If you notice these 9 behaviors, you’re dealing with a manipulative and controlling person

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Spotting a manipulative and controlling person isn’t always easy. They often hide their intentions behind a veil of charm or concern.

The key to identifying them is observing their behaviors closely. Manipulators, you see, have certain patterns they follow; tell-tale signs that give them away.

In this article, we’re going to delve into these 9 distinct behaviors. This way, you can arm yourself with knowledge and protect your peace.

Remember, it’s not about being paranoid, it’s about being aware. Let’s dive in, shall we?

1) They’re always playing the victim

Manipulative people have this uncanny knack of always making themselves the victim. It’s almost as if they have an invisible shield that deflects any blame or responsibility.

Their stories often revolve around how they’ve been wronged or treated unfairly. This is a classic technique to gain sympathy and divert attention from their controlling behavior. They want you to feel bad for them and hence, excuse their actions.

Also, by constantly portraying themselves as the victim, they keep you off-balance. You end up in a constant state of guilt, thinking you’ve done something wrong.

The key here is to recognize this pattern. If someone frequently plays the victim card, especially when confronted about their behavior, you might be dealing with a manipulator.

2) They never respect your boundaries

A personal experience comes to mind. I had a friend who would constantly invade my personal space and disregard my boundaries.

For instance, I made it clear that I didn’t want to discuss my love life with him. Yet, he would often probe and push for information, dismissing my discomfort with a casual “Oh come on, we’re friends!”

This consistent disregard for my boundaries was a huge red flag. While it may seem harmless at first, this behavior is a classic sign of a manipulative person.

Respecting boundaries is the bedrock of any healthy relationship. If someone continually crosses those lines and dismisses your feelings, it’s a clear sign they are trying to control and manipulate you.

3) They use gaslighting to confuse you

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique where a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own perception and sanity.

It’s named after the 1944 film ‘Gaslight’, where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you confront this person about something they did that upset you. Instead of discussing it, they twist the narrative, saying things like “That never happened” or “You’re just imagining things.”

Over time, this constant questioning can make you doubt your own memory and perception. You start to think maybe you are too sensitive or perhaps you did remember it wrong.

This is straight-up mind game territory and one of the most potent tools in a manipulator’s arsenal.

4) They emotionally blackmail you

Manipulative people are experts at emotional blackmail. They use guilt, fear, and obligation to control and manipulate you.

For example, they might say things like “If you really loved me, you would do this” or “I thought I could count on you, but I guess I was wrong.” These statements are designed to make you feel guilty or fearful, leading you to act in a way that suits their needs.

This is not healthy behavior. In a balanced relationship, decisions should be made jointly with respect for each other’s feelings. It’s never okay for someone to use your emotions against you.

5) They always turn the tables

Dealing with a manipulative person often feels like being on a never-ending merry-go-round. You approach them with an issue, and before you know it, the tables are turned, and you’re the one on the defensive.

For instance, you might say, “I felt hurt when you didn’t keep your promise.” Instead of addressing your feelings, they respond with “Well, you’ve broken promises too.”

Suddenly, the issue at hand is forgotten, and you’re left defending yourself. This tactic is a way for them to avoid responsibility and make you feel guilty instead.

Be wary of this. A genuine discussion involves listening and addressing each other’s concerns, not deflecting blame and changing the subject. 

6) They undermine your self-esteem

Manipulative people often target your self-esteem, subtly undermining your confidence to make you more dependent on them. This is one of their most damaging tactics, as it chips away at your sense of self-worth.

They may belittle your achievements, dismiss your feelings, or constantly criticize you. These actions are designed to make you feel lesser, questioning your value and abilities.

This can be incredibly hard to endure. But remember, their words and actions reflect on them, not you. You are deserving of respect and kindness.

7) They’re hot and cold

Once, I was close to someone who could be incredibly sweet and caring one minute, then cold and distant the next. Their unpredictable mood swings left me constantly on edge, never knowing what version of them I’d get.

This is a common strategy manipulative people use. By being hot and cold, they keep you guessing, creating an imbalance in the relationship. You find yourself walking on eggshells, trying not to upset them.

This inconsistency isn’t a sign of a moody personality; it’s a calculated move to maintain control.  Relationships should bring you comfort and consistency, not uncertainty and stress.

8) They isolate you from others

Manipulative people often try to isolate you from your friends and family. They want to be your only source of information and support, making you more dependent on them.

They might make negative comments about your loved ones, or create situations that cause friction between you and others. The goal is to slowly separate you from your support system, leaving them as your only anchor.

This isolation can be incredibly harmful, leaving you feeling alone and vulnerable.

9) They make you feel indebted to them

The most important thing to remember about manipulative people is that they often use a tactic called ‘loan sharking.’ They’ll do you a favor or help you out, making you feel like you owe them.

This debt is then used as leverage, exerting control over your actions and decisions. They remind you of their kindness or generosity, making you feel guilty if you don’t comply with their wishes.

But here’s the truth: genuine acts of kindness don’t come with strings attached. If someone constantly reminds you of their favors and expects something in return, it’s manipulation, not generosity.

Remember, you don’t owe anyone for their kindness. Don’t let anyone use their favors as a means to control you.

Final thoughts: It’s about self-empowerment

Understanding the dynamics of manipulation is a critical step towards protecting ourselves. However, it’s equally important to remember that dealing with a manipulative person isn’t about winning a battle. It’s about self-empowerment.

Recognizing these behaviors is the first step. The next is setting boundaries, asserting your rights, and seeking help if necessary. It’s about finding the strength within you to say, “I deserve respect and kindness.”

The American psychologist and author, Dr. Wayne Dyer, once said, “How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” You can’t control others’ actions, but you can control your reactions.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

9 things exceptionally calm people always do (but never talk about)

7 things high achievers never reveal about themselves at work