“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Abraham Lincoln (American President)
“Sometimes it seems that the louder someone claims sainthood, the bigger the horns they are hiding.”
Steve Maraboli (American Author)
“We are no longer puppets being manipulated by outside powerful forces: we become the powerful force ourselves.”
Leo Buscaglia (American Author)
No matter who you are or what you do for a living, you’re going to have to interact with manipulators.
In fact, you’re probably in some kind of relationship with a manipulator right now, whether it be a family member, friend, or romantic partner.
Using deeply ingrained patterns of passive-aggressive or coercive behavior to get their needs met, most manipulative people know exactly what they’re doing.
You have something they want — emotionally, physically, even financially — and it’s a game for them on how to get it.
They are often indirect, using passive-aggressive mechanisms to instill a sense of obligation so you’ll give them what they want.
Once they’ve got their hooks into you they turn the tables, play the victim, and it’s all your fault.
It’s a cat and mouse game that is set up to keep you confused and unstable.
Whether their strategy uses lying, guilt, exaggeration, or the cold shoulder of a silent treatment, the umbrella of manipulation covers all toxic behaviors.
The closer you are to that person, the deeper the manipulation will run and the more pathological the relationship dynamics will become.
Manipulation often comes in as sneaky, subtle ways to convince.
It uses your feelings as leverage for control.
A manipulative person knows what they want, can’t get it on their own, and uses you as a target to supply their demands.
The Makings Of A Manipulator
A study in Personality and Individual Differences discovered that “attention to, and control of, emotional expression, in combination with an insincere approach, are central to emotional manipulation.”
Further, people with a high sense of self-importance and low sincerity were also more likely to be prone to manipulation.
Some manipulators might be drama kings and queens throwing out tantrums until they get what they want, but in reality, the majority of manipulators are more subtle: possessing self-control and assuredness that lets them slide into your life.
And therein lies the catch… desirable traits like confidence, and particularly emotional intelligence, make for good relationships, however, a separate study in Personality and Individual Differences also reported that these same traits are often present in manipulative people.
In romantic relationships in particular, new research out of The Gottman Institute rated emotional intelligence as a predictor of marital success.
So what you’re looking for, and what might turn on you later, can be one in the same because most manipulators use that high emotional intelligence to fuel their manipulation.
Once they’ve got access to your life, they’ll target your mind and your emotions to design a relationship that serves them exclusively, while draining you in the process.
Before you opt for paranoid isolation, know that you can avoid a manipulator, or remove one from your life, if you know what to look for.
Tell-tale Signs Of A Manipulative Person
The only way to get out of these manipulative relationships is to identify them, and the only way to identify which relationships are manipulative is to pay close attention to other people’s behavior and how other people make you feel.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you get uptight and sensitive, it means that you get present and see things for how they really are.
It means you stop ignoring obvious warning signs.
In particular, you should pay attention to these 3 warning signs that you are in a manipulative relationship.
1. They use your feelings to control you.
The first warning is when someone uses the fact that they care about you as leverage to control your behavior.
Look, you can care about anyone you want to care about.
You don’t need permission to care.
Likewise, other people can care about you whether or not you give them permission to care.
But just because someone chooses to care about you does not mean you must care about them the same way in return.
Your feelings cannot be manufactured.
Even if you do share the same level of care, your emotions are not currency in any relationship.
Sure, it’s healthy to be polite and cordial to people in general.
But do not confuse politeness with obligation.
You don’t owe other people anything.
Just because someone really likes you does not mean you have to really like them.
Just because someone considers you in every decision they make does not mean you have to consider them.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true.
You must guard yourself against feeling like you owe other people things just because they care about you.
Otherwise, you leave yourself open to these people taking advantage of you by playing the victim.
2. They use their feelings to control you.
The second warning is when someone expects you to take their feelings into account for every decision you make about your own life.
Your happiness is independent of anyone else’s happiness.
No one has a right to tie their happiness to you and your actions without your permission, and then expect you to behave in a way that keeps them happy.
No one has any claim to your time just because you spent time with them in the past.
Likewise, no one has any claim to your feelings just because you had feelings for them in the past.
Sure, if you have kids or commit to some kind of long-term work or personal relationship, you’ve bound your happiness with the happiness of others.
But this only goes so far.
At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their own happiness.
You’re not responsible for how someone else feels.
You can’t feel for anyone else, and they can’t feel for you.
Everything else is a codependent nightmare.
A person’s feelings are the effect of that person’s decisions, not your decisions.
You’re not responsible for causing other people’s happiness.
Nor are you responsible for someone not being happy.
Manipulative people will try and convince you otherwise.
They’ll try and convince you that history, or their feelings, should contribute to your decisions.
They’ll guilt trip you and try and make you responsible for their feelings.
The truth is, happiness is a personal decision and it’s up to them to decide to be happy, regardless of what you decide to do with your own life.
3. They use the relationship for handouts.
The third and final warning is when they ask for a handout and expect you to pretend like they earned it.
Sure, you’re free to help others as you please and there is nothing wrong with giving someone a helping hand.
But you shouldn’t let yourself become a crutch.
You shouldn’t let other people constantly guilt you into giving them your time, money, or resources.
You certainly shouldn’t let them guilt you into giving them unearned resources while pretending like they earned these resources.
When someone asks for a handout, make sure they know they’re asking for a handout.
Make them earn what they’re asking for whenever possible.
Otherwise, you’ll just empower their weak-minded behavior and further teach them to be helpless.
When someone asks you to do something for them that they’re too lazy to do themselves, don’t let your connection with them hold you hostage.
You can be supportive and caring in your relationships without being used.
Generosity is voluntary.
The constant borrower of your time, money, resources, and ideas is a drain on the areas of your focus you should be protecting.
People that would use their relationship with you and its elements for their own blatant personal gain or an excuse to avoid personal responsibility need to find someone else to leech off of.
Don’t let someone use their connection with you to advance their position or abuse their time with you.
Relationships are important for overall health and well-being, as long as they are with good people who have good intentions. Not knowing the signs of a manipulative person before you allow them into your life can make you a quick pawn in a toxic relationship. Manipulative people use your emotions, their emotions, and your history together as leveraging tactics for coercion, guilt-tripping, and outright personal gain. Once you spot these signs, free yourself from these relationships immediately.
To learn more about the 3 warning signs you’re dealing with an aggressive manipulator, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.