Spotting a manipulator or a narcissist is tricky. They’re often the most charming and magnetic of individuals, who sweep us up off our feet and away into the clouds.
Everything feels like a dreamy fairytale, until reality hits you bang in the middle of your forehead.
Through subtle coercion and allure, these manipulators and narcissists have a knack for leaving you questioning your own mind and mistrusting even yourself.
I’ve been there. Being young and naive and believing everyone had the same sanguine intentions as I did, I let people fool me with grand gestures and bold declarations…
That soon turned into rotten ash.
So trust me when I say that recognizing the warning signs (7 of which I’ve got listed below) early can save you a world of emotional turmoil.
So how can you spot one?
Let’s get started and pull back the manipulator’s curtain to expose their disguise:
1) They consistently play the victim
In the world of manipulation, playing the victim is a common tactic. It’s a subtle, yet incredibly effective way of shifting blame and control.
Think now of a poor defenseless kitten. Or a puppy. It’s out in the rain, abandoned and soggy. Does it not pull on your heartstrings strings? Would you not move heaven and earth to make sure it got a warm home and a comfy blanket?
The manipulator is an apt shapeshifter, who regularly assumes the camouflage of this sorrowful little animal (or whatever they know best triggers your pity.)
Now, we all have moments of self-pity, where we too want to be cocooned in warmth and spoon fed milk.
But when you’re dealing with a manipulator or narcissist, this behavior becomes a pattern.
They’ll often paint themselves as the innocent party in every conflict or disagreement. No matter what the situation, they’re always the one being wronged, misunderstood, or treated unfairly.
The goal here is to manipulate your empathy and guilt. By always being the victim, they make you feel like the aggressor. They turn the tables so you’re always on the defensive, always trying to make amends.
It’s a sly move that can leave you feeling confused and guilty for things you haven’t even done.
And if this rings true for someone in your life, it’s a major red flag that you might be dealing with a manipulator or narcissist.
2) They gaslight you
You’ve likely heard of the term gaslighting (regardless, check out the most common tactics to look out for here.)
This manipulative tactic has gained a fair bit of traction in recent years, and for good reason too. It’s a psychological term for undercurrent manipulation that’s as devastating as it is subtle.
It usually follows a fairly similar formula, whereby a manipulator or narcissist wins you over through wiles and charm.
Then, they pull out the rug from under your feet. They challenge your perception of reality by denying facts, dismissing your memories, and twisting the truth until you start doubting your own sanity.
Say that lovely girl you’ve been dating for two years starts saying harsh statements, like;
“I never said that, you must be losing your mind”
“Idiot! I always get home late on Thursdays. How is your memory so bad?”
“God, you’re being so sensitive. Someone woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning, huh?”
For instance, they might say something hurtful, and when you confront them about it, they’ll deny it ever happened.
Or they’ll make you believe that you’re overreacting, being too sensitive, or misremembering events.
So watch out for jokes that go too far, and stick by your guns if you know you’ve got the truth in your palms.
3) They’re always right
We love being right, but even the best of us eventually concede and accept when we lose.
Note the *best. This doesn’t include gaslighters or manipulators, who will pretty much die on the hill of anything they say – even if it’s obviously wrong.
No matter the situation, no matter the evidence, they always insist they’re right. And you’re stupid/dumb/boring/mean for not just rolling over and letting them win.
Due to their inflated sense of their own correctness, it’s as if they live in a world where they can do no wrong.
They’ll argue tirelessly, twist facts, and even resort to personal attacks just to avoid admitting a mistake or fault.
So if you find yourself regularly feeling this way with someone, it’s a tell-tale sign of their manipulative or narcissistic tendencies.
4) They’re pretty arrogant and egotistical
Perhaps not at first, but eventually, the cover will break.
Narcissists and manipulators often show a unique sense of entitlement. They see themselves as superior, almost god-like, deserving of special treatment, and consider their needs as more important than others.
You might notice this grandiosity in several ways:
- They will steer every conversation back to themselves
- They exaggerate or lie about their achievements and talents
- They need constant praise, flattery, and attention
- They disregard the feelings and needs of others, even after promising to help.
Being in the presence of someone with such inflated self-perception can make you feel insignificant, undervalued, and overlooked, hence it’s important to distinguish when someone does live in a falsified reality where they rule supreme..
5) They lack empathy
Empathy is a fundamental human quality, namely being the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s a case of feeling what someone else feels, as if the emotion were your own.
And it’s this empathy that allows us to connect, to comfort, and to support each other.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that narcissists and manipulators often lack this crucial trait.
Often, they’re unable to feel for others or understand their feelings. Instead, they focus so much on getting their own way and prioritizing their own emotions.
This lack of empathy is not only hurtful, but it also creates a one-sided relationship.
You might find yourself constantly catering to their needs without receiving any emotional support in return.
6) They use use use (but never give give give)
Manipulators and narcissists are known to exploit others to achieve their own ends. As we mentioned above, they have little empathy to put towards benevolence or aiding those around them.
Helping out?! How boring! What do I get out of it?
Yet, they seem to have no problem using people as a means to get what they want, without any regard for their feelings or well-being.
So if you’re thinking of someone in your life who frequently takes advantage of others, but never shows up to help out in exchange, you might be playing with a manipulator…
7) They’re constantly envious of others
It’s funny: narcissists and manipulators can own so much, be so beautiful, have attained so much wealth and fame, yet still be envious of others.
They constantly have to one-up everyone in their presence.
If you get a promotion, they get a whole 6-figure managerial position.
If you get a new car, they bought one twice as expensive.
If you’re talking sheepishly about how much you love your new partner, they smile wanly and tell you that’s great…mine just proposed! Check out this ring.
Narcissists and manipulators are often green with envy. They can’t stand to see others succeed or have something they don’t, so they’re constantly comparing themselves to others and trying to come out on top.
This envy can manifest itself in belittling comments, one-upmanship, or even outright sabotage. It’s an attempt to boost their own sense of superiority by bringing others down.
Help! I’ve got a manipulator in my life…
Recognizing that you’re dealing with a manipulator or narcissist is only the first step. The next steps involve setting boundaries, seeking support, and taking care of your mental health.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t engage in their manipulative games – don’t sink to their level, and even if you wanted to, it’s their turf, and they’re experts at it.
- Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or a mental health professional.
- Be kind to and take care of yourself. Emotional manipulation can take a toll on your mental health. Make sure to prioritize self-care and consider seeking professional help if needed.
Deciding what to do when you’re dealing with a manipulator or narcissist isn’t easy. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
But hopefully, being aware of these warning signs will give you the clarity and confidence to make the best decision for you.
Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your well-being and peace of mind. You deserve relationships that are based on respect, empathy, and genuine care. Don’t settle for anything less.