10 signs someone is actually manipulating you, according to psychology

Ethan Sterling by Ethan Sterling | May 22, 2024, 2:46 pm

We all want to believe that people are genuine in their actions and words.

But let’s face it, sometimes they’re not.

It can be hard to discern between someone truly guiding us or manipulating us under the guise of influence.

Manipulation is a subtle art of twisting someone’s thoughts or actions to fit your own agenda, often without them even realizing it.

And it can be a tricky thing to spot, especially when it’s happening to you.

Psychology has given us some telltale signs to look out for when it comes to spotting manipulation.

So, let’s delve into these 10 signs that someone might actually be manipulating you, according to psychology.

It’s time we learn how to distinguish between genuine influence and manipulation.

1) They play the victim card

Have you ever encountered someone who always seems to be at the receiving end of life’s injustices?

This could be a subtle manipulation tactic.

Manipulators often have an uncanny ability to play the victim.

They are adept at turning situations around to make it look like they’re the ones being wronged, even when they’re clearly at fault.

This behavior is their defense mechanism – a way to divert attention from their own actions and manipulate you into feeling sorry for them.

Playing the victim allows them to gain sympathy and control others’ perceptions.

It’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and to justify any negative behavior on their part.

This tactic often leaves you feeling guilty and obliged to help or comply with their desires, even when it’s not in your best interest.

If you notice that someone frequently portrays themselves as a victim, especially in situations where it doesn’t seem warranted, this could be a sign of their manipulation tactics in disguise.

Be careful not to let their sob stories sway your judgment and cloud your perception of reality.

It’s essential to stay objective and not allow their victim mentality to control your actions or decisions.

2) They guilt trip you

A master manipulator knows just how to make you feel guilty even when you’ve done nothing wrong.

This is one of their most potent weapons, a classic tactic used to gain power and control.

They might use phrases like “After all I’ve done for you,” or “I can’t believe you would treat me this way,” making you feel like you owe them something.

This is designed to keep you on your toes and make you work harder to please them.

Guilt is a powerful emotion and manipulators know this.

They use it to make you feel responsible for their happiness or well-being. In reality, it’s not your job to fix their problems or fulfill all their needs.

If someone consistently makes you feel guilty for your actions, especially when you know in your heart that you’ve done nothing wrong, it may be a sign of manipulation.

So, if you find yourself constantly feeling guilty around someone, it might be a sign that they’re manipulating you.

Remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and prioritize your own needs too.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself or your actions without a justified reason.

It’s important to stand your ground and not let unwarranted guilt erode your self-esteem.

3) They often deflect the subject

Manipulative people have a knack for steering the conversation in a direction that suits them, especially when they’re in a tight spot.

This is known as diversion or deflection.

Consider this: in the art of magic, misdirection is a form of deception in which the performer draws attention away from their secretive actions to create an illusion.

Similarly, manipulators use this tactic in conversations to avoid accountability or to shift the focus from themselves to something else.

If someone consistently changes the subject, especially when they’re being questioned or confronted about their actions, it could be a subtle sign of manipulation.

Stay vigilant and don’t let them sidestep important issues.

It’s crucial to keep the conversation focused and address the matters at hand without getting derailed by their diversions.

4) They gaslight you

Gaslighting is one of the most insidious forms of manipulation, and it can be incredibly damaging.

This tactic involves the manipulator denying or twisting reality to make you question your own sanity and reality.

 They might deny things that have happened, contradict your memories, or make you feel like you’re overreacting or imagining things.

They cause you to doubt your memory, judgement, and even your sanity.

You might find yourself constantly second-guessing your recollections or feeling confused about what’s real and what’s not.

This is a classic sign of gaslighting and it can be incredibly damaging to your self-esteem and mental health.

So if you find yourself doubting your own perceptions or memories around a certain person, it might be a sign that they’re manipulating you.

Trust in yourself and your experiences – don’t let anyone distort your reality.

5) They use your words against you

Manipulators are often very cunning and skilled at using your own words against you.

They’ll twist what you say to fit their narrative or use it as ammunition in arguments or disagreements.

For instance, you might mention something you’re sensitive about, and they’ll use this information later to make you feel bad or gain the upper hand.

This is a clear manipulation tactic designed to keep you on the back foot and make them seem superior or in control.

So, if you notice someone consistently using your words against you, it could be a sign they’re manipulating you.

Remember, open and honest communication should lead to understanding and resolution, not be used as a weapon.

6) They never seem to be at fault

In the world of a manipulator, they’re rarely, if ever, at fault.

They have a knack for turning the tables and making you feel like you’re always the one to blame.

This can be incredibly disheartening and emotionally draining.

You might find yourself constantly apologizing or feeling like you’re walking on eggshells around them, afraid of doing something wrong.

But here’s the truth: nobody is perfect.

We all make mistakes. It’s a part of being human.

So if someone never takes responsibility for their actions and always makes you feel like the guilty party, it’s a sign you’re being manipulated.

Remember, everyone deserves to be in a relationship where both parties can admit their faults and work towards improving together.

You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

7) They’re excessively charming

It’s easy to assume that manipulative people will always have an unlikable demeanor, but the reality is often quite the opposite.

Manipulators can be incredibly charming and charismatic.

This is not because they are genuinely warm or friendly, but because they use their charm as a tool to win your trust and lower your defenses.

If someone seems too good to be true, always agreeing with you, flattering you excessively, or showering you with undeserved praise, it might not be as innocent as it appears.

It could be a calculated move to make you more susceptible to their manipulation.

Remember, genuine people will have their disagreements with you and won’t constantly try to flatter you.

So stay alert and don’t let their charm blind you to the possibility of underlying manipulation.

8) They make you feel indebted to them

A manipulator will often do things for you, not necessarily out of kindness, but as a way to create a sense of obligation.

They might constantly remind you of the favors they’ve done or the sacrifices they’ve made for you, making you feel like you owe them something in return.

This sense of indebtedness is a powerful tool they can use to control you and get you to do what they want.

So if someone is constantly reminding you of what they’ve done for you and expecting something in return, it might be a sign they’re manipulating you.

Remember, true kindness doesn’t come with strings attached.

9) They give you the silent treatment

Silence can be golden, but when used manipulatively, it becomes a weapon of emotional warfare.

Silent treatment is a common tactic used by manipulators to punish you or to exert control.

When you don’t behave the way they want, they might respond with prolonged periods of silence or ignoring your attempts at communication.

This is designed to make you feel uncomfortable, guilty, or anxious, forcing you to comply with their wishes just to end the silence.

If someone in your life uses silence as a form of punishment or control, this could be a sign of manipulative behavior.

It’s essential to remember that healthy communication is key in any relationship.

Don’t let the fear of silent treatment force you into submission.

Stand your ground and foster open and respectful dialogue instead.

10) They dismiss your feelings

This is perhaps one of the most significant signs of manipulation: a manipulator will often dismiss or invalidate your feelings.

If you express discomfort, sadness, or anger about their behavior, they might accuse you of being too sensitive, overreacting, or misunderstanding the situation.

This is a way to deflect attention from their actions and make you feel like your emotions are not valid or important.

But here’s the thing: your feelings are valid.

They’re real and they matter. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

If someone consistently dismisses or belittles your feelings, it’s a clear sign of manipulation.

Stand firm in your truth and don’t let anyone undermine your emotions.

Final thoughts: Your wellbeing is paramount

The world of a manipulator is complex and often rooted in their own insecurities and fears. 

Delving into the world of manipulation can be unsettling, but it’s crucial to remember that your mental and emotional wellbeing should always take precedence.

Understanding these signs of manipulation can provide you with the tools to recognize and navigate such situations.

It’s about arming yourself with knowledge, setting boundaries, and standing firm in your truth.

Their tactics are not always conscious.

Some manipulators may not even realize that what they’re doing is manipulative.

They might have learned these behaviors in their early environment, where manipulation was the norm, and now use them as a way to get their needs met.

However, this does not excuse their behavior.

Remember, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

It’s okay to set boundaries and say no when you feel uncomfortable.

It’s also okay to seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about a relationship.

Manipulation is not about your shortcomings, but rather the manipulator’s own insecurities and desire for control. 

Dealing with manipulative people can be challenging and draining, but remember that you have the right to voice your feelings, to be heard, and to be respected.  

In the end, understanding is power – the power to recognize manipulation when it happens, the power to defend yourself against it, and the power to choose healthier relationships moving forward.