Manipulation can happen to anyone, but unfortunately, it can be hard to recognize it. It can be part of your love or family relationship and your boss or colleagues may have manipulative tendencies.
In some cases, it can be so subtle that you may even wonder and question yourself if you are right or wrong about the situation, and it may impact your mental health and may lead to some other problems.
Emotional abuse can be as hard as physical abuse, may lead to depression and anxiety and, according to one study from 2003, leads to low self-esteem and its effects are as detrimental as physical abuse. (1)
It is very important to learn the early signs of manipulation and not let yourself get used for the benefit of another. First, let’s see what manipulation is and which are the 4 main stages of manipulation so you can recognize it more easily.
What Is Manipulation?
Manipulation is unethical behavior and a tactic that some people can use to gain their own personal gain by controlling and exploiting another person. It creates a power imbalance in a relationship and most of us have to deal with it on a regular basis.
That is why it is very important to protect yourself from this kind of abuse and use appropriate measures to combat it.
4 Main Stages Of Manipulation
Empathic people are often attacked by narcissists. Empathic people may sometimes question whether they possess certain character traits that attract narcissists, but they actually have a gift and should understand better how their relationship with narcists can work. Their gift of self–awareness, and tuning into other person’s feelings is completely opposite of the narcissist character traits and the abuse may happen very quickly, but empaths can recognize it with the help of their talent.
To detect better the manipulative tendencies of the narcissist, let’s look at the 4 main stages of manipulation:
1. Attraction and flattery
When the narcissist is attracted to an empath, they start to be very warm and caring, shower them with compliments, and puts on a façade of being a very caring person. The empath is flattered by this and appreciates this. when the relationship gets more serious, problems start to appear.
2. The narcissists feel small and want to isolate their partners
Narcissists can sense that their partners are emotionally intelligent, a capacity that they do not own and don’t know how to get it. Narcissists do not know how to maintain healthy relationships and seeing that their partner has it creates resentment and they start to manipulate and abuse their gift.
They can start by exploiting and abusing their partner’s time, trust, generosity, loyalty, and empathy and separating them from people with whom they created a special emotional bond.
3. Devaluing and gaslighting
In the third stage, narcissists start with their manipulation and will try to make you feel uncertain and confused, and you will begin to doubt your own decisions and instincts. If you come to this stage, it will be hard for you to step back and it will start destroying you little by little. Narcists will start calling you “losers “and you will feel confused about their behavior and wonder whether they are right or wrong.
4. Fear, violence, or disguise
Some types of narcists can camouflage their abuse, but others can begin to threaten you. They might be very complimentary all of a sudden and you may question whether it is the person who was just angry a few hours ago and you will feel even more confused and this is a clear manipulative act.
When they threaten, it can be scary and they may threaten that they will hurt you or hurt themselves, or they will threaten that they will leave you and it will be very difficult to break the relationship.
It is very rare to detect a narcissist’s behavior when you start a relationship and when you detect it, you may usually wonder what does it cause him to be manipulative. Jealousy can often be the cause that causes indifference and disdain in the partner; in this case, it might be necessary to break the relationship between the two partners.
People can manipulate others for various reasons like having a big ego and believing that they are the smartest and most capable, they want to obtain something from you, want to avoid responsibility for their actions, want to control you, or want to increase their self-esteem.
Here are some of the most obvious manipulative tactics you can see if a person is trying to manipulate you:
12 Signs That You Are Manipulated
Manipulation can come in various forms, depending on the intent, but in most cases, it is used to undermine your rational thinking. People who manipulate others usually know the weaknesses of others and they will use their uncertainness against them. These are some of the signs that you are being manipulated:
1. Constantly tossing the blame to your side of the playground.
Narcissistic people love to play the “blame shifting” game. A sure sign you are dealing with a toxic and pathological narcissist is if they desperately try to put the blame on you to avoid responsibility for their own actions. Instead of being once and for all accountable for their actions, narcissists function by blaming others and making them feel ashamed of themselves. (1)
2. Playing the victim.
They’ve got you all figured out. Every insecurity you have inside, every word or sentence that destroys your confidence, every soft spot you have – to them those things are not off the limits. They wait for the right time to use them against you. Low blows are what they are all about. Playing the victim and tricking you into thinking they need you is how they set the trap. Before you know it, they’ll subtly bring up a subject that’s hurtful justifying themselves by saying how they didn’t mean it. Naturally, because they’ve shown you how much they care for you, you think it’s a coincidence or it’s unintentional, or you think it’s just them trying to make a point in a conversation unrelated to wanting to put you down.
3. Playing with your emotions.
When someone is trying to manipulate you, they will play with your emotions. Instead of being considerate of your feelings, they will use them against you. It’s because they want you to feel as if you’re hurting them even when you’re not so they can get what they want from you at a later point. You’ll feel like you owe it to them to be nice and lenient. This is just another trap through which they gradually take over your emotional wellbeing and play with your senses. (2)
A vicious tactic of bringing a third person into the picture, another perspective that helps manipulators to validate their actions. That third person doesn’t even have to be present, they’ll use examples of what that person supposedly told them and how they disagree with you, but approves of them and thinks they are right to be mad or angry or hurt, or whatnot. Triangulation is a horrible way of manipulating one’s thoughts by making them suspect their own sanity. If you ever feel confused and like you don’t know what’s real anymore, this could be the root of the problem.
5. Being aggressive.
Threatening you, intimidating you, making you feel scared, diminishing your self-esteem, controlling your time with friends and family, controlling your behavior, and forcing you to do things you don’t want to do are all ways of aggression. Sometimes that aggression is underlying, is not really explicit, but if you sense it – get out of that viciousness. That’s another way for toxic people to manipulate you through fear.
6. Communication is a one-way street.
When manipulators talk, it’s like they talk TO you, not WITH you. They monopolize conversations because they want the spotlight but also because they have so many hidden intentions lurking in the background. They are not active listeners when it comes to you because they don’t really care. But when it’s about them, they can go on with hours of bragging and show off. This is so because most manipulators tend to be narcissists and this is one of the MAJOR traits of a narcissist.
Do you remember all that name-calling and inappropriate behavior? They project all those low blows, all those spiteful things because that is how they really feel about themselves. Don’t let that projection crush you. It’s really their state of mind, not the reality of who you are. They just try to poison your worldview. Don’t let them.
This is a tactic narcissist would use when you speak about a problem you have in your relationship. In this case, your partner will try to direct the conversation in a different way and start blaming you for the question you raised the concern about, and they will get away with what they have done. For example, if you blame them that they yell at you quite often and you feel disrespected, they will blame you that it is you for always talking to people in a disrespectful manner.
9. Manipulators have fake feelings.
Manipulators will usually show some interest in you and say they care about you, but in essence, it is a fake feeling. They will do this to undermine your confidence and decisions.
10. Manipulators violate your boundaries.
They will try to buy expensive clothes or items and will not stop until you finally give up. You will feel worn down and this will violate your set boundaries.
11. Manipulators do not help you to resolve your problems.
In a healthy relationship, the needs and points of view of both partners are valued equally. Both partners listen to each other and try to make a compromise on every subject, but manipulators usually have their way or no other way attitude.
12. Manipulators manipulate facts.
They may make excuses and share false facts about them using tactics and strategy, but you can counterpart them by asking for more information and sources and focusing on the facts.
How To Treat Manipulation?
You cannot prevent manipulation because it doesn’t come from you, but you can reduce its impact by:
- Setting clear boundaries and communicating them in clear and direct ways
- Seek a person whom you trust and ask for some advice about your situation
- Understand when the situation is not normal and try to address it
- Tell the person who manipulates you that you understand they manipulate you and you do not want to be part of the discussion
Nora Connel is a devoted writer with a BA in English Language and Literature. Her interests span around psychology, human relationships, and the inner self. She believes that writing has healing powers.