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11 signs of a conniving person (and how to deal with them)

Image credit: Shutterstock - By Roman Kosolapov

Having a conniving person in your life can be a huge weight on your shoulders, something that can hold you back from your true potential for months if not years, especially if you never do anything to get rid of them.

But the thing about conniving, toxic individuals? They’re smart, calculative, and subtle: they do just enough to control you, but not enough to truly out themselves.

So how do you identify the possible conniving person manipulating you in your life?

Here are 11 common signs of a conniving person, and why they do exactly what they do:

1. They Don’t Care About Anyone Else’s Opinion

When a conniving person makes a choice, nothing else matters.

If they decide that someone is deserving of ridicule, or the spot of your next vacation with the friends, or even what you should wear to a party, nothing else matters: you do what they say, there’s no way around it.

If you ask them to hear you out, they’ll have enough social grace to pretend to grant you an audience.

But you might as well be convincing a wall because it’s nothing more than an act to make you believe that they’re kind enough to listen to you. At the end of the day, their opinion trumps yours.

2. They’re Masters At Bringing You Down

Some of us have mastered compliments, and others have mastered the opposite of it.

A conniving person is perfectly equipped with the skillset in bringing people down, all with enough subtlety that you can’t really tell if they’re doing it on purpose.

But why do they do this? Because they want to keep you beneath them.

A conniving person doesn’t have friends, they have subordinates.

They have people who follow them and do what they say, and the only way they can keep that control over them is by periodically reminding them of their flaws.

Because how can you revolt against the queen if you have to lose a few pounds?

3. They Don’t Know The Meaning of Accountability

It’s hammered into us from an early age that the things we do can lead to consequences, and taking responsibility and accountability for our actions is what makes us good people.

But to a conniving individual, they have no desire to be a “good person”, which is why the idea of accountability is totally alien to them.

A conniving person hasn’t been told “no” enough times in their life, and also hasn’t ever been punished.

This is why they live with wild abandon, because they know that even if their actions do get them in trouble, one of their many minions can easily take the fall on their behalf.

4. Their Word Means Nothing

In this world of instant messages, receipts, and the ability to delete what you said, does your word even really mean anything anymore?

While some of us still respect the things we say and promise, a conniving person couldn’t care less about the words that come out of their mouth.

To a conniving individual, words are no more than tools and instruments to further get what they want.

They say what needs to be said because they don’t care about living up to it; they just know they can squeeze out of their promises and commitments in the future, with no consequences.

5. They Punish You When You Don’t Follow Them

You may think, “Alright, so I do have a conniving person in my life. But it’s not that big of a deal, as long as I know when to say ‘enough is enough’, right?”

But another manipulative tactic of a conniving, toxic individual is in how they punish you when you don’t always do everything they say.

And one of the most common forms of punishment? The silent treatment.

If you didn’t wear what they told you to wear, or if you didn’t help them when they asked for it, they’ll start ignoring you.

And this sets in the impending dread of abandonment inside of you, because you have the feeling that they might be talking about you behind their back to other friends (since they talk about other friends to you).

6. They’ve Never Really Accomplished Anything

One key sign in identifying a conniving person is going through their history.

Find out if they’ve ever really accomplished anything “big”, the type of thing that requires true dedication and commitment to complete.

In every single case of a conniving individual, you will find that all of their accomplishments are hollow or made up.

This kind of person simply doesn’t have the willpower or attention span to work hard enough in their life to achieve anything worth having, because they’ve built their life around the daily routines of bullying and manipulating those around them.

7. Despite Everything Else, You Fear The Possibility Of Them Abandoning You

The strangest power that a conniving person has?

Their ability to make you need them, to the point that you can’t stand the reality of not having them in your life.

While submissive individuals in toxic relationships with conniving individuals are aware at some level of the tilted relationship dynamic, that doesn’t mean they can stop their guts from worrying about losing this person.

But why do you worry about abandonment?

Two reasons:

1) they’ve slowly slid themselves into a position where they make all the major (and even minor) decisions in your life, so you’ve gotten used to having another person control you.

2) they always have a superior air about them, so you always have the feeling that you’re never enough for them, and it’s only a matter of time until they find someone better to spend their time with.

8. They’ve Made “Sides” Amongst Your Circles

Your friends and family should be your safe spaces.

When life becomes particularly draining, you should be able to turn to your friends and family and treat them as your confidantes; the people with whom you can share anything with.

But a conniving person is extra devious in that they know how to slide into your deepest social circles and turn them against you.

They start off by acting like the nicest and most charming person in the world, winning the hearts of everyone in your life.

But then when they decide it’s time to get something out of you, they start whispering behind your back to the people you trust most.

Even if they don’t entirely convince them, it’s often enough to shake the foundation of your relationships, which can be emotionally grappling.

9. They Move The Goalposts Constantly

In the ideal world, no argument would involve emotions, personal attacks, or irrational outbursts.

The perfect “argument” between two emotionally stable individuals is closer to a structured debate: you lay out the facts, and calmly discuss the reasons why you aren’t on the same page.

But a conniving person isn’t arguing to get to the best conclusion for both parties’ benefits.

They don’t care about a fair and just resolution where both people can end up feeling happy and satisfied at the end of the day.

A conniving person argues just to win, even if it means bringing in the most absurd and ridiculous arguments possible.

This is why there’s just no arguing with a conniving person; they don’t care about their goalposts 5 minutes ago.

They simply care about you shutting up and admitting that they’re right and you’re wrong.

10. They Feel That They Deserve To Control The Lives Of Those Around Them

We’re not exactly sure why conniving people feel this way, but they all do: they feel that they have the god given right to puppeteer the lives of the people (or minions, as they think of them) they latch onto.

One possibility is that it’s a side effect of how inflated their egos are; they believe that their opinions and decisions are so superior to everyone else’s, that their “minions” would be fools not to take every opportunity to learn from them.

Either way, control is the name of the game for the most conniving individuals out there. And the more submissive a person is, the easier it is for them to take over their lives.

11. They Go Crazy When Called Out On Their Behavior

A conniving person is one thing if anything: absolutely confident in their abilities.

They see themselves as the main character in their movie, the James Bond in their manipulations.

They know exactly how they’re treating the people around them, but they believe they keep getting away with it because no one has ever caught on.

Which is why calling them out on their terrible behavior is like pulling the rug out from under their feet.

They feign complete outrage at the insinuation that they — the nicest and best person in the world — could ever be as devious and conniving as the accusations.

When they start freaking out like this, the only right response is to leave the conversation and never look back; you finally summed up the courage to call them out, so don’t let their words pull you back in.

How to deal with a conniving person: 6 important tips

1. Ignore what they do and say

When dealing with a conniving person, a big mistake a lot of people make is that they think they can change them.

This is a diffcult task even for a psychologist.

If you try to correc them and change their behavior, you’ll only sink deeper into their trap.

They’ll use your frustration and confusion as bait to enter into a conflict with them.

Once they understand what triggers you, they’ll use that to their advantage.

So the first stategy you should employ is to ignore them completely. Don’t let them in your life.

Now if you can’t avoid them, your second best option is to minimize interaction with them as much they can.

Try to avoid conflict and if they don’t have much influence on your life and your emotions, then consider that a win.

If you can’t ignore them, or minimize conflict to a point where they don’t influence your life, then consider the below strategies.

2. Turn the tables

If they’re making your life miserable and there is no way to avoid them, then it’s time to go on the offensive.

Find their center of gravity. Create allies with people close to them, or even better, their boss or people who have influence in their life. Understand what makes them tick.

The more you understand who they are, the more you’ll understand their weaknesses.

Everyone has weaknesses. You just need to find theirs.

3. Trust your judgment

You know what’s best for your life. Think for yourself. Don’t seek other people’s opinions. Stand strong in what you believe and who you are.

The more you believe in yourself, the harder it will be for somoene to manipulate you. Define yourself. Trust yourself.

What separates successful people from unsuccessful is the ability to back themselves in.

If you’re allowing other people to influence what you believe, it means you don’t know what you believe yourself.

4. Avoid blame

When you sit down to talk about how you have been feeling and what you have been seeing, be sure to not blame them for their actions.

Sure, they need to take responsibility for the way they treat you, but you don’t need to blame them to get them to own up to it.

According to Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP in Health Line “don’t try to beat them. Two people shouldn’t play this game.”

The truth is that if someone knows they are manipulating you, they’ll be very unlikely to stop. If, however, you suspect that this person has no idea how they are treating you, ensuring you don’t place blame can go a long way in reopening the relationship.

Not all manipulators set out to hurt people. Many just work with what they have to turn the situation in their favor; a conversation about how you feel can help turn the tides back to an equal playing field.

5. Hold your ground

If, of course, you find yourself confronted with a true manipulator who is going to great lengths to make your life miserable, you’ll need to hold your ground when you confront them about it.

This means that no matter what happens, you will stand up for yourself and be clear about what you will and will not put up with.

Preston Ni M.S.B.A. in Psychology Today offers some great advice:

“The single most important guideline when you’re dealing with a psychologically manipulative person is to know your rights, and recognize when they’re being violated. As long as you do not harm others, you have the right to stand up for yourself and defend your rights.”

It’s tricky to advise on what is the right answer about how people should be treated because everyone needs something different, so if you feel like what you are getting is not good enough or is hurting you in some way, say it.

And then stand your ground. Don’t let them twist and turn the situation so that you look like the bad guy – classic manipulator moe.

Don’t stand for that kind of treatment. Decide ahead of time what the consequences are for this person choosing not to obey your requests.

6. Be clear about what you believe is happening

An important part about dealing with someone who has manipulative tendencies is that you need to be very clear about what they are doing that is hurting you and how they are doing it.

You don’t need to try to explain it away, and you don’t need to ask them questions about why they do the things they do.

You do, however, need to make sure you can give examples of how they have been treating you and how you would prefer to be treated.

It’s not an easy conversation to have and the likelihood of them attacking you as a way to protect themselves is quite high.

When it comes to dealing with a manipulative person, you need to be clear about what you want, need, and expect from them. If they can’t deliver, it might be time to move on.

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Written by 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. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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