Identifying psychological manipulation can be difficult- especially if you grew up with it. These 4 signs make it easier to recognize in your life.
Whether you have been experiencing this type of manipulation for years, or if this is something entirely new, psychological manipulation can be tricky to decipher. Mostly because the manipulators themselves are tricky. Their behaviour is self-serving, abusive, and dishonest, but their words are pleasant, and kind. On top of this confusing mismatch of words and actions, they often employ the use of guilt or sympathy to obtain their goals.
Psychological manipulators make you question everything about your thoughts and feelings. Because they are often both crafty and intelligent, their malicious tactics often go unnoticed. Manipulation involves intentional and complex thought processes, which is something that only a person who leverages human psychology to their advantage can achieve.
Psychological manipulation is defined as “a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or abusive tactics.”
Professor Preston Ni explains further what that means, to Psychology Today: “In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda.”
If however, you are not one to trust your instincts, these 4 signs are enormous red flags of psychological manipulation in a relationship:
1. They try to confuse you with their “expert knowledge”
These types of people will attempt to overwhelm you with alleged “facts,” or “statistical data.” Manipulators do this as away to show off their intellectual superiority (even if it’s all a bunch of made-up lies). Are they an expert in every field? Of course not. But they would have you believe otherwise.
If something happened to you, it will suddenly get turned around into how much they know about a certain topic. Were you thinking of buying a new car? Don’t be surprised if they know the best make and model for your personal needs. Planning a trip somewhere? They’ll tell you all the best places to visit for exceptional cuisine. And yes, all of this wonderful and helpful information is completely fabricated just because they need to have the spotlight shine on them.
Obviously, your best judgment needs to be used here. If someone is taking over every single conversation you try to have- walk away. Let them talk to themselves for a while.
2. They pressure you into making decisions
What happens when you make a hurried decision? Most of the time, it doesn’t work out as well as it would have if we gave it a few moments of thought. Weighing our options and using learned information to make a decision is one of our greatest advantages against a psychological manipulator (and they know it).
This is why they try to get you to answer their questions, or make important choices under pressure. They will imply a sense of urgency by saying things like “I have to do this by…” “this is due and I need…” “if this doesn’t happen now, I’ll…” The list goes on and on, but you get the point.
When you start to feel pressured into making a decision, or begin to realize that there is a lot of tension rising very suddenly, the best thing you can do is say, “not now.” Repeat it 100 times if necessary, but remain firm and let them know that you will not be forced or coerced into saying something you are not sure you want to say.
3. They use guilt trips to make you do things for them
This is the most exhausting type of psychological manipulation to endure, especially if you are an empathic or sensitive person. Guilt trips and passive-aggressive comments are a powerful weapon for manipulators. By employing both of these tactics together, they can get you to do almost anything.
“Sure, you can take the car today. I know I’ve taken it the last 5 days, but I’ll just take the bus today instead…even though you know I have horrible anxiety issues.”
“I don’t mind if you go out with your friends. It would be nice if you paid more attention to the kids, but I’m here so I guess it’s fine.”
If you hear things like this, and you care about the other person, it can be hard not to give in. But the thing is, they don’t care about you. If they did, they wouldn’t use your love as a tool for their own gain. Stand up straight, and do what you were going to do before they made their comments. Let them know that you will not be a pawn in their little game of guilt.
4. They resort to outbursts of anger
If something doesn’t go their way, or if you bring up their bad behaviours, you might want to prepare for an adult tantrum. Adult tantrums don’t make much sense, similar to the ones children have, but they are much more violent and hurtful.
Psychological manipulators absolutely must get their way, and they will resort to aggressive tendencies, hurtful language, or even violent outbursts if needed. Slamming doors, throwing things, calling names- they know that if they go crazy, they’ll get what they want.
This is not a healthy aspect in any relationship, and if you fear physical violence, find help. Talk to a friend, a family member, someone you trust who will support your choice to improve your life and walk away.
If you suspect that you may be involved with a psychological manipulator, then it’s time to do something about it.
We all have to make choices that affect us, and the people we know. But remember, taking care of your mental and emotional health is one of the most important things you can do. Don’t allow someone to take away, or break down, your true self. Find someone who will build you up- or better yet- bet that person for yourself!
By Raven Fon