How to Detect and Avoid Psychological Manipulation
It can be extremely difficult to recognize psychological manipulation, especially when it could be happening to you. Manipulative human beings are good at what they do, and their abusive behavior is tailored in ways that virtually ensures it can continue.
According to Professor Preston Ni in Psychology Today, psychological manipulation can be observed when “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.” Listen to your intuition and other gut feelings, but also scrutinize the list below so you can identify psychological manipulation—and prevent it.
#1: “You go first.”
Psychological manipulators are like salesmen in the sense that they utilize “prospecting” and “baselines” to learn your thinking and behavior before carefully choosing how to respond (and manipulate). Manipulators tend to do this frequently, but it’s necessary to always refuse to play along if you want to avoid ever being manipulated.
Facts and stats are invaluable, but only when they are true, and only when they can be confirmed. It’s OK to give someone the benefit of the doubt once, but if what they say and claim eventually proves to be untrue, you must not believe anything they say—for the sake of your own well-being.
#3: Pretending not to have knowledge or understand.
Ignorance enables manipulators to “play dumb” in order to keep their lies or deceptions secret; so don’t be ignorant of these techniques! Again, it’s OK to give someone the benefit of doubt to start, but you need to pay attention to their behavior afterward to ensure that they weren’t deceiving you. If someone deceives you once, you simply can’t trust them until you’re convinced they’re changed their ways (based on long-term observations and inquiries).
#4: Pressure and forced decisions.
Rushed decisions are often uncalculated, impulsive, and unwise, which is why manipulators love compelling people to answer their questions and pleas immediately. In these situations, most human beings are more likely to go along with what someone wants them to do, or they’ll be more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt(s). If it’s clearly not a life or death situation, always think the circumstances, options, and motives through before deciding on where you stand or what you’ll do.
Psychological manipulators may insist that you meet them at a specific place at a specific time, and they’ll come up with whatever excuses are necessary in order to compel you to show up as planned. If you are meeting somewhere that is new to you but well-known to the other person, they will be much more comfortable, and they will have the advantage of being able to plan other specific deceptions as well. Be aware of this, and don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
Passive-aggressive remarks are normally efficient and effective ways to make someone feel guilty—even when there’s no reason that they should feel guilty at all. Constant guilting or shaming leads to anxiety issues, which makes it even easier to be psychologically manipulated. Stay aware.
If it occurs to you that it always seems like a certain person is trying to convince you or persuade you almost every time they interact with you, this is a strong sign that they are a psychological manipulator.
Aggressive actions such as using hurtful language or even using physical violence are clear signs of a psychological manipulator. Don’t put up with this behavior, and call for help if you witness anyone being subjected to these verbally and physically abusive actions.
Refusing to answer or respond to calls, text messages, emails, or in-person words gives manipulators the power and control which they crave. If you find that someone is using this technique on you, just stop trying to contact them and devote your time and energy to more positive and productive things.