Manipulation is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s hard to define.
People often use manipulative behavior with the intent to gain power or control over others.
If you tend to ask yourself, “Am I manipulative?” you probably are.
Sometimes it’s accidental, and other times you’re fully aware of it.
The better question is, “Why am I manipulative?”
You may need to get people to agree with your opinions or do things your way.
Manipulative people often get away with their behavior because they are good at making people feel sorry for them or make their victims feel bad about themselves.
The manipulator uses guilt trips to make others believe that they are responsible for the manipulator’s problems.
They may also play on your sympathy by talking about how hard their life is or how much they have been through to get you to do things for them.
Clearly, manipulative behavior can disrupt close relationships and negatively impact your mental health.
What Does It Mean to Manipulate Someone?
Manipulation means using emotional pressure to control another person’s actions or decisions.
The manipulated person may be unaware of what’s happening or may even agree with the manipulator’s point of view to avoid conflict, but this does not make the behavior acceptable or okay.
This type of behavior attempts to control someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or actions. It can be as subtle as a kind word or as apparent as verbal abuse.
The key element here is that manipulation involves using power over another person in a way that goes against their wishes.
A manipulative person might use a combination of guilt trips, lying, threats, intimidation, and other tactics to get what they want from their partner — whether it’s sex, money, or something else entirely.
When someone uses manipulation to get what they want, it causes problems in relationships.
The manipulated person feels they have no agency in what happens between them and their partner/friend, etc., leading to resentment on both sides of the relationship.
The Signs You’re Manipulative
Are you manipulative? People who are insecure or feel that they need to control others often use manipulation to feel good about themselves. Others use manipulation in a calculating way to get what they want.
The first step in stopping manipulative behavior is recognizing it. You might not realize that your actions are manipulative until someone points them out to you. Accepting you might be manipulative is the first step toward changing your behavior.
Here are some definitive signs you might be manipulative:
- You use guilt trips to get what you want from others.
- You always want your way, no matter what the cost is to others
- You’ll be nice to someone you hate if it benefits you somehow.
- You take advantage of other people’s kindness and generosity.
- You get angry when people disagree with you or challenge your opinions or beliefs.
- You make threats that aren’t real or empty promises to get what you want.
- You criticize your partner’s family members or friends to create distance between them and their loved ones (siblings, parents, etc.).
- When someone says no to something, your first reaction is to try again with a different tactic, rather than respecting their decision (third time’s a charm, right?).
- You withhold affection until someone does what you want them to do (like give you money or do a chore).
How to Stop Being Manipulative: 11 Changes You Need to Make
Manipulative people often do so without even thinking about it. They see themselves as helpful, but in reality, they’re just trying to get what they want. Follow these tips to learn not to be manipulative in your relationships with others.
If you tend to manipulate others, here are 11 changes you need to make right now:
1. Work on your self-esteem.
Most manipulators lack self-confidence. Praise yourself for your accomplishments and positive attributes. Practice positive self-talk, daily affirmations, and a positive attitude.
2. Don’t assume what others want or need from you.
Ask them instead. Open a channel of communication where everyone feels comfortable saying what is on their mind.
3. Consider how your actions impact others.
Think about how your actions affect others before acting on them; don’t just assume that everyone will be happy with whatever you do or say. Most manipulators are unaware of the effect their behavior has on others.
4. Don’t try to control other people’s emotions and reactions.
Let them be who they are and react how they want to. Don’t try to change them into something else just because you think it would make things easier for you. Rather than trying to control others, work on managing your own emotions and reactions.
5. Be honest with yourself.
If something bothers you about someone else’s behavior, admit it instead of pretending like everything is fine when it isn’t. It will help you avoid getting into arguments later on when things come out into the open between the two of you.
6. Stop blaming others for your problems.
Take responsibility for your actions and your life situation. Blaming someone for your issues to guilt them into giving you something or doing something for you is emotionally abusive.
You may get what you want in the short term, but you’ll never grow into a mature, self-sufficient person.
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7. Recognize that your behavior is not acceptable.
Manipulative people often don’t see their actions as manipulative. However, if you want to change, you need to accept that what you are doing is wrong.
Once you recognize that your behavior is unacceptable, it will be easier for you to stop doing it.
8. Go to therapy.
There may be a reason why this behavior started in the first place. A good therapist can help you gain insight into the psychology of emotions and why you feel the need to control others.
9. Work on your self-esteem.
Being insecure can lead to manipulation. Work on being more comfortable and confident in who you are, and you will become a better friend and relationship partner. You won’t need to manipulate to manage your life.
10. Practice mindfulness.
Anxiety and stress can trigger episodes of panic and anger. You can reduce the stress in your life by taking a few moments each day to practice being present in the moment.
A regular meditation practice can help you manage the thoughts and emotions that trigger manipulative behaviors.
11. Respect other people’s boundaries.
Manipulation is a huge violation of boundaries, even if the other person isn’t aware of what you’re doing. Don’t ignore boundaries or use them against someone else.
If you don’t respect other people’s boundaries, they’ll start pushing back against you and may even leave the relationship.
FAQs About Being Manipulative
At some point in time, most people question their own motives in certain situations and whether or not they’re being manipulative.
What causes a person to be manipulative?
Manipulative people may have one or more of the following characteristics: They may be insecure, have low self-esteem, and need constant approval from others.
They may also feel powerless in their lives and believe that manipulation is their only means of gaining some type of control.
Can a manipulative person change?
Yes, a manipulative person can change. However, they have to understand how their behavior affects other people and want to do better.
It may take a little love and patience, but it will happen as long as the manipulator addresses the underlying issues that trigger the behavior.
Can you be manipulative without knowing it?
If you’re a manipulator, you might not realize that you’re doing it. Chances are you don’t even see yourself as the bad guy in the situation.
Instead of recognizing that your actions are manipulative, you may see them as logical attempts at getting what’s best for everyone involved – especially you.
How do you know if you’re manipulative?
If anyone has ever told you that you “can’t take no for an answer,” you probably use manipulation in some form. You have a “my way or the highway” attitude. Manipulators usually believe that everyone should do things their way because their opinion is the only one that matters.
This behavior can be especially true within relationships. When other people don’t do what you want, manipulators will often use threats, guilt trips, and anger instead of finding more positive ways of dealing with the situation.
If you can recognize when you’re acting manipulative, you can stop it. Be spontaneous, let things go, and make decisions with the help of others.
It is difficult to break the habit of manipulating people to get what you want, but help is available.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Even if you have been manipulative in the past, you can establish successful relationships again.
If you or someone you know is acting manipulative and would like to change, let them know they are not alone and they can change their behavior.