How to Recognize A Manipulator (And Protect Yourself)

How to Recognize A Manipulator (And Protect Yourself)


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.

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