Manipulators are soul sucking individuals who will drain you of your energy and pose a threat on your mental health. Manipulative people think about one thing and only one thing, which is how to benefit and further themselves. They give little to no thought as to how and who their behavior affects.
The act of manipulation is a tool used by predators in society, mainly consisting of narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths among us. Their goal is to establish and strengthen their control over their victims. The most common type of manipulation used by such people is psychological and emotional manipulation.
Per Psychology Today, psychological manipulation involves “the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.”
Using this definition, we will discuss the typical attributes of the manipulator, including how the communication of manipulators. Part of this communication includes phrases that manipulators use to victimize other people. Finally, we will suggest practical ways of effectively dealing with a manipulative person.
“Controllers, abusers, and manipulative people don’t question themselves. They don’t ask themselves if the problem is them. They always say the problem is someone else.” – Darlene Oulmet
The Psychology of Manipulation
“Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics.” – Wikipedia
The tactics used by manipulators are often abusive and exploitative in nature. Regarding the former, manipulators will willingly breach someone’s personal space and use underhanded aggression, or passive aggressiveness, in an attempt to coax the person into doing something. Manipulators will try to exploit any number of a person’s personality traits if they believe it will benefit them. People who are generally trustworthy and those with a high degree of timidity are often the main targets of manipulators, for example.
This underhanded aggressiveness and ruthlessness often distinguishes psychological manipulation from social influence. Social influence, though it might also involve manipulative underpinnings, is more likely unintentional. Such is never the case with manipulation which, by definition, requires intent.
George K. Simon, the author of numerous psychology books, cites the following as a basic framework for manipulators:
- Hiding intentions by being affable and charming.
- Understanding the psychological susceptibilities of a potential victim in deciding the methods of deception to use.
- Having a certain degree of ruthlessness with no qualms about hurting the person if necessary.
Manipulative Behaviors and Techniques
After the manipulator has won over their victim and gained their trust, they will use all kinds of behaviors and techniques to maintain and strengthen their control. The ‘Big 5’ of manipulative control methods include:
After the manipulator has won over their victim, they will use a variety of behaviors and techniques to maintain and strengthen control. The “Big 5” of manipulative control methods include:
- Positive reinforcement: Superficial expression of approval, praise, or sympathy; the giving of attention, gifts, money, etc.
- Negative reinforcement: Stopping an expected negative outcome as a reward.
- Intermittent reinforcement: Occasional positive reinforcement; often used to create confusion and doubt in the victim’s mind.
- One-off traumatic learning: The use of unusually volatile intimidation through explosive anger or verbal abuse that is designed to establish dominance. The victim will may succumb to the manipulator’s demands out of fear of re-experiencing this event.
- Punishment: Behaviors designed to hurt the victim, including emotional outbursts and verbal defamation. Examples of punishment include playing the victim by crying or guilt-tripping; intimidation, threats, swearing, and silent treatment.
Simon identifies the following tools and techniques commonly used by manipulators:
- Creating confusion: Sewing seeds of doubt to create confusion in the victim’s mind.
- Denial: Non-admittance of an offense clearly committed.
- Evasion: Attempting to throw the victim “off the trail” by giving vague and confusing replies.
- Fake anger: Feigned anger employed by the manipulator to get what they want.
- Guilt-tripping: Creating a sense of anxiety and self-doubt in the victim through hurtful actions or remarks.
- Lying: Either through the withholding of information (lying by omission) or overtly.
- Minimization: Claiming that certain behavior was not mean to be harmful.
- Projecting innocence: Claiming innocence regarding something that was purposely done to the victim.
- Rationalization: Making excuses for improper behavior.
- Selective attention (or inattention): Use of the silent treatment mixed in with occasional attentiveness; designed to establish or strengthen
- Shaming: Inflicting a strong sense of doubt through put-downs and sarcastic remarks.
- Vilification: Accusing the victim of abusive behavior to mask the manipulator’s aggressive intent.
Phrases Manipulators Use
You can occasionally spot a manipulator by the things they say. Be careful that you are not overgeneralizing, however. Manipulators tend to stick with tried and true methods, meanng that they will repeat the same behaviors, in this case the things they say more than once. On this note, here are the 8 phrases that manipulators use often:
You Do Not Understand
The name of the game for the manipulators is confusion and evasion, as these permit them ways to continue in their ways. Part of planting the seed of uncertainty and keeping it planted, involves deceptive communication. The attempts by the victim to rationalize with the manipulator regarding their poisonous behavior is almost always brushed off with an evasive phrase like “you do not understand”.
You Are Being Dramatic
This one is the real deal! A manipulator will call someone out for being dramatic, but not really. Keep in mind that drama is the manipulator’s bread and butter, as drama is the source of their power. Manipulators stage arguments, lie, fake cry and straight up nail the role of perpetual victim. Make no mistake, as it is probably not you who is being dramatic. If you are, then there is probably a good reason for it.
You Are Being Paranoid
Deceit and evade. Repeat. The claims of paranoia by the manipulative are nothing more than avoidance of responsibility. If the liar accuses you of being paranoid, it is probably because you are right on their tracks. Stay there and do not leave until they are out of your life for good.
I Do Not Want To Argue
Yes, they do and they live for it. And if they do not, you must be interrupting the cheat in the middle of brainstorming their next evil plan. Take a step back and think about this for a minute. Here is a person that has done little but creates division and set the stage for a heated conversation. What reason do they have not to want to argue? Here is the reason; they do not care whether you in fact argue. In their own mind, they can always successfully throw it back in your face.
You Are Too Sensitive
No, you are not being too sensitive. Well, actually, you might be too sensitive in the eyes of a manipulator given that they do not have any empathy, at least not for their victims. If they did, they wouldn’t be telling you that you are “too sensitive”. When you hear this, do us all a favor and find the heaviest object that you can and try to heave it across the distance separating you and them. Or better yet, just get rid of the manipulative person by cutting them out of your life.
You Are Thinking Too Much
You probably are, but there is likely a good reason for it. Usually, overthinking is not healthy. When trying to decipher someone’s cryptic messages, however, logical thought can be constructive. As with number 3 that “you are being paranoid”, when this person claims that you are thinking too much, it probably indicates that what you have to say is accurate and that they feel threatened by your conclusions.
You Always Do This
When a manipulator says these words, one of two things has happened:
- Your ‘stubbornness’ got in the way of something they wanted
- They are trying to sow the seeds of self-doubt and guilt
Exaggerations are a tool used when they want to sound like they know better than you. In all likelihood, ‘you always do this’ is their way of saying “you are getting in the way of me doing what I want to do”.
I Did Not Say That
In case that you did not know by now, manipulators lie a lot. In fact, most of the words that come out of their twisted mouths are probably lies. It is no surprise, then, that when you catch them red-handed in a lie that they lie about lying. At a certain point, you must come to the conclusion that this toxic character is an anchor that needs to be dropped.
Ways to Deal with Manipulators
“Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks, and bad people. Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the art of peace.” – Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido
Let us get straight into it. Manipulators are toxic people that should not be allowed into anyone’s life. Here are ten pieces of advice for avoiding and getting rid of them completely.
- Acknowledge and appreciate your self-worth. You are the only person you’ll have forever. Think about that.
- Don’t feel the need to offer reasons. They don’t deserve any.
- If you lack a sense of purpose in life, get one. Nothing turns a manipulator off more than a self-directed, confident person.
- Ignore them. Everything they do and say, ignore it. Don’t even acknowledge them.
- Stop rationalizing their behavior. You see what you see – and it’s wrong. End of story.
- Find their weak point – whatever it is – and strike. Using their insecurities to hit back tells them you’re not one to be trifled with.
- Learn how to say no. Manipulators love to ask for “favors.” Don’t give in.
- Remember: loneliness isn’t that bad. We all go through periods of isolation, which can be hard. Just remember that such times are the best to work on you.
- Stop caring what others think. This is just a good rule, period.
- Get help. Last but certainly not least: don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you feel threatened or abused, reach out to someone.