5 signs you’re exceptionally good at recognizing manipulative behavior

When it comes to stories about being manipulated, this one from an anonymous Quora user takes the cake. 

The question, “Who was the most manipulative person in our history” was posed and the user decided to give a personal experience instead.

They met a young woman who they were fascinated by from the get-go. The woman was “lovely and kind. She was beautiful and had long, thick blonde hair, great teeth, and a nice pretty smile. She was even hotter, blonder, and a more fit version of Rachel McAdams, if that’s even possible,” is how they described her. 

They developed a friendship and after some time the young woman tried to get an apartment with them, despite the fact that they hadn’t fully consented. When the woman talked to them about it, they vaguely said that they would think about it. 

“She would have to move from her parents’ house, which was abroad, and I told her that citizenship is quite difficult,” they say. 

When the young woman didn’t get the response she wanted, she forced the issue. She quit her job, and announced that she was going to move in with them on social media much to their “panic and shock,” they say. 

“Ultimately, she wanted me to sign a lease, and once she got a job [she said] she would pay me back her portion of the rent.”

When they told her point blank that this wouldn’t work for them, the woman (who no doubt realized that her ploy wasn’t going to work) said horrible things about how they had ruined her opportunity for a new life. 

“I was baffled by her anger.”

While this person’s story is pretty extreme, manipulative people can go to remarkable lengths to get what they want. 

You might think you’re not as gullible as the above anonymous person. Perhaps you wouldn’t have become friends with this woman because you would have recognized her manipulative ways the moment you met her. 

That could very well be true. 

Here are five big indications that you are, indeed, very good—exceptional even—at spotting out manipulative behavior.

1) You can spot a manipulator from a mile away

People who are good at recognizing manipulative behavior know that awareness is key

Their radar goes up when they’re around people who like to have their own way. 

Manipulative people often refuse to take “no” for an answer, says the team at Mind Tools. They might also “act differently with different people, putting on a ‘face’ to see an immediate purpose.”

A person who is suspicious of these kinds of people is able to sense this. 

Manipulative people might also make excuses for hurtful behavior and stop at nothing to succeed. They’re also good at giving guilt trips. 

“While you might not be able to avoid these people entirely, you can be on your guard when you’re with them.”

People who are good at spotting manipulators are good at observing how they behave. Paying close attention to what they say and do helps them to learn their “tactics”. 

It’s often also about what they don’t say and do, says the staff at Mind Tools. 

“When you understand the weapons and strategies they use, you’re better able to sidestep them,laugh them off, or confront them.”

2) Being intrinsically skeptical makes you a step ahead of them

The anonymous person from the introduction would have done well to have been skeptical about the woman even before the “apartment incident.”

You probably have much better radar for spotting any red flags about a person because you don’t take things at face value.

Skepticism sounds negative but it can be your best friend when it comes to manipulative people, says Pearl Nash from Global English Editing

“Manipulators often rely on people accepting their words without questioning. But not you. You dig deeper.”

This could be anything from a friend’s advice, a sales pitch, or an opinion piece by a reputable media outlet. “You analyze, you probe, you question to get to the bottom of things,” says Nash. 

“This healthy skepticism guards you against manipulation and mind games. It forces people to be transparent with their intentions and prevents them from taking advantage of your trust.”

People who are automatically skeptical and ask the question “why” and “how” are exceptionally good at stopping manipulation in its tracks. 

Asking for more clarity and context is always the key. 

3) Your energy exudes confidence

Manipulators tend not to mess with those who have a healthy level of self-confidence. 

That’s because confident people aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and call out manipulative behavior, either directly or indirectly, but still in a manner that shows that they aren’t one to be outsmarted. 

“If you are confident in who you are, what you think and feel, and how you respond to their antics, you are less likely to be affected by [a manipulator’s] efforts,” says Sara Makin, M.Ed.

Makin calls confidence the manipulator’s kryptonite.

Conference comes from self-respect and a healthy self-concept; they’re kind to themselves and have positive self-talk. It also means you’re ready to speak up when you notice something is not right.

Confident people also tend to have a strong support system of encouraging people. 

They know their value and they follow through on what they say. 

4) You’re aware of body language—both theirs and yours

As someone who knows how to spot a manipulator, you know that their body language can speak volumes about the fact that they are up to no good. 

A manipulator uses multiple tactics to overpower their “prey”, says Makin.

They might stand or sit too close to you. They might make eye contact and then maintain it so as to intimidate you. They might also speak in a low, authoritative voice, adds Makin. They might point the finger at you when speaking or lean into you “as if they are trying to dominate the conversation.”

People who are good at recognizing manipulative behavior are not only good at picking up on the manipulator’s cues, but they’re also attuned as to how their own body language is coming across.

They know that body language such as crossed arms, avoiding direct eye contact, slouching or shrinking in posture puts them at a disadvantage, says Makin. 

So does shifting around in their seat, speaking in a low tone of voice, and apologizing for things that don’t require an apology—or even quickly shifting the subject away from themselves. 

To keep control of the situation they keep their body language relaxed and open. “Maintain direct eye contact, stand or sit with an upright, tall posture, [and] use hand gestures to emphasize points. Point your feet towards the person when talking.”

Makin also advises taking pauses during the conversation and not to be afraid of taking up space. “[Also] avoid fidgeting and avoid responding too quickly.”

All of these tips show the manipulator that they don’t have power over you. 

5) You have no problem putting off a response…and you don’t give in to any pressure

Here’s an example from the team at Assertive Way

A professional was pressured by a colleague to give him an exception letter for a personal need he had. He called and emailed the professional several times that day saying the letter was urgent and that it had to be done that same day otherwise he would be negatively affected. The professional needed to consult with other parties first and he had priorities.

So, the professional calmly and firmly said that this colleague had to wait one week if he wanted the letter and that it was not their obligation to do it for them. At that point, the colleague stopped forcing his personal timelines on the professional. 

People who are good at taking on manipulators are able to disarm them by refusing to answer them on the spot. They also stand their ground despite any pressure to make a decision. 

They’ll say something like, “I’ll think about it and get back to you later.

In the words of the experts at Assertive Way: “Any rigid timelines are their problems, not yours.” 

Move over, manipulators. Your tactics won’t work here. 

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