Signs of Emotional Manipulation and How to Respond to It

Signs of Emotional Manipulation and How to Respond to It


Have you ever felt exhausted by compromising your own desires for what someone else demands? Have you seen a loved one feel that way? If yes, it is time to reflect on why. A manipulator emotionally controls and exploits someone to fulfil their own desires or to get rid of their intrusive thoughts (caused by emotions like jealousy). People usually aren’t even aware that they are being subjected to manipulation, or they refuse to believe it.

Emotional Manipulation can be harmful, or even traumatizing. It’s the way that a manipulator gains power over a person in a relationship. The level of manipulation differs- it can be governed by the relationship you share with the manipulator. If they are your boss, or a colleague at a workplace, that kind of manipulation would either come from discrimination, or the manipulator’s will to move forward in their career. When it comes to relationships, manipulation is often more severe. In some cases, the manipulator isn’t aware of their manipulating attitude. This might be a result of previous experiences they’ve had. These relationships turn out to be very toxic and are difficult to leave.

Read More: How Fake Emotions Are Used for Manipulation?

Signs of Emotional Manipulation:

There are some tell-tales that you can observe to know for sure if what you’ve noticed is emotional manipulation. On your first encounters with an emotional manipulator, they try to gain your trust as fast as possible. To achieve this, they’ll present their best side, and try to be vulnerable in front of you. They listen to what you have to say carefully. Anything you say is now information that they can twist to manipulate you in the future.

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As you grow closer to them, you can observe the lack of respect they have for you. They might try to pull you down by breaking your confidence. Making you feel inferior is a sure way for them to be in power. You might even find yourself thinking multiple times before you say anything in front of them. If you find that you are scared of them, it’s possible that these feelings are because of the unfair treatment that they give you. Manipulators are often rude, and pass it off as a joke. They always highlight their own problems, and make you feel like yours don’t really matter.

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To recognize emotional manipulation, you need to understand some techniques used by manipulators as weapons:

  • Guilt-tripping: They make you feel guilty for doing something for yourself, or by showing you what they’ve given up for you (bringing it up constantly). For example, ‘I cancelled my plans so that I could spend time with you.’
  • Gaslighting: The aim is to make you doubt yourself. You question everything: what you do, how you feel and who you are, making you feel crazy. For example, ‘You always choose your friends over me.’
  • Threatening: The manipulator threatens you to comply with them or to stop you from doing something they don’t want you to do. For example, ‘I won’t eat till you talk to me.’
  • Projection: They might attribute their own behaviours to you. For example. ‘You always decide everything for me.’
  • Love Bombing: They occasionally shower you with affection, so they are the only source of love you are left with. For example, ‘I’ve got you this rose that made me think of you.’
  • Name Calling: To pull you down and make you believe certain things about yourself, they address you with negative attributes during arguments. They might also use your insecurities against you. For example, “You are a crazy woman.”

You might be thinking what they would get by doing these. It’s quite simple actually. All these techniques have one overall use. The manipulator makes you feel worthless. When you do, you will see that they are with you at your worst. Depriving you of feeling positive emotions when they are not around makes you associate happiness with them. When they don’t let you meet your friends, you feel like they are the only person in your life. Eventually, you reach a point where you are grateful for them and can’t leave because you don’t believe that you deserve better. The manipulator successfully traps you and hence gains control over you.

Read More: Decoding Love-Related Confusion: Insecurity and Self-Esteem in Relationships

How it Impacts You:

Manipulation, although doesn’t sound very serious, can have daunting effects. These effects don’t just stay with you while your manipulator is around. Impacts can be long-term and can cause trauma that lingers even when you aren’t subject to emotional manipulation. Techniques of manipulation make you doubt yourself. While being manipulated, happiness is often taken away from you. It affects your personality and your confidence. You might struggle to recognize yourself. Many people are found to blame themselves for what they go through.

Long-term effects can either come from being in the relationship for too long, or they might even emerge/ continue after it ends. A person might isolate themselves from others. There might be a struggle to be your real self. The loss of confidence can result in requiring constant approval from people around. Experiences with manipulators can also result in symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Read More: Personality Disorder: Types, Causes and Symptoms

A person who went through emotional manipulation might develop Stockholm syndrome, where the victim feels love, affection or a connection with the captor, in this case, the manipulator.

How should you tackle it?

Now that you’ve read about how to identify emotional manipulation, what’s the next step? If you aren’t facing manipulation, all you’ve got to do is look out for yourself and your loved ones. If you believe that you’re being manipulated, then it’s time to act on it.

  • Observe Patterns: Notice any manipulative behaviour shown by a person around you.
  • Draw a Line: If possible, try to increase the distance between the two of you. Avoid engaging in unnecessary conversations with them.
  • Share with Someone You Trust: Find a friend or a family member that you can talk to. Tell them what you’ve been feeling so they have your back.
  • Trust your Instincts: Do not let your instincts slide- it might be a sign. If you aren’t sure yet, you don’t have to take any serious action but keep your guard up.
  • Turn to Therapy: If you find it hard to break away from your manipulator, talk to a therapist who can help you gain your confidence and guide you.
  • Report Domestic Violence: In case you’ve tried to leave, but your manipulator doesn’t let you, contact domestic violence centres to reach out for help. Remember that violence does not have to be physical for you to get help.
Let’s sum up the Discussion

If you’ve identified that you face emotional manipulation, you might not know how to overcome it. Going to a therapist might help you manage yourself and accept the truth about your manipulator. While it won’t be an easy task, this is something you need to do for yourself. If you feel that someone you might know is being emotionally manipulated, you need to have a gentle conversation with them. These manipulators use all kinds of mind games to trap you, making it very hard to even accept that they are bad for you. When the right partner comes along, you will be able to trust each other and find mutual respect.

The use of manipulation techniques for personal gain can be quite harmful. Unfortunately, manipulative people are everywhere. Even if you haven’t yet, you will likely encounter someone like that at some point in your life. Now that you’ve learnt how to identify a manipulator, be careful and stay strong so you do not give in.

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