What is a Manipulator?
Pathologic manipulators are dysfunctional and/or mentally ill people who try to gain power and control by deceiving others. Of course we all don’t mind seeing things go our way, but someone who would be labeled as a manipulator displays the behaviors in most of their interactions.
How do manipulators get away with it so often?
They are skilled at concealing their aggressive intentions. Most likely they have been doing it since childhood and become very good at it as they’ve become adults. They are fairly good if not great at reading people. They both unconsciously and consciously look for the psychological vulnerabilities to decide what tactics would work best on any given individual. As they advance in age this process becomes second nature to them and so it likely is not on the forefront of their consciousness. Although, they always know to different degrees what they are doing. Manipulators have a level of ruthlessness and lack of conscience to have little issue about causing harm to others. They often tell themselves that if the other were in their position, they would do the same. They look at the world with their own perceptions. Many of these individuals are very insecure and fearful at their core but often tell themselves that they are smarter and better than others. This excuses their behavior in their own minds. Their motto is, if you can be manipulated, then you deserve it. . They need to feel power, superiority and control in their position in society and in their relationships.
Techniques Manipulators Use.
- Positive reinforcement: praise, approval, attention, superficial charm or sympathy, excessive apologizing, money, gifts, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile, and public recognition.
- Negative reinforcement: intimidation, threats, nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trap, sulking, crying, and playing the victim, gas lighting, physical harm.
- Traumatic one-trial learning: Using explosive anger, verbal abuse or other intimidating behavior, to establish superiority and dominance.
Intermittent or partial reinforcement (can be both positive and negative): Here the manipulator creates an atmosphere of fear and doubt. Punishment: Withdrawing love, support and attention.
Manipulative Behavior Checklist.
If you see someone exhibiting one of these behaviors quite often or exhibiting many of these behaviors, you are in the presence of a manipulator.
- Lying: They lie to get what they want in any situation. They use words and don’t back them up with actions, or will lie when it doesn’t seem necessary to the target.
- Lying by omission: Manipulation can also be delivered by leaving things unsaid.
Denial: Manipulators deny they are being manipulative.
- Rationalization: They try to give reasons that seem to make sense as to why they are behaving in such a way.
- Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting – for example saying that a taunt or insult was only, “a joke”.
- Selective inattention or selective attention: The manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it.”
- Blaming: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the target on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intents of the manipulator. The manipulator often finds scapegoats which are subtle and hard-to-detect.
- Diversion: The manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead steers the conversation onto another topic.
- Evasion: Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling, vague, and weak responses.
- Covert intimidation: The manipulator throwing the target onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect, or implied) threats.
- Playing the victim: The manipulator portrays themselves as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion. Here the manipulator plays on the sympathy of a kinder soul, to get cooperation.
- Playing the servant role: Masking a self-serving agenda as if it’s meant for a more noble cause. For example the manipulator says they are acting in a certain way for ‘obedience’ and ‘service’ to God or a similar authority figure.
- Seduction: Using charm, praise, flattery or overtly supports others, in order to lower defenses in the other. Here the manipulator is attempting to gain trust and loyalty from the target.
- Guilt tripping: Suggestion by the manipulator to the target, that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This is meant to make the victim feel bad, and create self-doubt, anxiety and to take a submissive position.
- Shaming: The manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, and subtle sarcasm. Manipulators goal here is to make the target feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is meant to give the target a sense of inadequacy.
- Pretending innocence: The manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional or that they didn’t do what they are accused of. The manipulator may put on a look of surprise or indignation to try and make the target question their own mind and judgement.
- Pretending confusion: The manipulator acts confused by pretending they don’t know what the target is talking about if they bring up an important issue.
- Feigning anger: The manipulator fakes anger or even rage to shock the target into submission.
Traits of individuals who are more at risk of being manipulated?
- Empathetic people who do no expect someone to want to hurt them,
- Those with low self esteem and a strong need for the approval, love and acceptance from others,
- Those who fear negative emotion ,
- People who have an inability to say “no”, or are lacking assertiveness ,
- Individual who is uncertain of their own boundaries,
- An individual who lacks self knowledge and a sense of their own personal power,
- Those who have trouble discerning between necessary and unnecessary guilt or shame,
- Inability to see negative behavior patterns or is in denial of them. This may be due to growing up with manipulators in the childhood home.