Manipulators are everywhere.
They can be your bosses or colleagues, friends, partners, family, or even strangers. But these are people out to use and abuse you if they can.
The American Psychological Association defines manipulation as “behavior designed to exploit, control, or otherwise influence others to one’s advantage.” So, with this definition, we can see that while manipulation can be sinister, it doesn’t always have to be.
Instagram stars can be said to be manipulative because their behavior is designed specifically to influence you. Advertising is also meant to get you to do something that you ordinarily wouldn’t – buy the product.
But in this article, we’re going to talk about the darker side of manipulation. When I talk about manipulative people here, I mean people who are taking advantage, using, and abusing others and have no qualms about doing it.
To protect yourself from being hurt by these people, you need to arm yourself and the best way to do that is to be able to pick out a manipulator quickly and keep them at a distance.
So if you recognize these seven signs, you’re dealing with a really manipulative individual who you should definitely avoid.
1) They’re quick to criticize.
Manipulative people are trying to gain some advantage, and that often means they feel they need to take something away from someone else.
This helps them to diminish the value of other people or their work and make themselves look better by comparison. Or at least, that’s what they’re trying to do.
If you find yourself being criticized frequently by someone in your life, you may have to take a step back and try to look at the situation objectively.
They might have perfectly valid reasons for criticizing you, or they may be trying to manipulate you. If the criticism always only comes from one person while others actually commend you, or if their criticisms seem designed to hurt you rather than be constructive, you should take it with a grain of salt.
2) They seem to be trying to isolate you.
This is something that you might expect to be normal in romantic relationships. We all know that some people jealously guard their partners and spouses.
But you might be surprised to know that it can happen in friendships and even in working relationships.
Essentially, isolating someone is an attempt to keep them from associating with other people, or at least to limit this association as much as possible. They try to keep you to themselves and away from others.
Why would anyone do that?
Well, the reason is simple – they get something out of you that they don’t want to share with anyone else.
This could be anything, including sex, obedience, dependence, emotional support, expertise, advice, and a lot more.
And in general, whatever that thing is that you have is something they desperately need. Since they’re desperate for it, they assume others are, too, and that’s why they feel the need to isolate you.
They’re afraid others will take from you what they’re taking, and there will be nothing left for them.
So, how do you actually figure into the whole equation? Normally, they don’t care about you, just what you can provide them with.
So, your emotional suffering as a result of being isolated doesn’t concern them.
Cold and calculated, right?
3) They gaslight you.
Gaslighting is a modern name for an age-old behavior – trying to get a person to doubt their own version of reality and replace it with a modified one.
Gaslighting can include things as simple as correcting a story you’re telling by saying you remember the details wrong. But it can also be as sinister as trying to convince you that you’re actually crazy by actively lying to you and making you question your feelings and recollections.
To do this, they’ll try to keep you away from others who could corroborate what’s actually going on. They lie to you and try to confuse you so that you begin to doubt yourself.
They’ll even seek to blame you for things that they did wrong.
All of this adds up to a serious attack on your mental well-being and can sometimes be considered a form of emotional abuse.
If someone keeps trying to make you doubt yourself, they could very well be manipulating you to gain some advantage.
4) They love-bomb you.
Love-bombing might sound like a weird sex move, but it’s actually a very manipulative behavior that makes you feel great.
At first, anyway.
See, a love-bomber will start out a relationship with a big bang.
They’ll shower you with praise and attention. They’ll buy you gifts, pamper you, and make you feel like the most important person in the world.
Sounds OK so far, right?
But as the barrage continues, you can start to feel a change in its direction.
The person might start demanding all of your time and attention, disguised in a sneaky “I want to be with you all the time” sentiment.
They’ll probably start escalating things so quickly that it sends your head spinning. They want to move in together before you know it. They want you to meet their folks. They start talking about leveling up.
Falling in love is electrifying; so many people get love-bombed while thinking it’s just normal infatuation. But then they find themselves emotionally swamped, and that’s when they might realize that they’re being manipulated.
See, people love bomb to get their partners completely attached to them. Once they are, things will change dramatically, however.
They’ll start acting jealous, possessive, and controlling, and that’s the manipulation. Anytime the partner suggests they feel bad, the love-bomber can point to their actions in the past to prove how much they love them.
But know this – that past is gone, and you’ll never be treated like that again.
5) They guilt-trip you.
When someone wants something from you, they’ll use all the weapons in their arsenal to get it.
And for most manipulative people, guilt-tripping is a weapon of choice.
I was in a relationship once with a woman named Lisa. She was quite a homebody, but at that time, I was into a lot of sports and going out with friends.
Instead of recognizing and accepting our differences, she would always try to make me feel bad for going out and leaving her home alone – even though staying home was what she wanted to do.
This manipulation was pretty obvious and not so malicious, but it still was based on trying to make me feel bad, so I’d do what she wanted.
Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out, and I’m certainly thankful for that!
6) They use emotional blackmail.
Guilt-tripping can be considered a form of emotional blackmail, but there are enough other methods that it deserves its own point here.
This is when a person uses methods of any kind to strike at your emotions and use them to get what they want.
I’ll give another example from a relationship I was once.
Dani broke up with me and left me truly heartbroken after a multi-year relationship. I worked hard to pick up the pieces of my life and get things back on track. I even moved to a new city.
Then, one day, she announced she wanted me back and was coming to see me. I agreed because, deep down, I still had feelings for her. Or I thought I did.
But when she arrived, and we tried to work things out, I realized that my heart had moved on.
She refused to accept that, though, and this culminated in one of the worst acts of emotional blackmail I’ve ever experienced.
In a rage, she grabbed a knife and locked herself in the bathroom, saying she’d kill herself if I didn’t get back together with her.
With nothing else to do, I relented at the time.
But it didn’t work out for her. I immediately told her parents, and they came and brought her home.
She’d been too extreme, using my feelings of care and compassion for her to try to blackmail me into a relationship, but instead, it only pushed me away for good.
7) They play the victim.
One more sign of a really manipulative individual is that they play the victim constantly.
If there’s any conflict, they’ll always portray themselves as the ones who got hurt, not the aggressors.
If you try to talk to them about your needs, they’ll accuse you of stomping all over theirs.
They’ll keep flipping the script to make them seem pitiable and worthy of your concern, but remember, it’s all a deceit.
If you recognize these seven signs, you’re dealing with a really manipulative individual.
If you want my advice, don’t stick around, don’t even walk away. Just run as fast and as far as you can to protect yourself from being mistreated by that unscrupulous person!