If you recognize these 9 traits, you’re dealing with a master emotional manipulator

Lucas Graham by Lucas Graham | June 28, 2024, 9:41 am

Manipulation isn’t simply influencing you with honesty and transparency—it’s a crafty attempt to control your feelings and decisions without you realizing it.

And often, master emotional manipulators know just which buttons to push to make you dance to their tune.

But don’t worry, there are still a lot of telltale signs that give them away, and in this article, we’re going to expose those traits.

So sit tight and get ready as we discuss the traits that show you’re dealing with a master emotional manipulator.

Are you ready? Let’s begin!

1) They know your weaknesses

Much like detectives, emotional manipulators are very good at identifying your weak spots and preying on them.

So good, it’s unsettling, honestly.

They’ll observe your behaviors, listen to your fears, and take note of your insecurities.

And then, they’ll use this information to their advantage.

Don’t be fooled; they don’t want to help you overcome these weaknesses or fears.

They’re using them as leverage to control you and make you do what they want.

Consider it a red flag if someone seems overly interested in your weak spots or consistently brings them up in ways that make you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

2) They make you question your reality

This is something I’ve personally experienced with a friend.

I’d come to them with a concern or issue, only to have it turned around on me. It was as if my feelings were invalid, and I was the one in the wrong for even bringing it up.

One instance that sticks out is when I confronted them about their constant laziness.

Instead of acknowledging it, they responded with, “You’re always overreacting.

Can’t you see I’m busy? Maybe if you were more understanding, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

All the deflection and blame-shifting pointed to one thing: they were gaslighting me.

Suddenly, I found myself apologizing and doubting my own feelings. 

It took me a while to realize that this was a manipulation tactic, not a reflection of my character.

So if you’re going through the same thing, know that it’s not a you problem. Don’t let them convince you otherwise.

3) They’re always the victim

Here’s something to note: emotional manipulators excel at playing the victim.

No matter what happens, they always seem to be at the receiving end of bad luck or unfair treatment.

The world, according to them, is always against them.

Interestingly, in psychological terms, this behavior is referred to as a victim mentality.

It’s a type of dysfunctional thinking where someone constantly feels persecuted and refuses to take responsibility for their actions.

This constant portrayal of themselves as victims serves two purposes:

  1. It elicits sympathy and help from others;
  2. It provides a perfect excuse to evade accountability for their wrongdoings.

So, if you notice someone constantly painting themselves as an innocent victim, tread carefully.

You might be dealing with an emotional manipulator.

4) They use guilt to control you

Emotional manipulators will blame you for their own failures or shortcomings, saying things like, “If only you supported me more, I would have succeeded”.

Or they might use more subtle tactics, like implying that you’re selfish if you don’t cater to their every need.

The goal is simple:

To make you feel so guilty and bad about yourself that you’ll do whatever they want just to make amends.

This kind of manipulation can be incredibly damaging, sapping your self-esteem and making you feel like you’re always in the wrong.

5) They’re hot and cold with their affection

Emotional manipulators are rarely consistent with their affection.

One minute they’re showering you with love and attention, and the next, they’re cold and distant.

This unpredictable behavior is a tactic known as intermittent reinforcement, and it’s incredibly effective.

When someone is consistently nice to you, you come to expect it.

But when someone is nice only occasionally, you end up working harder to earn their affection because it’s not a sure thing.

This inconsistent behavior can create an unhealthy dynamic where you’re always seeking their approval and validation. 

And it works because it keeps you on your toes, constantly trying to please them.

6) They make you feel like you’re not enough

This is perhaps the most excruciating part of dealing with an emotional manipulator.

They have a way of making you feel like you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough… just never enough.

It’s a subtle form of manipulation, often disguised as “constructive criticism” or “just being honest”.

But the intent is far from helpful.

It’s designed to tear you down—to make you feel unworthy and inadequate.

This constant belittling can eat away at your self-esteem, making you more dependent on their validation and approval.

It can make you feel like you’re always falling short, always needing to prove your worth.

7) They never apologize

In my experience, emotional manipulators never truly apologize. Sure, they might say the words, but there’s always an excuse or a justification attached.

I remember a time when I was hurt by a friend’s harsh words.

When I expressed my feelings, instead of a sincere apology, I got, “I’m sorry if you felt that way, but I was just telling the truth.”

Notice the ‘if’ and ‘but’ in that apology? It shifts the blame onto me, making it my fault for feeling hurt.

This way, they avoided taking responsibility for their actions.

A genuine apology involves acknowledging one’s mistake and taking responsibility for it.

If someone consistently offers insincere apologies or avoids apologizing altogether, it’s a clear sign of manipulation.

8) They isolate you from others

Isolation is a classic control tactic used by manipulators.

That’s why they often try to isolate you from your support network.

They might make negative comments about your friends or family, creating doubts in your mind about those relationships.

The goal is to make you feel like they’re the only one who truly understands you, the only one who truly cares.

By cutting you off from others, they gain more control over your emotions and decisions.

9) They’re skilled at faking innocence and ignorance

The most important thing to know about emotional manipulators is this:

They’re very good at playing innocent.

When confronted, they’ll often act confused or pretend they have no idea what you’re talking about.

This feigned innocence allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. It’s a strategic move to make you question your judgement and perception.

So if someone consistently acts clueless or innocent when you confront them about their behavior, don’t dismiss your feelings.

Trust your instincts. You might just be dealing with a master emotional manipulator.

Final thoughts: Knowledge is power

Manipulators often prey on empathy. They exploit your capacity to care and your willingness to understand.

Manipulation, in its essence, is a perversion of empathy.

But remember, your empathy is not a weakness. It’s a strength that you can wield wisely.

The key lies in awareness and understanding.

Recognizing the traits of an emotional manipulator is the first step towards protecting yourself and reclaiming your emotional autonomy.

The more you know about these tactics, the better equipped you’ll be to handle them.

After all, knowledge isn’t just power, but a powerful protection against people who seek to control you.