Manipulators are cunning and smart. They often have a good understanding of human psychology, allowing them to coerce you into doing whatever they want by any means necessary. To be on your guard against this, you must first understand the traits of a manipulator.
Being tricked by a manipulator can be significantly damaging to you, so you must learn to spot a manipulator and defend yourself against him. Here’s how the experts reveal 5 key characteristics of manipulators and how to stop them.
Five main traits of a manipulator
Do you feel like someone is trying to hurt you? These are five of the most common traits of a manipulator.
1. make unreasonable requests or offers, presented as reasonable
Manipulators often try to use the people around them as “tools” to achieve their goals. You may get all kinds of offers that are just ways to disguise your true motive. Generally, your requests will be unreasonable on paper, but will be presented in a way that sounds completely valid.
Some manipulators can be very transparent and obvious when they do this, lacking the self-awareness necessary to realize that they are asking for the ridiculous. But the manipulators you have to worry about are aware that they are asking for too much. They might even make their wishes seem so reasonable that you’d feel bad for rejecting them. This is a common trick among manipulators: they seek to obtain something positive in exchange for deceiving those around them.
Regardless of the traits of the manipulator you are dealing with, author, professional private trainer and communications expert, Preston Ni, MSB A. recommends refocusing on them using probing questions. It can make the manipulator in question suddenly very aware of the disproportion of your requests.
- Do I have something to say on this?
- Do you think that sounds reasonable?
- Does this seem fair to you?
- Do you really expect me to (ridiculous request)?
- Are you asking me or telling me?
- What exactly do I get out of this?
These types of questions force a manipulator to look into a metaphorical mirror to realize how disproportionate these requests are. It’s enough for most of them to back off.
2. They present exaggerated scenarios that make you question yourself
Any manipulator can use exaggeration generously to get the reaction they want. They exaggerate their experiences or the wrongs that others have done to them. They exaggerate your levels of need for something and exaggerate how “unreasonable” it would be if you rejected them.
Therapist Sharie Stines, whose field of expertise specializes in toxic relationships and abuse, says this is called “gaslighting.” It is a form of manipulation that seeks to make you question your thoughts, reality or memory, all at the same time. In short, it can make you feel like you are going crazy.
Before you start to question yourself, positive thinkingand pause. Contextualize what is happening and ask yourself if it really is what they say it is. According to Ni, the best way to reject such exaggeration is by asking for proof or proof. If that’s too direct an approach for you, you can stick to the facts, constantly redirecting to reality.
Here are some other pros and cons:
- Be clear about the situation at hand, especially if you are explaining how a manipulator is hurting you.
- Don’t bother explaining too much to a manipulator who is hell-bent on misinterpreting you or playing the victim.
- Provide examples of the manipulator’s behavior toward you.
- Do not feel the need to demand responses from a manipulator for reasoning behind your
- Stick to your main point; don’t be swayed by moving the goalposts, he says Loren Soeiro, Ph.D., a certified psychologist by the American Board of Professional Psychology.
- Make no more excuses for a manipulator who can’t meet your basic limits and respect.
- Expect these types of discussions to be exhausting and exhausting, so don’t feel compelled to engage in them.
3. They make you feel guilty
Manipulators I love making other people feel guilty because it appeals to the natural empathy and kindness that the majority of the population share. Stines refers to these types of manipulators as “the victim”: they act hurt and they pretend to be seriously affected by you and the things around them, even when they are often the cause of the problems that they act hurt about.
When you don’t agree to help a “victim” type manipulator, they will usually play even more in their act, making you feel guilty. Then you will experience a sense of obligation that almost forces you to “help” them, but stop right there! You need to better understand what a manipulator is looking for in you to target you in this way.
- They recognize that you feel inadequate and try to make you feel that you would be better suited if you helped them.
- They often try to avoid taking any blame by passing it on to you to help them get out of the situation they created.
- They know that you please people and they will feel guilty if you don’t satisfy them, so they ask you for irrational things while taking advantage of the “yes man” in you.
Of course, you may also feel obligated to help people who are not manipulative, but who really need it. How can you tell them apart? Rather than surrender to these feelings, Ni recommends taking a moment of self-reflection before making a decision.
- Is what is asked of me reasonable?
- Do I feel positive about my relationship with this person?
- Does this person treat me with genuine respect?
- Are the expectations placed on me achievable?
- Is my relationship with this person equal parts give and take, or am I always giving?
Manipulators are notoriously charming, and this charm fuels most of their tactics, according to studies. You may think that you are giving them a good chance to be nice and kind by opening the door for them a little to make their case before deciding whether it is reasonable. Unfortunately, as charming as they do, just that little “door” space is all a manipulator needs.
PhD Researcher Jay Olson, whose area of study focuses on manipulation, states that one of the most common manipulative tactics used by manipulators is the “foot in the door” method. Essentially, it involves starting with an extremely reasonable-sounding request, then slowly and gradually increasing in a way that doesn’t show. And even if you notice it, you may be too deep in to say no.
Some examples of this are:
- “Could you leave something off my chest?” it can turn into an argument about how hard they’ve been working and how tired they are, which can turn into “Could you take my shift on Saturday?”
- “Do you have the time?” it can lead to a conversation about how they are late, ultimately resulting in “Can I borrow $ 10 for a cab?”
- “Could I have a piece of that candy?” it can turn into a complaint that they haven’t eaten all day, which then leads to “I wish I had an hour to go eat a proper meal right now.”
- “Is it okay if I leave five minutes before the end of the meeting?” it can turn into a conversation about your responsibilities during the week, eventually ending with “Could you take care of my dog for the next few days?”
But this tactic works the other way, too, and a smart manipulator will know if this will work better for you. Instead of starting small, they start out ridiculously big, making a request that is sure to surprise and turn you down. Then they work their way to a smaller request that sounds totally good after the big one. Ultimately, you don’t notice that the smallest request isn’t reasonable yet.
You can call this the “door in the face” method, but it is ultimately the same concept. One of the key traits of a manipulator is the ability to make you listen to trick you into doing what they want.
Here are some examples of this:
- Borrowing a huge sum of money and then dialing it back down to a smaller amount.
- Asking you to take care of a large number of your chores, reducing it to just two or three.
- Asking for a very long extension of a deadline and then narrowing it down to one that sounds less extreme.
How do you stop this? Put your positive thinking and say “No” As a human being, you have the right to say “no” when something is asked of you. Be courteous but firm in your statement, and don’t let the manipulator get any words to counter your refusal. The “no” is a resounding “no” and cannot be negotiated.
5. They act like an expert
Manipulators They have to sound like they know what they’re talking about to get the results they want. Unfortunately for them, most of them don’t, so they have to convince you to look at them in a positive light.
They can achieve this by:
- Talk about your experience and reference your lack of it, even if that condescension is not based on fact
- Make arbitrary connections between the things you know they have done and the knowledge they claim to have, even if those connections do not necessarily exist.
- Speak in lengthy monologues that do not allow you to utter a word, avoiding having to answer questions that may reveal your lack of experience.
- Mask details and be general to disguise any shaky logic or half-truths
- Engaging in intellectual bullying, according to Ni, where they act like you’re less intelligent because you don’t see the truth in what they say
- Slow down to condescend to you that you need silly things for yourself
- Dismissing questions saying it’s too complicated to explain to someone who doesn’t have the general background that you do
To counter this, focus on the facts. As they speak, link your words to what you know to be true in your head, and you will see the discrepancy fairly quickly. Don’t be afraid to say that you are going to ask for a second opinion or bring others to listen as well.
It’s no fun being on the receiving end of manipulation. But by learning to spot a manipulator and prevent their behavior from taking over you, you won’t have to fall victim to their plans again.