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Some people try to lower our self-esteem and make us feel insecure and guilty. What strategies do they use?
Narcissists, manipulators, liars...what manipulation techniques to avoid?
Manipulation and manipulators
Those who are close to us do not always want our well being. Friends, relatives, or co-workers may put in place strategies to overrule us or lower our self-esteem. These are real manipulation techniques often used, for example, by pathological liars or narcissists .
It is not always easy to realize that you are the victim of these attacks. However, it is important to learn to recognize these techniques because they could seriously harm us and increase our insecurities. It must be said, however, that forms of psychological manipulation exist at different levels , including daily ones, which do not seem to cause such irreparable damage or for which it is not necessary to always be on the defensive.
Some forms of manipulation are also used in education or in our daily relationships. It is therefore important to learn to distinguish when one is the victim of toxic and pathological behaviors , and when, on the contrary, one is confronted with forms of daily manipulation that one can learn to manage through experience.
Characteristics of a manipulator
There are different types of people who try to manipulate us , often because of their own insecurities and the need to "feed" on the confusion or unhappiness of others. Their goal is to make us feel weak, lower our self-esteem, and make us feel guilty for the mistakes they've made.
Recognizing and avoiding these people or their techniques is key to not falling into the hands of these manipulators or suffering the long-term consequences. Here are some of the main used.
Types of handling
Manipulation can take over different spheres of our being, from emotional manipulation to psychological manipulation . The pathological manipulator tries to identify "buttons", or weaknesses in the victim , on which to lean.
Psychologist George K. Simon says that for manipulation to be effective, the manipulator must act according to certain rules and behaviors and have particular attitudes.
- The manipulator hides his aggressiveness , and does not reveal his true intentions. This point is essential for the manipulation to succeed. Normally, two forms of masking aggression are applied: either through passive-aggressive forms (such as silence or indirect hostility) or through relational forms of aggression (which include the destruction of the self-esteem of the victim or his safety). The manipulator has the ability to identify the weaknesses of his victims , and is able, from these weaknesses, to create real patterns of manipulation .
- Insensitivity, lack of guilt and emotional detachment : the manipulator has no qualms about hurting his victim, if it serves his purpose.
In fact, as we will see in the next paragraph, the manipulation is done at the interactional and communicative level because it is necessary for an exchange between the two people.
Psychological manipulation is an interactional fact that arises from the exchange between two or more people, which therefore has a communicative form at its base . So to be a good manipulator, you must also be a good communicator (and the victim must be willing to listen). Indeed, it is necessary that the concepts expressed by the manipulator, even if they are simple, exploit the emotional and psychological side of the victim and have a narrative form.
Robert Cialdini, American psychologist and professor at Arizona State University, recognizes certain fundamental rules of persuasive communication , based on cognitive strategies and aimed at changing the attitude of the interlocutor.
The rules of persuasive communication
Cialdini, as part of his studies in social psychology, studies some basic formulas of interpersonal relationships that tend towards manipulation and persuasion .
Let's see them up close:
- Reciprocity : Human beings have been shown to feel the need to return favors. But this feeling can be dangerous because it can lead to a feeling of debt for unsolicited favours, it can lead to unfair exchanges and only make the other accept for the feeling of reciprocity. This type of mechanism is also used in marketing and commerce: for example when offering free samples, in the hope of encouraging a purchase.
- Commitment and consistency : keeping our ideas and consistency firm is an important point in self-definition and for this reason we try to apply it often. There are forms of social influence that seek to exploit these mechanisms to achieve their goals. This may be the case, for example, of a salesman who, knowing that you are an environmentalist, will try to use an argument to save energy and reduce waste to sell his vacuum cleaner. In addition to this hook, the purchase of this vacuum cleaner will seem in line with your ideals and your identity.
- Social Approval : People can be swayed by the masses precisely because there is a tendency to believe that if most people do or believe something, it must be true. According to this principle, fashions are born and consolidated.
- Authority : It is easier to believe what is expressed by an authoritative source or by an eminent person , assuming that these people and/or institutions can be more substantiated. These institutions or people therefore tend to have more persuasive power.
- Sympathy : By creating a link of sympathy or similarity, we thus manage to make the interlocutor identify with or take the situation to heart because it seems very close to him, the manipulator can influence the change of vision or attitude of the other .
- Scarcity : In the case of marketing and commerce above all, defining a scarce good can cause people to buy impulsively, driven by the worry of not finding what they want to buy.
Emotional and psychological techniques
Starting from these considerations, we can try to deepen some techniques of emotional and psychological manipulation used in interpersonal relationships.
Projection and guilt
As we said before, many of these manipulators are insecure and therefore "project" their mistakes and flaws onto the other person, which makes them feel guilty. In this way, the manipulator tries to turn the situation in his favor, not only to be the winner of the discussion but also to make the other person feel bad.
One of the most used techniques is to distort reality . This can happen, for example, during a discussion with the partner. The "gaslighting" strategy is used to destabilize and make the other person doubt and make them believe that they are living in an imaginary reality . One of the most used phrases? "Everything is the result of your imagination."
Get confused with the words
Some manipulators are very good at using words . They create a web of phrases and expressions that cage and confuse the victim. They use real monologues, interrupting the other person, avoiding expressing their opinion and managing to control the conversation. Alternatively, the manipulator can try to distort words that their interlocutor never actually said by trying to interpret their thought in a distorted way.
When the narcissist realizes that his techniques are not having the desired effect, he can take two paths: insult or keep quiet . In the second case, the victim feels invisible and guilty. The goal is to humiliate the other person and hurt them for not submitting to their desires and manipulative techniques.
The fake good
One of the more subtle manipulators is definitely someone who is very friendly and good to the other person but actually wears a mask . Even if the other seems to be able to rejoice with the other of the objectives achieved, he always tries in a subtle way to sow doubt or to destroy part of the conquered joys.
Other Mind Control Techniques
We have seen that there are different types of manipulation that are implemented by the manipulator to weaken the will of the person in front of him and thus be able to shape his mind with forms of conditioning.
Conditioning was studied by Pavlov , who showed how it is possible to relate certain emotional states and cognitive responses to external stimuli precisely through forms of association. This type of stimulus-response behavior is the basis of manipulation and is the tool used by manipulators. Let's look at some forms of mind manipulation.
- Isolation. Human beings are social animals, and part of the image we have of ourselves is projected by the relationships we have. Not only that: affection, love, communication and many other aspects are fundamental for human beings. A person isolated from the world for a long time, will begin to have distorted perceptions of reality, will let his imagination and anxieties wander, reaching the point of becoming a victim of his own thoughts. Isolation can be a very strong form of mental debilitation and persuasion.
- The group: forms of social control and “groupthink” . Psychologist Solomon Asch has studied group dynamics in depth to define how strongly individuals are conditioned in their own behaviors and perceptions of what is happening. This happens because of what individuals perceive in external reality, but also because of how they define themselves. For example, if a person within a group is labeled a certain way within the group, they may feel identified with the passage of time with that label. Therefore, the group can influence not only the way the individual perceives reality, but also the way he perceives himself.
- The submission . The forms of manipulation that underlie the processes of submission are different and complicated, but the main fact is that the manipulator will try to harm the self-perception of the manipulated person to take control of it, making them believe that they have wrong or is sick. Normally, this type of manipulation then generates an addiction that leads the victim to no longer be able to get rid of it and not to see reality clearly.
- Exhaustion : Another manipulative practice involves bringing the person into exhaustion, by trying to condition and destroy their mind.
There are other forms of very strong physical and mental manipulation that are used in different contexts, such as hypnosis. If at any time you feel that you are the victim of mental and psychological manipulation, contact a specialist who can help you.
Victims and manipulators
We have seen the main characteristics of manipulators and their techniques . But according to what criteria does the manipulator choose his ideal victim? Normally narcissistic or pathological liar, they choose their victims according to certain weaknesses they denote.
Each manipulator might act on a particular weakness, but trying to summarize the different theories, we could say that the manipulator is trying to take advantage of:
- Excessive naivety , i.e. people who are unable to perceive the evil in another and who believe that others are always honest.
- Low self-confidence or low self-esteem : People who believe they don't deserve love or who don't have self-confidence are easier to manipulate and convince. Even those who have not yet defined their identity can feel compromised by a manipulator.
- Dependency : People who tend to suffer from certain forms of dependency, especially emotional dependency, tend to depend on others and be submissive for their emotional balance. Thus, the manipulator can easily influence these people.
- Rationalization : trying to reduce everything to a logical level or understanding the reasons of the manipulator can make you lose sight of the reality of things.
- Loneliness : Even loneliness or the continuous search for approval from others can make them easily manipulated.
Here are some general characteristics that can make a person vulnerable to manipulation techniques. Obviously there are others and each case is unique, if you feel at the mercy of manipulation it is always best to seek help from a specialist.
The main symptoms
Manipulation can occur in any relationship environment , from work to friendship, and can present with a range of symptoms. According to some researchers, there are 3 levels in which symptoms can occur:
- the first level is the level where the first signs of manipulation occur , which however could be managed with good communication. For example, there may be states of confusion , excessive control on the part of the partner, people who warn you about the relationship, anxiety and fear when the partner approaches, without feeling.
- The second level of manipulation occurs when the manipulated person begins to question their reasons and what they think or feel . In this sentence, the manipulator will begin to deconstruct the identity and self-esteem of the person with criticism, judgments, emotional blackmail, silences, to demonstrate that he is right and that the only point of view that account is his. At this stage, the symptoms that trigger this manipulation in the victim are generalized anxiety, fatigue, blame. (even things that were not done), justification of the manipulator's attitudes, loss of interest in other things, forgetting past events or attitudes.
- The third level of manipulation coincides with the abandonment phase, where the manipulated person is totally subjugated by the manipulator who will justify them and feel worthy of the horrible treatment they receive . The symptoms of the person manipulated in this phase are: depression, anxiety and panic attacks, apathy, stress, psychosomatic disorders, fear and anxiety.
How to get out?
Coming out of a period of psychological manipulation is difficult , since the main techniques are based precisely on forms of distortion of reality and destruction of the person's identity and self-esteem, as well as in the form of addiction . For this, a long journey of reconstruction and awareness of one's being and what happened is necessary.
As with any psychological process , the first step to improving and beginning to recover is accepting what has happened . To get out of it we will then work on other processes such as the recognition of manipulative strategies, emotional reconstruction and self-respect. Following a therapy can be a help to be able to work out and overcome this moment. If you wish to receive more information on the subject, you can consult our list of expert professionals.
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Read more posts on Manipulation Tactics:
- Chance— 07 December 2021Hello, This speaks to me so much. I recently realized that it didn't work fatigue, exhaustion, apathy, blame, only his opinion counts, infantilization and especially never named my improvements but maintained in suffering phew; Need help!
- Felicia — 01 December 2021I hope you could help me answer some unanswered questions that torments me a lot. I really can't tell if I have a mental imbalance and I hope you will help me. Those around me sometimes call me manipulative, arrogant, proud, selfish, sadistic. And I am subject to repeated forgetfulness, lack of sleep and I have the impression of not recognizing my actions in certain cases. I hope you can help me understand this thank you very much!
- Psychological harassment — October 10, 2021
I am the victim of a perverted and frustrated narcissist. When he lost a member of his family through negligence and carelessness, and looking at the happiness of other families around him, he became angry and wanted to destroy what he would have wanted to have with his own family, and more than he destroyed through control and inner selfishness. His grandchildren, from a first relationship with his oldest daughter, don't even come to see him anymore after he wants to destroy their father's self-esteem.
Being young these children were manipulated with all kinds of lies about human truth. Examples of disrespecting others, and dishonestly sharing on destructive and mean-spirited behavior situations. He even suffered from alcoholism and severe medication in 2015. He even had to undergo a treatment for intoxication. During his treatment for esinitoxication in 2015, to help him, I took care of the maintenance of his property. Serious mistake, because it was later that he began to manipulate me little by little with petty gestures. Pulling autumn leaves on my land with his youngest daughter. He went so far as to destroy the siding of my property with his lawnmower as well as my gutters on my property.
As I have a very responsible wife, she simply asked me to take care of it more. I think his family frustrations made him sick and that's when he never let me go. He waited on all kinds of false rumors about me in order to protect himself from the situation he had just experienced.
He called me mentally insane, not good and many other insults of his own. For some time he started to spy on my every move. Example at all my outings from the house I saw him writing things about my outings with dates and times through his window. He even hired a private investigator to assist him.
Moreover, as this individual has worked in the public sector all his life (general insurance agent) he mobilized his clients who have become his friends to monitor my outings with my spouse in restaurants. I can not handle it anymore. I sleep more, I have a lot of trouble concentrating on my work. It's hell. I
- Lily — April 16, 2021Hello, Thank you for this very interesting article. We are soon to welcome a person in our service who we know is harmful because she has already pushed a colleague to attempt suicide in another structure. Being in the public service, it is always difficult to fire someone so she was reclassified with us. What advice, attitudes, good practices could you advise my colleagues and I to work best with this person?
I recognize in your description all the traits of a manipulator. She communicates very well and is friendly at first sight. Personally, I know that I am someone who often listens to the words of my colleagues. Spontaneously, people come to confide in me and easily entrust me with intimate things for professional relationships. It doesn't bother me, but the people around me are of good constitution and I don't risk anything. In this context, I feel a threat and I would like to have the best attitude so that everything goes well for me, my colleagues and this newcomer. Thank you in advance for your return. Have a good day
- I ss — September 13, 2020Thank you so much. Very rewarding. I try to detect these people as well as possible because they are very indifferent to me. I had a question though. What do you call a person who hides his feelings, his thoughts, behaves like someone who is not jealous and pretends he has confidence in himself when probably not?
- Judoglio — July 22, 2020I think I'm prone to this. I can not stand it anymore
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