Blog: Manipulation – Building your own prison – How to spot them?


Let us face it. We have all been manipulated and we have manipulated at some stage. We all want our needs met. We all are inherently “lazy” and will rather get other people to do the “work” for us, than to put the effort in ourselves.


Manipulators chase the reward – that is all it is about. The way .., well that is not so nice.


Some people will use manipulation/bribery from time to time, other people use it all the time. I have used bribery on my children when they were smaller – get them to do something you want right now, in return for a treat. Something like : “Shh, let’s see who fall asleep first and we can kick the ball for longer tomorrow, or buy an ice cream”. But the question is, do you keep that kind of behavior up? Has it become part of the way you function? There is no need to feel you are a manipulator if you have used it from time to time – we all have had some nightmare days and would just like to be let of the hook for a bit.


The bigger question is, were you exposed to that kind of behavior from childhood with no let up, and now you accept it as “the way things are”?


Many people who have been exposed to manipulation from a young age, will not easily acknowledge that they are being manipulated. They will have that gut feeling that tells them this is not right, this is not fair, but they will continue with the relationship. On the receiving end of manipulation, you deal with guilt, anger and frustration. You are angry at yourself for giving in. You feel guilty because you are angry – you are a good person, how can you not want to help them? You feel frustration – how are you ever going to wake up to the signs and how are you ever going to get out of this trap.


The manipulator is a self-serving individual. The fact that you are a “good” person, serves their needs. A manipulator will set you up and “train” you to fall in with their desires. They will use all kinds of tactics in the book and the end value that they “sell” to you, is that you are a good person and that what you are doing is good for you.


How do you recognize a manipulator?


1. King of the Castle. They will usually “confront” you from or in a place where they have the advantage of familiarity or power. A place where they are comfortable and confident. If they can bring their “victim” into their office, or pay for the coffee, then they have the upper hand. Look out for these patterns.

2. Put you at ease. If it is someone “new” in your life, they will ask you all kinds of questions. Get you to talk. Find out your weak and strong points. They will use compliments, similar experiences, show interest. They put you at ease and your guard drop. They are looking for specific information to “use” in the manipulation. Manipulation does not only come from strangers. Our family, spouses, children – does not matter. Manipulators come in all forms and sizes and they are usually people you like, because your feel comfortable around them. We all want to feel liked / accepted. This makes you fair playground for the manipulator.

3. Self-Doubt. The manipulator will want to put you off-balance. They will lie and distort information. They will withhold information and only share what will be to their benefit. You will start doubting yourself and question your motives and actions. Next time around, you will be more focused on your emotion of self-doubt than being aware of what is happening. You will start questioning your every move around this person, eventually you will question your actions in your whole life. You will constantly have to “proof” that they said certain things.

4. Emotional Blackmail. Past masters. They have learned where your guilt pressure points are. They have no scruples in using them. It is because of your goodhearted nature that they will find and zone in on those values. They will use your children, animals, the old and the sick – there is no boundary they will not cross in the process of getting you to submit to their desires.

5. Tone of Voice. They will use their voice to get your attention and to generate certain emotions. Slightly louder and you think they are angry. What did you say or do to get that reaction? They often will tell you they are angry at you, because they care for you and their anger is a show of “love and caring”. They will speak softly, so you think they are sad. Again, you start questioning yourself – what did you do, for them to be sad? And later, should you perhaps confront them about their anger or sadness, they will outright deny it. You will start analyzing it and realise that they never actually shouted – you perceived it as such.

6. They will force you to make quick decisions. They will come at you, out of the blue and it will always be a “panic” situation. They will word their desire in such a way that you perceive it as though a decision has to be made right now – only so many items left, special closes at such a time, need to catch the flight now, etc. There is always some sort of urgency behind the manipulation. When you are under pressure, it is not so easy to pick up the manipulation – not so easy to analyse what is being asked or demanded of you.

7. Jury and Judge. The manipulator will often sit in jury and judge on your every day actions, behavior, etc. You will always feel a little insecure around them, on the lookout for the things they criticize you about. You are never 100% comfortable. You are not as good at a certain sport, you “say the wrong thing at the wrong time”, you are messy, etc. They will focus on any area that they feel might be sensitive for you, and then they will use that.

8. Silent Treatment. Silent treatment is a favourite pastime of manipulators. They will either ignore you through social media or avoid you in public. Not answer calls, only later to call back. Or, once they have put the pressure on you to make the decision, they will be deathly quiet, they do not further engage with you, while you are doing the explanation “dance” all the way, and they sit and listen. Eventually you will “talk” yourself into the behavior they wanted from you in the first place.

9. Play Dumb. Thy cannot “understand” why you would let such an opportunity pass you by. Or they will not understand why you react the way you do, you have never before voiced your feelings – even if you had done so many times. This is all part of the routine of getting you to doubt yourself. They "care" about you and you are throwing it in their faces. If you doubt yourself, then you will start looking for someone else who can guide you – in walks the manipulator.

10. The Poor Victim. The manipulator is always a victim of some sort. They have done something wrong and need your help, they are weak, powerless, the martyr. It is not beyond the manipulator to use their illness, to get done what they want. The manipulator counts on your guilt, kindness, care, goodwill to “empower” them to manipulate you. They play a very skillful role of, on the one side breaking you down and on the other “empowering” you through your guilt.

11. Call in the Forces. The manipulator will always use other people as comparisons. How kind they are, how well they do, what they excel at. You will always be compared to someone else and while our natural defense is to stand up and explain, we still quietly except this information given to us.


The manipulator is a polished machine. They have perfected their behavior over time and they know how and when to use it. They use your emotions against you, ever so subtle, but directed, that you will not even notice it, unless you know what to look out for.


First, they will “befriend” you, make you feel comfortable. Then they break you emotionally, just a little, so you start to doubt yourself. Then they “empower” you, by them being the victim and you “saving” them. Once this pattern is set, they have you in their web and it is game on.


In my next blog we will look at the person on the receiving end. How do you break that bond with the manipulator?


Sue Leppan

Transformation Life Coach

NLP Practitioner

Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SueLeppanLifeCoach/

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