I am sure you heard of psychological manipulation. This can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.
However, before we go to explore psychological manipulation, it is important to distinguish healthy social influence from psychological manipulation. Healthy social influence occurs between most people and is part of the give and take of constructive relationships. In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda. Here are some examples of psychological manipulation.
Home Court Advantage
A manipulative individual may insist on you meeting and interacting in a physical space where he or she can exercise more dominance and control.
Let You Speak First to Establish Your Baseline
By asking general and probing questions, they establish a baseline about your thinking and behavior, from which they can then evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, this type of questioning with hidden agendas can also occur at the workplace or in personal relationships.
Manipulation of Facts
Excuse making. Lying. Two-faced. Blaming the victim for causing their own victimization. Deformation of the truth. Strategic disclosure or withholding of key information. Exaggeration. Understatement.
Overwhelm with Facts and Statistics
Some individuals enjoy “intellectual bullying” by presuming to be the expert and most knowledgeable in certain areas. They take advantage of you by imposing alleged facts, statistics, and other data you may know little about.
Overwhelm with Procedures and Red Tape
Certain people use bureaucracy – paperwork, procedures, laws and by-laws, committees, and other roadblocks to maintaining their position and power while making your life more difficult. This technique can also be used to delay fact-finding and truth-seeking, hide flaws and weaknesses, and evade scrutiny.
Raising Voice and Showing Negative Emotions
Some individuals raise their voice during discussions as a form of aggressive manipulation. The assumption may be that if they project their voice loudly enough, or display negative emotions, you’ll submit to their coercion and give them what they want.
Negative Surprises as a psychological manipulation
Some people use negative surprises to put you off balance and gain a psychological advantage. This can range from low balling in a negotiation situation, to a sudden profession that she or he will not be able to come through and deliver in some way. Typically, the unexpected negative information comes without warning, so you have little time to prepare and counter their move.
Giving Little or No Time to Decide
The manipulator puts pressure on you to make a decision before you’re ready. By applying tension and control onto you it is hoped that you will “crack” and give in to the aggressor’s demands.
Negative Humour Designed to Poke at Your Weaknesses
Some manipulators like to make critical remarks, often disguised as humor or sarcasm, to make you seem inferior and less secure. Examples can include any variety of comments ranging from your appearance to your older model smartphone, to your background and credentials.
Consistent Judgment and Criticism
Distinct from the previous behavior where negative humor is used as a cover, here the manipulator outright picks on you. By constantly marginalizing, ridiculing, and dismissing you, she or he keeps you off-balance and maintains her superiority. The aggressor deliberately fosters the impression that there’s always something wrong with you, and that no matter how hard you try, you are inadequate and will never be good enough.
The Silent Treatment
By deliberately not responding to your reasonable calls, text messages, emails, or other inquiries, the manipulator presumes power by making you wait and intends to place doubt and uncertainty in your mind. The silent treatment is a head game where silence is used as a form of leverage.
This is the classic “playing dumb” tactic. By pretending she or he doesn’t understand what you want, or what you want her to do, the manipulator makes you take on what is her responsibility and gets you to break a sweat. Some children use this tactic in order to delay, stall, and manipulate adults into doing for them what they don’t want to do. Some grown-ups use this tactic as well when they have something to hide or an obligation they wish to avoid.
Unreasonable blaming. Targeting recipient’s soft spot. Holding another responsible for the manipulator’s happiness and success, or unhappiness and failures. By targeting the recipient’s emotional weaknesses and vulnerability, the manipulator coerces the recipient into ceding unreasonable requests and demands.
Exaggerated or imagined personal issues. Exaggerated or imagined health issues. Dependency or co-dependency. Deliberate frailty to elicit sympathy and favor. Playing weak, powerless. The purpose of manipulative victimhood is often to exploit the recipient’s goodwill, guilty consciousness, sense of duty and obligation, or protective and nurturing instinct, in order to extract unreasonable benefits and concessions.
Emotional manipulators often use mind games to seize power in a relationship. The ultimate goal is to use that power to control the other person. A healthy relationship is based on trust, understanding, and mutual respect. This is true of personal relationships, as well as professional ones. Sometimes, people seek to exploit these elements of a relationship in order to benefit themselves in some way. The signs of emotional manipulation can be subtle. They’re often hard to identify, especially when they’re happening to you. You can learn to recognize the manipulation and stop it. You can also learn to protect your self-esteem and sanity, too.