Common Manipulation Techniques

We all manipulate.

We all have needs and wants, and when we fail to get others to meet those through straightforward means (like requesting and negotiation) we employ manipulate techniques to achieve them. Some manipulative strategies are more destructive than others, but in a pinch we all use them.

If, however, we find ourselves in a relationship with a controlling person and feel trapped by their manipulation, we can feel helpless and endangered, leading to anxiety, anger and depression.

Secrecy is what gives manipulators their power. But when we recognize and label how someone is manipulating us, we strip the manipulator of his or her power over us, which gives us more choices; empowering us. Below is a list of 23 manipulative techniques. See how many you recognize in others, and in yourself.

  1. Physical Aggression, Anger, Intimidation, Threats – “If you don’t do what I want you’ll be sorry.”
  2. Guilt – “Oh fine, you go off and enjoy your football game while I slave away in the kitchen.”
  3. Constant Criticism – “Sure you did the laundry, but you folded everything the wrong way.”
  4. Name Calling, Personal Attacks – “You’re a total moron. I can’t believe I married such a loser.”
  5. Passive Aggression – “Well yes, I threw your old wallet away, but I didn’t know it had money in it.”
  6. Over-Dependence – “But I can’t do it without you. You have to help me.”
  7. Distraction – “Sure you’re upset about my lying, but what about your affair last year?”
  8. Unwillingness To Forgive – “I know you said you were sorry, but I don’t think you meant it.”
  9. Over-Intellectualization – “There were 18 reasons for my behavior. Let me list them for you.”
  10. Splitting hairs – “Technically I bought the TV, so I should have the right to decide what we watch.”
  11. Psychiatric Labeling – “You’re crazy. Everyone else agrees with me.”
  12. Withdrawal – “I don’t want to talk about it.”
  13. Empty Promise Procrastination – “We can talk about it some other time – just not right now.”
  14. Naiveté – “I don’t understand. You’re going to have to explain it to me one more time.”
  15. Rapid-Fire Responses – “Then there was your DUI, then the affair, then the gambling…”
  16. Double Binds – “So which is it, are you just stupid or are you deliberately trying to hurt me?”
  17. Spin & Distortion – “But you always get your way and I never get my way.”
  18. Unwillingness to Compromise – “It’s either my way or the highway-which is it going to be?”
  19. All-or-Nothing Thinking – “This is a complete disaster. Now we’ll have to start all over.”
  20. Mind Reading – “I know what you really meant by that, despite what you said.”
  21. Isolationism – “You don’t need to be spending time with family or friends. I’m all you need.”
  22. Rhetorical Questions – “Why do you always…”, “Why can’t you ever…”
  23. Appealing to a Higher Authority – “It’s not just my opinion, look at what the Bible says about it.”