7 things a manipulator does when they realize they can’t fool you

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Have you ever been manipulated by someone? 

Manipulation thrives on control and influence. The manipulator fools their victim into trusting them so that they can get what they want. When the manipulator is in control they come across as confident and powerful and their tactics to manipulate you are pretty subtle. 

But what happens when the manipulator realizes that they can’t fool you?

One thing’s for sure: they’ll be less confident and subtle. They’ll use more severe and obvious manipulation tactics in a desperate attempt to fool you.  

Although they can never admit that they’re trying and failing to manipulate you, there are some telltale signs you’re getting the better of them. 

Today I’m sharing some of the specific things a manipulator does when they realize they can’t fool you, to give you the heads up that you’re breaking free from manipulation.

Let’s jump in. 

1) They’ll try to gaslight you

When a manipulator first starts to realize they can’t fool you, they’ll try to make you doubt your perceptions and question your understanding of things. Known as gaslighting, this is a tactic manipulators use to distort reality and confuse you. 

Gaslighting usually involves denying something that did happen, or claiming something happened when it didn’t to confuse you and make you question your memory, instincts, and decisions.

It’s like if your friend borrows your favorite necklace and when you ask for it back, they deny borrowing it, calling your memory into question. Or they twist the truth claiming you promised to make a dinner reservation for your friend’s birthday even though you made no such promise. 

It’s a pretty severe manipulation tactic and it suggests the manipulator is struggling to fool you because they’re now going to extreme lengths to control you. 

It’s a telling sign you haven’t been easily fooled by more subtle tactics.

2) They’ll openly try to keep you away from friends and family 

Have you ever been friends with someone or in a relationship where they tried to isolate you from your friends and family? 

They’ll suggest your social circle doesn’t understand your relationship or claim they’re interfering, essentially trying to turn you against them.

Isolation like this is pretty typical manipulator behavior however when they realize that they can’t fool you, they become desperate and more determined than ever to force you to cut ties with your support network. 

Instead of being subtle and suggesting your friends and family aren’t good for you they take it to the next level and refuse to ‘allow’ you to see them. 

As a manipulator starts to realize they can’t fool you, they become desperate and that’s when their true colors really start to show so watch out for obvious attempts to control your behavior like trying to stop you from seeing your friends. 

3) They’ll guilt trip you 

We all know how it feels to be guilt-tripped by someone, right? 

Back in the day, I had a ‘friend’ who really played me. Like most manipulators, she always wanted everything her way. In the beginning, when I hadn’t clocked the manipulation, I agreed with whatever she wanted. I’d even cancel or reschedule other plans to prioritize her plans.  

When I realized what was happening, I started to push back. If she asked me to hang out on a Friday night I’d say “I can’t Friday, let’s do Saturday instead.” She didn’t like being told no. I noticed that she’d intentionally try to make me feel guilty if she couldn’t get her way with me. 

She’d say things like “If you were a good friend, you’d come hang out tonight but I guess our friendship is not that important” or “If you were any fun at all, you’d come out tonight?” The guilt trips usually insulted me or suggested I was a bad friend.

Here’s the thing: when manipulators realize they’re starting to lose their power over you, they have no choice but to up the ante. 

As we saw with my ‘friend’, when she realized she wasn’t able to easily fool me anymore, she was forced to try a new tactic; the guilt trip. This is a typical tactic of a desperate manipulator and one to take note of in your own relationships. 

4) They’ll play the victim to make you look bad

Manipulators love to play the victim so this one’s a biggie.

In the early days of a friendship or relationship with a manipulator, you’ll probably notice your new friend is the victim in every story they tell you. At that stage though, you’re still blind to their games so you feel bad for them and assume they’re dealing with some nasty people

Sound familiar?

The thing is: as you start to see through their tactics and they realize they can’t fool you anymore, they start to play the victim in a different way. Now, instead of telling you about all the nasty people in their life, they tell others nasty stories about you. 

They’re starting to realize they can’t control you and to save face, they twist the truth or make up stories about you to get your mutual friends on their side. 

Playing the victim to make you look bad goes hand in hand with our next thing. 

5) They’ll shift blame to you

Have you ever been blamed for something that absolutely wasn’t your fault? 

There are various ways a manipulator can push blame on you, as outlined by Psychology Today;

  • Suggest you can’t take a joke: “Why can’t you take a joke?”
  • Claim you made them do it: “I only did that because you..”
  • Blame your flaws for something: “You always/You never..” 

Shifting blame is a classic manipulation tactic but when they’re starting to realize they can’t fool you, it becomes about more than just them avoiding responsibility. They want to make you feel powerless and force you to self-blame, which is a last-ditch effort to regain control of you.

“I have come to see that blame-shifting is also motivated by the need to strip the target of a sense of agency… Inevitably, he/she’ll revert to another old learned behavior which is self-blame” notes Pegg Streep, author and expert in verbal abuse and narcissism. 

If you’ve got some sneaky suspicions that someone is trying to manipulate you, and you notice they’re trying to push the blame onto you to make you feel inferior, it’s a dead giveaway, they’re finding it difficult to fool you. 

6) They’ll give you the silent treatment

Ah the silent treatment, an old favorite for manipulative people. Is there anything worse than being completely ignored by someone you care about?  

No there’s not and manipulative people know this. 

When the manipulator feels like they’re losing control and it’s not as easy to fool you as before, they double down on things that have been most impactful in the past. 

They ignore you because they think you’ll eventually do what they want if they stop talking to you, as you have done in the past. 

Only this time is different: this time, they give you the silent treatment and you don’t call 20 times or send multiple messages without reply. You don’t give them any reaction. Now what? 

When a manipulator tries to regain control of you by ignoring you and it fails, they know they’ve lost control over you and can no longer fool you. There’s only one thing left for them to do. 

7) They’ll withdraw 

When a manipulator realizes they can’t fool you, they’ll simply withdraw in one last attempt to get your attention. 

Remember, manipulation only works if you’re emotionally invested in your relationship with them and you trust them. Without these key ingredients, a manipulator is completely powerless. 

They’ll try everything they can to control you but once they’ve exhausted all options and realize they can’t fool you with their tactics, they’ll withdraw to see if you’ll chase them. 

This is exactly how I broke free from my manipulative friend. 

In her final attempts to regain control over me, she attempted to play the victim to me and our mutual friends. When I didn’t bite, she started to ignore me and my attempts to communicate and when that didn’t work, she withdrew completely. But I didn’t chase so that’s where it ended.  

Final thoughts

Are you seeing some of these things from someone in your life?

When manipulators realize they can’t fool you, they lose their powerful and confident exterior. They start to reveal their desperate and insecure nature, going to any length to keep control of you. 

The good news is, if you’re seeing some of these desperate attempts to regain control, there’s a good chance they’ve realized they can’t fool you and soon they’ll leave you alone and move on. 

Manipulation is incredibly difficult to spot and break free from so if you’ve managed it, kudos to you. 

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

10 signs that someone is a highly intelligent introvert, according to psychology

Men who are lonely in life usually display these behaviors (without realizing it)