Manipulation in Psychology
Mental manipulation or psychological manipulation is – in psychology – a method deliberately implemented with the aim of controlling or influencing a person’s thinking, choices, actions, through a relationship of power or influence. The methods used distort or orient the perception of the reality of the interlocutor by using in particular a relationship of seduction, suggestion, persuasion, involuntary or consented submission.
Although mind manipulation is reminiscent of cults or brainwashing, it comes into play in everyday relationships and affects individuals and crowds alike. She can even have a positive perception in the case of romantic seduction.
However, it remains poorly known despite the many experiments carried out and concepts developed (social influence, social engineering, voluntary submission, domination, propaganda, moral harassment, etc.).
How to Tell If Someone Is Manipulating You
Manipulators are everywhere, and the internet increases the risk of encountering them. You may have already seen one, one or more, and you are wondering if you are being manipulated. You will probably encounter some in your lifetime, they most often want your money or want you to do them a favor. Here’s how to unmask them!
A manipulative individual may shower you with compliments and praise excessively, often in an insincere or exaggerated manner. They use flattery to gain your trust and make you more receptive to their manipulative tactics.
Example: A coworker constantly compliments your work and abilities, but you later discover they were trying to get you to take on additional tasks for them.
Manipulators often use emotional blackmail to manipulate your actions or decisions by leveraging your feelings of guilt, fear, or obligation.
Example: A partner threatens to end the relationship if you don’t comply with their demands or give in to their control.
Distorting the Truth
Manipulative individuals may twist or distort facts to serve their own agenda, making it difficult for you to discern the truth.
Example: A friend downplays their own role in a conflict and shifts the blame entirely onto you, making you question your version of events.
Playing the Victim
Manipulators frequently portray themselves as victims to gain sympathy and manipulate your behavior. They make you feel responsible for their unhappiness or difficult circumstances.
Example: A family member consistently uses their past hardships to guilt you into fulfilling their requests or providing financial support.
Manipulative individuals may intentionally withhold important information or give you incomplete details to control the narrative and limit your choices.
Example: A colleague purposefully leaves out critical details about a project to ensure you make decisions that align with their personal interests.
Creating a Sense of Dependence
Manipulators strive to create a dependency on them, making it harder for you to break free from their influence. They may undermine your confidence and convince you that you cannot succeed or make decisions without their guidance.
Example: A supervisor consistently discourages your ideas and input, making you believe that you are incapable of making important decisions without their direction.
Isolating You from Others
Manipulators often try to isolate you from friends, family, or other support networks, as it becomes easier to control and manipulate you when you lack outside perspectives.
Important to know…
Know the difference between influence, manipulation and persuasion
To be influential is to direct a person’s behavior and choices in a direction you choose. This can be persuasion, like persuading a friend that they are being manipulated and that you need to file a complaint, for example (you both win).
It can also be manipulation when a “friend” manipulates you into getting money or a service from you (he wins, you loser).
Learn to spot the manipulator
There are three types of manipulators:
- “The occasional” is you and me, it happens to us all, from time to time, most often unconsciously manipulating another person to get what we want. It could be a discount on a couch or a favor from a neighbor.
- The “professional” is the one who will make manipulation his job and use all kinds of techniques on you (there are hundreds of them).
- The “unhealthy manipulator”, the last category, can even become pathological and in this case it is necessary to surround yourself with a professional. He may come after you for pleasure (this is perverse) or because everything has to revolve around him to the detriment of others (this is narcissistic). Be sure to physically move away from the last two categories.
Ask yourself who benefits from the manipulation
This innocuous question is very effective. When you are in doubt about the nature of the relationship you have with someone you know, ask yourself who is benefiting from the relationship? Are you seeing an abnormal exchange of money? Services always provided in the same direction? If both parties enjoy the relationship, then all is well. On the other hand, if you lose and the other wins, it is manipulation.
Beware of confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a natural tendency that we all have. When you first meet someone, a part of you decides whether to like them or not to like them. From this choice, you see all his actions through this first filter “I like / I don’t like”. If you like it, you tend to highlight its good sides and overlook its bad parts. Conversely, if you don’t like the person, you tend to notice their bad sides more and deny their good sides.
In the case of manipulation, the manipulator is very careful that you like him from the first moments to “be in your little papers” and that you forget the shady behavior he might have.
Ask for the opinion of several close people
One of the challenges is to take a step back. If you are in doubt, discuss the situation with friends or relatives and ask their opinion. They are not, or less, subject to confirmation bias than you, and will stick to the facts more than you. Because of the physical distance they have, they have more perspective than you.
Note: If you have any doubts for yourself or someone around you, you can contact health professionals or state services (law enforcement, government site)
A relationship with a manipulator is a relationship that costs you
A manipulator makes us suffer because he makes our sensitive “cords” to vibrate.
A manipulator uses us, using the 4 social laws:
1. A manipulator is someone who takes a lot from us and gives us little.
2. Our relationship with him costs us a lot: money, time, energy, unpleasant emotions.
3. On the contrary, our relationship benefits him: professional or financial success, for example.
4. So take an evaluation of your relationship: See what it brings you, and what it costs you. Then see what it brings him, and what it costs him.
Is the relationship fair? Does it bring so much to everyone? In money, time, energy, or happiness? This is a good way to recognize a manipulator.
Here are the 4 social laws that are “engraved” in us:
- Trust: I must be able to trust others, and others must be able to trust me.
- Reciprocity: I have to give as much as I get.
- Collaboration: I have to help others, and I have to be able to count on others. We must act together to achieve our goals.
- Empathy: I need to be able to understand how other people are feeling. For that I have to put myself in their shoes.
What to do If Someone Is Manipulating You?
If you suspect that someone is manipulating you, it’s essential to take proactive steps to protect yourself and maintain your well-being. Here are some suggestions on what to do if you find yourself in a manipulative situation, along with examples:
Trust Your Instincts
Acknowledge and trust your gut feelings when you sense something is wrong or manipulative in a relationship or interaction. Your intuition can be a valuable guide.
Example: You have a nagging feeling that your friend is manipulating you into always lending them money, even though they never repay you.
Learn about manipulation tactics and strategies to better recognize and understand them. This knowledge can help you identify manipulative behaviors and empower you to respond effectively.
Example: By reading books or articles about manipulation, you become aware of common tactics and gain insights into how to protect yourself.
Establish clear boundaries for yourself and communicate them assertively. Be firm in what you are comfortable with and what you are not willing to tolerate.
Example: You tell your romantic partner that you expect them to respect your personal space and not invade your privacy without permission.
Prioritize self-care activities that promote your well-being, self-esteem, and emotional resilience. Taking care of yourself strengthens your ability to recognize and respond to manipulation.
Example: Engaging in activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with supportive friends helps you maintain emotional balance and self-confidence.
Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals for support and guidance. Sharing your concerns with others can provide valuable insights and help you gain perspective on the situation.
Example: You confide in a close friend about your suspicions of manipulation and ask for their input and advice.
Cultivate and maintain your independence, both emotionally and financially. This reduces the potential control and influence manipulators can have over you.
Example: You ensure that you have your own bank account and financial resources separate from a partner who has shown signs of financial manipulation.
Develop and practice assertiveness skills to express your needs, opinions, and boundaries clearly and respectfully. Stand up for yourself without succumbing to manipulative pressure.
Example: You calmly and confidently express your disagreement with a colleague’s manipulative request, firmly stating your own position.
Consider Distance or Removal
In extreme cases where the manipulation persists and poses a significant threat to your well-being, you may need to consider creating distance or even removing yourself from the relationship entirely.
Example: After realizing that a family member consistently manipulates and emotionally abuses you, you choose to limit contact or cut ties with them for the sake of your own mental health.
Remember, each situation is unique, and it’s important to assess your circumstances and make decisions that prioritize your well-being. If you feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to proceed, seeking professional guidance from a therapist or counselor can provide valuable support in navigating manipulation.
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