A manipulator is someone who tries to control you. These individuals are often skilled at mind games to gain power over you in your relationship. Manipulators are challenging to identify. They are subtle at exploiting you to benefit themselves in some way. Manipulative relationships occur in romantic relationships and between coworkers, friends, or family members.

Here are some ways you can recognize a manipulator and protect yourself.

10 Signs Someone Is a Manipulator and How to Protect Yourself

Information is critical–so once you know these red flags, you’ll also understand how to protect yourself from these toxic people.

1 – A manipulator plays the victim

A manipulator will play the victim. They’ll act like whatever you ask them to do is an enormous burden, exploiting your emotions not to do whatever you asked them to do. They like to get sympathy from others. Manipulators say things like,

This task is too hard. I don’t think you knew what you were asking of me.

Okay, I guess I’ll do that for you even though I’m overwhelmed.

How to protect yourself

Be aware of their desire to play the victim in your relationship. Don’t defend yourself if they say these things. Getting defensive is what they want. Stop talking and walk away. This maneuver overrules their ability to manipulate you into feeling sorry for them.

master manipulator

2 – Gaslighting

Gaslighting is lying. It’s purposely confusing the truth to mislead. They twist what you say and question you as if they’re lawyers in a courtroom. A manipulator wants to make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. You may feel frustrated and unsure of fact versus fiction.

How to protect yourself

To outsmart a manipulative person, don’t get into the conversation. Don’t try to counter with evidence or information. It never works. The best thing to do is to walk away. Refuse to meet them at their level.

3 – A manipulator seeks to maintain power

Manipulators know how to maintain power over others. Misrepresentation of your feelings and twisted compliments can make you feel overwhelmed and confused about your relationship. A manipulator likes to create drama to get a reaction out of you. If you try to respond, they say things like

Aren’t you the perfect child?

So, you’ve never made a mistake?

Who are you to try to tell me to change?

How to protect yourself

First of all, don’t try to meet a manipulator’s needs. Refuse to engage in a conversation that is getting dramatic like this. Stop talking to them. They won’t be happy you aren’t engaging with them, but you won’t get manipulated by them.

4 – The manipulator puts others down

Manipulators are masters at putting people down. They mix compliments with negative comments to unsettle you. They may compliment you on your outfit, then mention you look like you’ve gained weight. Individuals in a relationship with a manipulator can have a roller coaster of emotions, feeling loved one minute and hated the next.  A manipulator may use a condescending tone or patronize you. If you question how they’re talking to you, they’ll say they were joking.

How to protect yourself

The best way to overcome a put-down is to turn the tables on your manipulator. They expect you to defend yourself or start a fight. Instead, say something like, No, I’m not skinny, am I?  or try sarcasm, such as Thanks for your insight. These responses disarm the manipulator and ruin their ability to control you.

5 – Isolation tactics

Isolating you from your friends and family is another subtle tactic of a manipulative person. They may say they don’t trust your friends or loved ones or persuade you to pull away from everybody but them. They may even guilt you when you’re going out with friends, saying that you’re “choosing your friends over them.” Sulking, acting sad, or even telling you how much they love you are tactics they’ll use to isolate you from those you love.

 How to protect yourself

Please don’t give in to their manipulation as you see this happening. Meet them where they’re at with statements like, I’m wondering why you’re trying to keep me from my other friends?  It’s unattractive when you grovel like this. Please stop.

manipulators shift blame

6 – Blameshifting behaviors

Manipulators can seem sensitive and sweet to you but then turn the table and blame you for something you didn’t do. They will accuse you of breaking the relationship, claiming that you are the cause of their problems. It’s demeaning and demoralizing to be treated like this.

How to protect yourself

If you try to defend yourself, they’ll belittle you and say you’re being mean to them. Don’t try to please them. Say something like. I’m not sure why you’re trying to blame me for everything wrong. That’s not realistic.  Then drop the conversation. They’ll see they can’t bait you into an argument.

7 – Condescension

Looking down on you is a manipulator’s way of showing their superiority over you. Manipulators have a grandiose sense of self. They may show their condescension through body language and words. They may ignore your comments or act like it’s a huge sacrifice to talk with you. Other non-verbal signs of a manipulator’s condescension include:

  • The condescending tone of voice
  • Sarcasm
  • Sighs
  • Shrugs
  • Eye rolling
  • Side eye glances
  • Disgusted look
  • Raise one eyebrow
  • Patronizing tone

 How to protect yourself

Protecting yourself is ignoring them. Refuse to engage with them. You can get things out in the open by challenging them by saying something like. You seem to want to get at me. Why is that? What are you trying to say to me by acting this way?

8 – They hope you doubt yourself

A manipulator wants you to doubt yourself. You may begin to wonder if what they say is true about you. Manipulators like to steal your confidence. They overpower your thoughts and minimize your opinions. Their goal is to always have the upper hand over you, so you doubt yourself. Their behavior is demeaning and demoralizing.

How to protect yourself

Refuse to give in to doubts about who you are and what you believe. If they try to manipulate your opinions, tell them you disagree and walk away. Stop thinking you need their approval to be happy.

9 – The manipulator is often very charming

A manipulator is sweet to you when they want something. They may ask a favor, and after you say yes, they follow up with their actual request. This puts you in an awkward place, causing the manipulator to force you into your commitment. When they act charming, there’s a lack of thoughtfulness or concern for you when ta challenge them to overpower you and make you do what they want. This can happen at work when a co-worker asks a favor only to reveal the real reason was to get you to go out with them. Their behavior may make you feel unsafe around them.

How to protect yourself

If this happens at work or school, refuse to cooperate even if you need to go back on your word. You don’t need their acceptance to be happy. If you’re in a romantic relationship, it may be worthwhile to step back and see if perhaps there are things you can learn about yourself.

  • Why are you an easy target for them?
  • Does this person manipulating you feel like the only way you do things for them is if they trick you into it?
  • Why do you put yourself in these positions with people like this?

10 – Silent treatment

The silent treatment is one of the most common tactics of a manipulator. It’s a passive-aggressive way of punishing you when you don’t do what the manipulator wants. Besides that, it is unloving and makes you feel rejected. It’s easy to allow the silent treatment to affect you to the point that you do what the manipulator wants to get them to talk to you.

How to protect yourself

When someone is not talking to you it’s uncomfortable. Please don’t allow them to control you like this. You don’t need their acceptance to feel happy about your life. Walk away. If they aren’t talking to you, find someone else to talk to.

traits of manipulators

Final Thoughts on Knowing How to Recognize–and Protect Yourself–from a Manipulator

A healthy relationship is based on respect, trust, and understanding. This should be true of romantic relationships, friendships, co-workers, and family relationships. Sadly, there are some individuals who use manipulation to control you. They don’t have your best interest in mind but want to overpower you. They may put you down, use the silent treatment, gaslight you and play the victim when you disagree with them. If you find yourself in this kind of relationship, surround yourself with other people who truly love you.

Their support can help you not fall victim to a manipulator. Learn how to deal with the manipulator by refusing to engage with them and not giving in to their desire for you to defend yourself. You should never feel you need to accept someone manipulating you. You are in control of your responses and don’t need to feel as if you must give in to others’ desire to control you.