top of page

10 characteristics of emotional manipulation and how to deal with it

10 characteristics of emotional manipulation and how to deal with it

In our lives we deal with emotional manipulation more often than you think. We often learn it when we are still children. You have probably often heard your parents say: 'You get your ice cream, but you have to behave yourself' or 'If you don't pass your exam, you are not allowed to watch television anymore'. Sometimes manipulation seems to influence the entire world, but because we have learned it from an early age, we often do not realize the negative consequences it has. In this blog I will briefly explain what emotional manipulation entails, identify 10 characteristics and explain how you can deal with this.

What does manipulation entail?

With manipulation, the other person's boundaries and/or wishes are not taken into account. Manipulators are very good at lying, often this is because they have started to believe in their own lies. They tell stories so convincingly or drone on for so long until you give in and prove them right. This often also involves gaslighting, you actually believe what the manipulator says, even though you know deep down that this is not the truth. A manipulator often has many narcissistic traits. In the blog: "What does Covert Narcissism mean?" you can read more about gaslighting and narcissism. In short, gaslighting involves distorting the truth, causing you to doubt yourself more and more and giving the other person more power over you.

Introverts often suffer most from manipulation. The manipulator has an excellent sense of who he can and cannot grab. Since introverts often do not dare to give their opinion or stand up for themselves, this is the easiest 'prey' for them. If you experience emotional manipulation, know that it is not your fault! It is never okay to deliberately mislead others for your own good. If he succeeds, the manipulator always gets something 'positive' for himself out of it, for example feeling better, getting something done and/or having power over someone else.

Know that you can always say no or set a limit, if this is not accepted by the other person, perhaps breaking off contact is the best option. You are worth choosing yourself!

10 characteristics of emotional manipulation

Since emotional manipulators often act cleverly, it can be very difficult to spot them. Especially if this was very normal in your youth and you were never aware of it, it can sometimes seem like the most normal thing when someone treats us badly. Therefore, a foundation of self-love and respect is needed to stop the manipulation. Below are a number of characteristics of a manipulator, which can make you aware of your current situation.

1. They show excessive interest

A characteristic of manipulators is that they are good at concealing the fact that they are manipulative. They often show a lot of interest in you at the beginning and talk about their weaknesses and flaws. This means they know that others often go along with this and also show their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. You may think, but we have both opened ourselves up so nothing can happen. However, a manipulator has no sense of 'good or evil' and will use all this against you, so that he has power over you. Manipulators cannot enter into a sincere connection, because it must always be all about them. However, you will not use his/her weaknesses against him/her, the manipulator knows this all too well. That is why they often make themselves vulnerable.

2. Gaslighting is often closely linked to manipulation

Gaslighting means that at some point you start to doubt yourself so much because the truth is continuously distorted. Manipulators also have a hand in this. This technique allows them to gain power over you and get what they want done. Even events that you are sure happened no longer seem so certain. This is because the manipulator is very good at lying, they often believe their own lies. It will therefore often happen that you are sure that the manipulator has said or done something, but that he flatly denies or distorts the story. This will only make you doubt yourself even more. In any case, know that you are not crazy and try, no matter how difficult it is, to stand behind your truth.

3. Manipulators are very good at bullying

Because manipulators feel extremely empty deep inside, just like narcissists, they have no problem with bullying. They often use this as a last resort when they know they can't convince you or get you to do what they want. They then switch to a personal attack, for example they say without reason: you are unreasonable or you are really crazy. This often makes us feel attacked and as if we are doing something wrong. We all have arguments sometimes and these kinds of things will probably also come up, but a manipulator has a different intention. This person does not want to take you into account and says nasty things to make themselves feel better and not to reach an agreement with you. So try to become aware, look at the other person's intention and never take it personally. Manipulators are only too happy for you to take it personally, because then they have provoked what they want with their nasty comment. They want to feel better about themselves than you do.

4. A manipulator always wants to be the center of attention

In this they are very similar to a narcissist, who always wants to be the center of attention. They want this to fill their emptiness, deep down they don't feel good and worthy enough. This will make every conversation revolve around them. They listen to you in between, but they only do this so that they can eventually talk about themselves again. For example, you say that you had a bad day at work and you are not feeling well, the manipulator will turn the story on himself and say, for example, yes, I have also had problems with a nasty employer in the past, but in the end I have took the step to leave. Manipulators often end up with a kind of hero story, no matter how good they are.

5. They turn serious nasty comments into a 'joke'

What manipulators are very good at is lying to others. If you live with them, they will often make nasty comments such as 'You are really stupid' or 'there must be something loose in you'. Of course, no one likes to hear this. When you say you don't like it, the manipulators will say it was just a joke. They often think that you are being aggressive or too sensitive, because who doesn't like a joke, then you are very strange. In any case, know that it is never okay if someone else offends or hurts you, a boundary that you set must simply be accepted. Sometimes the only way to get rid of this is to break contact.

6. It's always the other person's fault

Just like narcissists, manipulators can't handle being blamed for something. If they believe that they are guilty, they punish themselves enormously. This often comes from their youth, where their parents believed they were not good enough and were often punished. Since this way eased it for them when they were young, they stuck with it. Because they have not developed self-reflection, they cannot look at their traumas, which means they will exhibit this behavior all their lives and will always blame the other person. However, this does not make what they do okay, because they involve many others in their misery.

7. They take beautiful moments away from you

If you are enthusiastic about something, after a conversation with a manipulator (if you are not aware) you will often think about it differently. 'Nice that you are going skateboarding, but did you know that there is a huge chance that you will break something', or 'Nice that you are participating in the salsa dancing competition, but know that there is enormous competition and you probably won't to rescue.' Discouragement is really something for manipulators, since they do not dare to build a life themselves or have real hobbies, they will often try to discourage others. This makes them feel less bad about themselves and their actually 'boring' lives.

8. They always have comments

Manipulators are very good at complaining and commenting. They do this mainly to maintain their own delusional world, because if their own opinion or image of the world is incorrect, their entire world will collapse. Because they have never been able to develop themselves, their identity hangs by a thread. They are extremely afraid that others will throw a spanner in the works and are especially afraid that it will come out that they are not good enough. That's why manipulators like to criticize others so they can feel better about themselves and perpetuate their delusion. Often 'victims' of manipulators often become insecure because they get the feeling that they are not good enough. In fact, manipulators project their fear onto the other person so that they can feel less empty.

9. They often use silent treatment

The Silent treatment is a frequently used technique to make the other person doubt themselves and feel guilty. In silent treatment, the manipulator refuses to talk to the person in question. He/she does this to regain power and win the other person back. This is very unhealthy, as you often feel like you have to walk on eggshells, as you are afraid that the manipulator will give you the silent treatment again. Ultimately this will go from bad to worse if nothing changes. You will then no longer dare to give an opinion and will continue to please the manipulator. Know that the silent treatment is never okay and that you have the right to always stand up for yourself.

10. They use your 'weak spots' against you

When they know what your weaknesses are, they will regularly use this against you. For example, they like to provoke others and will do this regularly. If you have a manipulative boyfriend, he may often make comments like 'wow this woman looks really beautiful, she seems perfect'. He then knows that you don't like this and will respond. Be careful and try not to go against it as much as possible, no matter how difficult it is. However, it is wise not to feed these comments, eventually he will stop making them as he no longer gets anything out of them.

How to deal with a manipulator

The most important thing is to first become aware of this behavior. This is only possible if you become aware of yourself and your feelings. You will then notice that certain people give you a strange gut feeling or the feeling that you are not being valued. Always listen to this instinct, your body tells you everything!

Above all, know that it is never okay to be treated this way. Everyone deserves respect and equality, including you! The best thing is to feel and ask yourself whether you still want to surround yourself with someone who is so toxic to you. Breaking contact will be difficult, but if it feels right you can never make a wrong choice. Even if it is a relative of yours or your parents who are being manipulative, you always have the right to set boundaries and even end the relationship, no matter how painful it is.

It mainly starts with building self-confidence and therefore having the courage to say 'no', indicating your limits and considering yourself worthy enough to get out of this situation. Listen to yourself and the rest will follow.


bottom of page