One of the tell-tale signs that your friend, family member or partner is using psychological manipulation on you is if they act like a different person when you are in private then they do when you are in public. A manipulator is very aware of public perception and the ways to use this to their advantage. If the person is overly nice to you when others are watching, doing things like opening doors for you or acting extra affectionate, yet is callous or rude to you behind the safety of closed doors it is sure to mess with your head. This can also be displayed at parties or social gatherings, if they seem do everything right or seem extra interested when your friends or family around but don’t do any of these things in private they are most likely doing this to keep up appearances so that it makes it harder for you to get help from your other loved ones. In the worst cases they could even turn the people closest to you against you by incepting the thought that “He or she couldn’t possibly be like that”, in effect making you look like the crazy one.
Guilt-tripping or playing the sympathy card is a go-to tactic for manipulators. It is extremely hard to resist giving in to someone who says that if you don’t do something for them that you are hurting them. One of the ways people commonly guilt-trip others is by seemingly helping you in the present so that they can use it against you in the future, saying things like “remember, I helped you, so you have to do this for me”. Manipulators really like being with people who are over-sympathetic and may tug at their heart-strings by exaggerating physical ailments or sickness to get out of doing something. You can tell they are using this tactic if it only seems to happen when the activity or task that needs to be done isn’t benefitting them at all. For example, they get sick or their back goes out every-time it’s time to clean the house but then their friend calls to hang out and they start to feel better. It is very easy to get caught in the guilt-trip-trap in times of crisis. If early on in your relationship with someone they come through in a big way when when you really need them, you could get stuck paying for it for the rest of your life. The situation is kinda like a dark version of the common sitcom plot where someone saves someone’s life and in return the person whose life was saved becomes their slave or butler for life. If a person truly cares about you they won’t hold these types of things over your head, they do it because they want to.
Some of the best psychological manipulators are ones that can put on the facade of being intellectual. Even if they aren’t necessarily more intelligent than someone else they are very good at seeming like it, either applying arbitrary facts to a situation or just making up facts. A person that can convincingly lie about details or pretend to be an expert is very hard to argue with because it always comes down to them having more facts than you do.Say for instance you want to go on a camping trip with your friends or family but your significant other doesn’t want you to go, they may try and overwhelming you with facts about how dangerous camping is to deter you from going. Though this might be a reasonable fear for person, a psychological manipulator will be unrelenting in this until you change your mind, whereas a person who actually cares can overcome their fears because they know it’s something you want to do. Manipulators can also try to use their knowledge or fake facts to belittle you in public by making you feel intellectually inferior and destroy your confidence so that you won’t try to argue in public in the future.
Being rushed into making decisions can result you having to trust another person’s advice that may not actually be better for you or end up in you not getting what you want. Manipulators are hyper-aware of this, they know that if they hurry someone into making a decision they can greatly influence the outcome. For example, if you are buying a new car with your partner they might suggest you look at the car they that want first and take their time describing how great it is, but then when it’s time to look at the one you want they are in a hurry to leave and may even act like you are taking too long so you are forced to go with their pick. This is a trivial example, but you can see how this type of situation would only be worse and worse the more serious the decision. Manipulators also can use this tactic to try and permanently place themselves as the alpha in a relationship. If they force you into a quick decision and it turns out to be a wrong decision, they can forever hold this against you so that you aren’t allowed to have a full-say in decisions in the future.
One of the fastest ways to make a person give up on an argument or debate is by getting angry. People who try to psychologically manipulate you are either aware of this or have relied on the tactic so much that it become second nature. When you are arguing with someone who starts to scream or gets angry there are two things that normally occur:
The conversation rapidly dissolves into a chaotic shouting match to the point that it ends in exhaustion or you completely forget what your were talking about in the first place
You just want them to calm down so you quickly give up or concede points you might not normally have just to appease them.
It is also instinctive for most normal people to avoid conflict. So when someone gets angry or appears threatening, you may just agree with them out of fear. This tactic is especially effective for manipulators in public settings, as they might be willing to look ridiculous by blowing up and causing a scene just so an issue is resolved to their best interests, whereas a normal person doesn’t want to appear like a crazy person.
Ultimatums and threats are a significant tactic for someone who is a psychological manipulator. This is the most common way that a person being manipulated gets stuck being with a manipulator. Whether it’s threatening to stop doing something for you, to take away something, or to do something to you, the manipulator tries to force you between a rock and hard place. In the worst cases the manipulator could be threatening physical harm to you or themselves if they don’t get what they want. This is only more difficult if the person making the threats has a history of following through with them and is adept at avoiding the consequences. Playing the victim and threatening self-harm is one of the most extreme examples of psychological manipulation, it can trap a sympathetic person in an abusive relationship to which it seems like there is no way out without dealing with violent consequences that normal people try to avoid. A manipulator can also to use playing the victim to play mind-games and make you think you are the one is abusive by forcing you to stand up for yourself. Threats and ultimatums can be especially difficult in situations where a child is involved. In an abusive marriages, children frequently become the main pawn used by the abuser to get what they want or keep you from leaving them. If they threaten to take their spouse’s child away or harm them, the easiest decision in the short term is to agree to what they want, especially if there is no one else that can help them get out of the situation or nowhere for them to go.
Manipulators are very keen at using the inherently ambiguous nature of memory to their advantage. Many manipulators actively remember situations in order to bring them up later. Not only do they hold on to these things until it benefits them, they alter and skew the memory to their own needs. They may change words or the context in order to prove a point that in reality has no basis. This tactic can drive a person being manipulated insane and even doubt their own memory as in most cases there is no videotape or recording of the instances the manipulator is distorting. The manipulator may even bring a changed memory up so many times as if it were true that the victim will start believing it. If this is a common occurrence it can have the added bonus for the manipulator that the victim will be afraid of telling them anything or speaking their mind as anything they say or do could be twisted and used against them in the future. Manipulators are also commonly adept at using hyperboles like ‘always’ and ‘never’ to prove their points. By using these words they make situations black and white, insinuating that your faults or things you have done are excessive instead of being more complex like real issues actually are. Saying “Always” or “Never” also adds more weight to a situation as if the issue at hand is an unstoppable trend that needs to be resolved immediately. There is almost no way to argue against these hyperboles because it is usually an opinion that can neither be proven or disproven without significant documentation.
Most people have been guilty of asking someone something about themselves in order to bring up their own issues, but psychological manipulators do this habitually. They know that if they act concerned about you or ask you questions about yourself you won’t be able to accuse them later on of not caring or being selfish. It can be easy to get sucked into this because often they are good at making their concern seem genuine, but you can usually figure out what they are trying to do if you know them long enough, as no matter the conversation it always gets related back to their life. Manipulators may also show fake sympathy in order to use it as evidence against a person. If they act concerned in front of friends or family members it can make the victim’s argument against them seem unwarranted. Fake concern can be a tactic that manipulator’s use to influence your life decisions as well. They might pretend to sympathize just so that you will ask for their advice, then purposefully give you advice that results in them getting something they want. Manipulators can be so adept at this that they treat interactions as chess moves and though it may not seem like their advice gets them anything immediately it may be setting something up in the future. However, in pathological manipulators there may not even be motive at all, they might just be feeding off the power of pulling the strings.
People who need to be in charge in relationship try to break down the other person to the point that they feel inferior to make their approval a necessary commodity. They can do this by constantly criticizing the other person and pointing out their flaws. Then they emphasize their status of power over someone by juxtaposing the perceived flaws with their strengths. One of the ways they can get away with this unchecked is by belittling a person but then passing it off like they are just joking. This can be something that they are fully aware of or do subconsciously. In public, this can be another way that they assert their dominance without the victim being able to speak out. If the victim of manipulation gets upset by the ‘joke’ the manipulator will counter by acting like the victim is party-pooper or has no sense of humor. Manipulators may also point out flaws in person in a way that it seems like they are trying to help them but are really just trying to mold them into being more submissive.
Context is the key winning any argument and gaining the upper-hand in relationship. Psychological manipulators know this and will go to insane lengths in order to make sure that the context of conversations or events plays to their advantage. They can do this by only talking when it benefits them whether it’s giving someone ‘the silent treatment’ or only talking about important or volatile issues in the setting of their choosing. When a manipulator uses the ‘silent treatment’ they are trying assert dominance by feeding the idea that you need them more than they need you. They may also do this until you backslide from your position on an issue or wear yourself out and change the subject. By controlling the setting where an event or conversation happens they can premeditate what to do in order to make a victim seem like the aggressor. For instance, they might only talk to you about a touchy subject when their friends or family are present so that they have the rest of the room on their side. Manipulators will try to control your responses to their side of an argument by bringing it up in public, limiting the victim’s ability to truly express themselves. If a victim does get caught off guard and fully expresses their emotions in public, such as getting angry or crying, the manipulator will be able to use the victim’s outburst against them, acting like they are the calm one.
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