All emotions, whether good or bad, serve a purpose in our journeys – but be aware of those who want to use the mighty power of emotional manipulation against you.

If you identify as an empath, this will especially apply to you, as this group of people is most vulnerable to picking up negative energy from others. Next time you feel emotional manipulation consult these tips for protecting your own energy field.

7 Red Flags That Reveal Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation happens when someone seeks to gain power or control by employing certain tactics. Usually, it involves gaslighting, passive aggression, and emotional abuse such as name-calling. A 2013 study found that emotional abuse can cause just as much harm as physical abuse, leading to depression and poor self-image. Unfortunately, emotional abuse occurs often in relationships, with 47% of women and almost 47% of men experiencing it at some point.

Whether you’re in the workplace or on a date, look out for these warning signs of an emotional manipulator.

emotional manipulation

1.    Intellectual Bullying Reveals Emotional Manipulation

Some emotional manipulators will attempt to gain power over you through intellectual bullying. Basically, this just means they bombard you with facts and knowledge to confuse or overwhelm you. When you’re in a vulnerable state, it makes you much easier to control. Many narcissists use this tactic, and may even quiz you about certain topics. They’re trying to gauge how much you know to see how you measure up against them.

2.    Emotional Invalidation

Emotional manipulation can also take the form of invalidation, where the person tries to downplay your feelings or experiences. For instance, if you’re explaining how you fell at work and they immediately shift the focus on themselves, they’re trying to manipulate you. It might seem innocent at first, but their intentions will become clear eventually.

People who compare your issues with theirs want to garner sympathy but can’t seem to show it. It’s best to steer clear of people who invalidate your problems, especially if they claim to care about your wellbeing. If they did, they would show it through their actions.

3.    Gaslighting and Playing the Victim

If a person gaslights you, it’s a clear sign they’re engaging in emotional manipulation. Gaslighting involves making the victim question their own sanity by twisting stories or creating false narratives. Of course, they want you to feel crazy in order to maintain control. They don’t want to take accountability for any problems in the relationship, blaming you for anything that goes wrong.

If you bring up a concern, they will immediately downplay your feelings or even deny their wrongdoing. They want you to feel responsible for any mistakes to lower your self-esteem even further. You know in your gut when something feels off in a relationship, so please don’t fall for this manipulation technique.

4.    Shaming Can Be a Sign of Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulators want you to feel inferior, guilty and shameful so they have power over your emotions. When they know they can get a rise out of you, it becomes an addiction. They will always crave more because they enjoy seeing you upset.

Like any energy vampire, they thrive off negative emotional reactions and people with compassion. Emotional manipulators usually target empathetic victims since they tend to see the positives in others. That way, they’re blindsided when the manipulation begins since they never saw it coming.

The manipulator may shame you by saying you’re ungrateful for everything they’ve done for you. They want you to feel obligated to them in some way, but in reality, you only owe yourself the freedom to leave this toxic relationship.

5.    Lying

While a white lie here and there doesn’t always point to emotional manipulation, it’s a red flag when it happens repeatedly. The person may lie to hide something they feel ashamed about, such as cheating. Or if they’re a compulsive liar, they’ve learned to make up stories out of habit, either to embellish or deny facts. Either way, lying about important things in relationships can create a rift between people over time.

Trust forms the foundation in a healthy relationship, and once the lies accumulate, it begins to crack. Sure, you can repair things after one or two lies, but at some point, the trust disappears completely. Just remember, if someone truly loves and cares about you, they’ll tell you the truth no matter how much it hurts. They’d rather come clean than walk around with a heart full of secrets.

6.    Using Ultimatums

Another common form of emotional manipulation involves giving someone ultimatums. The manipulator does this to find your weaknesses so they can get what they want. For instance, your partner might say they will break up with you if you go out for girl’s night. Not only does this point to a controlling partner, it also shows they have deep-seated insecurities. Or, perhaps they might ask for financial help, saying that “If you love me, you’ll do this for me.”

Of course, someone who uses ultimatums doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

7.    Giving Silent Treatment

A common passive aggressive behavior, the silent treatment is used to gain control in a relationship. This form of emotional manipulation may occur after an argument or disagreement, especially if the person felt unheard. They want to shift all the attention onto themselves and gain sympathy by refusing to communicate with you.

The manipulator figures that, after a while, you will come crawling back to them and apologize for your behavior. They want you to feel responsible, even if the argument was their fault. Eventually, you might feel worried about them and decide to break the silence. This is what they had planned all along, of course, so that you’d forget about the underlying issues and admit your mistake.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who employs the silent treatment often, let them know it bothers you. Relationships are a two-way street and require active communication from both people.

11 Ways to Protect Yourself from Emotional Manipulation

emotional manipulation

1. Don’t fall into their trap.

People who take pleasure in toying with others’ emotions will use any sort of tactics, such as confusion, blame, and interrogation, in order to really get under your skin. If you have to deal with these types of people often, like in your workplace, just ignore them or surprise them by saying something nice instead of meeting them with a combative attitude. Emotional manipulators thrive off getting a rise out of you, so make sure you don’t give them what they want – after several failed attempts, they may begin to leave you alone.

2. Start writing down what they say during conversations.

While this might seem a little overboard, emotional manipulators have a habit of making you look like the bad guy, and twisting their words to fit any agenda. You might actually start to believe sometimes that you have done something wrong when in reality, you have fallen victim to their terrible scheme. To make sure you can actually show them what they said in prior conversations, jot down any details you think they might conveniently change later in order to justify their behavior. They may also try to convince you they never said a certain thing, but you can actually prove they did with the notes you take.

Get smart about protecting yourself from their wrath, and they may soon get discouraged from using you as their emotional toy.

3. Steer clear whenever possible.

Of course, avoiding emotional manipulators and instigators will totally eliminate your chances of getting taken advantage of by them. To do this, try your best to read people’s energy when you first meet them. If you don’t get a good vibe from them, simply trust your gut and make a pact to steer clear of them when you can. Working in the same place as an emotional manipulator can be a bit trickier, but just aim to limit your interactions with the person as much as possible. You will save yourself a lot of energy and sanity by doing so.

4. Call them out on their behavior.

These people have probably bossed around others for so long and have never been confronted for it. Stand up for yourself and let them know that they make you feel uncomfortable and taken advantage of. Even if they deny their behavior or try to turn it back around on you, at least you can rest easy knowing you actually defended yourself and stood up for the truth. Maybe they will begin to change their tune if you struck a nerve with them; after all, once they scare everyone away, they will have no one to manipulate anymore, anyway.

5. Avoid emotional attachment with them

Easier said than done, especially if they don’t show their true colors immediately.  Pay attention to the first sign of them completely steamrolling your emotions, slowly back away from the relationship, and make sure to let them know your boundaries. Emotional manipulators constantly scan the horizon for their next victim, but it’s much easier to break away if you haven’t invested too much in the relationship, to begin with. If you must talk to them, maintain a cordial, civil relationship, but don’t let it go any further than that if you value your emotional well-being.

6. Meditate often.

In order to keep your vibration high, you need to silence the mind, breathe deeply, and get in touch with the higher realms to adequately handle yourself on Earth. It will help you deal with emotional manipulators much better because you will have inner peace no matter how much chaos unfolds around you. Loving-kindness meditation, specifically, will allow you to cultivate compassion for this person and maybe open your eyes to what they have been through in their life. Meet hostility with love and understanding, and you just might witness them to transform into a new person after a while.

7. Inspire them.

It’s important to “be the change”, and in this instance, it will inadvertently protect you because they won’t emit such negative vibes after they’re inspired by your own non-manipulative, positive actions. Bring up the benefits of meditation, taking responsibility for their own life, following their true passions, volunteering, eating a clean diet, and exercising. Use all the knowledge you have gained about becoming your best self in order to help them become their best selves, too.

8. Tell them “you’re right.”

As hard as this might be for the ego, your soul will give you a round of applause and possibly a standing ovation, too. Emotional manipulators feed on drama, so agreeing with them will leave them speechless and quickly put out the flames of their delusions. Just for the sake of keeping your peace of mind, simply let them win the argument. You know deep down that their behavior and accusations were wrong, but they will have to deal with that karma later anyway.

9. Let go of harmful relationships.

If you notice this type of behavior in your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse, you should leave that relationship behind in favor of your own well-being. You can’t force a person to change, no matter how many times you have brought up their volatile behavior. You deserve someone who will nurture and balance your emotions, not someone who wants to use you for their own personal enjoyment.

10. Develop a strong mentality.

Don’t ever let their insults or outbursts get inside your head; laugh at them or just entertain their thoughts without agreeing with them. If you know what kind of person you are and have a strong sense of self-worth, nothing they say will ever bring you down.

11. Give yourself positive self-talk throughout the day.

An emotional manipulator can completely tarnish your otherwise peppy mood, so make sure you restore yourself with uplifting affirmations and messages during the day. They thrive on seeing your mood go down the drain, so when they see you unaffected by their brash remarks, they won’t have a reason to torment you any longer.

letting go

Final Thoughts on Recognizing and Protecting Yourself From Emotional Manipulation

Unfortunately, emotional manipulation occurs quite often in schools, workplaces, and relationships. Many of us have probably manipulated people without even realizing it as well, because no one is perfect. However, when someone intentionally deceives others with the goal of getting something from them, it becomes a form of abuse. In daily life, it’s important to shield yourself from negative people and walk away from anyone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Emotional manipulators usually reveal themselves much like narcissists do, by lying, gaslighting, invalidating your feelings, or shaming you. Don’t fall for these tactics, as they can only derive power by steamrolling over others.