What is Manipulative Behavior? and How to Avoid being Manipulated?

What is manipulative behavior

Did you ever feel guilty after saying you couldn't help a friend or family member? Did it come from you, or was it something another person said that made you feel it? When it is the latter, you might have been subject to emotional blackmail and manipulation.

But what is manipulative behavior, and how can you detect it? And how can you avoid emotional blackmail?

Most of us have already been victims of emotional blackmail and manipulation at some point in our lives. Sometimes obvious other times, harder to see.

You are at work and notice a strange interaction between two colleagues. One of the colleagues is known for his high-maintenance demeanor, starts giving the other the cold shoulder ignoring them, and walks away while the other colleague tries to start a conversation.

Most will probably excuse the behavior or even ignore it. We would assume they had a bad day or just had trouble at home. Typical such actions are not frowned upon but rather explained and even permitted.

But it is, of course, wrong such behavior shouldn't be allowed; it is aggression. Someone who acts like this should be stopped and confronted. You can do this with the right tools and strategies.

What is manipulative behavior?

You may already see it when someone makes a subtle put down in a social gathering which is hurtful but without making the trigger person look bad.

Some people are manipulators who like to fight others and put them down to make themselves look better. This doesn't mean manipulators are the only people with bad behavior; indeed, most people fight from time to time.

Assertive fighting for our legitimate needs is often constructed and necessary when we respect others in the process. For instance, football players compete against each to win the game but with the rules.

Or in politics, where ideas and personality clash and the best candidates with the best promise are elected, at least, that is the idea.

The difference is that manipulative people fight aggressively, pushing their own agenda forward without regard for other peoples' feelings, interests, or rights.

Manipulators have a damaged conscience. Unlike most people, they are completely unable to see beyond their self-interest.

While most will conform to social rules by not intentionally upsetting people, manipulators see this defense to social norms as a submission act and will likely view it as a threat to their self-interest.

For example, Manipulative parents pressure their child to perform at a high level in school or sport without concern about their child's needs and wants. Or the teacher and school staff are more concerned with their own desire than how their action will affect a child.

The two types of manipulators

You usually don't get punched in the face unless you are a professional fighter. Most manipulators are not openly aggressive, so there is a possibility that there are manipulators in your life without you knowing it.

There are two manipulators types:

  • Overly aggressive manipulators are only hostile and don't hide their attempt to intimidate, control or hurt others.
  • Covert manipulators are just as restless in fighting to get what they want.

It is the same as passive aggression as they fight by remaining passive such as forgetting to do something you asked for because they are angry with you.

Covert aggressive actively use calculated, devious methods to get what they want. For example, they might simply deny that you made a request in the first place or divert your attention to some other problem when confronted about it.

Unfortunately, this type of aggression is quite popular in our society simply to its effectiveness. Say someone wants to get rid of an employee. It is much easier to just make life difficult by giving them too many tasks or setting unachievable goals. Then show it to HR minefield require to fire them.

Covert also allows the manipulator to fight an opponent while leaving their own reputation clean.

Imagine a pastor whose ambition leads him to neglect his family to pursue his career path. Hiding his devotion to God and his parishioners, he can use his ambition while having a positive image of spirituality and obedience. As a result, no one sees the obvious conflict between his belief and his neglect of his family responsibilities.

What are the tactics of manipulators?

There was probably some time you have been told not to take it personally when someone lashes out at you, or their bad behavior is a result of their own issues.

This view is widely spread and accepted. In our culture, people only display problem behavior when they are anxious or have been attacked themselves.

Say a person discreetly tells the secret that a competing colleague is gay while knowing their boss is terribly homophobic. It is tempting to think that his indiscretion is a result of his own victimization. Perhaps he was neglected during childhood or is repressing his own non-normative sexual urges.

Today society suffers from an overly permissive social climate in which many people suffer from too little, not too much inhibition. If some act with convicted and deceit today, they aren't repressed; they are a manipulator.

But manipulators don't only rely on society's views of bad behavior. Rather they work expertly to shift blame and responsibility to the victims. Manipulators have many tactics to achieve this, including minimizing, lying, diverting, or denying attention away from their behavior.

For instance, a person who only takes and never gives anything in a relationship might invoke their fear of intimacy in order to get sympathy from their partner while defeating the suggestion of their selfish aims. They may manage to make the victim feel guilty for being insensitive about their issue.

How to identify manipulation?

There are ways to look at how we can identify manipulators and put a stop to their bad behavior.

The first step to stopping manipulators from ruining your life is to recognize why you make too many excuses for someone. For example, a colleague reacts angrily every time, causing you to feel like you are always walking on eggshells. Or you don't constantly know what your partner wants because not getting their way makes them upset and uncommunicative.

In that case, you are likely being manipulated, and it is time to stop making excuses for your manipulator. If you give them too much room, they will take advantage of it.

It can be difficult because we want to believe that people are inherently good with pure intentions. But you simply have to realize it is nonsense.

CheatingTo recognize a manipulator, lookout for certain types of behavior that will betray their intentions. Consider the classic manipulation example to get an idea of what to look out for.

A woman decides to leave her husband when she finds out that he has been having an affair for many years. He responds by guilt-tripping her into staying, arguing that 15 years of marriage are going down the drain, and acknowledging her volition of their sacred promise.

If this doesn't work, he tries to shame her into staying by asking what all their family and friend will think about them. He even may try to make himself the victim by claiming he is the one being abused because she neglected their relationship.

When you see any behavior like this in your life, alarm bells should start ringing.

How to confront a manipulator?

Sometimes we don't have the courage to stand up to our aggressors. At the same time, experiences show that most problems don't go away until you fight back.

When confronting a manipulator, focus on the aggressor's harmful behavior. Focus on their action, not their interest, and don't get distracted by worrying about their mental state and how they might cause their behavior.

For instance, an abusive alcoholic who beats up their partner should first be confronted about their actions before looking at the cause. Looking for explanations and a reason for the abusive behavior and turning them into victims isn't helpful.

If you take a stand against a manipulator, ensure you communicate with them clearly and civilly. Ensure you ask direct requests and only accept direct responses. An answer other than yes or no could mean that your manipular is trying to wriggle their way out of the fight.

Avoid sarcasm, put-downs, and threats when confronting an aggressive manipulator this will only help them justify their aggressive tactics.

Often finding a win-win solution to a problem is the best way to resolve a conflict with a manipulator.

Aggressive manipulators always want to win. Keeping this in mind, you can define the terms and conditions of your agreement in such a way as to give the manipulator something they want in order to increase the change to resolve the conflict.

For example, if an overambitious spouse negligence family life in order to get a promotion at work, the partner who wants to save the relationship could propose a deal. She will actively support his ambitions when he spends more time with the family on weekends and evenings.

How to avoid being manipulated?

It is common wisdom that the better you know your relationship with the rest of the world will be. This is especially true when you deal with aggressive manipulators who might know your weakness even better than you do.

To avoid being manipulated, it is important to work on the chart flaws that can easily be exploited by manipulators, like self-esteem, naivete, or emotional dependency.

If a teacher lacks confidence in manipulation, students will engage in power games by testing boundaries and pushing to see what they can get away with while avoiding punishment.Teacher bullied in class

To win the battle against this bad behavior and assert her authority over the class, the teacher must recognize their lack of self-confidence. Only then can she turn the tide in her favor.

Importantly you should always be honest with yourself about your needs and desires in any given situation.

If you need to feel valued and respected, you might depend on other people's approval for your self-worth. This tendency can be easily exploited by manipulators who can offer simple while treating you poorly at the same time.

But suppose you know that you crave this attainment and accept it as part of your personality. In that case, you can better detect when you are being manipulated.

For instance, a housewife might deny herself to finish a college degree or pursue a long-term dream because it was important to her husband to have a household mangar and full-time wife.

However, she isn't honest with herself about having her own dream independently of her husband's desire. She won be able to step outside his shadow. She must first be honest with herself about what she wants before she can take any steps to improve her situation.

What is emotional blackmail?

Like other blackmail types, emotional blackmail is rooted in a fundamental threat. Often something along the lines of "if you don't do this for me, you will suffer consequences."

Classic emotional blackmail is when someone threatens to end a relationship because they know the other person cares too much about them to let that happen. The person would do anything to prevent it if forced. Whenever people threaten to make you suffer if you don't give them what they want, you are being emotionally blackmailed.

Chances are, you have been emotionally blackmailed more than a handful of times over the course of your life. The problem is it is very easy to walk straight into blackmailers' traps without realizing it. It happens in close relationships as the blackmailer knows you and your weakness extremely well.

For example, a blackmailer gets the best of someone who prides themselves on their generosity, compassion, and loyalty by calling them greedy, insensitive, and untrustworthy. Unless they do what the blackmailer wants them to do.

Despite deep psychological suffering, this behavior causes emotional blackmail that is hard to recognize as we don't want to see it. The fact that a loved one is manipulating you is a bitter truth to swallow. Many would rather turn a blind eye. But what can you do to weed out toxic relationships in your life?

How to spot emotional blackmail?

While emotional blackmail is hard to spot, you can diagnose it by seeking out the six key symptoms that distinguish it: desire, resistance, pressure, threats, compliance, and repetition. Moving In Couple

Emotional blackmail starts with an individual's desire being blocked by resistance. Take the example of Anna and Archie, a couple who sought therapy. Archie wanted to move in with Anna; this was his desire. But Anna, that deeply cared about Archie wasn't ready to live with him yet. She explained her own space was important to her and that it was her resistance to Archies desire.

Symptoms of pressure and threats mark the next stage of emotional blackmail. Archie didn't respect Anna's need for her own space and started to pressure her in hopes she would change her mind. He talked about how he wanted to take their relationship to the next level because he was committed to her.

He would even ask Anna if she really loved him or cared about their relationship as he did.

The problem was that even though Archie demanded empathy, understanding, and agreement with his desire for Anna, he didn't offer her these things at all. Instead, his pressure escalated into a disguised emotional threat as he said he might leave her if they couldn't live together.

But it didn't end there. The final two emotional blackmail symptoms are especially dangerous compliance and repetition. Once Archie was successful, and Anna gave in to his will, he won her compliance through her fear of losing or hurting him.

Even worse, compliance is the beginning of a slippery slope. Once Archie learned he could guilt Anna into meeting his demands, he would likely repeat this strategy, creating repetition and an endless cycle of emotional blackmail.

Why does fear fuel emotional blackmail?

The so-called FOG fear of obligation and guilt of emotional blackmail prevent us from seeing the actual state of our relationships.

Fear is the fuel of emotional blackmail. The blackmailer acts out of fear, using it as a weapon against their partner. People with manipulative behavior are often driven by a powerful fear of abandonment leftover from negative childhood experiences. This deep abandonment fear can cause people to manipulate others they care about as they fear they aren't truly loved.

Take Maria and Mark, a married couple where Maria provides for both of them. Mark secretly feared his wife would leave him for someone better financially and professionally off. So he reminds her how depressed she felt when she was single and warned her no other man would take her if they split. Mark blackmailed Maria into staying by her side.

She resends this but is too afraid to speak up against it for fear of Mark leaving her.

Obligation and guilt are blackmailed weapons that are joint with each other. When arising naturally, these feelings are normal. But when used in blackmail, obligations and guilt can make us feel lost and helpless.

A mother manipulating her grown-up child might use obligation in guilt to take her on vacation. She might argue that she put so much into raising them that it is the least they could do to show their appreciation, or it is simply what caring children would do.

If her children are negligent and don't spend a second thought about her, these claims might be more appropriate. But if her kids are continually generous and dedicated to her, that is when she's crossing the line.

Every relationship is different, but when obligation, fear, and guilt are used to cross boundaries, it is emotional blackmail.

The difference between resolving conflicts

Not all relationship conflicts are emotional blackmail. The key difference is wherever your partner wants to find a solution or simply wants to win.Couples Therapie

People who actively attempt to resolve conflicts will speak openly about what they want while considering their partner's feelings and desires. They try to find clearly and cooperatively the source of the tension and understand and accept ownership for their contribution to it.

Jill and Jack have been married for a long time, and one day Jack confesses to Jill ha has been unfaithful. Of course, Jill was upset and hurt. After taking some time to consider her feelings, she asked him to recommit to an exclusive relationship and go to couples therapy so their marriage could continue. Jill promised she wouldn't use Jack's infidelity against him to blackmail him for what she wanted him later.

Despite the complexity and heart-wrenching nature of such conflicts, they also have the opportunity to make a relationship strong than ever before. If both people respect and are open with one another and set boundaries as Jill did.

But Ron and Sarah face a similar issue in their marriage. After Ron admitted his infidelity, the outcome was different. Unlike Jill, Sarus used Ron's mistake as ammunition when she wanted something from him, whether an expensive present or undivided attention. At the same time, Ron's infidelity and the reconciliation path receive no attention at all.

By guilt-tripping Ron whenever she could, Sarah was using emotional blackmail.

Are you vulnerable to emotional blackmail?

We all are vulnerable to emotional blackmail, some more than others. It comes down to a handful of traits that make certain people more sensitive. These include the need for validation from others, difficulty with confrontation, low self-esteem, and desire to save others. People with such traits are likely to prioritize the blackmailer's needs above their own.

This was for Eve and Tom, an artist couple. While Tom was quite successful, Eve just got started. She moved in with him early in their relationship to save money. Later on, she showed interest in graphic design classes, but Tom was entirely against the idea.

He felt she was abandoning him by doing something new on her own and even competing with him. On the morning of her first class, he verbally attacked her, demanding to know why she insisted on hurting him this way. Eve knew that going to class was the right for her. And yet her inability to handle intense confrontation made her doubt herself. She stayed home and dropped the course.

Blackmail usually doesn't occur just once; it becomes a cycle. When we give in to blackmail, we feel ashamed as our self-worth and integrity have been compromised. It is why our resolve to resist blackmail is even weaker this time.

This was the case with Eve. After dropping out of her class, she had self-loathing and was confused about and frightened of her responsibility for Tom's well-being. Meanwhile, Tom knew exactly how to trick Eve into compliance, which gave in more quickly each time.

Victims of blackmail aren't to blame for it happening. They are responsible for resting that it exists.

How to avoid emotional blackmail

To avoid falling prey to emotional blackmail, you can take a few simple steps.

1. Resist reaction to the blackmailer's provocations. Blackmailers may attempt to create an atmosphere of tension that makes victims feel they must immediately comply or continue to suffer. To avoid trying to be firm and buy yourself some time.

Say things like "I don't have an answer right now, give me some time to think" and "I'm not ready to make a decision at this point. Let us talk about it later." are great to use. Even if blackmailed doesn't agree with this, don't let yourself get worked up simply repeat your statement and stay calm.

Remember, their timeline doesn't define yours. You have your own priorities, which are as important as theirs. Take the time to consider your response to a conflict, and you will be on your way to breaking down manipulative patterns in your relationships.

2. Detach yourself from the situation. Detachment helps you get some perspective on the conflict. If you find it hard to see things from the outside, try asking yourself the following questions" What does the person want? How did they ask me? How did they react when I didn't agree with them?"

3. Think about your emotional reactions to see if they exhibit blind spots or willful delusions. Sentiments like "I'm responsible for their happiness; they need me; I'm the only one they have, " If I give in those times, they won't pressure me anymore," or "I'm selfish to resent his demand" are red flags.

5. If you feel frightened, frustrated, trapped, overwhelmed, guilty, or angry, think about what triggers these feelings. Does your blackmailer roll his eyes, give you the cold shoulder, shout, or even cry?

5. Write these thoughts down and make connections between his actions and your reactions. With this mapped out, you are ready to end the cycle of emotional blackmail.

How to know your boundaries?

If you are realized over the course of this article you are a victim of emotional blackmail. There are some final tips to put an end to it.

Get to know your boundaries. If it is clear that their manipulative behavior is weighing on you after mapping out the person's actions and your reactions, then don't put this aside. Instead, digs deeper and work out when your boundaries are being crossed. This way, you will realize when the person is going too far in the future.

You also can communicate your boundaries so they know exactly what you will and won't tolerate. Communication is crucial at this stage. Don't attack them or be offensive. Be understanding and calm. Express your regret that they upset you and tell them you can understand why they feel that way. Let them know you respect their opinion, but you have to agree to disagree.

It is also possible to be upfront and tell them that you won't guilt be tripped into anything, and it is not the end of the world if you want different things. This statement will prevent a fight from escalating while ensuring your stay true to your priorities.

Remember, changing your blackmailers' habits and your relationship will take time. Improve communication, careful reflection, and new boundaries will help ensure you are no longer a victim of emotional blackmail.

It might also be time to get out of the relationship if necessary. It all depends on how much work you and the person are willing to put into making a change.


Unfortunately, not all people are sympathetic or kind. In fact, some are aggressive and will stop at nothing to archive their goals, but they aren't stupid. These manipulators use tactics that are hard for their victims to recognize and resist.

There isn´t a need to feel trapped and overwhelmed by a relationship. If you learn to recognize the signs of emotional blackmail and its impact on your life, you can begin taking steps by standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and creating change in your relationship.

If you feel like your partner is unreasonably demanding, don't just push that feeling aside. Listen to your feeling and watch for reactions of guilt and fear. Once you realize what is going on, you will understand that you don't deserve to feel that way anymore.

Manipulators special in rationalizing, deflecting, and turning the tables on those who see through their deceitful tactics. If you are being attacked or manipulated, trust your gut and try not to be so easily swayed by people you believe are manipulating you.


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