Do you hate manipulative behavior as much as I do? Bitches and bullies, sociopaths and sweet talkers, the world is full of people who will say and do anything to get what they want, and won’t hesitate to use you for personal gain.
If you hate manipulative behavior as much as I do, then this article is for you. Because I’m going to expose these manipulative tactics so that you can recognize them when they arise.
“Control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly or unscrupulously” – Oxford Dictionary
“To control or play upon by unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage, so as to serve one’s purpose” – Merriam-Webster
Here are 33 ways people try to manipulate you…
33. ACTING AS IF THEY WERE ABOVE YOU
Some people are arrogant and narcissistic, and will try to act as if they were somehow ‘above’ you, or ‘better’ than you.
Maybe they act like they are the adult, and you are the child, or maybe it comes in the form of condescending comments and facial expressions, either way the message is clear: they are the ‘superior’ and you are the ‘inferior’.
In order for this strategy to work however, you have to go along with it and buy into it. Refuse to. Know this: No one is ‘above’ you. No one is ‘better’ than you. No one is ‘superior’ to you. You are not inferior to anyone. You are not less than anyone.
Don’t allow anyone to talk down to you and that leads us to the next point…
32. CONDESCENDING COMMENTS/TONALITY
Sometimes people will try to talk down to you using a condescending/patronizing or dismissive tone, in an attempt to belittle you:
“Don’t be silly”
“Don’t be stupid”
“You’re being ridiculous”
It’s not just condescending comments and tonality that people use to manipulate you either, Hollywood and TV has everyone whispering their lines these days for dramatic effect, as if they were letting you in on some kind of secret, (even though it makes them sound like a bunch of dorks), and master influencers/persuaders/sales people, frequently use tonality to “sell the sizzle” and to build rapport and influence people.
31. JOKES AT YOUR EXPENSE
Another shitty tactic used by manipulators is making jokes at your expense – especially in front of others.
Maybe they tease you online, or seek to humiliate you in front of others by making fun of the way you walk, talk, or dress, or even worse, about something you can’t control such as your eyes, nose, ears, face, height or skin color.
“Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you”
Bullshit. Words can be devastating.
To make things worse if you get angry and ask the manipulator what their problem is, they’ll often try to defend their behavior by saying they were “only joking” or “having fun”. They might even add insult to injury by telling you that you’re being “overly emotional” or “too sensitive”.
They might even give you an insincere apology to shut you up in an attempt to stop you from complaining.
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
30. DIRTY LOOKS AND DEATH STARES
Sometimes a picture – or a shitty facial expression – paints a thousand words.
Beware of any of the following aggressive/condescending facial expressions used to try to intimidate and manipulate you into backing down and giving in:
- Condescending head tilt
- Condescending look over glasses
- Dirty looks and death stares
- Extended eye contact without blinking or saying anything
- Eye rolling
- Looks of anger, disgust, hatred, hostility, judgement, outrage etc.
- Raising one eyebrow
- Shaking their head
- Smirking/winking/grinning with a condescending, smug look of superiority that says “I know something you don’t know…” or “I’m smarter than you”
29. BEING A BITCH OR A BULLY
Why do people bully? Because it works. Most people are terrified of conflict and confrontation and will do anything to avoid it, and that’s where bitches and bullies thrive.
All a bitch or bully needs to do is to start acting aggressive, hostile, and threatening, and make it seem like you have to walk on eggshells around them, by combining body language, facial expressions and tonality to send a clear message: “Don’t fuck with me or you’ll be sorry!” and 95% of people will immediately either avoid them, or start kissing their asses in an attempt to befriend them for fear of confrontation.
Bullying tactics vary too, they’re not just physical. At school a bully might use their size and the threat of physical violence to intimidate you. At work your manager might try to intimidate you by directly or indirectly threatening your job security if you aren’t willing to “go the extra mile” and be a “team player”, which can mean anything the manager wants it to mean including: working holidays, weekends or overtime for no extra pay, or doing something which is not a part of the job description.
It’s not always easy to stand up or walk away from a bully either. Although everyone has a fight or flight response, in the workplace you can’t run, and it’s not always a good idea to fight, especially if the person bullying you is your manager.
28. PHYSICAL INTIMIDATION
If someone is considerably bigger, taller or stronger than you, they might try to use their size to stand over you in an attempt to intimidate and threaten you.
Because I’m short (5 foot 6), I’ve had many people try to intimidate me this way.
It didn’t work in my case because I’ve done Martial Arts (Boxing, Muay-Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling), for over 10 years so I know I can handle myself in a fight or a worst case scenario, however, I could definitely see the average shorter/smaller person feeling intimidated and threatened this way.
If you often feel physically intimidated or threatened by others, I advise learning MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) because it will teach you how to fight and defend yourself, and even if you never get into a fight, it’s good to have up your sleeve in case you need it.
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” – Desmond Tutu
Yelling is another aggressive tactic used to try to intimidate and manipulate you.
Instead of improving their argument, some people will simply improve their VOLUME and will start SHOUTING and YELLING at you, or they will suddenly raise their voice and start talking much LOUDER than necessary in an attempt to dominate the conversation and intimidate you into backing down.
If someone starts yelling or shouting at you, or speaking much louder than necessary, I advise remaining calm and calling them on it in a non-aggressive, non-emotional, non-submissive, matter-of-fact kinda way:
You: “Why are you yelling?”
Manipulator: “BECAUSE I’M ANGRY!” “I’M PISSED OFF!”
You: “But why are you yelling?”
Manipulator: “I JUST TOLD YOU!” “I’M ANGRY!” “I’M FUCKED OFF!”
You: “But why are you yelling?”
Manipulator: “Because…(insert reason)”
You: “But why are you yelling?”
99% of the time this will embarrass the manipulator, and they’ll become extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable, and immediately lower their voice.
Again you want to ask this question calmly and matter of factly, with a facial expression that displays genuine curiosity and inquisitiveness, not judgement.
26. SILENT TREATMENT
A favorite tactic of women everywhere, the good old silent treatment.
If you can’t get what you want, ignore ’em.
25. IGNORING YOU/PLAYING HARD TO GET
Similar to the silent treatment is when someone makes a conscious effort to ignore you and/or play hard to get.
Watch out for anyone who tries any of the following tactics:
- Acknowledges everyone in the room but makes a point of ignoring you
- Acts bored/disinterested/inconvenienced whenever you try to speak to them as if they had more important things to deal with
- Doesn’t respond to any of your comments, questions, emails, phone calls or messages, and is always unavailable or ‘too busy’ whenever you need to speak to them
- Leaves the room when you enter it
- Purposely avoids eye contact with you whenever you speak to them
- Refuses to acknowledge your existence
My advice to you is if someone ignores you – ignore them. If they take one step back from you, take ten steps back from them. Or if you need to speak to them, call them on it and ask them what their problem is.
24. GUILT TRIPS
A favorite pastime of mothers and manipulators the world over: the guilt trip.
If someone won’t do you what you want, make them feel guilty:
“I thought we were friends”
“I thought I could count on you”
“I can’t believe how selfish you are!”
“I’ve always been there for you and now you can’t even lift a finger to help me?”
Charities love to guilt trip people into donating:
“Don’t you want to donate money to help the starving children in Africa?”
23. ACTING LIKE A MARTYR/VICTIM
Acting like a martyr, victim, poor me:
“I’m so busy!”
“I have so much work on!”
“I can’t do anything right!”
“Nothing I ever do is good enough!”
22. USING EMOTIONS
Some people are masters at emotional manipulation and won’t hesitate to play with your emotions in order to get what they want. They’ll tell you they love you. Or they’ll tell you they hate you. Or they’ll try to make you angry or sad or jealous, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to get what they want.
Advertisers and the media in particular are the ultimate masters of emotional manipulation. They know if they can make you feel something, they can make you do something. So instead of wasting time trying to convince you logically, advertisers and the media manipulate you emotionally by showing you images of cute babies and puppies, or abused animals and starving children. Whatever it takes to produce the desired result. It’s a shitty trick – but it’s effective and it works!
My advice is not to let anyone play with your emotions and manipulate you into doing something you shouldn’t, just because they told you a sob story or shed a few tears. I know you might feel bad for the person crying, but crying doesn’t make the wrong thing right. Your decisions should be based upon a combination of intuition and logic, and not upon the emotional manipulation and trickery of someone else.
21. PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
Manipulation isn’t always direct and in your face.
Sometimes it’s indirect and subtle, and comes in the form of passive aggression.
When someone is afraid of speaking up and saying no, or is resentful of having to do something they don’t want to do, they may show their frustration by displaying a number of passive-aggressive behaviors.
Passive aggressive behaviors:
- Avoiding/ignoring/leaving someone out
- Avoiding responsibility
- Agreeing to help and then doing a crappy job because you didn’t want to do it
- Constantly being late and making others wait for you (I hate this one)
- Disguised insults “That color actually looks good on you” or “Nice shoes”
- Dragging your heels and being unnecessarily difficult
- ‘Forgetting’ to do something on purpose
- Playing dumb
- Pretending they don’t understand
- Purposely avoiding emails/phone calls/messages
- Refusing to commit to anything or give a straight answer
- Saying one thing/doing another (Sending mixed messages)
- Shaking of the head
- Silent treatment
- Sulking I.e: Man: “What’s wrong?” Woman: “Nothing”
20. PURPOSELY BEING DIFFICULT
Some people just have difficult personalities, and if they sense you want their approval/validation/friendship, they’ll purposely withhold it in an attempt to manipulate you.
The more agreeable you are, the more disagreeable they are.
The more you seek approval, the more they’ll withhold it.
I’ve met many people like this. I’m sure you have to. This type person can only ever argue with you but never ever agree. If you say black they say white. If you say wrong they say right.
In fact, they’ll go out of their way to be disagreeable and difficult, and not only will they never approve or validate anything you have to say, but they’ll even try to argue with you when you say something they agree with, just for the sake of arguing:
My advice is not to make any effort to befriend, build rapport, or win over these types of people. Most of them have shit personalities and aren’t worth your time.
19. WITHHOLDING APPROVAL, SEX, VALIDATION ETC.
Another favorite tactic of manipulators everywhere is conditional acceptance, with strings attached.
You only get approval, help, love, sex, validation etc. if you say/do/agree to give the manipulator what they want.
This tactic only works however, if you have a habit of seeking approval and validation from others which I strongly advise against.
When you seek approval from others you give them power over you, and you give them the ability to manipulate your feelings and make you feel like crap at a moment’s notice whenever they feel like it.
In other words you become their bitch.
Remember: What others can give you they can also take away. If they can lift you up they can also tear you down. And what if you seek approval from someone and they refuse to give it? What are you going to do then? Try harder? Feel like crap?
If someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, or treat you the way they would like to be treated – let them go. Say goodbye to bad rubbish.
18. FALSE TIME CONSTRAINTS
False time constraints are frequently used to put you under pressure and to give you no time to think.
Bosses frequently use false time constraints to manipulate their employees:
“We have deadlines!”
“The customer/client is waiting!”
“We don’t have time to discuss this!”
“This is urgent! You can’t go home until it’s done!”
Businesses frequently use false time constraints to push sales:
“TODAY ONLY! Up to 50% off!”
“Closing down sale! Final days! Be quick or miss out!”
Employers give prospective employees false time constraints to get them to join:
“You have 48 hours to accept this offer or it will be withdrawn”.
There is a reason people use false time constraints: As sales people know “time kills deals”, and the more time you have to think clearly and weigh up all of your options, the less likely you are to do what they want and/or buy their product or service.
17. THE FREE LUNCH
A sneaky trick of manipulators everywhere is to offer you a ‘free’ gift or service, or something else you didn’t ask for, and then ask for something in return:
“No strings attached”
“Obligation free quote”
But know this: There is no such thing as a free lunch or something for nothing. When someone gives you something, they almost always want something in return. Maybe it’s money, time, advice, help, or a favor. If in doubt, ask them and find out what it is, because there is almost always a hidden agenda.
16. OVERLY COMPLIMENTARY
Some people are sweet talkers and will try to influence/persuade/manipulate you by showering you with compliments and praise in an attempt to flatter you and win you over. Everything they say is like music to your ears. Instead of telling you the truth, they just kiss your ass and tell you want you want to hear.
This is a smart tactic because everyone likes to be complimented, approved of, and told nice things, and compliments are one of the quickest ways to build rapport, make new friends, and get someone to lower their defenses.
Sweet talkers know that when they make you feel good, you’re more likely to want to repay the favor by doing something nice to make them feel good. Also, let’s face it: The more you like someone, (your best friend, your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, kids) the easier it is for them to manipulate you.
PS: Compliments can be an especially deadly effective tactic for manipulating people who are insecure and needy and have low self-esteem.
15. LOADED QUESTIONS
Loaded questions are questions asked with an unfair assumption built into them. (Often a presumption of guilt). They’re often asked to try to put you on the back foot.
“Why do you keep lying?”
“Why won’t you just admit you stole it?”
“Why won’t you just admit you’re wrong?”
14. LEADING QUESTIONS
Leading questions assume the answer within the question in an effort to trap you.
They’re often asked by lawyers in the courtroom:
“Do you still have a gambling addiction?”
“Do you still beat your wife?”
“Why did you lie?”
Sleazy self-help salesmen often try to manipulate the audience at seminars by asking leading questions in order to trap them into buying their products:
“Are you a talker or a doer?”
“Are you a winner or a loser?”
“Do you want to be rich or poor?”
13. POISONING THE WELL
Some people will try to poison your perception of someone before you’ve even met them, by saying something bad about them, so you doubt and distrust everything they say before they’ve even opened their mouth:
“I wouldn’t trust him, everything he says is a lie!”
“I know she seems nice but you need to be careful, because she’s a user and a bitch!”
Politicians and the media are notorious for poisoning the well and trying to destroy the reputations of people they don’t like with gossip, rumors, and smear tactics.
During the 2016 US Presidential campaign Donald Trump smeared his opponents:
“Low energy Jeb”
My advice is not to let anyone poison your perception of anyone, or plant a seed in your mind and tell you what to think about them until you’ve met them. Make your own mind up.
12. FEAR MONGERING
“People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday school. But it’s true.” – Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States
Fear mongering is another extremely powerful weapon and that’s why advertisers, politicians, religions such as Christianity and Islam (believe or go to hell for eternity) and the media (the biggest fear mongers of all) use it so frequently.
Fear mongering can be overt or subtle but it’s always a form of ‘do this or else’, worst case scenario type of thinking.
Fear mongering/threat based implications include:
‘I’d be careful/I’d watch out if I were you’
‘If you don’t listen to me you’ll be sorry’
‘Try it and see what happens’
‘You won’t like the consequences’
During the 2016 US Presidential election both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tried to fear monger the public into voting for them:
“Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. Imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody got under his very thin skin. The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death. It should scare everyone.” – Hillary Clinton (implying that a Donald Trump Presidency would lead to Nuclear War)
“Radical Islamic terrorists are gathering strength. Christians are being executed en masse in the Middle East. Illegal immigrants lurk in the shadows. Gangs operate with impunity in our cities. The U.S. murder rate is the highest it’s been in 47 years. Drugs are pouring across the border. Bad people with bad intentions are flooding through our airports. You’re going to have many more World Trade Centers if you don’t solve it. They want our buildings to come down; they want our cities to be crushed.” – Donald Trump
The best way to overcome fear mongering is simply to see it for what it is.
If someone tries to fear monger you in person, or plant seeds of fear in your mind, you can ask them directly “are you trying to scare me?”
“The point of public relations slogans like “support our troops” is that they don’t mean anything… That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything.” – Noam Chomsky
“The deliberate spreading of ideas, information or allegations, for the purpose of further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause” – Merriam-Webster
Propaganda is just as effective and powerful today, as it was when it was used by Hitler and the Nazi’s during WW2. That’s why we see advertisers, corporations, governments, Hollywood, and the media using it to brainwash and manipulate the masses into thinking, believing, or following whatever political ideology suits their purposes.
10. TRYING TO EXPLOIT YOUR WEAKNESSES AGAINST YOU
Whatever your weakness is:
Some people will purposely try to use it against you in order to manipulate you.
If they know you suffer from anxiety, they’ll constantly try to fear monger you. If you know you have a big ego, they’ll constantly tell you how great you are.
Advertisers love this strategy and they use it to manipulate people all the time. They know that most people are sheep and will blindly copy anything celebrities tell them to do, so they hire celebrities to promote and sell their products. They also know there are lots of people with big egos, so they create ads that appeal to the ego and make false promises to make you ‘better’ than other people. Men can become ‘Winners’. Women can become ‘Goddesses’.
9. PEER PRESSURE
Some people will try to get you to do something by attempting to convince you that everyone else is doing it (as if following the crowd was the right thing to do):
“Come on! We’re all waiting on you! You’re holding everyone else up!”
“You’re the only one who thinks that!”
“Who’s right: You or EVERYONE else?!”
Advertisers and the media often use a subtle form of peer pressure known as ‘social proof’, because they know that most people are followers and will blindly copy celebrities and trends no matter how ridiculous they are. That’s why most advertising shows images of other people (especially celebrities, good looking people and sexy women), using the product to convince you that everyone else is doing it and you should too.
Sex sells and is used by advertisers the world over to manipulate people (especially men) into buying their products and services. Around 27% of ads contain some kind of sexual imagery.
Sex is also used to make music videos more popular. Let’s be honest: Most music videos these days are just soft porn.
Sex can also be used as a weapon and often is. Women often flirt with men in order to manipulate them into doing what they want, or withhold sex from them if they’re not getting what they want.
7. OFFERING YOU THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE
A favorite trick used by parents, teachers, bosses and salespeople everywhere, is to offer you a number of choices that all lead to the exact same outcome.
No matter what you choose they win and you lose. It’s like flipping a coin and saying “Heads I win, tails you lose”.
“Go now or later?”
“Start now or later?”
“Would you like the 6-month payment plan or pay it all right now up front?”
6. TRYING TO GET YOU TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMITMENTS
Watch out for anyone who tries to get you to commit to something against your will, especially if it is on camera, in writing, or publicly in front of other people.
I remember one meeting I was in with an extremely manipulative sales manager who began the meeting by saying: “Everyone write down your ideal perfect year in sales: If you could do anything, if anything at all was possible, what would it be? Write this down. This is private just for you. No one is going to see it.”
He then waited around 10 minutes until everyone had completed the exercise and written down their ideal perfect year and said: “OK, now everyone stand up and share with the group what you have promised to achieve this year”.
Yeah, that actually happened. He was that much of a manipulative asshole.
5. TRYING TO GET YOU TO KEEP A PROMISE YOU NEVER MADE
Some people will even try to get you to keep a promise you never even made.
I had a candidate try it on with me in my old job in recruitment. He emailed me and cc’d in my boss and said “I will accept this contract since you promised me I would get a pay rise at my next contract extension. I hope you will keep your promise.” (Which he knew was a blatant lie)
4. ONE-SIDED REPORTING
How many news stories do you hear on a daily basis that are balanced and unbiased?
None? Me either.
The media are masters at manipulating public perception by cherry picking information and stories that support their agenda, (mostly a liberal agenda), whilst simultaneously turning a blind eye and ignoring anything that doesn’t.
Questions to ask yourself when watching the news:
- Am I getting the whole story?
- Am I being presented with both sides of the story?
- Is one side being made to look bad, evil, ignorant, or stupid?
- What conclusions does this story want me to draw?
- What isn’t clear? What aren’t they saying? What is purposely being left out?
If there is one thing all manipulators have in common it’s lying.
Manipulative people won’t hesitate to lie/deceive/mislead in order to get what they want.
Why do people lie?
- To avoid embarrassment and save face
- To avoid punishment
- To avoid taking responsibility
- To avoid having to do someone else a favor
- To avoid hurting someone else’s feelings
- To get what they want
- To get out of something they don’t want to do
- To sound important/impressive
- To fool/trick/manipulate you
- To influence/persuade you
- To play dumb
Manipulators not only love to lie but exaggerate too. Some people exaggerate their accomplishments in an attempt to impress and manipulate you, whilst others might seek to manipulate you by exaggerating their problems and hardships, in an attempt to gather sympathy and cash.
2. MAKE YOU BELIEVE IT WAS YOUR IDEA
“There is only one way to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.” – Dale Carnegie
People do what they want to do, not what you want them to do.
But if you can convince someone that your idea is really their idea, they’re much more likely to go along with it, because they’ll still feel in control of the decision making process, as opposed to feeling manipulated.
How do you convince someone that your idea is really their idea?
You plant ideas and suggestions in their minds, and then let them come to their own conclusions as if it was their idea all along. For example: McDonald’s has suggestive billboards everywhere that simply ask you a question: “Hungry?”
Your partner might try to plant a seed in your mind by asking you “Do you think we should go on holiday soon? I’ve heard Hawaii is nice this time of year…”
1. FRAME CONTROL
Probably the single most powerful, and least understood, weapon of manipulation is frame control.
What is frame control?
Frame control is simply about making the other person fit into your reality and see things from your perspective.
In a job interview the frame of the employer might be:
“Let’s see if you’re good enough and have what it takes to work here”.
If you were the interviewee, you would want to switch that frame around to:
“Clearly you’re interested in me or you wouldn’t be wasting your time interviewing me. What are you going to say or do to convince me to come and work for you?”
Generally, the person who is most dominant, is the one who controls the frame, which is the unspoken meaning for the interaction.
When a child speaks with a parent, the parent controls the frame.
When a student speaks with a teacher, the teacher controls the frame.
When an employee speaks with the boss, the boss controls the frame.
In a friendship or a relationship, generally the one who cares less, or has the most perceived value, controls the frame.
What if two people of equal intelligence, power, and status meet? Generally the one with the more controlling or dominant personality will control the frame, as we saw when Steve Jobs met Bill Gates on stage in 2007, at the all things digital conference.
Let’s look at three perfect examples of frame control: Donald Trump, Steve Jobs and Tony Robbins.
Donald Trump is a master of frame control. He refuses to enter into anyone else’s reality, and he will do everything he can to make sure you enter into his reality and see things from his perspective, so he can lead you and control the interaction.
Steve Jobs was a master of frame control. He refused to enter into anyone else’s reality, and he really didn’t care what anyone thought, including his customers. He didn’t ask his customers what they wanted, he told them!
Tony Robbins is a master of frame control. Watch his videos on YouTube and see who controls the frame, him or his audience participants. He absolutely refuses to enter into anyone else’s reality and he will not let anyone lead or dominate the interaction for even a second.
Can you imagine Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, or Tony Robbins backing down from an argument, being submissive, or allowing themselves to be led or dominated by someone else? Can you even imagine them apologizing and saying “You’re right… I’m wrong”? Unlikely. As far as these guys are concerned they’re never wrong.
Each of these men are master manipulators and perfect examples of frame control, and to be honest I respect the hell out of them for it.
Now that you understand what frame control is, watch out for the following frames that manipulative people will often try to set on you:
- They are the adult and you are the child
- They are the ‘big brother’ and you are the ‘little brother’
- They are the leader and you are the follower
- They are the master and you are the student
- They are ‘better’ than you, and you need to try to impress them
- Their beliefs, opinions and perspective are more valid than yours
- Their desires, goals and wishes are more important than yours
- Their time is more valuable than yours
- You owe them, and they’re somehow entitled to something from you
If you buy into any of these frames – you’ve already lost.
The bottom line is this: A manipulative person will always try to control the frame and force you to enter into their reality – no matter how fucked up and twisted it is. They will never allow themselves to enter into your reality, nor will they allow themselves to see things from your perspective, unless it is to gather some information which they can use against you.
If you want to manipulate someone, you must control the frame and make them buy into your reality.
But if you don’t want someone else to manipulate you, you cannot let them control the frame, and you must refuse to play their manipulative mind games.
Remember: He who controls the frame, controls the game.
Let’s do a recap of the 33 ways people try to manipulate you:
33. Acting as if they were above you
32. Condescending comments and tonality
31. Jokes at your expense
30. Dirty looks and death stares
29. Being a bitch or a bully
28. Physical intimidation
26. Silent treatment
25. Ignoring you/playing hard to get
24. Guilt trips
23. Acting like a martyr
22. Using emotions
21. Passive aggressive
20. Purposely being difficult
19. Withholding love, sex, validation
18. False time constraints
17. The free lunch
16. Overly complimentary
15. Loaded questions
14. Leading questions
13. Poisoning the well
12. Fear mongering
10. Trying to exploit your weaknesses against you
9. Peer pressure
7. Offering you the illusion of choice
6. Trying to get you to make public commitments
5. Trying to get you to keep a promise you never made
4. One-sided reporting
2. Make you believe it was your idea
1. Frame Control
I’ve met some master manipulators in my life, and I’m sure you have too. Incredibly selfish people who won’t hesitate to lie, threaten, cry – whatever it takes to get what they want, with little to no regard for how it affects you.
I’d like to thank each of these people for providing me with real life examples of the strategies and techniques outlined in this article, and most importantly for teaching me who I did not wish to become.
Why do people manipulate each other? Because it works. But it only works if you don’t know how the game is played. Once you know how the game is played – the gig is up.
Read over this list again and again until it all sinks in. The more familiar you are with the above tactics, the harder it will be for anyone to use them against you.
How many of the above manipulative strategies do you recognize in your own behavior? Or in the behavior of those around you?
Are you the manipulator or the manipulated? The used or the user? Maybe both?
The truth is that manipulators are everywhere, and they’re everyone:
- Your family
- Your friends
- Your boyfriend/girlfriend
- Your husband/wife
- Your boss
- Your workmates
- The media
- 99.99% of people
It’s only the tactics that vary and now you know what they are.
The next time someone tries to manipulate you, you’ll see it coming from a mile away, and you can either choose to ignore it, or you can make a point of calling them out on it.
I do both. Most of the time I’ll simply choose to ignore the manipulator, however, if someone persists in trying to manipulate me against my will, I’ll likely call them out on it and embarrass them by asking them why they’re trying to manipulate me and what their problem is.
If you have any doubt as to whether or not you’re being manipulated ask yourself: Does this person respect me? Are they trying to use me? Do they want something from me? Do their intentions seem entirely genuine?
You can even ask them directly: “Are you trying to manipulate me?”
Then look them dead in the eye and see how they react.
Manipulators don’t like it when you do this. They hate being called out on their crap. They want it to remain hidden beneath the surface, unseen and unsaid. Most of the time when you call them out on it you will embarrass them, and they will either try to act dumb/innocent, or they will try to downplay or excuse it by saying that they were “only joking”.
Manipulation is a VERY childish tactic. But then again most people are very childish. Let’s face it: Most adults are just children in grown up bodies.
“It is true that only an unconscious person will try to use or manipulate others, but it is equally true that only an unconscious person can be used and manipulated.” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Finally, not all manipulation is bad – but most of it is.
Tony Robbins is a master of manipulation but he manipulates people into achieving their goals, following their dreams, and living up to their potential. I’m OK with that kind of manipulation.
Manipulating your kids to do their homework or to eat their vegetables isn’t a bad idea either. But allowing yourself to be manipulated into doing something you don’t want to do, that isn’t good for you, isn’t a smart idea.
If you liked this article you will also like my in-depth two-part interview with clinical Psychologist Dr. George Simon who has studied Manipulative people for over 30 years. Read: The experts guide to Manipulative people