Are You Being Manipulated?

boundaries controlling people manipulation toxic relationships Dec 17, 2021

Hindsight is 20/20. It's in the moment that it can be most difficult to figure out that we are being manipulated. Manipulation is when one person uses harmful emotional and mental tactics to influence other people. The manipulator creates an imbalance of power to take advantage of their victim. The manipulator's goal is to gain power, control, and privileges at the expense of the victim. 


Common Manipulation Tactics

Manipulators know what your weaknesses are and learn how to best exploit them. They will use your insecurities against you time and time again. They can also find ways to isolate you and make you more dependent on them. Manipulators are great at gaining trust and information from you. They will ask probing questions so that you share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns early on. This tactic is used to establish control. The manipulator has an agenda in mind and will use the information you share to manipulate your decisions.  

Manipulation can come in a variety of ways. Some common manipulation techniques include guilting the victim, complaining about the lack of help the victim gives them, comparing the victim to other people who "actually care," and shifting blame onto the victim. Most people have had someone in their life, either a family member or an old partner that would ask for a favor while at the same time putting you down. This could be comparing you to a "smarter" sibling or a more "caring" ex to stating how you never help after all that they have done for you. 

A manipulator will lie, deny, and play mind games to get what they want. Another tactic that is especially prevalent in couples is strategic or weaponized incompetence. Weaponized incompetence is when the manipulator will pretend to not know how to do a task or do it so poorly that the other partner will do it for them. This could be saying, "you're so much better at washing the dishes than me," and then doing such a poor job that you have to redo it yourself. Then eventually, you stop asking because their helping actually creates more work for you, and you're not wanting to waste the emotional energy on an argument over dishes. 

Emotional manipulators are masters of altering reality. They can use lies or will try to manipulate the facts as we know them. The manipulator does this so you question yourself. So you question what your doing and saying, so you are questioning your memory, and even questioning if you are the one with a problem. The manipulator will also do this so that they appear to be more vulnerable or innocent in a situation. It is meant to gain your sympathy, even if it is at the expense of yourself. 

The last tactics we will talk about here is the foot in the door and foot in the face technique. The "foot in the door" strategy is where the manipulator will make a seemingly small request. This then leads to more and typically bigger requests. The "foot in the face" technique is the opposite. The manipulator will start with a big or difficult request. Then once that is rejected, they ask for another, seemingly smaller request. The idea behind this is that the victim is more likely to say yes to a second, easier task if given a choice. 


So how can we tell if someone is manipulating us?

Outside of looking at common manipulation tactics that were mentioned above, trust your gut. Does this person make it so you are afraid or obligated to help? Do they make you feel guilty for not helping? Are you constantly questioning yourself?  

When we are dealing with a manipulator, our biggest indicator will be how we are being affected emotionally and mentally. If we are constantly helping this person at our expense, If they make us feel like we are constantly doing something wrong or being unfair, there is a good sign that the person is manipulating us. 


How can we reduce manipulation?

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries!

The best way (other than removing the manipulator from your life) is to establish boundaries. You want to be direct, clear, and specific with what you are wanting, and address the manipulation when necessary. 

You will also want to seek out support from someone who is not under the influence of the manipulator. Having someone outside of the dynamic can help you see things that you may not, especially if the manipulator is a partner.