9 subtle signs someone is an expert manipulator, according to psychology

Manipulation often happens right under our noses, and the most skilled manipulators are experts at their craft.

They have a knack for twisting situations and conversations to their advantage, while their true intentions remain hidden. It’s unsettling, to say the least.

Psychology provides some insight into identifying these individuals. From subtle signs and tactics, we can learn to spot an expert manipulator.

In this article, we’ll explore 9 of these signs.

Stay tuned!

1) They’re masters of disguise

Expert manipulators are like chameleons. They blend into any situation, adapting their behavior, language, and attitude to suit the people around them.

This ability to be a social chameleon is one of the primary psychological signs of a skilled manipulator. They can fit into any group, making it easier for them to sway opinions and control situations.

One moment they might be your best friend, the next they’re your superior, all depending on what best serves their purpose.

Being versatile is not inherently bad, but when used with ill intent, it’s a powerful tool for manipulation.

2) They know how to play the victim

I still remember a former coworker of mine, let’s call him Jack. Jack had an uncanny knack for turning every situation into a sob story where he was the victim.

If a project failed, it wasn’t because he missed deadlines or overlooked details. Instead, he’d spin a tale about how he was set up to fail, how others didn’t provide him with the necessary resources, or how he was burdened with too much work.

It was never his fault. He was always the victim.

This is a classic sign of an expert manipulator. By playing the victim, they divert attention away from their own shortcomings and place the blame on others.

If you notice someone frequently playing the victim and never taking responsibility for their actions, it could be a sign that they’re manipulating the narrative in their favor.

3) They’re experts at gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique that involves making someone question their own reality or sanity.

The term was coined from a 1944 film, “Gaslight”, in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane.

In real life?

Expert manipulators use gaslighting to sow seeds of doubt, making the other person question their memory, judgment, or even sanity. This destabilizes the individual and gives the manipulator power and control.

4) They’re always one step ahead

Expert manipulators are proficient strategists. They can anticipate others’ reactions and plan their moves accordingly, like a chess player thinking several moves ahead.

They use this skill to control situations and steer them in their preferred direction. If there’s a disagreement or confrontation, they’ll have already thought through the possible responses and prepared their counterarguments.

Being strategic isn’t inherently nefarious, but when used for manipulation, it becomes a sign of an expert at work.

5) They use guilt as a weapon

We’re all familiar with guilt trips, and expert manipulators know how to use them effectively. They have a knack for making others feel guilty for not doing what they want or for standing up to them.

The aim is to make you feel bad, so you’re more likely to comply with their demands just to ease your guilt.

It’s a subtle form of manipulation that often goes unnoticed because it plays on our natural desire to avoid conflict and maintain harmonious relationships.

6) They exploit your insecurities

Everyone has insecurities, and while most people respect these vulnerabilities, expert manipulators see them as opportunities. They have a knack for identifying these weaknesses and using them to their advantage.

It might be something as simple as a comment that chips away at your confidence, or as complex as orchestrating situations that make you feel insecure and therefore more dependent on them.

This is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking signs of manipulation because it exploits the trust and openness that should be safe within our relationships.

If you notice someone consistently highlighting or taking advantage of your insecurities, it’s a red flag that they might be manipulating you.

7) They’re good at twisting words

I recall a conversation I had once with a friend who had this unsettling ability to twist my words. It was like playing a game of telephone where the message gets distorted with each retelling, except this was happening in real time.

I would say one thing, and she would interpret it in a completely different way, often painting me as the bad guy. It left me feeling misunderstood and frustrated.

This is another sign of an expert manipulator. They can twist your words and change the narrative to suit their needs, leaving you feeling confused and off-balance.

Do you often leave conversations feeling like your words have been twisted? If the answer is yes, it could be a sign of manipulation.

8) They know how to distract and deflect

Expert manipulators are masters at distraction and deflection. When confronted or challenged, they quickly change the subject or shift the focus to someone else, effectively avoiding accountability.

By distracting from the real issue and deflecting blame onto others, they can maintain control and keep themselves in a favorable light. It’s a clever tactic that often goes unnoticed until you’re left wondering how the conversation got derailed.

In essence, someone who consistently changes the topic or blames others when they’re under scrutiny is likely a sign of manipulation.

9) They’re skilled at feigning innocence

The most dangerous manipulators are those who can convincingly play innocent. They have the ability to make you believe they have pure intentions, even when their actions suggest otherwise.

This feigned innocence disarms suspicion and enables them to continue their manipulation undetected.

It’s a critical skill for an expert manipulator, as it allows them to maintain trust and control.

Ultimately, trust your instincts and question the disparities between what they say and what they do.

Final thoughts

Uncovering the signs of manipulation can be a path of self-discovery and empowerment.

The more we understand about these subtle signs, the better equipped we are to navigate our relationships and interactions. It’s not about being paranoid, but rather about being informed and aware.

Psychology holds a mirror up to human behavior, revealing patterns and insights that can help us protect ourselves and demand respect in our relationships.

Remember, manipulation thrives in the shadows of ignorance. By shedding light on these tactics, we can better recognize them, stand up to them, and ultimately, free ourselves from their grip.

Next time you encounter a situation that feels off, pause, reflect, and ask yourself: Is this manipulation at play? Your newfound knowledge might just hold the answer.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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