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Am I Manipulative (9 Key Signs)

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This article will focus on how to determine whether a person is manipulative and what signs they should look out for in their behaviour. Also, the article will explain why people are manipulative and also give an example of a personality that has such a behaviour.

How Can I Tell If I Am Manipulative?

Here are 13 signs to tell whether or not you are manipulative:

  • Lies
  • You Praise Too Much
  • Making Others Feel Guilty
  • Break Promises
  • Too Persuasive
  • Punishing Others
  • Blaming Others
  • Guilt Tripping
  • Withholding Affection

Before we take a look at these signs in detail that can tell a person whether they are manipulative or not, let us take a look at what manipulation is and why people use it!

Manipulation – What Is It?

Manipulation is a psychological tactic or strategy – an unhealthy one – that is used by individuals to get what they want. They use it because they are not able to ask others to do what it is they exactly need done. It is a skill people often have which they keep hidden – this is because it is an unethical way of gaining what you desire and involves hurting the other person mentally or emotionally.

This unhealthy psychological tactic involves 3 components:

  • Fear
  • Guilt 
  • Obligation

The main purpose of manipulation is to make the other person do what you want – you want to make them feel obligated towards you so they carry out what it is you need. However, the true question is how do you make them feel that way? How do you make a person feel that they need to return a favor or put in more effort to make things work? That is where the other two obligations come into play!

A person can make someone feel obligated by either instilling fear in them or guilt. When it comes to putting fear into the other person’s mind – you can use a variety of tactics. You can be verbally abusive, physically abusive or engage in more implicit rather than explicit behaviours. You can be passive aggressive, pass quiet threats or even show your power and resources in a manner that the other person feels scared of upsetting you.

However, another way to get the person to listen to and obey you is by making them feel guilty. They will either play the victim or use previous experiences to show you how you made them feel or how they have been putting up with your ‘irrational’ behaviour.

Nonetheless, this is how people manipulate – they use these components to get what they desire. But why don’t people just tell others what they want? Why do they have to be manipulative? Let’s check this out in the next section of the article!

Why Do People Manipulate Others?

There are a number of reasons why people manipulate others.

Family History

Manipulative behaviours can be passed down in the family as well and this is no surprise! Apart from that, growing up in a manipulative environment where there is some sort of power struggle or lack of resources – youngsters especially can learn a lot on how to get around and make things work for them. It is possible they witnessed much conflict in their upbringing and manipulation was the only thing they witnessed that actually led to ‘peace’. 

Sometimes there is too much competition between siblings for love, affection. Monetary resources and non-financial rewards. This encourages such behaviours.

Bad Experiences

Another reason why people manipulate is because of bad experiences they had especially during their formative years. They may have been taken advantage of or cheated because of which they saw this as a means of getting by and gaining what one desires. They develop the thinking that others do this as well and maybe this is the true way to actually get what you want.

Hence, because of bad experiences especially in the development stage people may resort to manipulative tactics to get what they want or control people in their surroundings.

Norms & Values

In some cultures, societies or even organizations as well as professions, competitive bargaining and clever tactics are actually encouraged to bring a larger portion of the pie home. In such cultures for example, people are taught from a very young age to be clever and always view things from a certain perspective so they neither become the victim in a situation and take as much as they can from the other party – instead of following a more ‘win win’ approach!

Similarly, some professions are more prone to encouraging manipulative strategies especially in the sales and marketing department where you sometimes deceive customers into wanting or buying a certain product or service.

It is necessary to state that manipulative behaviours actually start out as a survival technique or one which people use to gain more power or resources that they crave for.

How Can I Tell If I Am Manipulative?

Here are 13 signs to tell whether or not you are manipulative!


You lie too much! This is an easy one. People who are manipulators will often conceal important information to make the other person feel, think or behave in a certain manner. This is very important because having access to a certain knowledge or truth can actually make people make different decisions.

However, manipulators realize the power of this and hence they will not only lie to conceal information but also lie to not get caught or have their intentions revealed.

You Praise Too Much

Manipulating someone can be an interesting yet time taking process – especially if the end goal is big! A person who manipulates often engages in ‘buttering’ another person – this means they praise them excessively so they feel good not only about themselves but the other person. This helps them develop a bond with the other person. Also, the praise they receive creates an inner desire to receive such compliments again – they will be pushed to engage in behaviours that are likely to get them this praise. It becomes easy to manipulate them!

Making Others Feel Guilty

As discussed before, guilt is one component of manipulation that leads to obligation. Hence, the aim of the manipulator is to make the other person feel guilty. They will do this in a number of ways which we will observe in other headings of this article.

Break Promises

Breaking promises is another sign that you are a manipulator. There could be so many reasons why you do this. To get the attention of the other person, cover up your own tracks or because you were trying to do a stunt but the other person took it too far and now you can’t keep your own words.

Too Persuasive

Sometimes manipulators become desperate and this is when you will see them get pushy because they want you to do what they need – this is apparent because they have invested much thought and time and possibly resources into you. They will push you to do certain things and also challenge you or question your intentions.

Punishing Others

One of the ways a manipulator behaves is by punishing others. They are quite dark and evil. If they are disappointed or do not get what they want then they become quite angry and they will punish the other person by blocking them, damaging their reputation or things. They need an outlet to vent their anger and frustration.

Blaming Others

This is another way to get someone to do what you want! If you are successful in convincing someone they are to blame for an undesirable outcome then they are more likely to compensate for this by doing what you need them to do!

Guilt Tripping

This is a frequent tactic used by manipulators – one that can become very obvious. They will complain and go on and on about how they have been putting up with you. They will lead you on an entire journey where they count each and every mistake of yours.

Withholding Affection

To make you feel guilty and at fault, the manipulator will withhold their affection and love. This will make the other person question their own intentions or behaviors to the extent that this becomes gaslighting.


This article took a look at how a person can tell whether or not they are a manipulator. The article also told the readers about what manipulation is and why people adopt such unhealthy behaviours or tactics.


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