Manipulators can be found anywhere. Indeed, it is likely that we too, on some occasions, have used tactics of emotional manipulation, inadvertently or consciously. But manipulators make of this “emotional game” their way of relate to the others, to constantly take advantage of the situation at the expense of the psychological balance of their victims.
Emotional manipulation involves controlling someone playing with his feelings and emotions, often damaging his self-esteem and self-confidence. The common tactic of manipulators is to make sure that the victim doubts about himself, to take control and take advantage of the situation.
However, it is difficult to recognize manipulative people because they are usually people close to us with whom we have a deep emotional bond. On the other hand, they often use very sophisticated and subtle emotional manipulation techniques that make us doubt about ourselves, even making us think that we are the “bad ones”.
The manipulative people with whom you need to be very careful
1. The masked braggart
The tactic of this manipulator is to make us feel bad or inferior in a veiled way. This person understands that he would not look good if he was always claiming his accomplishments, the others would accuse him immediately of being presumptuous. So he adopts a slimmer strategy: it complains about its achievements, making us feel bad because we are far below his level.
The masked braggart will never tell us directly that we have a few extra pounds, but will complain that he can’t wear an “M” size when we wear an “L” or even an “XL”. It is the person who complains because he can’t run more than 30 kilometers when he knows perfectly that we only run 5 kilometers before we get exhausted.
The masked braggart will use his secret technique in all spheres of life, he will compare to us in a subtle way to make us clear that we are not at his height and that we should feel guilty about it. In this way he also presents himself as a kind of idol to be imitated because we put ourselves at its disposal and satisfy his desires.
2. The sower of ideas
These manipulators use a very subtle tactic: they press us with socially accepted and well-seen ideas because we agree with their opinions and decisions.
They usually begin their speech with phrases like “I’m sure you’ll agree with…” or “You can’t deny that …”. For example, they may say, “You will agree that a good child cares for his mother.” These are all generalizations that reflect positive values, but that certainly have many shades and can vary from case to case. But presenting them in this way puts us in a difficult situation where we should answer: “No, I do not agree with what you say.”
In fact, this tactic of manipulation consists in presenting these ideas as socially accepted values, so if we do not share them, we automatically turn into bad people, and we will not even have time to argue our view. So they can make us feel bad and manipulate us, unless we find the strength to deny their affirmations.
3. The permanently disappointed
When we love someone, we feel better if we do something that makes him angry rather than disappointed. Disappointment is a difficult weight to bear, we feel very bad when we know we’ve disappointed someone important to us and we feel bad for doing it.
This type of manipulator knows and plays this card in his favor. Therefore, he will be constantly disappointed. Every time we do something that he do not like or do not meet his needs, that person will not hesitate to make us feel how is disappointed. The problem is that the guilt we feel is so great that we give him reason and we put ourselves to his mercy.
We do not realize that disappointing someone means only that we did not live up to the expectations that this person had for us. Deluding someone means that this person had traced a path for us in our place and we did not follow it. In fact, we have all the right of the world to follow the path we have chosen and we should not feel bad about it.
4. The chronic victim
This kind of manipulator makes us feel in debt with him. He always tell all the misfortunes he has suffered in life, so we think that for some strange reason we can’t even understand, we owe something to him.
Because every time we meet him he has a new disgrace to add to his long list, we do not feel strong enough to become the “monster” that will add a new problem to his life while he is going through a bad time.
The problem is that that person will benefit from that feeling to ask for a favor and make sure that we meet his needs, even at the expense of our own. But if we put ourselves at his feet, he will not hesitate to walk on us to keep telling his misfortunes to others, leaving us with our problems to be solved.
5. The selective listener
When we are engaged in a discussion, we can lose patience and say things that we really do not feel or repent of. However, this type of manipulator will cling to that phrase or attitude, and will repeat it until the end of time.
It does not matter what we said before or after. No matter the context we have told it or if we are sorry to apologize, this person will use our mistake to submit us to his will, pointing out how wrong and bad we are.
His strategy is to wait for us to make a mistake, extract it completely from the context and use it to manipulate us emotionally. These persons will focus only on our mistakes, because they are the ones that enable them to achieve their goal, and all the good will simply be erased.
6. The martyr
It is one of the worst types of manipulators because justifies his malpractice and selfishness with some higher cause. It could be a religious cause or something more banal, like being a good father or a good mother.
His favorite phrase is “I do it for your good” or “I’m just trying to help you” when we know that’s not the case and that the main beneficiary will be him.
However, if we point that out, these people will claim they do not feel like doing it that way, but they do it because it’s right. In fact, they can come to tell us that the decision hurt them and cause them to suffer, therefore, they assume the role of martyrs. And the worst thing is that they make us feel horrible because we are not able to appreciate their “sacrifice.”
7. The inquisitor
This manipulator uses direct criticism as main weapon. His tactic is to make us feel that we are unable to take the reins of our lives, we are not up to the situation and we need to rely on him because everything works.
At first criticisms are subtle and indirect, but with time they will become smoother, they will deepen our self-esteem. In this way he imposes his vision of reality, his rules and values, to the point that we end up seeing ourselves through his eyes.
The Inquisitor is a true master of emotional manipulation and absolutely everything we do or say will be used against us because he will use it to judge us and put us in an uncomfortable position.
In any case, do not let them take control of your life. Do not allow them make you feel guilty or judge you for your decisions based on their judgment.
Why do people manipulate?
Manipulation is a complex behavior at the basis of which are usually hidden different motivations. Many people manipulate the others because:
- They want to feel powerful and experience some degree of superiority in relationships.
- They want the control of the relationships and decision making of the others.
- They want so much to achieve their goals that they don’t mind doing it at the expense of the others.
However, behind these reasons there is an even more complex psychological picture. Actually, many people manipulate because they feel fear. They are afraid that if they do not intervene manipulating the playing field in their favor, they will not obtain the results they want.
The mother who manipulates the child pretending to be sick to hold him by her side actually has a deep fear that the son will abandon her. The worker who tries to manipulate his boss talking badly about his co-workers is actually afraid of losing his job or not being promoted. The person who manipulates the partner making her believe that she’s worth nothing actually does it because he wants to keep her by his side, even if it is at the expense of shattering her self-esteem.
That means that, deep down, manipulative people are deeply insecure, do not trust their abilities to achieve the things they want on their own merits and resort to manipulation. Therefore, manipulation is nothing more than the expression of a scared “child” who does not have mature strategies to achieve his goals in life.
Manipulation is a kind of relational and communicative shortcut in which the person achieves what he wants quickly but, in the long run, usually leads to the opposite results since when someone realizes that he is being manipulated, the relationship that he wanted to keep, ends up breaking. Therefore, manipulation is never the solution.
How to fight a manipulator? Discover your weak points
To combat a manipulator effectively we need to understand what our psychological blind spots are, those keys that the manipulator is pressing and with which it keeps us trapped in its network. To do this, it is important to understand that manipulative people often cam on some of the following vulnerabilities:
- The “disease of pleasing”, that is, our natural desire to please the others, even at the cost of sacrificing our desires.
- Addiction to the approval and acceptance of the others, so that we end up accepting always what they say.
- Locus of control external, which implies that we think we have no or little control over our lives, so that we will be more likely to leave decisions in the hands of the others.
- Blurred sense of identity, which leads us to establish few limits that the others continually cross.
- Lack of assertiveness and inability to say “no” when someone tries to pressure us.
- Emotophobia, which is the fear of experiencing negative emotions such as frustration, sadness or disapproval, which would lead us to try to avoid conflicts at all costs, even at the expense of our own freedom.
- Naivety, so that we find it too difficult to accept the idea that some people are cunning and manipulative.
- Emotional dependence, something characteristic of insecure people who have a more submissive tendency, so that they are more likely to be manipulated and exploited.
- Low self-esteem, which is usually linked to feelings of low self-reliance and low self-confidence, so that the others are often trusted with great ease.
- Excessive sense of duty and responsibility, which prevent the person from cutting ties with the manipulator or setting limits, since he thinks that in reality everything is his fault.
By identifying the feelings on which the manipulator is prying, you will be able to free yourself more easily from its networks since suddenly the manipulation situation will be much more evident before your eyes.
In any case, remember that nobody has the right to take control of your life. Don’t let them make you feel guilty or judge your decisions using their own measuring stick. It is likely that you are not perfect and that you have made mistakes, like everyone else, but that does not mean that you have to live by letting someone else move your threads.