A manipulator is a person that deliberately aims to create an imbalance of power. A manipulator’s goal is to exploit the victim to serve their agenda.
Manipulators share five common characteristics:
They are skilled at finding and exploiting your weaknesses.
They are skilled at using your weaknesses against you to take control of your thoughts, feelings and interpretations.
They are able to shrewdly convince you to give up part of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests.
Once they succeed in taking advantage of you, they will likely repeat the process to continue getting what they want.
They do all the above while pushing the limits of your tolerance and testing the waters to make sure they don’t cross that line and « break their toy ».
TO SPOT A MANIPULATOR QUICKLY, you need to learn to recognize manipulative behavior. Here are some common behaviors to look out for:
Guilt Trip i.e. seeking to make you feel guilt and regret. This behavior makes you feel bad about acting based on your own values.
Assumption Clause i.e. seeking to turn your behavior into what the manipulator perceives it to be, even if their interpretation is inaccurate. The manipulator wants you to second-guess yourself and/or feel guilty for things that you said, thought or felt.
He Said, She Said i.e. telling you what someone else said is the right thing to do. It’s a clever way for the manipulator to make something more plausible while taking responsibility away from themselves.
Double-Crossing i.e. trash-talking, backstabbing, over-criticizing. The manipulator tries to triangulate relationships, pitting people against each other. If they can do it to others, they can do it to you.
Confrontation Statement i.e. provoking an argument that will end in you feeling terrible over something you said. The manipulator wants you to feel sympathetic for them so as to get your guard down for further manipulation.
Self-Pity i.e. making themselves appear as the victim or the one needing special care. Again, the goal is to use your empathy against you. If they can make you feel sorry for them, you’ll be vulnerable to manipulation.
Everyone behaves manipulatively at some point in their life. We’re only human. However, a manipulator is someone that has turned this behavior into a habit, a part of their character. Manipulators have no desire or reason to want to change. I consider it to be a mental disorder that society has yet to recognize as such.
OPTION 1: Spot them, and avoid them.
Pretty straight-forward. If you really don’t want to deal with manipulation anymore, it’s your right to keep it out of your life. Weed them out of your life if you have to.
OPTION 2: Fight back and disarm them.
For those of you wondering « What if you can’t avoid them? What if it is a close friend, a loved one, or someone you work with? If the manipulator can’t be avoided, option 2 would be to « disarm » them. Here’s how:
The weapon of choice against Deception is Transparency.
You’ll notice that the six manipulative behaviors I describe above all have something in common – they require that the manipulator either fabricate, exaggerate, trivialize or distort the truth in a way that leverages it to their own benefit.
Truth-Bending is a form of Deception.
When you sense this, invite stakeholders into the situation – as many of them as you can. Confirm the facts, ask the right questions, share truth with those who need to know, speak openly to those involved. Verify everything that the manipulator tells you. Don’t take their word for it – check for yourself. Clear things up! Create a transparent environment where execution of manipulative tactics is close to impossible.
In the absence of light, darkness will always prevail. Your aim must be to turn on the lights. It’s passive-aggressive, non-threatening, and it works.