Have you ever been in a relationship that was a virtual carnival of mind games? People in healthy relationships are considerate of one another and don’t need to resort to mental manipulation or other abuse.

Mental manipulation may be subtle, but it’s still psychologically harmful and unacceptable.

Fifteen Signs of Mental Manipulation

Just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you’ve lost your individuality. You remain an individual with the right to think and believe as you wish. Although compromise is sometimes necessary, it shouldn’t be at the expense of losing your identity.

Is there a person in your life who constantly plays manipulative games to control you? Perhaps the abuse has been so subtle and has continued so long that you don’t recognize it. Here are 15 signs that someone is an expert in mental manipulation and they’re hurting you.

mental manipulation

1. They Set You Up First

Expert manipulators may seem courteous when they ask you to offer your opinions. They’ll even engage in active listening and cling to every comment. It’s their chance to decipher your strengths and weaknesses silently.

After they’ve heard your side, they may often twist your words to confuse you. These toxic people try to get your opinions out of the way first so they can establish control. It’s a common ploy of mental manipulation that can catch you unaware.

2. A Master of Mental Manipulation Prefers to Play on Their Turf

Have you ever heard of the “home court advantage” in sports? It’s a boost of confidence you get when surrounded by the familiar. The other team is more apt to feel intimidated when playing on your field.

Likewise, manipulative people prefer to control discussions in their court. A manipulator will use their office or desk to symbolize power in a professional relationship. They assume you’ll be less likely to disagree with them when you are in their most comfortable space.

They call the shots and say where and when things will be done. Not only do you have to be on their field, but you must play by their rules. It’s an unfair advantage meant to stifle your opinions or objections.

3. They Smother with Statistics

Who likes to have conversations with a know-it-all? They aim to shut you down and make you look ignorant with their flood of facts. Even though they can spout misinformation or blatant lies, they use this mental manipulation to control others.

Such toxic behavior is called intellectual bullying, explains an article published by Exploring Your Mind. These people are often knowledgeable and use their education and achievements to establish superiority. Instead of using knowledge as a beneficial tool, they use it as a hatchet to insult and humiliate others.

4. Masters of Mental Manipulation Distort the Truth

Another ploy of mental manipulation is twisting the facts in a personal or professional relationship. It’s not that the controlling person has forgotten the truth or is confused. They intentionally put a little spin on facts, so you doubt them.

You’ve probably heard that whole lies are just as dangerous as a half-truth. Perhaps you won’t fall for something false. However, your manipulative person can add a few grains of truth to confuse you into siding with them.

5. They Engage in Mental Manipulation with Rules and Regulations

Office hierarchies are notorious for controlling others with red tape. They smother you with mounds of memos, emails, and handbooks that are often vague and contradicting. When you think you understand a new set of rules, another set overrides them.

While rules are necessary for running efficiently, some managers use them for mental manipulation. You may not know your rights and responsibilities if you’re so swamped in a whirlwind of paperwork and policy changes. It would be easier for them to take advantage of you and get by with it.

On a personal level, some manipulative partners may use the same tactic to confuse your boundaries. They will distort the facts and declare you agreed to things you didn’t. Or they will constantly change their opinions, so you never know where you stand.

6. They Use Surprise to Their Advantage

The master manipulator likes to catch you off guard, as it’s to their advantage when you’re surprised. Much of what they do is hidden or kept from you, but there are a few things they will let slip. Just remember they are using another tactic that’s for their benefit, not yours.

7. They Use Negative Humor

A good sense of humor is one of the most positive traits in a healthy relationship. A little fun can ease tensions and bring a few welcomed laughs. Good-natured teasing and light inside jokes are an ideal bonding for people.

However, beware of the toxic mate, friend, or coworker who uses humor as a weapon. They think that you won’t mind if they insult you with a smile. These snide remarks are often followed by “just kidding.”

When you fail to be amused by their cruelty, they’ll often make you look like a prude who can’t take a joke. Another poisonous dart in their arsenal is backhanded compliments. For example: “That’s a beautiful outfit you’re wearing! My mother has one just like it.”

mental manipulation

8. They Pressure You as Part of the Mental Manipulation

Many crucial decisions require time and careful consideration. If your person at home or work values you, they’ll understand. Although some actions are time-sensitive, you usually know in advance.

Manipulative people are often impatient and will push you to decide or act. Meanwhile, they disconcert you with their thoughts and opinions. Their goal is for you to make a hasty decision to their advantage.

9. Their Emotional Responses Are Overbearing

Some toxic people in your circle may get aggressive with their mental manipulation. They may raise their voice, exaggerate their body language, or become emotionally over the top. It’s often a ruse that’s intended to coerce you to do what they want so that they’ll be quiet.

10. They Stop Talking

Sometimes, an expert manipulator will shut down the conversation with silence. They won’t respond to your questions or opinions in person or in another form of communication. It’s a classic stonewalling tactic to remind you that they’re in control, and nothing happens until they say so.

11. They Constantly Criticize You

A person who loves and respects you seeks to build your esteem, not destroy it. Even when they offer constructive criticism, it’s done kindly and with your best interests at heart. If they say something offensive in the heat of an argument, they’re usually the first to apologize.

Chronic criticism is a red flag for mental manipulation. These types of personalities will badger, degrade, and criticize anything you say or do. If you continue to listen to their poisonous comments, you’ll start to doubt yourself.

12. The Shift the Blame to You and Others

Manipulative people often have narcissistic personalities and view themselves as superior to others. If anything goes wrong in their lives, it’s always somebody else’s fault. In a toxic relationship, they will shift the blame to you to make themselves look better.

According to an article published by PlosOne, blame-shifting is a way for toxic people to assert control. It’s often done in the guise of an apology, but it’s quickly turned around on you. For example: “I’m sorry I lost my temper and said those horrible things, but if you didn’t press all my buttons, this would never happen.”

13. They Play the Martyr

A manipulative person in your life may play on your sympathies. They’ll often exaggerate any problems or challenges to make you feel guilty. You’re always the big bad wolf, and they’re the innocent lamb.

The martyr depends on using guilt trips, so you’ll do what they want.

You’re a good person and don’t want to hurt them. The whole time it’s you who is being hurt, not them.

14. They Pretend to be Ignorant

“Oh, did what I said the other day hurt you? I’m sorry, I had no idea you were so sensitive.” Faked ignorance is manipulation that’s often connected to twisted apologies. Their façade of innocence is a stall tactic that makes you uncomfortable and gives in to their control.

It’s also a devious ploy to cover any of their mistakes or shortcomings. They’ll say they don’t understand, and you weren’t clear about your feelings. They know what they’re doing, and their ignorance is manipulative, not bliss.

15. They Make It All About Them

A narcissistic partner, friend, or family member may be deluded that they’re superior to you, but they still want you in their lives. You’re the subject for their blame-shifting, and you’ll be the captive audience for their haughty boasts.

No matter what you’ve seen or done, they’ve done better. They can magically turn the conversation back to them regardless of the topic. These people manipulate you for constant validation, and they don’t have time for your thoughts or needs.

mental manipulation

Final Thoughts on Mental Manipulation

Whether it’s physical, verbal, or emotional, manipulation is abuse. A person who uses words and actions to cause mental anguish is toxic, and you deserve better. Reclaim control in your life and make your exit with your head held high.