Psychological manipulation is a way of social influence that has an intention of changing someone’s behavior and influencing their decisions by using different methods that can sometimes even be perceived as abusive.

Social influence is a term used to explain how one’s personality is changing according to the social environment.

This type of manipulation is present in our everyday life, and it has many different forms. It is common in sales and marketing, but also through peer pressure, persuasion, obedience, etc.

However, it is important to know that there is a difference between normal, healthy social influence and the abusing psychological manipulation.

Manipulation is used for gaining power over a person in order to receive certain benefits on the victim’s expense.

Since it is hard to recognize signs of manipulation, no one should put the blame on themselves for being manipulated – it is only the manipulator’s fault.

An emotional manipulation is an act of managing someone’s emotions in order to get the desired result, usually for self-serving purposes.

People who are prone to emotionally manipulating others usually have subtle ways of doing it, but they do it constantly.

It can usually be difficult for a person to know if they’re being manipulated. Even some manipulators are sometimes not aware of their actions, so it can be really confusing to figure out when someone is a victim of manipulation.

Manipulators often use fraudulent ways of gaining power over someone’s emotions.

This way of manipulation can weaken and destroy relationships between people and cause the victim to feel helpless.

It is not, however, a rare thing: we have all at least once manipulated someone, or have been the victims of manipulation.

Reading this article can help you understand why and how do manipulators use their techniques to gain power over people.

These are some ways of recognizing signs of psychological and emotional manipulation.


Manipulation is an everyday thing. It happens to us all the time without us noticing.

For example, being angry at someone and wanting them to change their behavior in order for you to be happier is a form of manipulation.

A baby crying when they want food is also a type of manipulation. Manipulation surrounds us all the time and it is usually very hard to recognize.

There are different types of manipulation, as well as different types of manipulators.

First of all, these are some characteristics that can be found in a manipulator:

Stubborn Headedness

Constant insisting on pushing through with their intentions can be the key to gaining power over someone’s feelings and actions.

Manipulators usually use their skills more than once because they enjoy receiving benefits from them.

This can be an obvious sign of someone manipulating you, so if you notice emotional controlling repeating again and again, be sure that you’re dealing with a manipulator.

If you allow for them to push through one time, that can be the cue for them to keep on pushing, so be wary and know how and when to set your limits.

Knowing Your Weaknesses

A good manipulator will get to know you very well in order to get what he wants.

Knowing all your weak spots will give him/her the opportunity to make you more vulnerable and get you to a state where you can’t fight anymore;

Manipulators are often known to destroy people’s self-esteem which gives them complete power over people’s emotions because it’s often the case that the one who damaged your confidence is the only one that can restore it, especially if they’re close to you…

So make sure you’re careful when you’re letting someone get to know you and get close to you.

Creating Confusion

Manipulators love to cause misunderstandings and confusion.

Alternating reality allows them to force you into believing their lies without you even realizing it.

They will also sometimes make two people fight just for fun.

A simple technique of confusing you into submission will make them the dominant ones and give them the ability to control your mind.

Especially if the manipulator is someone close to you and sends out mixed signals. You expect that person to love you or at least respect you, but you get other results.

You automatically assume that you must be mistaken and that respect is what motivates their negative behavior so you start justifying them. Don’t!

It often happens that their means of creating confusion implies that they pretend that they didn’t hear or understand what you said or that you said something that could have been interpreted differently so they latch onto an interpretation that best suits them.

They decontextualize your words and use them for their own gain or they pull a straw man when you’re on to them. Don’t let such people distract you.

Being Passive-Aggressive

That means that they’d rather avoid direct confrontation but they will act aggressively in an indirect way. For example, a manipulator will avoid talking to you when there’s a problem, they will try to punish you with their silence, they make up excuses all the time, etc.

The silent treatment is basically sanctioning your undesirable behavior in order to force you to match your behavior with their expectations.

Snide remarks, microaggressions, etc. fall into the same category so when you see someone displaying patterns of being passive-aggressive behavior, know that it’s about manipulating you.

Playing the Victim

This is a common thing that all manipulators do when you’re onto them. It’s a good way of reversing roles and also justifying their behavior.

They play the victim by putting blame on you in order to hide their intentions and achieve the desired results.

Have you ever been in a situation where you know a person is wrong, but at the end of the day you feel sorry for them because they are having it “way harder than you do”?

That is a classic example of emotional manipulation.

They say that offense is the best defense. That’s why they can try to avoid the blame by placing it on you. They tend to be more defensive than others for no apparent reason.

Having low self-esteem and fearing judgment are both causes of this kind of behavior.

These people are constantly in war with everyone else trying to turn the ever-present power struggle in their favor.

They’re usually obsessed with both power and the struggle.


Manipulators hardly ever have something nice to tell you; they would rather focus on your flaws instead of complimenting you.

They do this because they want to make you feel like you need them to tell you what to do and how to do it.

They are most likely only projecting their own insecurities by doing this, and justifying their own low self-esteem.

Manipulators know that making you feel guilt will give them a lot of advantages. They will find a way to make you guilty whatever you do, no matter if it’s good or bad.


Most of the manipulators are pathological liars. Lies are actually the essence of every successful manipulation.

If they have you believe what they want you to believe, they will have you do what they want you to do, it’s that simple.

Ask yourself how many times have you been lied by a person.

Lying doesn’t have to be verbal, it doesn’t have to mean that they said something that is not true. If they did anything to deceive you or leave you in the dark, it doesn’t much differ from lying.


With you questioning your own sanity, a manipulator will have complete power over your feelings and decision.

Gaslighting is a term used to describe a situation where one person tries to make the other one doubt their memory and sanity.

For example, being told “I’m just kidding” when you know a person is clearly not kidding is a form of gaslighting.

They will often play dumb and try to avoid your questions by simply acting as if they don’t know what you are talking about.

They will ask random questions in order to confuse and distract you.

Having you all confused and without answers will save them from any guilt you might have put on them.

Using You to Get Off

Psychological manipulators are often what they call emotional vampires or parasites. That means that they will make you feel bad whenever they feel bad, or make you feel guilty because they feel bad.

Manipulators will try to be the center of attention and make sure that everyone knows how they feel. They start with oversharing and then suck you into their hole of emotions.

They probably do this because they feel that they lessened the pressure on themselves when they share it with their environment.

Furthermore, they are often narcissistic and suffer from an oedipal complex so they expect you to be their mama and fix all their issues.

If you don’t manage to do it or if your behavior doesn’t meet their expectations, they punish you with silent treatments or any other way they see fit.


You must have been in a situation where someone is pressuring you into making a decision in order for them to get what they want.

It may have not been so obvious, but this is a tactic most manipulators often use.

By putting a lot of pressure and tension on you and not giving you enough time to decide, they cause you to crack and finally give them what they want without you even realizing it.

Causing a Scene

Manipulators will often yell or put you in an uncomfortable situation because of their behavior. Raising their voice will give them a feeling of power, and it will further increase their chance of getting what they want from you.

They also expect you to be embarrassed by the crowd and they use your social inhibitions against you.

If you feel pressured by crowd’s expectations, you might do anything to avoid a potential embarrassment.

They know this and they use it to gain the upper hand.

Intellectual Bullying

Some manipulators will use intellectual bullying as a way to trick you into believing their lies.

What they actually do by this is they put out fake facts and details in topics you don’t know much about, so you would naturally assume that these are true.

Salesmen sometimes do this in order to make you buy the product.

It’s essentially lying in many different forms and variations.

Being Stone Cold and Letting You Take the Initiative

This might not be as obvious, but it is very logical.

Manipulators will let you speak first because this allows them to get to know your opinions, emotions or even weak spots.

When they know all of these things about you, it is easier for them to manipulate you.

Being too calm in situations of chaos can be a sign of a manipulator’s behavior.

Of course, first, they make chaos happen.

By doing this, these people will try to trigger you and cause an even bigger scene. This will later make you feel like you were causing a scene when comparing yourself to them.

They want you to dance around them and tend to their needs, remember?


Finally, one of the most obvious techniques that manipulators use is blackmailing. Blackmailing can be a part of almost all previously mentioned things.

It is the easiest way for a manipulator to get the desired outcome, and for a victim to feel trapped and without choice.

However, blackmailing is fairly easy to recognize, and pointing it out can help you put a stop to manipulator’s abuse.

After reading this, you might have thought about the reasons manipulators do these things. Apart from obvious things already mentioned in this text such as gaining power and control, there are usually more problems that are not noticeable.

The root of their problems can often be found in fear.

They are scared that they are not as worthy as other people.

Manipulation then gives them the ability to feel powerful and be above others. Sometimes, people manipulate in order to avoid trouble.

This kind of manipulation is not centered on controlling another person, but rather getting out of an uneasy situation.


You can search for signs of manipulation in your own feelings. Being manipulated can cause long-term consequences for your mental health.

Being chronically manipulated can escalate to emotional abuse, which can lead to experiencing trauma.

These are some problems that a victim of emotional manipulation might develop:

  • Depression – being under someone’s control and without own thoughts and decisions has a bad impact on one’s mental help. Manipulators will rarely make you feel happy; they will rather manipulate you into feeling miserable and being dependent on them.
  • Anxiety – just like depression, anxiety is developed when one’s emotions are constantly controlled by someone else. When that person is not around, the victim of manipulation can feel anxious and unable to make clear decisions.
  • Trust issues – obviously, dealing with lying and blackmailing for a long time can eventually cause trust issues. Victims of psychological manipulations are often not able to let go of these issues long after experiencing manipulation.
  • Faking their feelings – people who are emotionally manipulated are often forced into feeling guilty for expressing their feelings. This is why they often hide their feelings and have a hard time letting other people know how they feel.

In order to avoid developing serious mental issues over time, it is important to address emotional manipulation and confront the manipulator as soon as possible.

Even though there are different ways of manipulation that we are unable to escape, experiencing constant manipulation is far from healthy and normal.

Looking up ways to overcome manipulation can be a good start to living freely and without negative influence.

It is surely very disturbing knowing that you have been or that you are being manipulated.

Besides all these ways to recognize a manipulator, there are some useful tips that can help you put a stop on the manipulator’s behavior.


Protecting yourself from manipulation is definitely not an easy task to do, but it is necessary if you want to create healthy relationships with people.

If you’ve recognized any of the previously mentioned signs happening to you, you should consider confronting the manipulator as soon as possible.

Even though it is not your fault that you have been manipulated, it is your responsibility to put an end to it. We have all been manipulated at least once and we should be able to recognize when that is happening.

Here are some tips that could help you gain confidence and protect yourself from this kind of emotional bullying.

  • Knowing how to say no – the most obvious, yet sometimes the hardest way of ending someone’s abusive behavior is just saying If you are sure that you are dealing with a manipulator, you should wait for his next move and then simply reject him by directly stopping his abusive actions. It can be a hard thing to do, but you need to overcome your shyness in order to let the manipulator know that he is not in charge of you.
  • Setting boundaries – it is important to know your personal boundaries and to let others know them too. Especially when dealing with a manipulator, setting straight boundaries can limit their actions in a way that they’re not able to impact your decisions and emotions.

When doing this, you should be consistent with your intentions and not let the manipulator tell you you are wrong (because they will try to manipulate you even then).

Try letting them now that you understand them, but that you are also your own person and need to decide for yourself.

  • Maintain an emotional distance – once you have realized that you are being manipulated, you should consider distancing yourself from the manipulator.

It is not really easy to do all at once, but it is a safe and sure step to putting an end to this torture. You can always fight fire with fire, but it may be the best for you to just get away from it.

  • Recognizing their techniques – just like manipulators tend to get to know you better in order to get what they want, you should try to do that as well.

When you can predict their actions successfully, you can put a stop to them. In times when they try to manipulate you, your reasonable thinking will enable you to beat them at their own game.

  • Take your time – a manipulator will often require you to give then the answers right away. You can avoid being under pressure by simply taking your time to think about your own choices, rather than making forced and influenced decisions.

You can try and say: “I’ll think about it” whenever you notice someone forcing their opinion or choice.

  • Address the situation – it is important to let the manipulator know that you are aware of their actions and intentions. When they realize that they have no power over you anymore, they will most likely give up.
  • Therapya third person is often needed in order to give an objective opinion on the situation. Having someone that will look at your situation and give honest feedback can be helpful in situations like these, whether it is coming from a friend, a relative, a spouse or a therapist.

A therapist can further help you by offering a solution to this problem since he can recognize abusive patterns and behavior.

Trying to solve the problem and confronting a bully right away is the best way to maintain healthy relationships in your life.

Ongoing manipulation can ruin friendships and cause a lot of issues to the victim. Sometimes, people will rather ignore signs of manipulation in order to save their marriage, friendship or any other kind of relationship.

If you notice any of these signs, you should not forget about them; you should address them immediately because that is the only way you will be able to save your mental health, as well as the relationship itself.

Manipulation is often present in parenthood, romantic relationships or even work. It might sometimes seem hard to overcome and deal with, but you need to be decisive and confident if you want to put a stop to it.


There are various types of manipulation, and one is not as abusive as the other. It is really important to distinguish normal manipulation from the abusive one.

Normal, usual manipulation is the one that we cannot escape, and it is everywhere around us – on billboards, TV commercials as well as marketing.

Manipulating doesn’t always have a negative connotation; you might just say: “I’m fine” when you’re not in order to save the other person from worrying.

However, constant and abusive manipulation is a thing to look out for.

Manipulators do it in order to achieve power over certain situations, often hurting the other person in the process.

People who manipulate use various tricks to make you believe their lies. They know about different techniques that will help them achieve their goals.

Psychological and emotional manipulation occurs for various reasons. A manipulative person can only change if they know how to.

When they realize their actions are not healthy they will be able to move forward.

These people tend to have little respect for themselves and no self-love, which is why they project a negative impact on other people.

You are not responsible for being manipulated. No person deserves to be treated this way.

However, you need to have certain boundaries in order to prevent it from happening. Sharie Stines, a Californian therapist, has great advice on emotional manipulating, and that is “to use the motto Observe, don’t absorb” because after all, you are not responsible for anyone’s feelings.

14 Signs of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation

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