“Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.” – Thomas Jefferson
Toxic, manipulative and abusive people have all kinds of tactics that are used to control the people around them. One of those tactics is called ‘baiting’. Baiting is when someone deliberately acts in a way so as to elicit either an angry or emotional response from the person that they’re interacting with. This is often used between two people where one wants to start an argument, and uses baiting in order to do so.
The goal is usually to get the other person to start the fight in order to more easily turn the tables on them. It’s a tactic that’s used to gain advantage in an argument. The other person is fully aware that they’re baiting, and the victim is often left confused, hurt and easily manipulated.
Marriage and family therapist Andrea Brandt says, “People who fight dirty often do it because they’re actually afraid of fighting, or don’t want to take ownership of a fight.” Therefore, knowing the signs of being baited will help you be more fully prepared if you ever find yourself in such a situation.
Here Are 5 Signs Someone Is Baiting You
1. They accuse you of something out of nowhere
This is a classic baiting move. Perhaps your partner suddenly accuses you of cheating on them, even if you’ve never done anything to suggest that you are or ever would. The accusation, whatever it may be, is designed to leave you off balance and struggling to defend yourself while the other person has already moved on to other ways to manipulate you.
According to author Stephanie Sarkis, “They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.”
They’re trying to bait you into defending yourself while being able to turn the tables and act as the victim. Instead of trying to defend yourself against an accusation, try to figure out why they would accuse you of that, and dismantle their baiting by encouraging them to explain their thought process.
2. They damage something of yours
Baiting doesn’t always have to an argument. In fact, someone may be baiting you by purposefully damaging something that belongs to you in order to get a response of anger. Once you’re angry, the person who is baiting you can then more easily manipulate the situation. Perhaps you come home one day to discover that your partner, friend or family member has deliberately caused damage to something you own, or your property.
According to SafePlace “This behavior of breaking loved ones’ possessions or needed home items can be used as a punishment but is mostly used to terrorize the person into submission.” The deliberate destruction of something you own is a classic, red-flag sign of someone using a baiting technique.
3. They’re playing on your emotions
Baiting is almost always used to elicit an emotion from one person to the other. The person who is baiting you wants to be able to manipulate a situation, and they need you in a particular state of mind to be able to do so. They may use baiting to make you angry or to upset you significantly.
Licensed psychotherapist and author states, “The gaslightee begins to second-guess herself because she has allowed another person to define her reality and erode her judgment.” The point of using your emotions is to control you, however that might be done by the baiter.
When our bodies give over to a more primal, emotional response, it’s much harder to stay in control of our higher reasoning. This is what the person who is baiting you relies on for better ease of manipulation.
4. They deliberately make you jealous
If your partner flirts with other people or cheats on you as a way to make you jealous, this is a baiting technique. If your partner flirts with people in front of you and compares you to their past partners or even just compares you to strangers, this is a sign that you’re being baited.
Perhaps they want to bait you into an argument, or want to bait you into “proving them wrong”. Either way, this is a sign that you’re being baited and your emotions are being used to manipulate you. Your partner may even claim that it’s all in your head as a form of gaslighting.
5. They’re always the victim
No matter what they did to bait you into your response, they’re always going to be the victim. Even if they flirted with someone in front of you, it’s because you don’t pay them enough attention. If they destroy something that belongs to you, it’s because you made them angry.
Someone who is baiting you is never going to concede to the point that they’re the ones causing the argument or problem. If you find yourself in a situation where the other person deliberately elicited a response from you, but you’re still in the wrong, it’s a good sign that you’re being baited.
What Should You Do If You Find Yourself Being Baited?
Recognizing the signs are important, but there’s still more to do when it comes to being on the receiving end of someone’s bait.
1. Don’t take the bait
This is important. If you’re not responding, then the other person isn’t getting what they want from you, which means you’ll be able to move on from the bait and have a real conversation.
2. Don’t argue or try to appeal to reason
In fact, you may want to leave the room entirely. If you’re being baited, it’s good to give the other person time and yourself time to cool off, especially if the baiting is looking for an angry response.
3. Have a support system
It’s important to have some outside perspectives when it comes to dealing with someone who uses baiting as a technique of manipulation. Whether this is friends, family or a professional therapist, it’s good to have support.
Understanding what baiting is, where it comes from, and how to handle it in all its forms is the best way to deal with a situation in which someone is baiting you. associate director at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of The Gaslight Effect, Dr. Robin Stern says “Once you are not flooded with emotion, you can reflect rationally. Look at the conversation and see where it took a turn.”
While it may seem difficult and even a little frightening, knowing how to properly handle such a situation will make the whole thing go more smoothly than if you rose to the bait.