I love giving relationship advice to others in regards to being with a manipulator.
17 Warning Signs of a Manipulator
Every one of us has come into contact with manipulators. Some have been abused for years without knowing. Spotting a manipulator is hard because they work at stealth frequencies. It's a crime that leaves no fingerprints, but there isn't any type of human behavior that you cannot understand or predict.
Here are some early warning signs that will alert you to a manipulator in your life:
- Charm and Niceness
- Generous with Favors and Gifts
- Excessive Compliments and Flattery
- Forced Teaming
- Good First Impression
- Pretending to be a Victim
- Silent Treatment
- Appearing to be Selfless
- Guilt Tripping
- Gas Lighting
- Unsettling Stare
"There are reasons we all do what we do, and those reasons are sometimes displayed."
— Gavin de Becker
1. Charm and Niceness
A manipulator may use charm to get power or sex. Charm comes easily to manipulators because they are ruthless and have no qualms about hurting anyone. A reasonably conscientious person might not use the dirty tricks to seduce someone—that a manipulator will eagerly do.
Manipulators are ardent students of human behavior. After spending some time with a person they find out about their needs and desires. Once they find out what you need they provide you with it to get you addicted or dependent on them. If someone is being very charming and alluring to you, think about, what that person could possibly want. Narcissists and psychopaths—the masters of manipulation—are very cruel once you fall in love with them.
Manipulators are experts at lying and denying. If someone hurts you and you bring attention to their bad behavior, but they deny it even though they clearly have behaved badly, then you should be on your guard. Don’t let their denial of bad behavior confuse you.
Psychologist George K.Simon, a manipulation expert and author of the book In Sheep's Clothing, elucidates, ‘’This ‘who . . . me?’ tactic is a way of playing innocent and invites the victim to feel unjustified in confronting the aggressor about the inappropriateness of their behavior. It’s also the way the aggressor gives himself/herself permission to keep right on doing what they want to do.’’
Lying is a manipulator’s most potent weapon. They have an impaired conscience, so they don’t feel bad about lying. If there’s a chance to get what they want by lying, they most certainly will.
Manipulators usually lie in subtle, covert ways. Dr.Simon says that manipulators often lie by withholding a significant amount of information from you or by distorting the truth.
Effectively, catching a liar can be learned. To detect early on, whether you are dealing with a manipulator or not, ask them direct questions about his or her employment, family, relatives, friends, place of residence, plans, and so forth. If they give vague, inconsistent or evasive replies to you, this should serve as a red flag.
"Every type of con relies upon distracting us from the obvious."
— Gavin de Becker
4. Generous With Favors and Gifts
In the beginning of a relationship, a manipulator may be very kind, sympathetic and generous towards you. He may shower you with expensive gifts and favors, which you might interpret as an expression of his love or affection. But actually, he’s using them as a form of bribery to get even bigger favors later on.
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So when a person showers you with gifts and attention, pay critical attention to the character and intention of that person.
5. Excessive Compliments and Flattery
In their book Snakes in Suits, psychologists Robert D. Hare and Paul Babaik advise that ‘’Excessive or incongruous compliments should be a signal for you to pay critical attention to what’s coming next. Ask yourself, ‘What does this person really want of me?’’’
6. Forced Teaming
It’s a strategy used by manipulators and con artists to create a sense of togetherness with their chosen victim, through the use of the word, "we."
The manipulator tries to project a shared purpose or experience with you, where none exist. He might use phrases such as "we’re some team," "how are we going to handle this?" "both of us," "now we’ve done it," etc.
How do you tell if someone is genuinely trying to be helpful or they are just manipulating you? Listen to your intuition. Do you feel uncomfortable while accepting help? Do you want to refuse but you can’t because this will make you appear rude? If yes, then you are dealing with a manipulator.
Women should not accept any offer of help that makes them feel uncomfortable.
"The best cons make the victim want to participate."
— Gavin de Becker
7. Good First Impression
Skilled manipulators often make excellent impressions. They use captivating characteristics like impeccable manners, dazzling looks or a winning smile, etc. to distract people from their real intentions and message. We hardly buy a book after being impressed by its cover, but unfortunately, we take people at face value.With manipulators, you don’t get what you see.
A manipulator may give you a very good first impression, but the cracks in their mask will become apparent only after close observation or spending more time with them.
8. Pretending to Be a Victim
A manipulator may pretend as being a victim of circumstances or bad behavior of someone, as a result making you feel sympathy for him or her.
When a person tries to seek your sympathies, carefully observe that person to try to confirm that they are indeed a victim.
So how to tell a false victim from a real one.
A false victim talks about the events that were abusive to them in a calm, cool, and detached way. They appear to get over the emotions of the abusive experience rather quickly, and they don’t seem to dwell or obsess over the abusive experiences.
True victims need to reach out for support; it’s important for their survival. They seek therapy, God or other saving methods to restore their mental and emotional health. While talking about the abusive experience, they appear confused, jumpy, nervous and afraid. They may cry hysterically—urgency and emotion are in their speech. They do not have the cold, cool demeanor of a lying manipulator. True victims go through the grieving process—shock, denial, and anger to finally the stage of acceptance.
But manipulators pretending to be victims don’t try to seek that kind of support. They don’t need it because they were not abused. Manipulators pretending to be victims are not seeking kindness and compassion, but they are after a goal, so coolly and in control, they tell you their story.
9. Silent Treatment
Getting the silent treatment is an early warning sign that you are dealing with a manipulator. It is a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval, and contempt are exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining silence.
Manipulators use the silent treatment as a weapon to provoke you into doing something or make you feel less worthy by refusing to acknowledge even your presence. If an act of your behavior is not contributing towards the manipulator’s goal, they will use the silent treatment as a punishment to communicate their displeasure. This is why clinical psychologist Harriet Braiker identifies it as a form of manipulative punishment.
If it is a sadistic manipulator, then they might use silent treatment just to torture you.
Examples of the silent treatment might be:
- A coworker openly talks to others but refuses to speak to you.
- Your roommate is willing to talk to her friends on phone, or bring them in the room and talk to them for hours, but refuses to speak to you.
10. Appearing to Be Selfless
Manipulators keep their intentions, ambitions, desire for power and domination well hidden, so in the first few meetings with a manipulator, you might find him/her to be a selfless and helpful person.
Dr. George K.simon explains, "Covert-aggressives use this tactic to cloak their self-serving agendas in the guise of service to a more noble cause. It’s a common tactic but difficult to recognize.By pretending to be working hard on someone else’s behalf, covert-aggressives conceal their ambition, desire for power, and a quest for a position of dominance over others.’’
11. Guilt Tripping
Pay close attention to a person who often tries to make you feel guilty. Chances are, that person is manipulating you.
Manipulators are aware that other people have a different conscience, so they exploit the good nature of their victims to keep them in a self-doubting, guilt-ridden, anxious and submissive position.
If you catch a person often saying insulting remarks or hurtful comments about your weight, family, appearance or employment, etc, then this should be taken as a warning sign—especially of a manipulative friend.
Manipulators pay close attention to a person’s insecurities and weak points. If you are insecure about your weight or don’t like the shape of your nose, they are quick to notice. If you have repeatedly failed an exam, they will make fun of you for it. Our success or physical appearance is not very much in our control so making fun of someone’s difficult situation shows the mean and predatory nature of the individual. They often try to pass off their offensive remarks as jokes, but if you pay close attention, your intuition will tell you that the jokes are not funny and have unfriendly overtones. It’s their secret attempt to put you down. So, what do they gain by doing that?
Manipulators use shaming to make their victim feel inadequate or unworthy, and therefore, become submissive to them. It is a powerful tactic to create a continued sense of personal inadequacy in the victim, thus allowing the manipulator to maintain a position of dominance.
Manipulators usually use covert intimidation. Their threats are carefully veiled. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable or you suspect them of manipulation, pay close attention to their non-verbal gestures, expressions, glances, and stares, when they talk to you.
14. Gas Lighting
Perhaps not an early warning sign, but it is a powerful tactic used by manipulators. The term owes its origin to the play Gas Light and its film adaptations, after which it was coined. Since then the term has been used in clinical and research literature. It means twisting reality for a particular purpose.
A manipulator is a genius when it comes to twisting reality to serve their own purposes. It doesn’t matter what the truth is, they have a way of ultimately showing you that it really is your own fault and that you aren’t seeing things clearly. By the time you accept their version of reality, you have become so mentally sick that you can’t trust your own perceptions.
If someone questions your perceptions of reality, do not trust their opinion.
Always listen to your intuition. What it tells you about a person or a situation is right.
It is an excuse a manipulative person offers for engaging in hurtful or inappropriate behaviors. It can be an effective tactic especially when the explanation offered makes just enough sense that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to fall for it.
Rationalization serves three primary purposes:
- It removes internal resistance the manipulator might have about their harmful action.
- It keeps others off their back.
- If the manipulator can convince you they are justified in doing what they have been doing, then they are free to pursue their goals.
I once had a friend who would sometimes behave very affectionately, but after a few hours or days would become very cold. I became sick of her hot and cold behavior. Whenever I would bring attention to her bad behavior, or I would avoid her, she would instantly sense that and would come to my room crying, telling me how busy and depressed she has been in the past few days. I would be moved by her tears and forgive her last week’s terrible behavior, but after a few days, she’d repeat the exact bad behavior.
Manipulators are fine actors. They can pretend to be a victim; they can cry a river whenever they want; they can fake love; they can fake joy or any other emotion. So carefully observe the actions of those who claim to love you, or who try to gain your sympathy by shedding tears.
It’s noble to be kind and gentle but select the receivers of your kindness very carefully.
When you are trying to keep a discussion focused on a single issue or behavior (that you consider bad or cruel), but someone changes the subject or dodges the issue, then this should alert you. You might ask yourself, "Why doesn't this person want to discuss it?" Dr. Simon points out that manipulators "use distraction and diversion techniques to keep the focus off of their behavior, move us off-track, and keep themselves free to promote their self-serving hidden agendas."
17. Unsettling Stare
Many people believe that eyes are windows to the soul. Psychologist Robert D. Hare believes that eyes do provide some information about the person "particularly when the message they convey to others appears inconsistent with the individual’s facial expressions and verbal behavior." In that case, a person should not ignore the information given by eyes.
Some people respond to the emotionless stare of a skilled manipulator with discomfort, while others feel hypnotized by them.
The eyes of the master manipulator, Grigori Rasputin, have been remarked on by many people. According to Paul Kurlov, he had ‘’piercing’’ eyes; to Tamara Karsavina his eyes looked like that of a maniac; Elena Dzhanumova wrote in her diary: ‘’What eyes he has! You cannot endure his gaze for long.'"