10 signs you’re dealing with a master manipulator (according to psychology)

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If you met a master manipulator would you know it? 

Most people would say yes, however the truth is that the answer is contained within the question itself. 

A truly masterful manipulator will not show their hand and will tend to slip through the cracks. Even the most seasoned observer and expert of behavior can miss the subtle signs that somebody isn’t being genuine and just wants to exploit or mislead. 

This article will give you deeper insights into how to spot a master manipulator and see-through their psychological trickery and emotional blackmail. 

Let’s dive in! 

1) Guilting you

The guiding principle of a master manipulator is to make other people think there is something wrong with them and doubt themselves. 

One of the most effective ways to do this is to make other people feel guilty or feel that they have overstepped their bounds in some way. 

Master manipulators will get folks to feel this way by pretending to be offended, pretending to be emotionally aggrieved or pretending to be hurt or traumatized in some way. 

Whether they claim to be triggered when they are actually not or act like you are being selfish or neglectful towards them, the basic tactic here is to make you feel that you have done something wrong when you actually have not.

2) Playing the victim

One of the best ways to get someone to feel guilty is to play the victim, which is why master manipulators return to this tried-and-true tactic all the time. 

By presenting themselves as the victim and focusing on the way that life has treated them unfairly, they make anybody who disagrees with them or stands up to them potentially feel guilty or wrong. 

The master manipulator will often play the victim in order to act like they are beyond reproach or that any criticism of them is inherently unfair or a form of bullying. 

This is not actually the case of course. 

3) Low-key threats

Manipulators are not above threats and intimidation when they feel that will be effective. 

Whether it is at the workplace, and personal relationships or any other area of life, the manipulator will try to get their way by making it clear that the benefits of doing what they want outweigh the costs.

They will hint at or even explicitly mention consequences and negative reactions on their part if you do not do what they want and will intimidate you in such a way. 

4) Playing dumb

Another favorite tactic of brilliant manipulators is simply to play dumb. 

By pretending not to understand what you are asking or what is wanted of them, they sink into a passive mode and are able to remain with it a selfish and exploitative frame of mind. 

Manipulators will often pretend not to understand the emotions or point of view of a person who is interacting with them. 

In reality, they understand fully well but simply do not wish to admit fault or do not wish to change their approach or make up for something they have done.

As Clinical Psychologist Dr. George Simon, Ph.D. writes:

“Many times, when your gut is telling you that you’re being taken advantage of, played for a fool, or simply being mistreated, and you confront a disordered character about it, they’ll act like they have no idea what you’re talking about. 

“They’ll pretend to be totally unaware and in the dark.”

5) Wry sarcasm 

Sarcasm can be hilarious and very apt in certain situations, but it can also be an effective tool of a manipulative person. 

By using cutting sarcasm at the opportune time, the manipulator can make you feel like you are the lowest form of dirt on the planet. 

Using their words, snaring expressions and unfunny jokes that tell you to the core, manipulators move you into an approval seeking mode whereby your well-being begins to depend on their thumbs up or thumbs down.

This is a very disempowered position to be in, needless to say.

6) Gaslighting 

Gaslighting is the technique of making someone believe that their perceptions and experiences are not happening or that their perceptions and experiences are their own fault. 

It is a favorite tool of manipulators because it can be adapted to almost any situation and used against people who already have cracks in the armor of their self-esteem. 

If you are one of those people who tends to doubt yourself, you are a prime target for a master manipulator

That’s because this can easily feed into that cycle of self-done and get you to question your very foundational perceptions and judgments about the world around you and the interactions you are having.

7) Distortion and omission 

Lies can be easy to spot especially when they’re factually incorrect or glaringly in your face. 

But distortion of the truth as well as omitting parts of the truth are far more effective. That is why swearing an oath before the court requires promising to tell the whole truth not just some of the truth. 

Master manipulators love to tell part of the truth but leave out parts that are not conducive to their own motives or desired outcomes.

8) Seduction and sexual tools

Manipulators will often use seduction and sexual attraction to their advantage. 

Using their assets in a way that is tempting they will try to get you to stray from your own values or intentions and goals. 

Throwing aside caution, they want you to bend to their will and come around to their purposes. 

The name of the game is to get you to comply with their wishes rather than maintaining your own frame and sticking up for yourself.

Seduction can do the trick in many cases, and manipulators know that. 

9) Hypocritical advice

Manipulators love to give advice that they don’t actually follow. The rule of the day is do as I say not as I do. 

The reason this is so effective is because the manipulator essentially carves out a place for themselves in which they do not follow their own rules but have power over you by setting the rules that you have to follow. 

Think of politicians and some corporate executives, for example. They can be extremely fond of making rules and passing judgments that others have to obey which they themselves carve out exemptions to for themselves and their friends. 

This is fairly typical manipulative behavior, although that does not make it any less egregious or damaging when it impacts you as a citizen, employee, partner or human being. 

10) Silver-tongued slyness

The gift of the gab can be used to argue in front of a courtroom, right inspiring novels or cheer people when they are down. 

But it can also be used to manipulate and take advantage of folks. The manipulator will use their gift with language and words to take advantage of other people and have you feeling like you’re going crazy.

In reality, you are actually just trying to stand up for your basic boundaries and rights

However, by using their words and oratorical skills to bend your perception of reality the manipulator has you thinking up is down and war is peace before you even realize what is happening.

If you don’t boast about these 9 things, you have a humble personality

If someone displays these 9 traits, they value honesty above all else