10 Ways to Tell You’re Being Emotionally Manipulated and How to Avoid It

With the intention of having some kind of benefit or control over others in their surroundings, some people are capable of emotionally manipulating their peers. Most often they will use dishonest or exploitative strategies that you should try to avoid at all costs so you don’t get tangled up in their issues. Of course, keep in mind that in some way, we can all be somewhat manipulative. However, if it is something that we notice starts happening all the time, we should be attentive and handle things carefully to avoid being hurt and to stop encouraging this type of situation in our environment.

Bright Side did some research to figure out what the most common techniques emotional manipulators use and came up with a list of some of them so that you can tell when someone’s trying to use them on you.

1. They don’t want to do something even if they say they do, and then they avoid direct confrontation.

People who have a manipulative personality are usually pessimistic and resentful, and express their conflicts through covert anger in acts like procrastination, stubbornness, and inefficiency, so it’s not uncommon for them to do this. Picture someone at work refusing a request, but instead of just saying no, this person does it in an indirect way and hides the fact that they did so. Most often they will also try to avoid dealing with the consequence of their decision. This may constitute what’s known as passive-aggressive behavior.

When confronting this kind of situation, it’s recommended to make the person who presents passive-aggressive behavior see that they are responsible for their faults. That way they’ll stop blaming you if that’s the case. At the same time, this will help you put your needs first and by doing so you’ll avoid falling into their trap, which is set to make you take the blame. In any case, it’s essential to avoid playing games with people who have been shown to have manipulative personalities. Never confront the situation from an angry place. Instead, think about your health and your happiness first.

2. They make other people feel embarrassed so they will come to them in a vulnerable state.

Manipulation can develop into a type of social and emotional bullying. For instance, in some cases, it can take the form of what’s sometimes known as intellectual harassment. In these situations, the manipulator often takes on the role of subject matter expert, while the so-called victim, feeling embarrassed and inferior, may decide to seek out the manipulator to obtain some kind of information that could, later on, prove beneficial.

To deal with this, it’s best not to get into a power struggle. This advice, of course, holds true in most cases, but it’s especially relevant when dealing with manipulators. Remember that if the aggressor’s actions and words cease to affect us, the manipulator will end up feeling ashamed of their behavior at some point. If someone insists on highlighting a past mistake you or someone else made over and over again, let them know that it’s not important and that it no longer matters.

3. They distort facts to make people doubt their own perception, judgment, or memory.

When someone alters the facts of an event, causing another person to mistrust their own memory, perception, and question their own instincts, it’s only normal for the victim to feel insecure and a high degree of uncertainty. This type of manipulation causes someone’s trust and sense of reality to be compromised. At the end of the day, the victim may even confuse what is true and what is not, so this technique is especially dangerous, which is why it’s important to be aware of it.

One of the signs that you are under this type of emotional manipulation is precisely when you start questioning everything you do and think without really having any grounds to doubt things. In this situation, it’s recommended that you trust your judgment and your instincts, show confidence and identify the people you can trust to give you insight into the situation. You should keep in mind that, in some cases, this type of action may require professional help to be dealt with.

4. They put pressure on others and give them little or no time to decide.

Emotional manipulation can take place in all kinds of places and situations. In fact, you might even run into it when someone uses it as a sales and negotiation tactic, where a potential client’s fragility is exploited. This is often done to pressure them into buying something without considering whether or not they are even ready to make a conscious decision about their buy.

Clearly, these techniques are not as harmful as, say, manipulating people into complete disbelief like we saw earlier. Most often it’s useful to learn to tell when you’re being pushed into doing something because then you can easily act, by, for example, distancing yourself from the person, trying to buy time, and consulting other options as well as getting second opinions. Important decisions take time and should be made when you’re feeling cool, calm, and collected.

5. They come on too strong and too fast.

Another common tactic emotional manipulators use, because it’s very effective, is to try to make others feel extremely special. This is of course just a way of forcing them to open up easily and share their secrets. A good way to tell if this is happening to you is by keeping your ears and eyes open when a person shows overconfidence before really getting to know you. This might be a clear sign that they may actually be prying into personal sensitivities in order to use them against you later.

6. They act like a victim.

It’s always very important to keep in mind that, when it comes to human relationships, things aren’t just black and white. This is especially true when facing a situation where there’s aggression, for example. Some people could and will easily adopt the role of the victim in order to gain power. This can be done consciously or unconsciously.

People who do this often display a passive attitude. They tend to avoid direct confrontation and responsibilities by blaming others for everything bad that happens to them. They often say that their pessimism comes from other people putting pressure on them. While this is, in fact, a type of manipulation, it can arise as a defense mechanism to cope with specific symptoms of fear or anxiety.

When a person shows this type of pattern, it is recommended to not judge or criticize them and to be respectful since they might be facing complicated problems and might even need help. It is better to have an open and honest conversation in order to understand what’s going on and avoid demotivating them. In addition, supporting and guiding them to question their responsibility in everything that happens to them could also help, but in any case, it’s better to direct them to a professional.

7. They seek to make people feel sorry for expressing their concerns.

In an attempt to control or influence someone’s choices, manipulators may make that person feel guilty for expressing their thoughts or concerns. In addition, they may respond aggressively or try to create a confusing situation in order to start an argument and gain leverage in the whole discussion.

In situations where expressing oneself is also an act of bravery, shame should not be an excuse to limit communication with others. On the contrary, among other things, it is a matter of asserting one’s feelings and values to make sure that manipulators won’t confuse you and your friends or family with things that aren’t important or even real.

8. They seem to be joking when they are actually saying something rude or cruel.

To try and cast doubts, an emotional manipulator may use cruel comments covered in sarcasm or even pretend that they are just joking when they’re actually saying something unpleasant or even hurtful. What you should keep in mind if you’re involved in this situation is that people who make these comments are often just insecure and suffer from low self-esteem. Your answer should then come from a place of respect, even if that seems hard to do at the moment. In a non-hurtful way, try to assert your rights and make them understand that you deserve respect and dignity, just as they do.

9. They give people the silent treatment.

Sometimes, an emotional manipulator will use the silent treatment as a resource or simply as a punishment when they need to get something. On top of that, they try to create an imbalance of power. It’s a common way to incentivize their victims to seek their approval and a certain type of closeness by doing exactly the opposite: disapproving and distancing themselves from them.

Just like with the rest of the techniques, the silent treatment should be dealt with using a clear and cool mind to avoid falling into the trap manipulators are setting. After all, in addition to encompassing silence, this technique can imply emotional and physical isolation that hides poor communication management. These problems will hardly go away on their own so, in that sense, being open to speaking about emotions is something that should be considered.

10. They take advantage of the insecurities and strong feelings of others.

People who spend the most time with us are the ones who get to know our weaknesses best, this is logical. What we often don’t think about is that they can use this knowledge to hurt or manipulate us if they want to. They can, for instance, highlight our vulnerabilities to put us down. They may also try to use our feelings against us and make us feel guilty about the emotions we’re experiencing at that moment, especially if they’re very strong ones.

In these cases, it might pay off to not try to defeat them, and thus not enter the game they’re trying to involve us in. Instead, it might be better to be aware of the responses you want to give and even apologize, if necessary, while at the same time setting boundaries. Remember that emotional health is important, and seeing a specialist is one of the solutions that could put an end to this type of behavior.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments and share your insights. Your experience might be very valuable for someone that’s dealing with a similar problem!

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