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How to Recognize A Manipulator (And Protect Yourself)

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“Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.” – Preston Ni

People who intentionally manipulate others are bullies and deceptive scoundrels. Unlike others who may suffer from an underlying disorder, these scammers know exactly what they’re doing – and who they’re doing it to.

Manipulators are skillful, clever and unscrupulous at the same time. To think of them as among the most self-centered (and potentially narcissistic) type of person in existence is fairly accurate.

Recognizing manipulative behavior can be difficult, as their techniques can be executed both subtly and skillfully. It is important, then, to understand what makes such a person “tick.”

Clinical psychologist Dr. George K. Simon – considered a leading expert on manipulative behavior – cites three underlying behaviors of manipulation:

(1) Intentional concealment of aggressive behaviors and intentions.

(2) Identifying and leveraging any potential “shortcomings” of an individual to successfully carry out their actions.

(3) A ruthless mindset that lacks compassion, enabling the manipulator to act without apprehension.

In this article, we discuss a few potential behaviors of a manipulator – and how to protect yourself from them. You’ll notice as you read this list that a manipulative behavior can range from subtle to blatant.

How to Recognize A Manipulator (And Protect Yourself From Them)

1. Acts of power

Manipulators have an insatiable appetite for power. Their innate arrogance leads them to believe they hold superior influence over people despite any evidence to the contrary.

Believe it or not, you’re being influenced every day. How many false, misleading advertisements are out there? Commercial manipulation is no different than personal; the former just does so on a larger scale.

Preston Ni, a renowned communications expert, explains: “By presuming expert power over you, the manipulator hopes to push through his or her agenda more convincingly. Some people use this technique for no other reason than to feel a sense of (superiority.)”

2. Raising their voice and/or outbursts

Because of their misplaced sense of power and self-entitlement, a manipulator can become aggressive when things don’t go as planned. They may raise their voice, or act outwardly aggressive.

Another reason for these vocal and behavioral tantrums is coercion. The manipulator may assume that by acting outwardly aggressive, they can influence some to concede defeat.

3. Guilt tripping

Manipulators are among the last people on Earth anyone should feel sorry for, yet they’ll often portray victimhood to achieve their goals. Episodes of guilt-tripping can range from a long-winded strong of words with a tone of desperation, to a long period of silence, i.e., the “silent treatment.”

Some manipulators may announce their “plan” to harm themselves or others. Though these pleas are often devoid of any real intent, it’s best to involve local authorities and advise them of the situation.

manipulator

Some manipulators may announce their “plan” to harm themselves or others. Though these pleas are often devoid of any real intent, it’s best to involve local authorities and advise them of the situation.

4. Use of negative humor

Manipulators, as is apparent, are obnoxious and shameless – traits that are revealed in their sense of “humor.” They’ll poke fun at your “appearance, to your older model smart phone, to your background and credentials, to the fact that you walked in two minutes late and out of breath,” and do so with stinging sarcasm designed to camouflage their real intent: to declare some type of psychological superiority over you.

5. Sweet talking

No, this isn’t the type of sweet talking we’ve heard from our beloved relatives. There’s nothing genuine about a manipulator’s words – except those carefully concocted to deceive their victims.

For most of us, the manner in which we speak to people correlates with our relationship. For example, we’ll speak to our best friend much differently than a stranger at the coffee shop. Most (stable) individuals will not shower someone with compliments upon first meeting them.

A manipulator that leverages sweet talk attempts to hasten a personal connection by lavishing you with compliments. Picture a 100 words-per-second salesman; then multiply the level of inappropriateness ten-fold.

If the words don’t match the relationship, you’re probably talking to someone with manipulative intent.

Protecting yourself

Manipulators can inflict all sorts of damage, and in varying degrees. From the conniving coworker to the Bernie Madoffs, we can learn how to protect ourselves from these contorted souls.

Here are four ways of dealing with manipulators suggested by Lisa Hutchinson – a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), intuitive psychotherapist, and empath expert:

  1. “Remember and have awareness of a person’s history and their behavioral tactics.”
  2. “Trust your instincts,” do not focus only on what the person says. Your intuition can evoke feelings of something feeling off, “trust in that, no matter who that person is.”
  3. “Decide whether you will speak up or detach.” Is the person worth the effort – or should you just disengage?
  4. “Consult a professional counselor,” “(intuitive psychotherapists can feel) …when someone else is attempting to hurt you. (They) can assist you with what to say, how to respond and how to protect your energies in these types of instances.”
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References:
Hutchinson, L. (2016, August 23). How to Recognize Manipulation & Protect Your Energy. Retrieved June 3, 2017, from https://connectingempathichelpersandartiststospirit.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/how-to-recognize-manipulation-protect-your-energy/

Ni, P. (2015, October 11). 14 Signs of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation. Retrieved June 3, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201510/14-signs-psychological-and-emotional-manipulation
Simon, G.K. (1996). In Sheep’s Clothing: Understand and Dealing with Manipulative People. Parkhurst Brothers, Inc.

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