Psychological Manipulation is a type of influence that attempts to change the behavior or perception of others through underhanded, deceptive and abusive techniques. This advances the interests of the manipulator, generally at the victim’s expense, in methods that may be considered abusive, devious, deceptive, and exploitative.
In order to be successful, the art of manipulation involves two things – concealing aggressive or subversive intentions and behaviors while knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim well enough to know what will be the most effective psychological weapons or tactics to be used against them. This is most often accomplished through covert-aggression or carefully veiled aggression – which may be so subtle that it’s not easily detected.
Psychological Manipulators know what they want and fight hard to get it.
The tactics Psychological Manipulators use are very effective methods of power and control, because they’re almost impossible to be seen as aggressive on the surface, at the unconscious level, the victim feels backed into the corner. Once a victim is backed into a corner, it is more likely that they’ll back down or give into the manipulator’s demands.
Why Do People Manipulate?
There are many motivations behind manipulation – as varied as the manipulators themselves. Perhaps the manipulator needs to gain something purposefully or feels that they have to advance their own causes or plans – no matter what the cost to others may be. Maybe they need to feel powerful and in-control of their relationships with others. Maybe feeling powerful over others increases their own self-esteem. Maybe the person does not have the social skills to obtain what is wanted or needed by traditional means. Some Psychological Manipulators are psychopathic, having trouble empathizing with or understanding the feelings of themselves or others, and placing their own desires foremost because of it.
How Do Manipulators Manipulate?
There are many techniques that manipulators can use to gain power and control over their victim. Here is a breakdown of some manipulation techniques.
Brandishing Anger – manipulators use anger and rage to shock their victims into submission, although real anger is not necessarily experienced by the manipulator. The anger is simply a show to get whatever he or she wants by cowing the victim into submission.
Covert Intimidation – The victim is thrown on the defensive by manipulator using subtle, indirect, or implied threats.
Denial – The manipulator refuses to admit that he or she has done anything wrong.
Diversion – Rather than giving a straight answer, the manipulator will often change the subject, often without the change being noticed.
Feigning Confusion – The manipulator plays dumb – pretending she or he has no idea what the victim is talking about, or is confused by the topic at hand.
Feigning Innocence – The manipulator suggests that anything harmful was done unintentionally or that it didn’t happen. This makes the victim question their judgement and/or sanity in feeling hurt or betrayed.
Evasion – Providing vague, rambling, incoherent responses to the victim. This often leads to confusion over the matter at hand, as well as making it less likely that the victim will be inclined to pursue further conversations on the topic.
Gaslighting – A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re losing their minds.
Guilt-Tripping – The manipulator suggests to a conscientious victim that he or she doesn’t care enough, is too selfish, or has it easy. The victim generally feels guilt or shame as a result, and is thrown into a submissive, anxious, and self-doubting state.
Lying – By the time the truth is apparent, it may be too late to do anything about it. Many manipulative personality types are experts at lying and may do so in subtle ways that are hard to detect.
Lies of Omission – This is lying by withholding a part of the truth, usually with the intention of making something seem innocuous, or less harmful than it really was.
Minimization – The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful as is suggested.
Playing the Victim – The manipulator portrays themselves as a victim of circumstance or other people in order to gain pity, sympathy, or compassion from their conscientious victim.
Projecting the Blame – Scapegoating in subtle ways, blaming the victim or other people for the negative actions or consequences of their actions. This helps to portray the manipulator in a more positive light, and can actively harm the victim’s relationships with other people, who may not even have been involved.
Rationalization – An excuse from the manipulator for inappropriate behavior. Rationalization involves giving reasons as to why their behavior was justified and appropriate. When coupled with Guilt-Trips or Scapegoating, the manipulator will often wind up looking like a victim, evoking sympathy from the real victim.
Seduction – Using charm, praise, or flattery to lower the defenses of the victim so that the manipulator gains trust and loyalty.
Shaming – Sarcasm and insults can be used by the manipulator to increase self-doubt and fear in the victim, to make the victim feel unworthy. This may be accomplished by anything from a very subtle fierce look or unpleasant tone of voice to a rhetorical comment. This may make the victim feel badly for daring to challenge them, which also fosters a sense of inadequacy in the victim.
Vilifying the Victim – A powerful method of putting the victim on the defensive while masking aggressive intention.