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Common Manipulation Tactics and How to Spot Them

We’ve all been harmed by a chronic manipulator. Perhaps it was an ex who accused you of something that you never did. Or maybe it was a classmate who guilt-tripped you into doing their homework. It feels even worse when the manipulation comes from someone in authority or is a person you admire.

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We all have engaged in manipulative behavior from time to time, but some people do it routinely. It is a part of their personality that has been entrenched within them since childhood. Being manipulated can make us feel angry, confused, used, hurt, and afraid. Knowing some of the common manipulation techniques narcissists use to hurt others can stop you from being victimized in the future. Here are the 4 most common techniques to watch out for.

1. Using Intimacy as a Weapon

It’s much easier to manipulate someone you know. Trying to guilt-trip a stranger into buying your coffee will probably be a tough sell. But if you are in an intimate relationship, there is a certain level of trust. When you love someone, you naturally want to do anything to help them. You are also more likely to overlook negative behavior.

Manipulators know this about their victims, which is why they always try to build a romantic relationship or a close friendship with them. The manipulator takes time to get to know a person’s weaknesses, strengths, and desires. He or she then uses that knowledge as a weapon later on. The individual may at first appear overly nice or friendly. He may relate to you on several levels. There may also be grand displays of affection early on in the relationship. Later on, they will pounce.

2. Chronic Blame and Shame

Nobody is perfect. When there’s an argument between two people, both sides contribute in some way. However, a manipulator will never see his or her part in anything. They will twist each situation to make it the fault of the other person.

For example, a man may cheat on his girlfriend. When she finds out, he might say he cheated because the girlfriend has been spending too much time at work. Then, the argument turns into her work habits rather than the initial wrongdoing, which is his infidelity. Watch out for this type of gaslighting.

3. Crossing Boundaries

A manipulator hates personal boundaries because he believes he is entitled to whatever he needs and wants. If another person puts up a boundary, the manipulator will use sweet talk, passive-aggressiveness, or threats to cross it. It usually starts slowly and then progresses.

For example, a woman may tell her friend that she cannot drive her to work because it’s out of her way. The friend may at first act to accept the answer, but then call at the last minute and pretend he couldn’t find a ride. The woman may feel she has no choice but to pick up her friend because the situation is urgent. But in reality, the situation was orchestrated by the manipulator from the beginning.

4. Gaslighting and Lying

A manipulator is great at gaslighting or accusing someone of doing something they didn’t do. Usually, the manipulator is the one who engaged in whatever he or she is accusing a person of. The manipulator may lie, confuse stories, or tell different versions of an event to get their way. This can lead the victim to feel like he or she is “going crazy.” It can wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and even one sense of sanity. A great way to avoid being gaslit is to focus on building self-confidence and assertive behavior.

If you find yourself routinely engaged in relationships and friendships with manipulative people, you may also benefit from counseling. A qualified therapist can help boost your self-esteem so you know how to spot and avoid a manipulator in the future.

Do you feel manipulated by a loved one? Are you suffering from low self-esteem or anxiety? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional therapists would love to speak with you.

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