The Top 12 Warning Signs of Manipulative People—And How to Deal with Them

12 Ways to Deal with Manipulation

If our network determines our net worth, how do we prevent manipulative people from entering our inner circle and causing drama in our lives?

Every single person has an impact on their community – especially on our close circle of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances.

People in your life can be supportive, encouraging and sympathetic to others in business or in socially…

On the other hand, you might meet people who are selfishly focussed on themselvestheir goals and needs – people who are happy to walk over the top of you to get what they want. 

Unfortunately manipulative people can show up in many different forms – employees, bosses, business partners, friends, family – ad they use one key trick to have their way:

Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive tactics. By advancing only the interests of the manipulator – often at others’ expense – such methods can be abusive, devious, and deceptive.

Avoiding manipulators in business and life can save you a lot of nerves, heartache (and money) – so you should learn how to recognize their methods.

In this post, I will share 12 warning signs of manipulative people—and how you can deflect their abusive tactics.

Criticizing Victims Openly

Many manipulators attack their targets directly by criticizing and ridiculing them in the presence of others. They assign fault, blame and shame to people who need support and empathy…

It’s their way to prove supremacy and highlight your shortcomings. Using this tactic, they just want to keep reminding you of YOUR flaws and wrongdoings, but they never offer help or a solution.

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A manipulative persons’ criticism isn’t at all about you – quite often it’s about their own self-doubt or judgement around the way you choose to live your life. 

If you have someone in your life who criticises you, try to change the subject, claim you’re busy and need to leave, or simply walk away (depending on how aggressive the criticism is).

There’s no reason to entertain someone’s judgement of you unless you have asked for it. 

Create space between you and the situation so you can process the criticism in a balanced, reasonable way—instead of simply reacting in anger. Most of the time, this unwarranted criticism is not based in reality or is severely inflated.

If you feel like your confidence and self-esteem has taken a hit from someone using this tactic against you, learn How To Build An Unstoppable Mindset in our article here.

Pushing You to Be Vulnerable First

Manipulative individuals will often invite you to start a discussion by sharing your own thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

They do this so they can analyze your ideas, detect weak spots, and find your breaking point. They are always assessing your core values in order to figure out where to hit you so it hurts the most.

This gives them weak points to leverage without being vulnerable themselves—a manipulator’s ideal position of strength. They can use this to sway a decision in their favor or simply demoralize you to burnish their own image by comparison.

If you come to the table with a person you suspect to be a manipulator, you can avoid this situation. Stay calm and talk about things in general terms – don’t go into details and don’t reveal your points of view until you’re able to share equally.

To help achieve that, be sure to offer your ideas one at a time (starting with the least impactful), giving the other person a chance to reciprocate. If they don’t, then keep the rest of your cards close to your chest and seek out someone else who is willing to discuss more openly.

The Home Court Tactic

A home court advantage is a sports phenomenon that dictates travelling to a foreign environment decreases performance among athletes – but it finds its place in all other areas of life, too.

For instance, you probably feel more comfortable working in your office or sleeping in your own bed instead of hotel rooms. A well-known environment gives people the feeling of safety and self-confidence, which is what manipulators know and exploit to put extra pressure on victims.

Manipulative people will take you to a place you’re uncomfortable with – their office or favourite restaurant, etc. – where they can be more aggressive and dominant, forcing you to succumb to their influence.

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In some cases you might find yourself being told that you have to wait for the person because they’re running late, or busy doing something else.

If you want to resist this, you should meet people in a neutral setting.

If you’re asked to wait on them, suggest that you only set aside a specific amount of time for your meeting and that a more suitable time should be found so you don’t have to leave before the agenda is completed. 

You’ll be surprised – since manipulative people are so keen on getting what they want, they’ll often concede their home-court advantage if they feel their influence slipping.

Truth Distortion

Lying is one of the most frequent forms of manipulation, but skilled conspirators are smarter than that. Instead of lying, they distort the truth by not revealing all information, exaggerating, or intentionally understating important facts.

The intention is to lead you to the wrong conclusion so you aren’t aware of what the right next step should be for YOU. Make sure to double-check information before trusting a suspicious person.

Whenever you hear someone using words like ‘always, never, everybody, nobody, nothing, or everything’ keep your guard up. You may be in front of a manipulative person trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

The Rationalization Tactic

Psychologists sees rationalizations as invented explanations that hide or deny true motivations, causes, or actions. 

Individuals who try to control other people often use this tactic to bombard victims with tons of fake or irrelevant statistical findings, researches, and case studies.

This happens mostly in business; many a CEO will rationalize business decisions to ensure personal profit instead of company benefit. Still, they have to offer a justification to stakeholders, which they conjure with the help of manipulated data.

The intention is to prevent you from making a fully informed decision – the manipulator will only present you with the evidence that supports the decision that suits THEM.

The only way out of this awkward situation is to keep asking questions: Who conducted the research that justifies this decision? How does it relate to your niche? Is it just a one-time exception or a general industry rule?

Once you’ve investigated and considered all angles carefully and proofed a decision’s rationale on your own, you can decide whether or not there’s rationalization at play.

When people make rationalisations that they believe are genuine and authentic, they don’t become defensive. If you find yourself dealing with someone who acts in this way, it’s likely that they feel guilty about what they’re telling you. 

Administrative Obstacles

Richard Gott, a psychology expert at Best Essays, recently noted: “Manipulative people often exploit administrative barriers to slow you down. They use bureaucracy as the obstacle to preserve supremacy and keep you from revealing essential facts and findings.”

The intention is to force you to make a decision or respond without being fully prepared or informed.

In this case, respond by being persistent and creative. There’s usually more than one way to secure the information you need, so think outside the box.

If you are completely locked out from gaining enough awareness about the situation you’re in to make an educated decision – walk away. Not having enough information to make a good decision is not a good reason to make a poor decision. 

If you don’t know how to find people who help you take action quickly – rather than confusing you and putting roadblocks in your way – check out our Ultimate Guide To Networking At Live Events or swipe the Four Strategies To Build A Billion-Dollar Rolodex.

Avoiding Communication

When manipulators avoid answering your phone calls, messages, or meeting invitations, all they’re really saying is that you’re not worth their time. They make you wait because they want to feel more important, fragile, and vulnerable.

If possible, the best solution is to stop calling the manipulator and find another way to get the job done. He or she will soon realize that they no longer have leverage. 

If that’s not possible, then let go of what is out of your hands. The ball is in their court; if they’re not responding, incomplete tasks are on them.

Aggressive Behaviour

We’ve all faced this sort of manipulator at some point in our careers. These are individuals who believe that sheer aggression will produce THEIR desired results.

That’s why they speak loudly and use threatening body language while talking to you. In these circumstances, just stay calm and offer cogent arguments—not aggression. People who are hostile are unlikely to respond to you trying to meet them on their level…

And document these interactions so you can share them with superiors and get witnesses for support. People who act in an antagonistic fashion either apologise later for their behaviour (if it’s not normal for them – and you can choose to forgive and continue working together) – or they’ll continue in the same fashion because it’s who they are. 

Negative Surprises

Most people hate when they have to face sudden and unexpected problems both in professional and private life. Manipulative people are well aware of this, so they use it to put you off balance, giving them the chance to get one step ahead.

People who have your best interests in mind aren’t likely to place you in situations where you are thrown off or unbalanced by bad news – their default mode is to support, not upset, your day.

Here’s the best response when faced with negative surprises: Stay calm and deal with the problem as quickly as possible.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust. Everyone endures crises now and again, so it’s expected that your coworkers will be asked to lend a hand. 

Time Pressure

A common sales tactic is to put consumers under time pressure and persuade them to buy products before they’ve really given the purchase due consideration.

Manipulative people will put you under the same kind of tension to force an immediate reaction, but don’t give in.

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If someone wants you to give them money NOW to become a customer, you can be almost certain they’ll be happy to take your money in a few days (or weeks) time when YOU are ready and certain that your investment is a good idea.

If you know a decision needs to be made, decide before you have conversations with others what your process will be and how much time you need to consider all options.

You’ll know when people are trying to help you make the RIGHT decision – rather than the one that’s right for them – because they’ll help you gather more information and assess the consequences and benefits of each option.

Knowing when you’re being pressured into a decision will help you stand your ground when others push you—and give you the opportunity to weigh all criteria equally.

Negative Humor

Irony and sarcasm are commonplace, but in the hands of manipulative people, they turn into deriding humor that is designed to make victims feel ashamed.

Although it appears harmless and trivial, disparaging humor can actually build discrimination against targeted groups or individuals.

There is little you can do to prevent the situation from happening – for many manipulative people, this is their default behaviour…

But you have two options to respond to this if you feel it’s inappropriate: First, stand for your values and tell the other person that their behaviour is unacceptable…

Or, if you aren’t personally offended and can see through this tactic, meet it with apathy and show the other person that you really don’t care. 

“Playing Dumb”

Some people will pretend they don’t get your ideas – or see your point of view – only to avoid responsibility or completing their duties. They play dumb, hoping that you’ll finish what they were supposed to do or give up and accept their position. 

In this case, the worst thing is to lose patience and do all the work on your own.

Don’t let these people get away with their plan; be persistent and force them to take responsibility for their actions.

Manipulation is often used by those with low-self esteem or who are incredibly lazy. Whatever the motivation, keep an eye out for signs of their manipulation and know how to counteract it. (And be sure never to employ the same tactics yourself!)

Don’t let manipulation derail your productivity. Get this world-class Morning Routine to keep your performance going strong…

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Warren’s lifestyle is full of hiking adventures. When he’s not busy with his guitar or enjoying the sunny day outside, he excels at blogging skills and leaps through social media. You can meet him on Twitter and Facebook.