How to Understand That Somebody Manipulates You

Recognizing and Combating Manipulation in the Workplace

Manipulation is a covert form of influence that someone uses to exploit, control, or deceive others to serve their interests. It can have profound effects on individuals, including emotional distress, reduced self-esteem, and impaired decision-making.

This article aims to provide you with the knowledge and tools to identify and understand manipulative behavior, empowering you to protect yourself and maintain a healthy, respectful workplace environment.

Types of Manipulation

Manipulation exists in multiple forms. To protect yourself from it, you must be informed of its many forms. Let's gain some quick insights into different types of manipulation.

Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation involves exploiting someone's emotions to control their actions or decisions. Manipulators might use tactics such as guilt-tripping, where they make the victim feel guilty for not complying with their demands.

They may also play the victim, making the other person feel responsible for their happiness or well-being. Emotional manipulators often employ shaming tactics to undermine their target's self-esteem, making them feel unworthy or inadequate. This type of manipulation can lead to significant emotional distress, as the victim constantly questions their feelings and decisions.

Physical Manipulation

Physical manipulation involves using physical presence or actions to intimidate or control someone. This can include invading personal space, threatening gestures, or using physical force or coercion to achieve compliance.

Physical manipulators rely on creating a sense of fear and vulnerability in their victims, making them feel physically unsafe or threatened. This type of manipulation can have severe psychological and emotional consequences, as the victim may feel trapped and powerless.

Financial Manipulation

Financial manipulation is the control of someone's financial resources or decisions to exploit or dominate them. This can involve withholding money, controlling access to financial information, or exploiting financial dependence.

Financial manipulators may also use deceitful practices such as hiding assets or incurring debt in the victim's name. This type of manipulation can leave the victim financially dependent and unable to make independent decisions, leading to a loss of autonomy and financial stability.

Psychological Manipulation

Psychological manipulation targets a person's mental state and perception of reality. Techniques like gaslighting, where the manipulator makes the victim question their memory, perception, or sanity, are commonly used.

Constant criticism, belittling, and mind games are also tactics serving to destabilize the victim's sense of self and reality. Psychological manipulators aim to create confusion, self-doubt, and a dependency on the manipulator for validation and direction. This form of manipulation can be deeply damaging to the victim's mental health and self-esteem.

Recognizing and Combating Manipulation in the Workplace

Social Manipulation

Social manipulation involves using social interactions and relationships to control or influence someone. This can include spreading rumors, isolating the victim from their social network, or leveraging social status to manipulate others.

Social manipulators often use triangulation, where they bring a third party into the conflict to create divisions and control the dynamics. This type of manipulation can result in social isolation, damaged relationships, and a loss of social support, leaving the victim vulnerable and dependent on the manipulator.

Tactics and Techniques Used by Manipulators

Manipulators employ a variety of tactics to exert control over their victims. Understanding these techniques is crucial for recognizing and countering manipulation:


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator makes the victim doubt their reality or sanity. This is done by denying facts, altering information, and persistently questioning the victim's memory or perception. The goal is to create confusion and self-doubt, making the victim reliant on the manipulator for a sense of reality.


This tactic involves making the victim feel guilty to manipulate their actions or decisions. The manipulator may use past mistakes, responsibilities, or obligations to evoke guilt and compliance. By exploiting the victim's sense of duty or responsibility, the manipulator can control their behavior and decisions.


Projection is a defense mechanism where the manipulator attributes their negative behaviors or feelings to the victim. By accusing the victim of their faults or insecurities, the manipulator deflects blame and responsibility, creating confusion and defensiveness in the victim.


This technique involves bringing a third party into the conflict to manipulate the dynamics and create divisions. The manipulator uses the third party to validate their perspective, isolate the victim, and control the situation. Triangulation can lead to mistrust, competition, and hostility among the involved parties.


Intimidation involves using fear or threats to gain control. This can include direct threats, aggressive behavior, or creating a hostile environment. The goal is to make the victim feel unsafe and coerced into compliance. Intimidation can be physical, verbal, or emotional, and it aims to undermine the victim's sense of security and autonomy.


The manipulator uses excessive praise and compliments to lower the victim's defenses and gain their trust and influence. Flattery can create a false sense of security and dependence on the manipulator's approval. This tactic is often used to manipulate the victim's self-esteem and desire for validation.

Lies and Deception

Spreading false information, lying, or withholding the truth are common tactics manipulators use to control perceptions and decisions. By distorting reality, the manipulator can influence the victim's beliefs and actions, often to their advantage. Lies and deception are used to maintain control, create confusion, and prevent the victim from making informed decisions.

Signs and Symptoms of Being Manipulated

Recognizing the signs of manipulation is crucial to protecting yourself. Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling confused, anxious, or stressed: Manipulative tactics can cause emotional turmoil, leaving you feeling unsettled. If you frequently feel confused, anxious, or stressed after interactions with a particular person, it may be a sign of manipulation.
  • Doubting your judgment or reality: Gaslighting and deception can lead you to question your perceptions and decisions. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your memory, choices, or understanding of events, manipulation may be at play.
  • Feeling obligated or pressured to do things you don’t want to do: Manipulators often use guilt or intimidation to compel compliance. If you feel coerced into actions or decisions that go against your will or best interests, this is a strong indicator of manipulative behavior.
  • Experiencing physical or emotional harm: Manipulation can result in tangible harm, both physically and emotionally. Physical harm may include threats or coercion, while emotional harm can manifest as feelings of worthlessness, depression, or anxiety.

Identifying Manipulative Behavior

Identifying manipulation requires keen observation and self-awareness. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Observe the Person’s Behavior and Interactions with Others: Notice how they treat different people and whether their behavior changes depending on the audience.
  • Pay Attention to How They Make You Feel: Manipulative interactions often leave you feeling uneasy, guilty, or unsure.
  • Analyze Their Words and Actions for Inconsistencies or Contradictions: Manipulators often contradict themselves or twist facts to suit their agenda.
  • Trust Your Gut Instincts: Your intuition can be a powerful tool in recognizing manipulation.
  • Seek Support from Trusted Friends, Family Members, or Professionals: Discuss your experiences with others to gain perspective and support.

Real-life Examples of Manipulative Behavior

  • In the Workplace: A supervisor might take credit for an employee’s work while subtly undermining their confidence.
  • In Social Settings: A colleague may spread rumors to isolate someone and gain favor with others.
  • In Personal Relationships: A partner might use guilt or emotional outbursts to control the other’s actions and decisions.

Protecting Yourself from Manipulation

Once you’ve identified manipulative behavior, taking steps to protect yourself is essential.

Strategies for protection include:

  • Set clear boundaries and communicate them effectively: Define unacceptable behaviors and communicate these boundaries clearly.
  • Assert your needs and desires: Be confident in expressing your needs and expectations.
  • Learn to say "No" without guilt or apology: Practice saying no firmly and respectfully.
  • Build a strong support network of people you trust: Surround yourself with supportive individuals who can offer perspective and encouragement.
  • Seek professional help if needed: Don’t hesitate to consult with a counselor or therapist if manipulation is affecting your well-being.

Developing self-awareness and maintaining healthy self-esteem is crucial in resisting manipulation. Self-awareness helps you recognize when you're being manipulated, while self-esteem empowers you to assert your rights and boundaries confidently.


Manipulative behavior can have a detrimental impact on your professional and personal life. By understanding the different forms of manipulation, recognizing the signs, and implementing strategies to protect yourself, you can foster a healthier, more respectful environment. Remember, recognizing and addressing manipulation is a critical step in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. Take proactive steps to safeguard yourself, and don't hesitate to seek support when needed.

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