Identifying psychological manipulation can be difficult- especially if you grew up with it. These 4 signs make it easier for you to recognize it 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 true masters of emotional disguise.
More often than not, their sweet talking covers their self-serving, dishonest, and, on the whole, sinister intentions. On top of this confusing mismatch of words and actions, they often try to evoke in their interlocutor powerful feelings of guilt or sympathy, so as to make them more susceptible to manipulation.
Psychological manipulators make you question everything about your thoughts and feelings. This manipulation technique is also called gaslighting. According to Psychology Today’s author Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D., gaslighting is “a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.”
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: “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. More often than not, they possess rather superfluous knowledge of a wide variety of entities or events and do not hesitate to show off when an appropriate occasion arises.
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.
The majority of manipulative individuals around us are just jacks-of-all-trades and, ultimately, masters of none. However, there are those “experts in their field”, who are extremely well-read and who possess a kind of malicious intelligence that makes them particularly dangerous to deal with.
Obviously, your best judgment needs to be used here. If someone is taking over every single conversation you try to have, put them in their place without delay. I know that you are probably a non-confrontational person and that you do not want to make a scene or something, but sometimes you’ve just got to stand your ground.
If you do not have the desire nor the energy to fight the manipulator over being so manipulative towards you, you can always walk away in silence. 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.
By the way, I have also received such an attitude from some particularly annoying salespeople and commercial travelers I have come across. They’d just keep pushing you to buy their product as if the world would end tomorrow if you didn’t. Horrible! Only my good manners have restrained me from taking the damn thing and hitting them hard on the head with it!
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. According to Psychology Today Author Guy Winch Ph.D., a guilt trip is a manipulation technique whereby the manipulator tries to induce an overwhelming feeling of guilt in their victim, so as to exert control on them. 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 behaviors, you might want to prepare for an adult tantrum. Sometimes these temper tantrums are silent and go unnoticed, as the person who experiences them pretends not to care about the unpleasant situation they’ve found themselves in. Other times, however, they can be 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. Whatever you do, please do not keep silent about the foul attitude you’ve been subjected to.
If you suspect that you may be involved with a psychological manipulator, then it’s time you did 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