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The Dark Side Of Emotional Intelligence: How Manipulators Use It For Evil (And How To Fight Back)


Emotional intelligence is a wonderful gift that many should possess in high quantities. However, people who are able to master emotions can rob others of their capacities to reason.

A study led by University of Toronto psychologist Stéphane Côté has discovered that people with self-serving motives, or the Machiavellians, can use emotional intelligence as their main weapon of manipulation.

Professor Martin Kilduff from the University College of London explains that people who possess a higher emotional intelligence are able to express a set of emotions that are advantageous to the situation while disguising those who aren’t.

As Kilduff writes, these people can “intentionally shape their emotions to fabricate favorable impressions of themselves,” in order to achieve a favorable turn of events where power and influence are traded.

So, how to recognize the emotional manipulation techniques that these people use, and how to fight them back? Here are 11 techniques these manipulators use.

  1. Asking a lot of questions

Asking questions is the key to good communication in many situations, but manipulators know how to use its dark side to their advantage. It’s really easy to talk about yourself, which means that they won’t find it hard to lead you to expose some of your weaknesses.

How to fight it back: You shouldn’t be afraid if people want to know you better, but you should be very cautious if you see that the other person is not willing to reveal the same kind of information about themselves. The manipulator will never let you have a look into their weaknesses. 

2. Using negative humor to poke at your weaknesses

The manipulators will use all the knowledge of your weaknesses to disempower you, and they will it mask it in a joking manner, so you can’t use this against them. Be it about something you have revealed about yourself, or because you were 2 minutes late at work and out of breath, they will always try to take advantage of the situation and use it against you.

How to fight it back: We all have weaknesses, and allowing your weaknesses to conquer your strong sides is something you should always avoid. Their effort is exactly this, so instead of accepting this, smile back and show them that it doesn’t make you any less of a person because of that. 

3. Taking advantage of your happiness

A crafty manipulator will give you a small incentive for happiness just to catch you in their trap. They are aware that people are more agreeable when they are in a good mood, so they use their state of happiness to lure them into agreeing and jumping to opportunities without looking into them first.

How to fight it back: You need to be aware of your positive emotions as much as you need to be aware of your negative ones. Recognize them, accept them, and don’t get carried away. And when you get to a moment when you need to make a decision, balance yourself and weigh it out before doing or saying anything.

4. Using reciprocity to their advantage

They’ll give you something small, they’ll do something for you, they’ll give you a compliment, and with it, they are aware that you are less likely to say no. So, after they’ve bought you with little, they will ask you for something big – and it’s very likely that you’ll play along.

How to fight it back: It’s nice to give, and it’s much more pleasurable than to receive – but knowing your limits is always paramount. Sometimes you’ll have to say no, regardless of the fact that you have received a small favor. Reciprocity doesn’t mean that you have to give your all because you received some small incentive. 

5.Giving you very limited time to act

The key to good manipulation is luring the target into a seemingly reasonable or good commitment and giving them very little time to give their final answer. With this, you don’t have enough time to think about the downsides of it, and you are forced to go with it or reject it. So, the manipulator will present it to you through enough advantages and then cut your reasoning by shortening the time you need to think about the offer.

How to fight it back: Always consider that offers should be accepted after you have put some thought into them. So, if the other person doesn’t give you that time, it’s very likely that the offer is not all that magical as it may sound and that they don’t want you to discover that before you get tricked into such commitment. Simply say no if they are not willing to allow you to think it through.

6. Operating on their turf

Manipulators like to operate in a place where they dominate and keep things under control, like their office, their home, or any other place where you might feel less comfortable than them. With this, they have the upper hand in the situation and they can easily play you for a fool.

How to fight it back: Try to make negotiations with people on a neutral terrain, where they won’t feel superior. If you have to go on their turf, ask for a glass of water and engage in small talk before anything else.

7. Speaking quickly

To gain the upper hand, manipulators will like to confuse you or dissociate themselves from you by speaking quickly or using special jargon or vocabulary. This way, they create a gap in communication which they can later use to their advantage.

How to fight it back: Don’t allow them to try to create such dissociation and always ask for explanations or a simple repeat. You can even interpret their statements in your own words and ask them for some examples. This will allow you to regain control of the conversation.

8. Deceiving

Manipulators will often try to hide the truth they find undesirable and they will prefer to tell you only one side of the story, or take things out of context and glue them to other things to make them seem true. They will be ready to spread rumors and gossip, or pervert someone’s good intentions to gain a strategic advantage.

How to fight it back: It’s very important that you never believe everything you hear. Trust reputable sources and always ask for clarification when some details seem fuzzy. Which is more, don’t rely on gossip and rumors.

9. Playing on fear

Fear is one of the strongest driving forces in our lives. Manipulators know that fear makes us jump into action, so they use it very well. They like to exaggerate facts and overemphasize the negative points of a story to make you feel like you are in genuine danger, just to make you jump into the action they want you to take.

How to fight it back: Everything has a positive and a negative side to it. Being able to see the big picture is very important. And not giving in to fear and the idea that you are lacking courage is even more important. Be careful if the sentences are riddled with negativity and the sense that they are intentionally focusing on the aspects that promote the feeling of fear. 

10. Displaying negative emotions

The best way to manipulate your emotions for some manipulators is to purposefully use strong body language that implies to negative emotions, as well as raise their voice, and emphasize their negative emotional state. The point? Tossing you into a different emotional state.

How to fight it back: Silence is golden in these cases. When you see someone jumping up and down, take a pause before reacting. You can even walk away for a minute and get back if you have to, but only after you have let go of the negativity that was never yours.

11. Giving the silent treatment

When facing a manipulator, if you have been made to wait when you were supposed to receive a response to a reasonable call, text message, email, or other things, it was because the manipulator had the intention to make you feel uncertain and doubtful about the thing you announced. They are using this head game as a form of leverage.

How to fight it back: Give them a deadline, if there is no reasonable communication. If there is no alternative, get into a discussion with them and see what changes need to be made in the way you communicate. In either way, don’t doubt yourself.

Source: Inc.