Manipulators are dangerous and sly. They live for the game, and the game is to do whatever the hell they want as long as they can get off scot-free.
They’ll have it their way and make you dance to the tune of their music. Sure, everyone thinks they’re able to recognize when they’re getting manipulated, but is that really so?
In this article, you’ll either test your knowledge or you’ll learn exactly what behaviors high-level manipulators display.
So, let’s begin!
1) Threatening negative consequences to get what they want
Skilled manipulators love emotional blackmail. They use threats to coerce you into compliance.
But it’s not just your run-of-the-mill threats. Oh, no. They leverage fear or guilt to create personalized threats that are chilling to the bone.
How? By manipulating your actions and making you believe serious consequences will follow if you resist.
Of course, they don’t do this out of the blue. By the time they make these treats, you know them well, and you know what they’re capable of.
2) Selectively sharing information
Manipulators strategically reveal positive details while concealing anything that challenges their story.
They make sure to have complete control over information so they can shape your perception and get away with misbehavior.
This typically means they’ll stab you in the back as a colleague and won’t share (all) the information with you, and you’ll end up looking like a fool or an incompetent worker.
When you think about it, it’s all too easy to do, isn’t it? You just don’t share with someone a vital piece of the puzzle.
And if you do get caught, you just say you forgot, or you act stupid.
3) Acting extra nice to manipulate you into liking them
High-level manipulators also use excessive charm, showering you with praise and friendliness. It’s a tool to make you comfortable and more likely to comply with their wishes.
They get under your skin, and then, when you’re the most comfortable with them, they’ll make you do their bidding.
They’re smart enough to know that when you perceive someone as kind and friendly, you’re more likely to let your guard down and share information or concede to their requests.
You’re also less likely to question their motives or see through their manipulation.
4) Pretending to be the one suffering to make you feel sorry for them
These nasty people also often portray themselves as victims to evoke sympathy and assistance from others.
They leverage our natural tendency to help others, even when it inconveniences us, by crying wolf.
By presenting themselves as helpless or in need, they want to make you feel sorry for them and, in turn, more likely to assist or support them.
They want to trigger your empathy, making it easier for them to influence your decisions or actions.
5) Making you feel guilty, even when you didn’t do anything wrong
Another thing manipulators love doing is making you feel guilty for things you may or may not have done.
Yes, manipulators skillfully use guilt as a powerful tool to manipulate emotions. Just like your mom did to you when you were a kid, and you didn’t want to eat your dinner or something.
But why on Earth would they use guilt trips on anyone? Because they know they work like a charm.
Here are a couple of examples:
- “I guess I’ll just stay at home alone tonight since you’re so busy with your friends. It’s fine, I’ll manage.”
- “I always sacrifice for everyone else, but I guess my needs don’t matter. It’s okay, I’ll figure it out on my own.”
- “If you loved me, you would do this for me. It’s disappointing, but I understand if you don’t care enough.”
Ouch, right? Just reading this makes me want to do whatever the hell they want me to. Or alternatively, run as fast as I can from them.
So, yeah, recognizing this tactic is crucial to avoid letting their manipulation affect you.
6) Sending mixed signals to keep you off balance
Imagine your partner, colleague, or whoever is responding promptly to your messages one day and completely ignoring them the next.
Or they’re saying one thing today and another tomorrow. That’s quite confusing, right?
That’s what high-level manipulators love doing. They love creating confusion about their level of interest or engagement. They love sending mixed signals or contradicting themselves.
All of this is emotionally draining, and they keep the power and control over the relationship, as well as make you dependent on them.
You start doubting yourself, and if you tolerate it, you’ll reinforce their control.
7) Abusing your vulnerabilities to gain an advantage
High-level manipulators can easily identify and exploit your vulnerabilities, using them against you when the time is right.
It’s a playbook of gaining trust and then manipulating using your weaknesses.
So, for example, they exploit your fears that are related to relationships, work, or other aspects of your life to coerce you into compliance.
Plus, imagine if they knew about your past traumas or difficult experiences. They’d bring up these painful memories to gain emotional control and make you more susceptible to their influence.
It’s a nasty game they’re playing, and you, me, or anyone else aren’t equipped to deal with it at all.
We simply don’t expect someone to be so vile. That’s reserved for the bad guys somewhere out there, not for people we’re close with. Or so we think.
8) Messing with your head to make you doubt your own thoughts and feelings
Gaslighting. Have you heard of it? I’m sure you have. It’s thrown a lot lately. But what does it mean?
It simply means someone is making you question your reality. Politicians often use this tactic, denying campaign promises once in power.
Manipulators on all levels use it extensively. They deny things they said or did, making you question your own memory and perception of events. For example, “I never said that. You must be imagining things.”
And if you confront them about their actions, they turn the tables and blame you, causing you to doubt whether you’re responsible for the issue. “This is happening because of your behavior.”
9) Complimenting you excessively to win your favor
Let’s imagine something again. Imagine how someone keeps telling you how smart and beautiful or handsome you are. How you’re the best at, I don’t know, pickleball, even though you’re barely getting by.
Things like that. They basically toot your horn all the time.
High-level manipulators expertly go overboard in praising your abilities, appearance, or personality, creating a sense of obligation for you to reciprocate in some way.
They use flattery as a tool to build a connection and loyalty. Excessive compliments aim to stroke your ego, making you more likely to comply with their desires.
10) Blaming you for their mistakes
Instead of taking responsibility, manipulators just love shifting the blame onto you. That way, they divert attention from their errors as you’re fuming and now have to defend yourself.
With them, it’s always someone else’s fault, even when they’re more than obviously the one who messed up.
So even when you catch them red-handed, they’ll say they didn’t have control over the situation, project their guilt onto you and others, say they’re a victim of circumstances, and so on.
Many times, they’ll have an excuse lined up and ready to go because they never intended to do the thing they were supposed to in the first place.
So, watch out for those who always point fingers but never look in the mirror.
11) Trying to cut you off from friends and family to control you
Perhaps the most vile and harmful thing a high-level manipulator often does is to isolate you from others.
Look, in a new relationship, we want to spend as much time as we can with our new partner, right?
So we kind of neglect our friends and even our family members. The difference is that a normal partner won’t entice you to do it.
They won’t talk shit about them, so you burn all your bridges and rely solely on them for company, love, friendship, support, etc.
Isolating you from loved ones makes you more dependent on the manipulator. Genuine relationships are crucial for support, so be wary of anyone trying to limit your connections.
12) Ignoring you to make you feel anxious and insecure
Purposeful or intermittent silence is a strategy to control and make you more compliant by triggering anxiety in you. It leaves you in the dark, wondering what you did wrong and eager to fix it.
They’ll give you the silent treatment, intentionally ignoring your messages, calls, or presence to make you feel isolated and uncertain about their feelings.
Ultimately, ignoring is a control tactic. It positions the manipulator as the one in control of the relationship dynamics, leaving you to navigate their unpredictable and emotionally charged responses.
To protect yourself, stay alert, trust your instincts, set boundaries, and seek support from friends or family. Educate yourself on manipulation tactics and take the time needed to make decisions.