Eight Ways to Spot Emotional
Manipulation Emotional Manipulation is Also "Covert Aggression."
See: "Psychopaths: Wolves in Sheep's Clothing" Here is a list adapted from an article by Fiona McColl
1) There is no use in trying
to be honest with an emotional manipulator. You make a statement and it will be turned around. Example: I am really
angry that you forgot my birthday. Response - "It makes me feel sad that you would think I would forget your birthday,
I should have told you of the great personal stress I am facing at the moment - but you see I didn’t want to trouble
you. You are right I should have put all this pain (don’t be surprised to see real tears at this point) aside and
focused on your birthday. Sorry." Even as you are hearing the words you get the creeped out sensation that they really
do NOT mean they are sorry at all - but since they’ve said the words you’re pretty much left with nothing more
to say. Either that or you suddenly find yourself babysitting their angst!! Under all circumstances if you feel this angle
is being played - don’t capitulate! Do not care take - do not accept an apology that feels like bullshit. If it feels
like bullshit - it probably is. Rule number one - if dealing with an emotional blackmailer TRUST your gut. TRUST your senses.
Once an emotional manipulator finds a successful maneuver - it’s added to their hit list and you’ll be fed a
steady diet of this shit.
2) An emotional manipulator
is the picture of a willing helper. If you ask them to do something they will almost always agree - that is IF
they didn’t volunteer to do it first. Then when you say, "ok thanks" - they make a bunch of heavy sighs,
or other non verbal signs that let you know they don’t really want to do whatever said thing happens to be. When you
tell them it doesn’t seem like they want to do whatever - they will turn it around and try to make it seem like OF
COURSE they wanted to and how unreasonable you are. This is a form of crazy making - which is something emotional manipulators
are very good at. Rule number two - If an emotional manipulator said YES - make them accountable for it. Do NOT buy into
the sighs and subtleties - if they don’t want to do it - make them tell you it up front - or just put on the walk-man
headphones and run a bath and leave them to their theater.
Crazy making - saying one thing and later assuring you they did not say it. If you find yourself in a relationship
where you figure you should start keeping a log of what’s been said because you are beginning to question your own
sanity --You are experiencing emotional manipulation. An emotional manipulator is an expert in turning things around, rationalizing,
justifying and explaining things away. They can lie so smoothly that you can sit looking at black and they’ll call
it white - and argue so persuasively that you begin to doubt your very senses. Over a period of time this is so insidious
and eroding it can literally alter your sense of reality. WARNING: Emotional Manipulation is VERY Dangerous! It is very
disconcerting for an emotional manipulator if you begin carrying a pad of paper and a pen and making notations during conversations.
Feel free to let them know you just are feeling so "forgetful" these days that you want to record their words for
posterity’s sake. The damndest thing about this is that having to do such a thing is a clear example for why you should
be seriously thinking about removing yourself from range in the first place. If you’re toting a notebook to safeguard
yourself - that ol’ bullshit meter should be flashing steady by now!
Guilt. Emotional manipulators are excellent guilt mongers. They can make you feel guilty for speaking up
or not speaking up, for being emotional or not being emotional enough, for giving and caring, or for not giving and caring
enough. Any thing is fair game and open to guilt with an emotional manipulator. Emotional manipulators seldom express their
needs or desires openly - they get what they want through emotional manipulation. Guilt is not the only form of this but
it is a potent one. Most of us are pretty conditioned to do whatever is necessary to reduce our feelings of guilt. Another
powerful emotion that is used is sympathy. An emotional manipulator is a great victim. They inspire a profound sense of
needing to support, care for and nurture. Emotional Manipulators seldom fight their own fights or do their own dirty work.
The crazy thing is that when you do it for them (which they will never ask directly for), they may just turn around and say
they certainly didn’t want or expect you to do anything! Try to make a point of not fighting other people’s
battles, or doing their dirty work for them. A great line is "I have every confidence in your ability to work this
out on your own" - check out the response and note the bullshit meter once again.
5) Emotional manipulators fight dirty. They don’t deal with things directly.
They will talk around behind your back and eventually put others in the position of telling you what they would not say
themselves. They are passive aggressive, meaning they find subtle ways of letting you know they are not happy little campers.
They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear and then do a bunch of jerk off shit to undermine it. Example: "Of
course I want you to go back to school honey and you know I’ll support you." Then exam night you are sitting
at the table and poker buddies show up, the kids are crying the t.v. blasting and the dog needs walking - all the while "Sweetie"
is sitting on their ass looking at you blankly. Dare you call them on such behavior you are likely to hear, "well you
can’t expect life to just stop because you have an exam can you honey?" Cry, scream or choke ‘em - only
the last will have any long-term benefits and it’ll probably wind your butt in jail.
6) If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No
matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now - but only ten times worse.
It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way
of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely
become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish - or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The
thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother
- TRUST your gut and walk away!
7) Emotional manipulators
somehow have the ability to impact the emotional climate of those around them. When an emotional manipulator is
sad or angry the very room thrums with it - it brings a deep instinctual response to find someway to equalize the emotional
climate and the quickest route is by making the emotional manipulator feel better - fixing whatever is broken for them. Stick
with this type of loser for too long and you will be so enmeshed and co-dependent you will forget you even have needs -
let alone that you have just as much right to have your needs met.
Emotional manipulators have no sense of accountability. They take no responsibility for themselves or their
behavior - it is always about what everyone else has "done to them". One of the easiest ways to spot an emotional
manipulator is that they often attempt to establish intimacy through the early sharing of deeply personal information that
is generally of the "hook-you-in-and-make-you-sorry-for-me" variety. Initially you may perceive this type of person
as very sensitive, emotionally open and maybe a little vulnerable. Believe me when I say that an emotional manipulator is
about as vulnerable as a rabid pit bull, and there will always be a problem or a crisis to overcome.
It can be tricky to deal with manipulative people. For one
thing, if they're any good at it, you won't know you're being manipulated until you are well into a pattern of behavior
with the person that is difficult to break. It is important to remember you truly do teach people how to treat you. If you
tolerate the behavior, you are saying it is okay. The first step then, in dealing with manipulating people, is identifying
them. How? Ask yourself how you respond to their behavior in general. Do you find yourself responding in ways that you later
feel were unlike you? Do you feel you were "guided" down a certain path by their behavior? Is their behavior designed
to get a response from you that benefited you with its outcome, or them? Chances are the answers to these simple questions
will point a neon arrow at any manipulator in your current environment.
spotted them. Good for you. Now what? Let's say it's not a cut and dried matter of simply cutting the manipulator out of
your social circle, let's make it interesting. It's someone you love who is manipulating you, and you believe they love
you too, regardless of their behavior. The first thing you have to do, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it is, is
call them on it. Say something like, "I've noticed that you (insert behavior here), and I feel it is manipulative and
I don't like it." Let them know that your response to their behavior is going to change whether they change or not.
This way, you are taking control, and not trying to do the impossible - change another person. Then, stick to your guns.
Stay alert and watch for the behavior to occur again, which it will, and then respond (or stop responding, as the case may
be) as promised.
But what if they don't stop? Then it is up to you to decide
what you can and can't tolerate. This is often something that must be weighed heavily against the person's role in your
life. Are they a friend or social acquaintance whom you could actually do without, or are they a family member whom you
could not avoid? Are you married to them? If you decide that you can't tolerate the behavior, it is once again time for
you to be tough and let them know exactly what is going on, then hand them their walking papers. If you feel you have no
choice but to let them remain a part of your life, you still have 100% control over whether or not you allow yourself to
be manipulated. Simply learn to recognize the behavior for what it is and stop responding to it. Be prepared for a variety of responses
from the practiced manipulator - they may get angry when they can't get what they want, and they may try a tactic known
as "crazy-making"; in other words, they will make you think it is your problem and not theirs if they can. You
are your own best advocate in situations like this; listen to your inner voice. Don't steer yourself wrong and let yourself
be someone else's puppet. Neither should you become paranoid and assume that the whole world is out to force their will
upon you. Just be alert, wise, and above all, true to yourself.
We are all vulnerable to being manipulated in relationships, whether between
romantic partners, friends, parents, children, employers, coworkers, or neighbors. When we allow another person to manipulate
us, we are colluding with their desire to control our feelings, motives, and even our thoughts through deceptive, exploitative,
and unfair means. A manipulative relationship is one-sided and unbalanced, advancing the goals of the manipulator at the expense
of the person being manipulated. These relationships become troubled over time. If you want to change this kind of relationship,
you must first recognize the features of manipulation and then look within to understand your contribution to the manipulation.
There are effective ways to stand up to manipulation and bring balance back into the relationship.
is not the same as influence. We all use influence with other people to advance our goals, and this is one of the
hallmarks of healthy social functioning. Influence recognizes the rights and boundaries of other people, and it is based on
direct, honest communication. Influence is one way we have of functioning effectively in the world. Influence recognizes the
integrity of the other person, including the right not to go along with the attempted persuasion. Manipulation, on the other
hand, depends on covert agendas and an attempt to coerce another person into giving in. Even though it may appear that the
manipulator is strong and in control, there is usually insecurity under the facade. The tendency to exploit others and disregard
their rights is a sign of unhealthy personality functioning. In fact, people who manipulate others have difficulty in maintaining
good interpersonal relationships.
Those who manipulate other people are good at spotting people to control.
If they feel unable to manipulate someone, they usually give up and move on to somebody else who is more likely to be receptive
to the attempted manipulation. Once you recognize the features of the manipulation, the next step in correcting the situation
is to discover your own contribution to the problem. (This statement may seem a bit difficult to accept. After all, it's the
manipulator who has the problem, you might say. But realize that manipulation cannot occur in a vacuum. As is true of any
relationship, it takes two people.) You can come to understand your contribution to the manipulative situation and then take
steps to correct it.
Here are some common traits of those who are vulnerable to manipulators -
You feel useful and
loved only when you can take care of the needs of other people. This goes beyond being nice to other people. Your
sense of worth is tied up in doing things for other people. In fact, you take this so far that you please other people at
the expense of your own well-being. For example, you might buy something especially nice for your partner or a friend when
you would never spend that kind of money on yourself. Manipulators are drawn to this type of person and have no qualms about
taking advantage of this particular personality trait.
You need to have the approval and acceptance of other people. Although most people
appreciate being accepted, a problem occurs when you feel that you must be accepted by everyone at all times. The core problem
here is the fear of being rejected or abandoned - and it is so strong that you would do anything to avoid the feelings associated
with this fear. The manipulator works by giving you the acceptance that you need - and then threatening to withdraw it.
expressing negative emotions. Although expressing anger and engaging in a conflict are never pleasant, some people
will go to any length to avoid a confrontation. They want things to be pleasant at all times. They fear that they will fall
apart in the face of negative emotions. Manipulators have an easy task in this kind of relationship - all they have to do
is to threaten to raise their voice, and then they get their way.
You are unable to say no. One of the characteristics of a healthy relationship
is appropriate boundaries that clarify who you are and what you stand for. In order to maintain healthy boundaries, however,
you must sometimes say no when someone attempts to push your limits. If you are afraid of the conflict that may arise when
you say no, you play into the hands of the manipulator. Learning effective assertiveness techniques is a way to regain your
sense of control in a manipulative relationship.
You lack a firm sense of your own self. A clear sense of self means that you
know what your values are, who you are, what you stand for, and where you begin and the other person ends. If you have an
unclear sense of self, it is difficult to trust your own judgment or to make decisions that work in your favor. Without a
clear definition of your self, you may be an easy target for a manipulator.
If you are in a manipulative
relationship, it is helpful to recognize the personal tendencies that allow the other person to assert control over you. You
can come to understand and explore these safely with the support of a professionally trained therapist. While you may not
be able to change the behavior of the manipulator, you can change your own responses to attempts at manipulation so that you
achieve a firmer sense of your own integrity. The unhappiness resulting from a manipulative relationship can lead to life-changing
experiences that generate insight and the ability to cope more effectively with the demands of everyday living.
Manipulation in a relationship usually progresses over a long period of time. Manipulators learn over time
how far they can go. They are unlikely to attempt to manipulate the other person at the beginning of a relationship since
this could bring things to an immediate end. They observe the other person's vulnerabilities and learn eventually how to exploit
them for their own purposes.
There are two basic tactics that are used to exert control, and they usually go hand in hand.
The first is a promise of gain. That is, the manipulator will promise to provide something if the partner goes along with
what the manipulator wants. "I promise - no arguments for a week if you'll end your friendship with Pat." The other
tactic is the promise of avoiding loss. In this case, the manipulator threatens the partner with the loss of something if
the partner does not go along with the manipulator's desires. "I'm going to stay out with my friends late every night
unless this house is cleaned spic and span by the time I get home." (Of course, these two examples are obvious manipulation
attempts. Most manipulators use more subtle methods than we see in these examples.)
Manipulative people have a
strong need to be in control. This may derive from underlying feelings of insecurity on their part, although they often compensate
for these feelings with a show of strong self-confidence. Even though they may deny it, their motives are self-serving, and
they pursue their aims regardless of the cost to other people. They have a strong need to feel superior and powerful in their
relationships - and they find people who will validate these feelings by going along with their attempts at manipulation.
They see power as finite. If you exert power over them, they will retaliate in order to gain back the control they feel they
are losing. They cannot understand the idea that everyone can feel empowered or that everyone can gain. When they are not
in control of themselves and over other people - they feel threatened. They have difficulty in showing vulnerable emotions
because it might suggest they are not in control.
Those who are manipulative usually don't consciously plan their maneuvers.
They emerge from the manipulator's underlying personality disorder, and are played out within the context of a victim who
colludes with, and unwittingly encourages, the manipulation. There is a wide range of tactics used by manipulators ranging
from verbal threats to subtle attempts to arrange situations to suit the manipulator. For example, one of the more common
forms of manipulation is called splitting - turning two people against each other by talking to each one behind the back of
the other, getting them to dislike or distrust each other, and leaving the manipulator in a position of control. They may
use active techniques like becoming angry, lying, intimidating, shouting, name-calling or other bullying tactics. Or they
may use more passive methods like pouting, sulking, ignoring you, or giving you the silent treatment.
Some Ground Rules for Dealing with Manipulation
on changing yourself, not the manipulator. It is not helpful to try to outmanipulate a skillful manipulator - you
are simply making yourself vulnerable to further manipulation. You will not change a manipulator by focusing on his or her
imperfections and trying to work toward their achieving insight. You may think that it would be helpful to share with the
manipulator how you feel and how his or her behavior has an impact on you - but this is generally not helpful since most manipulators
are not capable of empathy and may use this information against you in the future. The only effective method of changing manipulative
behavior is to disable it by making a change within yourself, thereby changing the dynamics of the manipulative relationship.
If you cease to cooperate with the manipulative tactics, you will alter the nature of the relationship. If manipulators have
to work hard to maintain control in the relationship, they usually give up - often by leaving the relationship and finding
someone else to control.
Assess the worth of this relationship to you. Depending on the severity of the manipulation
and the damage it has done to your sense of happiness and integrity, you may need to consider whether it is worth it to continue
the relationship. Of course, there are many situations (parent/child, for example) when you must stay in the relationship,
so it is helpful at least to achieve some clarity about what you want in your life and assess how the relationship has the
potential to lead you toward your personal goals.
Use assertiveness techniques to change the nature of the relationship. You might
be so accustomed to complying with the manipulator's tactics that you automatically do his or her bidding without thinking
about it. First, you need to stop your automatic compliance. You do this by buying time to think about each situation as it
arises. "I'll get back to you on that when I have the time to think about it." At this point you are now in control
of the situation. It is not helpful to let the manipulator ask you why you need time since this invites your loss of control.
Simply repeat the same thing over and over again without explanation. "I need more time to think about it." Next,
you need to confront the fear, anxiety or guilt that has driven you to comply in the past with the manipulator's demands.
This requires a deep look within that may be achieved by working with a professional therapist. Exploring your own personal
feelings, why you react as you do, and how to use alternate responses may be a challenge, but the benefits are far-reaching
- and they may save your relationship, or at least prepare you for healthier relationships in the future. Finally, you might
label the manipulation for what it is. "When you threaten to leave me I feel afraid. If you would simply state your wishes
and show me respect, I would be more able to listen to what you want." In a calm voice and with direct eye contact, it
may be time to announce that the old manipulations have come to an end. "We both understand that you have a pattern of
playing on my fears, and now you know how I feel about that. Your way of threatening me is not going to work any longer."
In making these types of assertive statements, you are defining your boundaries. There is no need to make threats. Simply
state that you will not participate any longer in manipulations. Make it clear that by setting limits and enhancing your own
personal integrity, you expect a better relationship in the future. Learning to assert yourself in the face of a manipulative
individual who feels threatened when not in control is a challenge, and doing this with the help of a professional therapist
Are You in a Manipulative Relationship?
Answer the following questions with a True or False.
_____ I sometimes feel confused about
what my partner really wants.
_____ I feel that my partner frequently takes advantage of my giving nature.
_____ Even when I do something that pleases my partner, the
positive feelings never last long.
_____ With my partner I feel that it's hard just to be myself or do what I really want.
_____ Around my partner, I feel taken
seem to work harder on this relationship than my partner does.
My partner has a very strong impact on what I think and feel.
_____ I sometimes feel that
I am trapped in my relationship and there is no way out.
_____ I don't feel as good about myself in my relationship as I once did.
_____ I feel that I need
my partner more than my partner needs me.
_____ No matter how much I have done, I feel that it's not good enough for my partner.
_____ I feel that my partner
does not understand who I really am.
There are twelve questions in this quiz. If you answered more than half of
them with True, you might want to consider exploring whether you are in a manipulative relationship.