9 signs someone is secretly manipulating you, according to psychology

Ava Sinclair by Ava Sinclair | March 21, 2024, 7:46 pm

There’s a fine line between someone genuinely influencing you and someone sneakily manipulating you.

This line comes down to transparency. When a person manipulates you, they’re trying to steer you towards their desired outcome, all while keeping their real agenda hidden.

On the contrary, someone who’s influencing you does so openly and with your best interest at heart.

Let’s dive into the telltale signs that someone is secretly pulling your strings, unbeknownst to you.

1) They’re masters of guilt trips

Manipulators are experts at playing with your emotions. They know exactly what buttons to push to make you feel bad about not doing what they want.

This guilt trip is a classic manipulation tactic that’s often used to make you comply with their wishes.

It’s a psychological game where they try to make you feel responsible for their happiness or success. And if things don’t go as per their plan, they blame you for it.

The moment you start feeling guilty for things you shouldn’t, it’s worth considering whether you’re being manipulated.

2) They often play the victim

I remember a friend who always seemed to be having the worst day ever. Every conversation revolved around her problems and how the world was against her.

Over time, I realized this was her way of manipulating me. By playing the victim, she was able to get my sympathy and support. She was using my empathy as a tool to get what she wanted, whether it was more time, attention, or help with her tasks.

3) They’re experts at gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique where a person makes you question your own sanity, perception, or memories to gain power and control.

This term originates from the 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s losing her mind. This method of manipulation is so prevalent that it’s been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a form of psychological abuse.

4) They never take responsibility

A common trait among manipulators is their inability, or rather unwillingness, to take responsibility for their actions.

They are experts at deflecting blame and shifting the focus onto others. Even when they are clearly at fault, they’ll find a way to twist the narrative and make it seem like someone else’s mistake.

The aim here is to keep you on the back foot, always defending yourself and never questioning them. This strategy helps them maintain control and avoid accountability.

5) They use your insecurities against you

They zero in on your weaknesses and exploit them to their advantage. This tactic can make you feel vulnerable and dependent on them for validation, giving them the upper hand in the relationship.

For instance, they might subtly bring up past mistakes to make you feel inadequate or keep pointing out your flaws to undermine your confidence.

When someone constantly plays on your insecurities rather than supporting you, it’s a telltale sign of manipulation.

6) They isolate you from your support system

Isolation is a powerful tool in the manipulator’s toolbox.

They understand that your friends and family are your pillars of strength. These are the people who will likely notice the manipulation and call it out. So, to prevent this, manipulators subtly work towards isolating you from your support system.

They may do this by creating misunderstandings, planting seeds of doubt, or making you feel guilty for spending time with others. The goal is to make you reliant on them – emotionally and socially.

Losing touch with your loved ones can feel devastating. It’s important to recognize this pattern and reach out for help if you ever find yourself in such a situation. Remember, it’s not just about you – your loved ones miss you too.

7) They make you question your worth

I’ve been there, stuck in a situation where no matter how much I achieved or how hard I worked, it was never enough. The person always found a way to belittle my accomplishments and make me feel like I was lacking.

This constant undermining of self-worth is a classic manipulation tactic. It’s designed to make you feel inferior, so you’re more likely to do what they want in an effort to seek their approval.

8) They’re always ‘just joking’

Manipulators often use humor as a disguise for their hurtful comments.

They’ll say something demeaning or critical, and then brush it off as a joke when you express your discomfort. This allows them to get away with saying hurtful things without facing the consequences.

By doing this, they are not only putting you down but also making you question your reaction. You might find yourself wondering if you’re too sensitive or lack a sense of humor.

However, constant negative ‘jokes’ at your expense are not harmless fun. Always trust your feelings – if a joke doesn’t feel like one, it probably isn’t.

9) Your gut tells you something is off

Your intuition is a powerful tool. If you consistently feel uneasy around someone, it may be because they’re manipulating you.

Your gut feelings are often your subconscious picking up on subtle signs. If you’ve been feeling anxious, uncomfortable, or stressed around a person without any apparent reason, it’s worth paying attention to those feelings.

Keep in mind, trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.

Final reflections: It’s about self-awareness

The complex dance between manipulation and influence is deeply rooted in our interactions, and sometimes, it can be challenging to distinguish between the two.

One key factor in navigating this maze is self-awareness. This involves understanding your worth, acknowledging your feelings, and trusting your gut instincts.

As you navigate through your relationships, keep these signs in mind. Know that you are worthy of respect and kindness, and anyone who makes you feel otherwise may not have your best interests at heart.