The main goal of psychologically manipulating people is to get what they want from others by implementing all kinds of strategies. Some of the most common are:
- Making the other person doubt themselves and their judgment in order to manipulate them into doing what they want.
- Undervaluing others with excessive non-constructive criticism, denting their self-esteem and security.
- Ignoring the other person’s needs. In other words, ignoring them in situations in which they request help.
This is just how manipulative people misrepresent the facts in order to create confusion and misunderstandings around them. In addition, they’re quite adept at staying out of arguments they themselves provoke.
“Just because something isn’t a lie doesn’t mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he’s a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.”
Can psychologically manipulating others be positive?
It’s true that some manipulative actions are actually small nudges. Smiling to make a good impression in an interview or choosing a certain outfit to make a good impression on a date, for example, are little actions people do in order to get a positive reaction from another.
These behavioral gestures aren’t manipulation per se but social skills with which to get more empathy from others. They’re quite commendable, even healthy, ways to get what you want.
This type of neuron activates when watching a person doing something. In other words, the same neurons stimulate in both doer and observer. Neurobiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered them and, according to his research, they seem to be about empathic (putting oneself in the other person’s shoes), social and imitative behaviors.
The following examples will help you understand how mirror neurons can help you in your relationships with others:
- Someone is angry with you, so you try to calm them down. However, they only get angrier. Thus, it’s more effective to simulate that you’re also angry just by mirroring their movements and gestures. You’ll see how soon they calm down after you adopt this posture.
- Suppose you go to a job interview. Your chances of getting the job increase if you mirror the interviewer from the very beginning.
Psychologically manipulating – overtly and covertly
Both psychological and emotional manipulative behaviors go on around everyone at all times, even if few of us notice them. You may even be doing them without realizing it. Thus, it’s important to know how to recognize, and not get carried away by, them.
However, one can consider that language is the means by which people either manipulate or are manipulated every day. Therefore, you must be careful about what you say and how you say it. To this end, being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, that is, being empathetic, is a good antidote against manipulation.
The most common manipulative behaviors
Manipulative people often make fun of the opinions of others and generate guilt through subtle attacks, interrogation, postponing things they’re not interested in indefinitely, constantly pitying themselves, and adulterating reality. They use everything in their power to control the moment. Here are the most common manipulation strategies:
- Gaslighting. Phrases such as “That never happened“, “You’re wrong and just imagining things”, or “You’re crazy so I shouldn’t take you seriously” are often ways to distort and confuse the other person by making them believe they’re going insane. Barton and Whitehead (1969) define gaslighting as, “The intentional pursuit of making a person appear crazy and deriving a benefit from it”. This is because it’s a ploy that causes distress and confusion so that a person no longer trusts themselves, their memory, perception, or judgment.
- Blaming the other person. A manipulative person tries to spread negative emotions and vulnerabilities. Either that or they try to deflect their own responsibility to another person. They’ll try to put words in your mouth and will even try to make you think they can read your mind.
- Talking. They’ll try to wrap you and confuse you with meaningless verbiage. Their goal is to mainly entangle you. Furthermore, they even practice monologues just to do so.
- Manipulators disqualify and generalize. They verbalize general, vague, hollow, and non-operational statements, and their conclusions are general. What they intend is to sink you and discredit your ideas and opinions. They’ll say things like “You just can’t listen and always want to say the last word”, “Everything’s just wrong”, or “You always contradict me”.
- They may also offer to “help”. They’ll criticize you and then try to convince you that they can help you. Their sentences usually start with “Yes, but…”. For example, they’ll tell you it’s a pity your new cell phone isn’t the latest model. Or they’ll say your outfit would’ve been better with other shoes if you dress up for a job interview. Perhaps they’ll tell you that your essay is bad, even though you did impeccable work for a given subject in your profession.
Everyone is susceptible to psychologically manipulating others or being manipulated by them
You could consider there are many prototypes of manipulative people: liars, psychopaths, toxic, narcissists, and emotional blackmailers. What you must also consider is everyone exercises manipulative behaviors towards others at some point.
However, a victim of manipulation doesn’t have to be weak, more vulnerable, or special, but is a victim because they’re within a manipulator’s reach.
Everyone’s either been or will be a victim of some kind of manipulation, as no one is free from it. There are times in which these manipulations greatly interfere in your life and diminish your self-esteem and, therefore, increase your insecurities.