Five Warning Signs of a Manipulative Personality

African American couple arguing on couch - Five Warning Signs of a Manipulative Personality
Written by: David Davenport Contributing author Healing Arts Institute

There are at least five warning signs of a manipulative personality of which people should be aware.

The average person will interact with dozens of different people each day. Sometimes we might feel that some of these people want more from us than we are comfortable providing. Relationships with most people in our lives will likely be positive (or at the very least neutral). Some people may try to use you to attain their desires in manipulative ways.

Long term and repeated contact with people like this can make us feel uneasy, suspicious, and given enough time – resentful. They can chip away at our self-worth and our mental well-being. 

Below are five warning signs of manipulative personalities that you should watch out for.

People Who Take Advantage of Your Kindness

If you are the type of person who is willing to help anyone in need, it may be difficult to discern that someone you are helping may be taking advantage of you.

In a healthy relationship, there should be a reciprocation of kindness from the other person. They may not be able to give back in the same way that you can, but the expectation is for them to show kindness where they are able.

A manipulative person will often take the kindness provided to them and then expect even more without returning anything. 

They may point to a physical or emotional ailment (real or perceived) to garner sympathy and continue to extract the attention or adoration they desire. But to a manipulative person, it will never be enough. They will always want more, and they will rarely give back to you.

People Who Make You Feel Guilty All the Time

Master manipulators know that they can get what they want by making you feel like you owe them something. They may use phrases such as “If you loved me, you would…” or “You always do this…”

If you find yourself becoming angry when someone makes you feel guilty, perhaps you are already subconsciously aware of the manipulation. Do not ignore this when it happens, as this will lead to increased anger and resentment towards yourself and that other person.

People Who Lie Often and Intentionally

Spreading rumors and inciting drama among friends, family, or work associates is a favorite tactic of people with manipulative personalities. In doing so, they can attempt to steer group perception in their favor. There is the bonus that they might be able to make you feel guilty about standing your ground.

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

People Who Gaslight You

The term gaslighting refers to a tactic where someone tries to convince you that something you have seen or heard is not real. A manipulative person may fervently deny having said or done something even though you clearly remember it happening. They may do this to the point of absurdity but will never admit to it.

If you ever confront them about their behavior, the manipulator will often pretend as if they have no idea what you are talking about. They will make it seem that their behavior is completely normal, and it is YOU who is problematic.

They use gaslighting to hide their other manipulative tactics or out of embarrassment for having been discovered and called out.

Over long periods this behavior can make you feel like you are going crazy, constantly second-guessing yourself and your perception of reality.

People Who Never Accept Blame

Watch out for people who are quick to point the finger of blame towards others while rarely taking responsibility. While it never feels good to accept fault for something that went wrong, a mature and authentic person will readily do so without feeling threatened.

Manipulative people will often deflect blame even when they were responsible.

While it’s natural to want to deny fault for doing something wrong, a manipulative person will burn bridges and salt the earth behind them to avoid being blamed.

Be careful.

Some of these behaviors are practiced by people who are intentionally trying to manipulate, but there is the possibility some may not be consciously aware of what they are doing. Some people who have suffered abuse may have adopted these tactics as a means of social survival.

It is advisable not to accuse people you suspect of being manipulative. The underlying cause of the behavior may be a more disturbing psychological problem and you do not want to make matters worse.

If you suspect that you are being manipulated, read our blog article “How to Beat Narcissists With The Grey Rock Method” to learn about one possible way to deal with them.

Healing Arts Institute offers specialized therapeutic services from highly trained and empathetic professionals. Call or visit our website to learn more about how we can help you through your healing journey and realize your full potential.

Citations:

Kirmani, Amna, and Rui (Juliet) Zhu. “Vigilant against Manipulation: The Effect of Regulatory Focus on the Use of Persuasion Knowledge.” Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 44, no. 4, 2007, pp. 688–701. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30162512.

Nicki, Andrea. “BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER, DISCRIMINATION, AND SURVIVORS OF CHRONIC CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 9, no. 1, 2016, pp. 218–245. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/90011865.

Rudinow, Joel. “Manipulation.” Ethics, vol. 88, no. 4, 1978, pp. 338–347. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2380239.

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