8 traits of people who can easily spot manipulators and mind games

What makes some people easy prey for manipulators, when others are seemingly immune?

It’s a very important question. But the reality is that it’s not just one thing.

Those who can spot the mind games of manipulators have a collection of qualities that help them.

Let’s take a look at what those are.

1) They’re self-aware

The better you know yourself, the less likely you are to fall for manipulation.

Because others can say and do what they like, but you know the truth.

You know who you are.

You know what you stand for.

You know what makes you tick.

You can read your own emotions, and understand them.

You know how to align your actions with your values.

All of this important knowledge you can put to good use to stand your ground rather than be swayed, pressured, or cajoled by others.

The funny thing is that the more we come to understand ourselves, it gives us a better read on others too.

It makes it easier to spot when someone is behaving in a way that doesn’t sit well with you, as we’ll see next.

2) They’re sensitive

This one might be surprising to you.

Because we may assume that those who don’t fall foul of manipulators must have a thicker skin.

But that’s only because in society we have lost sight of the power in sensitivity and often treat it like a weakness. 

Let me give you an example.

I feel everything in my body, and the smallest things can have a big impact.

I mindlessly remarked to my partner the other day that “I’m just a bit pathetic”.

To which he reminded me, “Yes you are, but in the original sense of the word”.

Because before we made it into a bad thing, back in ancient Greece, being pathetic simply meant “capable of feeling.”

This is a helpful reframe that can serve as a reminder that astute sensitivity is often a skill rather than a failing.

But those who can spot manipulators a mile off use their sensitivity to their advantage.

It gives them an intuitive antenna that picks up when something doesn’t seem quite right.

This lets them go with their gut and notice things that others may miss.

Yet in order to do this, they need the next trait on our list. Otherwise, they may ignore how they feel.

3) They have healthy self-esteem

We’ve established that sensitivity is not the true weakness when it comes to exposing yourself to manipulators.

The real issue is a lack of self-esteem.

The more we feel like we have to look to others for validation and guidance, the more susceptible we become to those who mean us harm.

Those who can see mind games for what they are don’t fall for a manipulator’s bullsh*t because they aren’t desperate for their approval.

They trust themselves, they respect themselves, and they love themselves.

As a consequence, they value who they are and don’t rely on others in order to feel good about themselves.

This makes them less likely to go along with something or people-please just to gain approval. 

Because they respect themselves, they don’t let anyone belittle them or make them feel inferior.

As we’ll see next, when it comes to making decisions, they prefer to stand on their own two feet.

4) They’re independent thinkers

Being able to think for yourself is essential if you don’t want to get caught up in manipulation.

That’s why critical thinking is an important skill to develop.

Being an independent thinker means that they don’t let others dictate their thoughts or beliefs.

They form their own opinions based on their experiences and insights.

Rather than take someone’s word for something, their natural stance is a questioning one.

But this instinct to dig deeper rather than accept things at face value doesn’t mean that they are untrusting or suspicious.

As we’re about to find out, you can still think the best of people, without being naive.

5) They’re realistic optimists

The benefits of taking an optimistic approach in life are well documented. That includes helping to create stronger and more cooperative relationships.

But there is an important caveat. We cannot let an optimistic outlook blind us.

Seeing the best in someone doesn’t mean ignoring their failings and faults.

That’s simply burying your head in the sand.

As pointed out in Forbes, the grounded approach of optimism and realism combined helps you to “balance out negative and positive things in situations, circumstances and people.”

The power of adding realism to your way of thinking is that it encourages you to embrace the present and consider the facts laid out in front of you, as well as hoping for the best.

It brings a mindfulness that reminds us to pay attention to what we see and hear around us, which brings us nicely to the next point.

6) They can read between the lines

This demands that we don’t just focus on what’s being said.

Instead, we have to be incredibly observant to pick up on how something is said and look to non-verbal cues.

Because sadly, when it comes to manipulators, they purposely try to hide.

They’re not upfront and honest about what’s going on. They often wear masks that try to present themselves as something they are not.

Reading between the lines involves similar skills to reading the room:

  • Listening carefully
  • Paying attention to energy and “vibes” that others are giving off
  • Looking at body language
  • Understanding the group dynamics
  • Looking out for what is not said as much as what is
  • Clarifying and asking questions

In order to do this, it helps a lot to have the next trait on our list.

7) They’re emotionally intelligent

A good IQ might help you solve a math problem in no time, but it’s not going to help you in your relationships with others.

Because there are plenty of different ways to be clever, and having a good EQ is one of the ways we ensure we become socially smart.

Your emotional intelligence draws together a collection of useful skills and qualities, one of which is self-awareness as we mentioned at the start of this article.

Those with a high EQ become better judges of character because they become experts in recognizing emotions. Some of which may be subtle and hidden behind the scenes.

This gives them a more accurate reading on others’ motivations.

So, for example, they can spot a mile off that someone’s sulking is actually a way of punishing or an attempt at emotional blackmail, and they don’t fall for it.

8) They have clear boundaries

It’s no use being able to spot manipulation if you allow it to happen anyway.

That’s why the final ingredient is firm boundaries.

A lot of us can find boundaries tricky. We may think of them as selfish.

We may see drawing a line in the sand or turning others down as a negative thing to do. 

But they’re actually about self-care.

People who can spot manipulators are good at protecting their time, energy, and themselves. 

They know that saying “no” is essential. They don’t feel apologetic about taking care of themselves.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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