Beware of the charm: 11 tactics used by a master manipulator

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Everyone knows about the main tactics most manipulators utilize. Things like gaslighting, passive-aggressive behavior, love-bombing, guilt-tripping, projection, silent treatment, and others.

However, master manipulators go a step further to control your life and make you do whatever they want you to. 

So that’s why, in this article, you’ll learn about some lesser-known tactics that more experienced and perhaps more nuanced manipulators use. 

1) Mirroring

Mirroring is a tactic where a manipulator mirrors your behavior, interests, and emotions to create a false sense of connection and trust. 

I also wrote about it in an article about how narcissists use love-bombing to control you.

The way it works is they adopt your hobbies, values, and even your emotional reactions to make you feel more comfortable around them. 

This imitation leads you to believe that you share a deep connection when, in reality, it’s a manipulative strategy to gain your favor.

For example, a new friend suddenly adopts your political or social views, even though they previously had different opinions.

Or a colleague starts expressing the same ethical or moral values as you despite having previously shown different principles.

2) Gaslighting by proxy

Instead of directly gaslighting you, a manipulator might convince others, such as friends, family members, or colleagues, to spread false information or rumors about you. 

By enlisting others in their manipulation, they can make you doubt your own perceptions and reality through a network of misinformation.

But how do they even accomplish that? How do they shift your closest ones to turn on you?

Well, you won’t like the answer. You see, manipulators often have a degree of trust and influence over the people they convince to spread false information. 

This trust might be based on a personal relationship, a position of authority, or a charismatic personality. 

People can also be easily influenced by misinformation, especially when it comes from a trusted source. 

If the manipulator is skilled at persuading others, they can convince them to believe almost anything and, even worse, share false information.

3) Negging

If you’ve never heard of negging, it comes from neg – negative feedback. It involves giving backhanded or subtly insulting compliments. 

The manipulator may criticize your appearance, intelligence, or abilities in a way that undermines your self-esteem. This tactic is intended to make you seek their approval and validation.

Here are some examples of negging:

  • You would be really attractive if you lost a few pounds
  • You’re not bad at that, considering you’re not naturally talented
  • You’re pretty smart for someone who didn’t go to a prestigious university
  • You look good for your age
  • That outfit is…interesting. Not what I would have chosen, but it’s unique

4) Eliciting confessions

Another thing manipulators are good at is adopting a friendly or non-judgmental demeanor to encourage you to reveal personal information or secrets. 

Once you’ve disclosed sensitive information, they can later use it against you as leverage or as a means of control.

For instance, they pretend to be genuinely concerned about you and your well-being, saying something like, “I’m really worried about you. You seem upset. Is there something you need to get off your chest?”

Or they might share personal vulnerabilities or secrets of their own to create a sense of trust and reciprocity, encouraging you to do the same. 

For example, they might say, “I’ve been through some tough times too. Let’s open up to each other.”

5) Triangulation with objects

Triangulation usually means the manipulator creates jealousy or competition through third parties, but some manipulators use material possessions instead. 

They show you gifts or items given to them by others to make you feel inadequate or provoke feelings of rivalry in you.

For instance, your partner frequently shows off expensive gifts they receive from others, even though they know it makes you feel inadequate. 

They also constantly talk about the lavish gifts they get from friends or admirers to create jealousy and insecurity in your relationship.

6) Future faking

Manipulators also often engage in future faking by making big promises about a wonderful future you’ll have together. 

They use this tactic to get what they want in the present, but they often have no intention of following through with their commitments once they’ve achieved their immediate goals.

In a similar fashion, they use the “bait and switch” tactic. They promise one thing and deliver something entirely different. 

They basically lure you in with an attractive offer or proposal but then change the terms once you’re committed.

Here’s something many job hunters face on a daily basis: You’re offered a job with the promise of a flexible schedule and excellent benefits. 

After accepting, you find out that the actual workload is overwhelming, the schedule is rigid, and the benefits are minimal.

7) Fake concern

Feigning exaggerated concern for your well-being, even when there’s no genuine threat or issue, is another tactic of master manipulators

But what exactly do they accomplish with this?

Well, they use this concern as a way to control your decisions and actions, making you dependent on their guidance and protection.

For instance, they might suggest: “I’m afraid your current job is taking a toll on your health. You should quit and let me support you while you figure things out.”

As you can imagine, the manipulator appears concerned about your career and health, but their real goal is to make you financially dependent on them.

8) Hoovering

Hoovering refers to the manipulator’s attempt to draw you back into a relationship or situation after you’ve distanced yourself from them. 

This could happen in a romantic relationship, friendship, or any kind of interpersonal connection.

Again, they may use flattery, promises of change, or guilt-tripping to regain your trust and involvement.

The manipulator may even offer shallow or insincere apologies for their past behavior. Plus, they’ll acknowledge some of their wrongdoings. 

But they’ll rarely take full responsibility or make genuine efforts to change.

They can also be selectively honest at times. They’d do anything to wheel you back in. 

9) Selective honesty

Talking about selective honesty, master manipulators strategically reveal certain truths or half-truths to gain your trust, even though they continue to hide more powerful and damaging information. 

This keeps you off balance and reliant on their version of events.

Politicians are arguably most well-known for this: They selectively reveal facts to shape public opinion. 

They do this by presenting only the data supporting their position while ignoring or downplaying information contradicting their narrative. 

The worst thing about it is that it works incredibly well. 

10) Gaslighting with technology

Manipulators also use technology to gaslight you by altering digital records, deleting messages, or manipulating photographs to distort reality and make you question your own memory.

This is something that’s easy to pull off when they’re dealing with someone who isn’t that tech-savvy. 

For instance, they delete important emails from your inbox or sent folder, making it appear as if you never received or sent certain messages. 

They could use this to create mistrust or hide evidence of their own actions.

They may also create fake social media posts or messages from your account, making it seem like you posted something offensive or inappropriate. This can, of course, damage your reputation.

They can simply suggest or claim you’ve been hacked, which is somewhat true. But it’s them who did it. 

11) Love withdrawal

Similar to the silent treatment, love withdrawal is when the manipulator withholds affection, love, or emotional support as a form of punishment. 

They simply threaten to end the relationship or make you fear the loss of their love to force obedience with their demands.

They might say something like this: “If you really loved me, you would do as I say. If you don’t, I don’t know if I can be with someone who doesn’t love me enough.”

This is such an easy tactic that they might do it every week or even more often until they notice it isn’t that effective anymore. 

Final thoughts

These less common manipulation tactics can be just as damaging as more widely recognized ones. 

Awareness and critical thinking are essential for recognizing and protecting yourself from manipulative people.

But, building strong boundaries and self-awareness is key to resisting manipulation and maintaining healthy relationships.

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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