Manipulative Behavior: How To Detect It In 6 Keys

We must pay attention to avoid those traps that others set us without us noticing.


Normally, when we talk about domination and power of some people over others, we refer to the use of force or economic power, used to bury opponents. Thus, we often overlook that the use of force is not the only way to violate the dignity of people to act in someone’s interests.

In this article we will talk about manipulative behavior ; how it is expressed in social relationships and in what way it can influence our actions without our realizing it, through unconscious or almost unconscious processes.

How to detect manipulative behavior

When it comes to recognizing the signs that manipulative behavior is present in a dialogue or a social interaction in general, you can look at these characteristics.

1. The strategic use of blame

A common way of trying to manipulate others is to bring up facts about which the other feels responsible and guilty, even if introducing that issue in the dialogue does not contribute much beyond making the other vulnerable. .

Nobody is perfect, and it is very possible that the person being manipulated has real reasons to feel bad when remembering those actions that they took in the past. However, it is one thing to hold accountable for it in a context where doing so is constructive (for example, when asking to repair the harm done to others), and another to speak about it only to be left in a position of dominance in it. dialogue and be in a position to demand that the other conform to what one wants them to do.

2. The projection of selfishness

Another common way of negatively influencing the other, typical of manipulative behavior, is to perform gaslighting, which is based on making the other person doubt their own judgment, so that it seems that they are not qualified to support their point of view.

There are many ways to do this; for example, making you believe that you have unfairly criticized someone without this being true.

By its nature, gaslighting is difficult to detect the first time. However, if these types of situations are repeated in which according to the other person there are reasons to think that we have been confused or confused on more than one occasion, and this does not happen in our social relationships with others, it is very possible that is engaging in manipulative behavior.

3. Interpret the silences at will

People with a tendency to manipulate others do their best to create a framework for interpreting the facts in which ambiguities work in their favor.

For example, they may comment that if at some point in the course of a dialogue they are having with someone there is a silence that is somewhat longer than normal, that is a sign that the other is hesitant or shy. Although it is quite clear that this is not the case, simply by doing this, a precedent will have already been given that contributes to the fact that, even unconsciously, the other person adopts a somewhat more submissive attitude, one in which the possibility of maintaining a relationship is renounced. symmetrical relationship with the other.

4. Put your foot in the door

Another of the clearest samples of manipulative behavior is to say half truths so that the other person is interested in something for which they would not have been interested in the case of having had all the information about it from the beginning.

In this way, it is achieved that the other of the first steps to act as the manipulative person wants, so that when he realizes that this option is not as attractive as he expected, taking a step back already has a cost higher than it was at the beginning. And it is that human beings tend to want to justify the sacrifices made, as shown by the phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.

5. Use references in an interested way

Another frequent way in which it is manipulated is to praise the virtues of another person whom we are supposed to resemble, despite the fact that the circumstances in which that referent lives or has lived are very different from ours.

For example, we can mention the case of billionaires who started from relative poverty, to try to make us work more, ignoring that if these people are famous it is among other things because luck made them exceptional cases.

This is done to damage one’s self-esteem, while creating the need to get involved in the tasks that the manipulative person asks of us.

6. Appeal to a false consensus

Another manipulative behavior is simply to assume that we will do what is asked of us, because apparently that is what everyone in our situation would do. In this way, a false social pressure makes us fit into the molds of what is expected of us.

What to do to avoid being manipulated?

Although each case is unique, you can follow these general tips to protect yourself from tampering attempts.

1. Value time

In deciding whether or not you should behave as requested, it should be clear that you need time to think about it. Make it clear that trying to rush you is actually a valid reason for refusing.

2. Ask for all the information you need

Since there is no rush, there is no reason why you cannot ask for all the necessary information. Negative reactions to this are also a reason to respond with a “no” to what is proposed, and that is how you should communicate it. It is the other person’s job to make you understand the situation, it is not your fault if it is not clear to you. The Assertiveness is key.

3. Do not tolerate disrespect

Nobody has the right to make us feel bad so that we act as they want. Disrespecting ourselves is a red line that should not be crossed.

4. Ask for third-party opinions

This is a highly underrated possibility. Asking for the opinion of others is very helpful.

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