Manipulation is a sneaky beast, and it can be difficult to spot right away because often, the person who is taking advantage is appealing to your ego, under the guise of a well-meaning approach. But you can learn to protect yourself by becoming versed in the six types of manipulation.

Why do people manipulate each other? “In general, people manipulate others to get what they want. They may feel the need to punish, control, or dominate…” There can be many reasons why an individual resorts to this type of conduct.

If you want to learn how to tell if someone is manipulating you, you must first recognize that you have become an object of exploitation. From there, you can empower yourself through education and through the help of supportive networks.

1. What Is Psychological Manipulation?


“Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of… influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.” The trickiest aspect is that the manipulator often uses aggressive techniques in subtle ways to blind or confuse their victim.

Emotional and psychological manipulation can be used interchangeably because the ultimate goal is to make the recipient feel bad about themselves by instilling emotions of guilt, sadness, loneliness, and sometimes even fear. Once the manipulator has weakened their victim into submission, they are free to take what they want or achieve their primary intent.

2. The Six Types Of Manipulation


Manipulation can manifest itself in a variety of ways, which makes it challenging for the victim to determine or even to communicate to others. While manipulation is inherently harmful and can have detrimental effects on the perpetrator’s prey, some types of manipulation start seemingly harmless and, in some cases, even seductive.

Below is a list of the six types of manipulation; some of these may stand alone, or sometimes, there could be a crossover of tactics. Becoming aware of the signs that you are getting manipulated can help to determine your next course of action.

  • You are being made to feel guilty. This is a popular tactic used by master manipulators to use guilt to their advantage. Guilt-tripping is an excellent way for the manipulator to absolve any responsibility and to position you as the person at fault.

  • You feel like you are losing your sense of reality. Manipulators are fantastic liars, and they will challenge your understanding of what’s real or what you believe to be true. These schemers will twist their words and their timelines in order to have you second-guess yourself, thus positioning themselves in the power seat.

  • You are being wooed too strong and too soon. Perpetrators of manipulation like to come on thick, and they will do their best to charm you, as a way for you to let down your guard. They may make powerful declarations of love and devotion rather quickly, in order to gain your trust, which they will ultimately exploit in the long run.

  • Your boundaries do not feel protected. Manipulators do not have a sense of limitations, and they will certainly not respect yours. If you try and state a particular boundary, a manipulator will try to make you feel guilty about it or may undermine it in sneaky and subtle ways, in order to cross the lines that you have set.

  • You are the recipient of passive-aggressive behavior. People who want to manipulate you will resort to such practices, like using the silent treatment or cutting you off, in order to exert even more control. These methods are a way for the manipulator to ‘punish you,’ in an attempt to weaken your confidence.

  • You feel an urgent sense of pressure. Manipulators always have an ulterior motive for their behavior, and once they want to seek action, they will apply immediate influence on you, in order to get you to do what they want. They use pressure and time limits to back you into a corner so that you do not feel that you have enough time to consider your options or situation. 

3. How To End A Manipulative Relationship


It can be very difficult to end a manipulative relationship due to the effects of these destructive tactics on your self-esteem. Upon reflection, you may feel guilty or even afraid to abandon your manipulator because of possible threats or things that they may know about you.

Maneuvering through this type of abuse may require outside support, or you may find that you possess the inner strength to craft an escape on your own. We invite you to explore these helpful tips below to guide you by ending a manipulative relationship.

  • Gather together a support system. Lean on the help of trusted loved ones.

  • Put together a few different strategies. Map out your escape and include a few different options that cover all of the necessary bases.

  • Keep the conversation simple and firm. Going into too much detail will only feed the manipulator into assuming more control.

  • Maintain zero contact and keep your distance. Manipulative relationships often have a pattern where the manipulator tries to convince the victim to return. Once you leave, try your best to stay gone permanently.

  • Rebuild your self-worth with acts of self-care. The longer you stay in a manipulative relationship, the more your self-esteem can erode. Empower yourself with acts of kindness and care.

Manipulators can display other types of antisocial behaviors, but not every manipulator is a sociopath. Some people may have come from family situations where manipulation was often used as tools, while others may have been conditioned by their professional environments to act in cruel ways to accomplish their goals.

At its core, manipulation is an abuse of power that is used to exploit the victim in order to achieve personal gain.

Manipulation can present itself as threatening or even as (disingenuous) kindness. Educating yourself on the six types of manipulation is a powerful way to guard yourself against exploitive behavior.

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