requests. Suddenly, you’re not just helping them out, you’re rescuing a damsel in distress or saving a sinking ship.

But remember, manipulation is all about control and deceit. So if someone is always playing the victim around you, it might be a sign that they’re trying to manipulate you.

And remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and protect your own interests. Don’t let their sob stories cloud your judgement.

2) They’re quick to use flattery

Let me tell you a little story about a friend I used to have. Let’s call him Jack.

Jack was quite the charmer and was always quick to shower me with compliments. He’d say things like, “You’re the smartest person I know,” or “I’m so lucky to have you in my life.”

It felt good, I won’t lie. But over time, I started to notice a pattern. Jack would only be this complimentary when he needed a favor or wanted something from me. It was as if he was using these compliments as a way to soften me up before making his request.

Flattery is a common tactic used by manipulators. It’s a way to make you feel special and valued, but it’s often not genuine. It’s just another tool in their manipulation toolbox.

If someone is constantly flattering you, especially if it seems out of proportion or it’s always followed by a request, there might be more to it than meets the eye. Be cautious and remember, genuine compliments don’t come with strings attached.

3) They always seem to know your weaknesses

Manipulators are often very perceptive. They have an uncanny ability to quickly identify your insecurities and weaknesses. This isn’t because they possess some sort of magic power, but rather because they pay close attention and use this information to their advantage.

According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, individuals with manipulative tendencies are more skilled at reading others’ emotions. They use this skill not for empathy, but as a strategy for exploitation and deceit.

If you notice that someone always seems to know exactly which buttons to push or how to get under your skin, it’s possible that they’re using your own vulnerabilities against you. This is a classic sign of manipulation and something to be aware of.

Stay vigilant and protect your emotional boundaries. It’s okay to keep some things to yourself.

4) They tend to guilt-trip you

Guilt-tripping is a classic manipulation tactic.

It’s when someone makes you feel guilty for not doing what they want. They might say things like, “If you really cared about me, you would…” or “I thought I could count on you, but I guess I was wrong.”

These statements are designed to make you feel bad about your choices and actions, and often lead to you complying with their demands just to alleviate the guilt.

If someone consistently tries to guilt-trip you into doing things, it’s a clear sign of manipulation. You have the right to make decisions based on what’s best for you, not out of guilt or obligation to someone else.

It’s okay to say no. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings or happiness.

5) They’re masters of passive aggression

Ah, passive aggression. It’s a manipulator’s best friend.

Instead of openly expressing their feelings or needs, manipulators often resort to passive-aggressive behaviors. This could be in the form of sarcastic comments, silent treatment, or subtle put-downs disguised as jokes.

The goal here is to express displeasure without openly admitting it, making it difficult for you to address the issue directly.

For instance, if you decline their request, they might say something like “Fine, I’ll just do everything myself as usual,” or give you the cold shoulder for days without explaining why.

It’s a frustrating and confusing situation to be in because it leaves you feeling guilty without a clear understanding of what you did wrong.

If someone consistently behaves this way towards you, chances are they’re trying to manipulate you.

Open and honest communication is the key to any healthy relationship. You have every right to ask for it.

6) They always make you feel indebted to them

Manipulators have a way of always making you feel like you owe them something. Whether it’s for a favor they did for you, a gift they gave you, or simply because of the ‘kindness of their heart.’

It’s a subtle, yet powerful tactic. It plays on our natural human instinct to reciprocate kindness and generosity. But in this case, it’s used to create a sense of obligation towards them.

Maybe they often remind you of that one time they helped you out in a tight spot. Or they make grand gestures and then subtly hint at wanting something in return.

This can leave you feeling constantly indebted to them, making it hard for you to say no to their demands.

But here’s the thing, true kindness doesn’t come with expectations. If someone is always making you feel like you owe them, it might be time to reassess your relationship with that person. You don’t need to be in debt to someone for their ‘generosity’.

7) They’re always shifting the blame

I once had a boss who was an expert at shifting blame. Whenever something went wrong, he would always find a way to pin it on someone else, usually a member of our team.

He’d say things like, “If you had done your job correctly, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” or “This is happening because you didn’t listen to my instructions.”

This constant blame-shifting was not only frustrating but also damaging to our team’s morale. It felt like we were always walking on eggshells, afraid of making mistakes.

Manipulators often use blame-shifting to avoid responsibility and maintain control. It’s a way of protecting their ego while undermining your confidence.

If you’re dealing with someone who never seems to take responsibility for their actions and always finds someone else to blame, be wary. You’re not at fault for everything that goes wrong, and it’s okay to stand up for yourself.

8) They use your words against you

Twisting words and using them against you is another common tactic manipulators use.

They might take something you said out of context or distort it to suit their narrative. This can leave you feeling confused, guilty, and even doubting your own memory and judgment.

For example, you might express a concern about their behavior, only to have them turn it around and accuse you of being the one with the problem. They might say things like “You’re just too sensitive,” or “You’re always finding fault in everything.”

This is known as ‘gaslighting’, a form of emotional abuse that can be very damaging.

If someone consistently uses your words against you or makes you question your own reality, take it as a red flag. It’s a classic manipulation technique and not something you should ignore. Trust your instincts and your memory – they’re usually right.

9) They rarely show genuine empathy

At the heart of manipulation lies a lack of genuine empathy. Manipulators might feign concern or interest, but it’s usually just a means to an end.

They’re more interested in using your emotions to control you than they are in understanding or sharing your feelings.

If you notice that someone often dismisses your feelings, shows little interest in your wellbeing, or only shows empathy when they want something from you, it’s a strong indicator of manipulation.

Remember, everyone deserves respect and genuine care in their relationships. Don’t settle for less.

Final thoughts: It’s about self-awareness and boundaries

Navigating human interactions can be a complex maze, especially when manipulation comes into play.

Understanding these subtle behaviors of manipulators is a crucial step towards safeguarding your emotional wellbeing.

But remember this: acknowledging the signs is just the beginning. The real power lies in setting boundaries and standing up for yourself.

Renowned psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud, once said, “Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”

This quote couldn’t be more relevant in the context of manipulation. Knowing where you end and the manipulator begins is the key to preserving your mental health.

It’s about owning your space, your emotions, and ultimately, your life.

So as you reflect on these signs of manipulation, allow them to empower you, not scare you. Let it be a guide to better relationships and stronger self-awareness. Because at the end of the day, no one should have the power to manipulate you.

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

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.

If a man respects these 8 boundaries, he’s more emotionally intelligent than most

If you want your woman to feel deeply loved, say goodbye to these 8 habits