If you notice these 11 behaviors, you’re dealing with a low-key manipulator

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Ever felt like someone’s been pulling your strings without you even noticing? Or maybe you’ve been left with this nagging feeling that you’re always making it about them?

Guess what? You may be dealing with a low-key manipulator.

Manipulation isn’t always easy to spot. In fact, some folks are so sly, you won’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

But don’t sweat it, we’re here to help you catch on before it gets out of hand.

Let’s dive into 8 behaviors that signal you’re dealing with a low-key manipulator.

1. They’re always playing the victim

Manipulators are pros at making themselves look like the victim. No matter the situation, they manage to twist things around so it seems like they’re the ones being wronged.

They do this for two reasons: Firstly, it helps them dodge responsibility for their actions.

Secondly, it makes you feel guilty and puts you in a position where you feel like you need to make things right.

So, if you notice someone constantly painting themselves as the victim, take a step back. Ask yourself if they’re really the injured party or if they’re just trying to manipulate you.

2. They’re masters at guilt tripping

Ever feel guilty for something that you shouldn’t even feel bad about? That’s a classic manipulator move.

Low-key manipulators are experts at making you feel guilty for not meeting their needs or expectations.

They might make you feel bad for not spending enough time with them or for not doing things exactly the way they want.

The thing to remember here is that it’s okay to say no. You have your own life, needs, and boundaries. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking care of yourself!

3. They never take the blame

I had a friend who could never accept when they were at fault. Even in situations where they were clearly in the wrong, they’d find a way to shift the blame onto someone else – often onto me!

For instance, once, they forgot to meet me at our usual coffee spot. Instead of just admitting that they’d forgotten, they blamed me for not reminding them.

It was as if their mistake was suddenly my fault!

What I learned from this is that low-key manipulators rarely take responsibility for their actions.

If you’re dealing with someone who’s always pointing fingers and never owning up to their mistakes, you might be in the company of a manipulator.

Stay aware and don’t let them shift the blame onto you. 

4. They use your secrets against you

Did you know that manipulators often use personal information as ammunition? It’s a sad but true fact.

When you share a secret or a fear with a friend, it’s because you trust them.

But a manipulator will store this information and use it against you when it suits them.

They might bring up your insecurities during arguments or use your fears to control and influence your decisions.

So if you notice that someone uses your secrets or fears against you, be wary. That’s not what friends do—that’s what manipulators do.

5. They belittle your achievements

You’ve worked hard on a project and it’s finally paid off. You’re excited and can’t wait to share your success with your friend.

But instead of being happy for you, they dismiss your achievement or even worse, try to downplay it.

That’s a big red flag. A true friend celebrates your victories with you, no matter how big or small.

If someone is constantly belittling your achievements and making you feel like they’re not a big deal, it’s not because your achievements aren’t significant—it’s because they’re trying to manipulate you.

Never let anyone dull your shine. Your accomplishments are worth celebrating, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

6. They’re always ‘just joking’

I remember a time when a ‘friend’ of mine would constantly make negative comments about me but then brush it off as a joke.

You know the kind, right? The “I’m just kidding” or “Can’t you take a joke?” kind of comments.

For example, they’d make fun of my taste in music in front of others and then laugh it off as just being playful.

But let’s be real, there’s a fine line between friendly banter and derogatory comments disguised as jokes.

What I eventually realized is that this is a classic manipulation tactic.

By making hurtful comments and then passing them off as jokes, manipulators can belittle you without facing any repercussions.

So, if someone is constantly making ‘jokes’ at your expense, it’s okay to call them out on it. You deserve respect and there’s nothing funny about being made to feel small!

7. They make you doubt yourself

Dealing with a manipulator can be a real mind-bender. They have this knack for making you question your own thoughts, feelings, and even your sanity. It’s called gaslighting.

Like that time when they did something that really hurt you, but when you brought it up, they made it sound like it never happened or was all in your head—making you the crazy one.

The truth is, it’s not you, it’s them. Seriously.

If you find yourself constantly doubting your own memories or feelings when you’re with someone, chances are they’re messing with your head.

Trust yourself. Don’t let anyone make you question your own reality. 

8. They isolate you from others

One common strategy used by manipulators is isolation. They try to cut you off from your support network, making you more dependent on them and easier to control.

Manipulators may spread rumors about your other friends or family, or always find faults with the people you are close to.

Their goal is to drive a wedge between you and your loved ones.

So if you find yourself drifting away from your usual crew because someone constantly badmouths them or makes you choose between them and your friends, take a step back. That’s a classic sign of manipulation.

9. They’re always seeking sympathy

I had a friend who was always facing some crisis or another. At first, I was sympathetic and tried to be supportive, but after a while, it started to feel like a pattern.

Every conversation would revolve around their problems, making them the center of attention.

And if I ever needed support or wanted to share something about my life, they’d quickly steer the conversation back to their latest drama.

This is a classic manipulator move – they seek constant sympathy to keep the focus on them and make you feel obligated to help or support them.

So if you’ve got someone in your life who’s always in crisis mode and never gives you space to share your own feelings or experiences, you might be dealing with a manipulator.

Remember, friendships are about give and take, not just take, take, take. 

10. They’re hot then they’re cold

Manipulators can be really unpredictable. One minute they’re your best friend, showering you with compliments and attention, and the next, they’re giving you the cold shoulder for no apparent reason. It’s like living on a rollercoaster.

This constant shifting of behavior is a way to keep you off balance. Just when you think you’ve had enough and are ready to distance yourself, they reel you back in with their charm and affection.

If your relationship with someone feels like an exhausting ride of ups and downs, take note. That’s not how healthy relationships work.

11. They demand your time

Manipulators want to be the center of your universe. And they’ll demand your time and attention to ensure that they are.

They might guilt-trip you for spending time with others, or for pursuing your own interests. They want you all to themselves, because the more time you spend with them, the more control they have over you.

Let me be clear: It’s perfectly okay to have a life outside of any relationship. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise!

These are some signs that you might be dealing with a low-key manipulator.

It’s tough to realize someone you care about could be manipulating you, but remember: recognizing the problem is the first step towards solving it.

Stay strong and stand up for yourself—you got this. 

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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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