Manipulation: Understanding Its Roots, How to spot and Overcome Its Influence
Shawn Lehner

It's no secret that some people thrive on putting others down and undermining their successes. These individuals often have a manipulative way with words, fabricating stories and exaggerating their own accomplishments in order to make themselves seem superior to those around them. However, their behavior ultimately reveals their own lack of credibility and self-confidence.

Manipulators of words are often insecure individuals who seek to make themselves feel better by tearing down others. They often have a distorted view of reality, where they are always the hero or the most knowledgeable person in every situation. They may even prey on the weak-minded or vulnerable individuals who don’t think for themselves, as these individuals are more easily influenced and manipulated.

One of the key ways that manipulative individuals reveal their true colors is through their tendency to talk excessively about themselves and their successes while belittling or undermining the accomplishments of others. They may fabricate stories or exaggerate their own achievements in order to make themselves seem more impressive or knowledgeable, even if it means stepping on the successes of others. This type of behavior not only undermines the credibility of the manipulator but also shows a lack of respect for others' accomplishments and hard work.

It's important to recognize this type of behavior and to avoid getting drawn into it. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive individuals who uplift and inspire you can help build your own self-confidence and prevent you from being influenced by those who seek to tear you down. Additionally, taking time to reflect on your own successes and accomplishments can help you stay grounded and confident in your own abilities, even in the face of those who seek to undermine you.

One of the most insidious aspects of manipulative behavior is the way that it can erode our sense of self-worth and confidence. When someone constantly belittles our accomplishments or makes us feel inferior, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook on ourselves and our abilities.

However, it's important to remember that the opinions of manipulative individuals are not a reflection of our true worth. We should never allow someone else to define our value or to make us doubt our own abilities. Instead, we should focus on cultivating a positive self-image and surrounding ourselves with people who support and encourage us.

Another important step in avoiding manipulative behavior is to set clear boundaries. If someone is constantly putting you down or trying to undermine your accomplishments, it's important to speak up and let them know that their behavior is not acceptable. While this can be difficult, it's essential for maintaining healthy relationships and protecting your own self-esteem.

Now let's pinpoint some forms of Manipulation or manipulative behavior so that we can be more aware and protect ourselves from the effects of these harmful tyrant tactics.

Emotional Manipulation

Withholding affection or attention is another common tactic used in emotional manipulation. The manipulator may use this to punish their target for not doing what they want or to create a sense of insecurity and neediness in the target. They may also use it as a form of control, to make the target feel like they have to earn the manipulator's love or affection.

In addition to withholding affection or attention, emotional manipulation can take many other forms as well. For example, a manipulator may use gaslighting, where they make their target question their own memories and perception of reality. They may also use projection, where they accuse the target of things that they themselves are actually guilty of. In some cases, the manipulator may also use threats or intimidation to get their way, which can make the target feel scared or unsafe.

Emotional manipulation can be incredibly damaging and can have long-lasting effects on their target's mental and emotional well-being. The survivors of emotional manipulation may feel powerless, confused, and isolated. They may begin to doubt their own perceptions and judgment, and may even start to believe that they are the problem.

Psychological Manipulation

Psychological manipulation can take many different forms, but one very common tactic is through negative comments or criticism. Manipulators may use seemingly innocuous comments or critiques as a way to undermine someone's self-confidence and make them doubt their abilities. This can be especially insidious when the manipulator presents their criticisms as helpful or constructive feedback.

Another form of psychological manipulation is through backhanded compliments. These comments may seem like compliments on the surface, but they are actually meant to subtly undermine someone's self-confidence or make them feel inferior. For example, a backhanded compliment might be something like, "You look great for your age," which suggests that the person being complimented is only attractive because of their age, rather than because of their own inherent qualities.

Manipulators may also use gaslighting to make their target question their own memories and perception of reality. Gaslighting can take many forms and we will cover that next. A few other forms of psychological manipulation are withholding affection or attention; they may also use projection, where they accuse the target of things that they themselves are actually guilty of, or they may also use threats or intimidation to get their way, which can make the target feel scared or unsafe. These will all be discussed as forms of manipulation that are covered as we continue.

Physical Manipulation

Physical manipulation is a form of abuse where the manipulator uses physical force or the threat of physical force to control their target. This can include hitting, punching, pushing, grabbing, or other forms of physical assault. It can leave visible marks and cause physical pain or injury, but it can also cause long-term emotional and psychological harm. The targets may feel powerless, scared, or trapped in the relationship, and may have their behavior controlled or their independence limited.

Physical manipulation can also intersect with verbal abuse, where the manipulator may use physical force or the threat of physical force to enforce their verbal attacks or demands. The combination of physical and verbal abuse can be particularly damaging, leaving the target feeling trapped, scared, and powerless. Survivors may struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, and may need specialized support to heal and recover from their experiences.

Additionally, physical manipulation can involve coercion or threats to engage in sexual acts or sexual exploitation. The manipulator may use physical force, intimidation, or emotional blackmail to force the target into these acts, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, and trauma. It is important for survivors of sexual abuse or exploitation to seek immediate help and support from trained professionals, as well as legal authorities if necessary. Don’t ever feel like you have to keep quiet or carry this around with you silently.  

Physical manipulation and verbal abuse are some very serious forms of manipulation that can have long-lasting effects on the target's physical and emotional well-being. The perpetrators need to be held accountable for their actions and to prevent further harm to others. It is crucial to recognize that these behaviors are never acceptable, and survivors should seek help and support to break free from the cycle of abuse.


Gaslighting is another form of manipulation that can be extremely damaging. In this tactic, the manipulator seeks to make someone doubt their own perception of reality by denying or minimizing their experiences or emotions. Gaslighting can be especially harmful in close relationships, where the manipulator may seek to isolate

the target from other sources of support or validation. Manipulators may also use a false narrative or selective memory to distort reality and gain control. They may selectively remember certain events or conversations to their advantage, or they may outright lie to create a false narrative that benefits them. This can make it difficult for their target to confront or challenge the manipulator, as the manipulator may claim that their version of events is the truth.

Gaslighting is often used as a way to make the target question their own sanity and judgment, which can lead to feelings of confusion, self-doubt, and isolation. The manipulator may also use gaslighting to make their target dependent on them for validation and guidance, as they become the only source of truth and clarity in the target’s life. In some cases, the manipulator may use gaslighting as a way to cover up their own abusive behavior or to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

Gaslighting can be difficult to recognize, especially when it is done in subtle and gradual ways. Survivors of gaslighting may start to feel like they are going crazy or that they cannot trust their own thoughts and feelings. Over time, this can lead to a loss of confidence, self-esteem, and even a sense of identity. It is important for individuals to trust their own experiences and seek support and validation from trusted sources if they suspect they are being gaslit.

Gaslighting can occur in many different types of relationships, including romantic relationships, friendships, and professional relationships.


Triangulation is a manipulative tactic commonly used in interpersonal relationships that seeks to create division and confusion among people, while also giving the manipulator a sense of control over the situation. The manipulator will often seek to control the narrative by involving a third party, typically someone who is trusted by the target, in order to exert control over their target..

In some cases, triangulation can involve the manipulator creating conflict between two people and then positioning themselves as the mediator or peacemaker. They may do this in order to gain attention or admiration from the target, or to create a sense of dependence on them.

In other cases, the manipulator may use triangulation to shift blame onto the third party, rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. For example, a manipulator may tell a friend that they were late to a meeting because another person didn't show up, even if that isn't true. This can create distrust and tension between the target  and the third party, while also making the manipulator appear innocent or blameless.

Triangulation can be difficult to identify and confront, as the manipulator may present themselves as helpful or innocent. Additionally, it can be emotionally damaging to the target, as it can create feelings of confusion, isolation, and distrust. In some cases, the survivor  may even begin to doubt their own perceptions or question their own sanity. It is important to recognize triangulation as a manipulative tactic and to seek support from trusted sources in order to maintain a sense of clarity and perspective.


Stonewalling is a form of manipulation where the manipulator refuses to engage in communication or cooperation with the other person as a means of exerting control or punishment. This can be a particularly frustrating and damaging tactic, as it can leave their target feeling isolated, ignored, and powerless. It can also be used as a form of emotional manipulation, as the manipulator may use it as a way to avoid responsibility or accountability for their actions, leaving the target questioning their own perceptions and feelings.

In addition to the emotional impact of stonewalling, it can also have practical consequences in certain situations. For example, if the manipulator is stonewalling in a professional or academic setting, it can interfere with the target's ability to complete tasks or achieve their goals. It can also be used as a form of punishment or control in romantic relationships, where the manipulator may withhold affection or attention until their target complies with their demands or expectations.

Like other forms of manipulation, stonewalling can be a powerful tool for control, and it can have serious consequences for the survivors' well-being and relationships.

Guilt Tripping

In addition to those forms of manipulative behavior mentioned earlier, there are several other tactics that manipulators may use. For example, guilt-tripping is a common tactic where the manipulator seeks to make someone feel guilty for not doing what they want. They may use phrases like "if you really loved me, you would do this" or "I sacrificed so much for you, and this is how you repay me? Guilt-tripping can be a powerful tactic because it can cause the target to question their own values and beliefs. The manipulator may use the target's sense of obligation or loyalty to their advantage, making them feel like they are letting the manipulator down if they don't comply with their demands. This can lead the target to feel like they have no choice but to give in, even if it goes against their own wishes or best interests.

Furthermore, guilt-tripping can also be used to shift blame onto the target. The manipulator may make their target feel like they are responsible for the manipulator's emotions or well-being, making it seem like the survivor is the cause of the problem. This can be especially effective on people who are prone to feeling guilty or responsible for other people's feelings.

It's important to note that not all guilt-tripping is intentional or malicious. Some people may use guilt-tripping as a way to express their own emotions or communicate their needs. However, when it becomes a pattern of behavior that is used to control or manipulate others, it can be harmful and toxic.

Love Bombing

Love bombing, where the manipulator overwhelms someone with affection and attention in order to gain their trust and control. They may give gifts, shower compliments, and profess their undying love very quickly in order to create a sense of emotional dependency and manipulate the person's feelings. It's a powerful tactic used by manipulators to create a false sense of intimacy and connection with their targets. The manipulator may initially appear charming, attentive, and affectionate, and will often try to quickly establish an intense emotional connection with their target. This can be particularly effective on individuals who are vulnerable or seeking validation and attention. The manipulator may use gifts, romantic gestures, and lavish displays of affection to reinforce the emotional bond they are trying to create. They may also constantly shower their target with compliments, tell them how special and unique they are, and make grand declarations of love and commitment.

However, the manipulator's affection is often conditional and can quickly turn to criticism, insults, and emotional abuse if the target does not comply with their demands. Once the manipulator has gained control over the target, they may use the threat of withdrawal of affection or attention to punish them or manipulate them into doing what they want.Survivors of love bombing may feel overwhelmed, confused, and unsure of themselves, as the manipulator has created a false sense of reality that is difficult to reconcile with their own experiences. They may also feel guilty or ungrateful for not reciprocating the manipulator's intense displays of affection, which can further reinforce the manipulator's control over them.


Manipulators may try isolating someone from people who notice these forms of manipulation taking place. The manipulator may try to cut off the target's support network, so they become more dependent on the manipulator for emotional support and validation. This can make it more difficult for the target to leave the manipulative friendship,relationship or acquaintance and can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

In addition to cutting off the target's support network, the manipulator may also try to limit their access to information and control their environment. This can be done by controlling what the target reads, watches, or listens to, and even what they eat or wear. By limiting the target's exposure to the outside world, the manipulator can control their thoughts and beliefs, making it more difficult for the target to recognize the manipulation taking place.

Isolation can also manifest in other ways. For example, the manipulator may create situations where their target feels they have no choice but to rely on them. This could be by creating financial dependence or by convincing the target that they are the only person who truly understands and cares for them. The manipulator may try to distance the target from their own feelings and emotions. They may dismiss the target's emotions or make them feel guilty for having them. This can make the survivor doubt their own thoughts and feelings, making it easier for the manipulator to control them. Overall, isolation is a powerful tool for manipulators because it can make their target more vulnerable and dependent on them, making it more difficult for the target to leave the situation.

Threats and Intimidation

Threats and intimidation are also common tactics used by manipulators to control others. These tactics rely on instilling fear in the target in order to get them to comply with the manipulator's demands. This fear can be physical, emotional, or psychological in nature, and can be used in a variety of settings, including personal relationships, the workplace, and even in larger societal contexts.

Threats can take many forms, ranging from direct threats of violence or harm to more subtle threats of consequences or punishment. Intimidation, on the other hand, involves using fear to make the target feel powerless or small, often through verbal or nonverbal cues such as raised voices, aggressive body language, or belittling comments.

In some cases, threats and intimidation can be accompanied by physical violence or abuse, which can have serious physical and psychological consequences for the target. However, even in cases where physical violence is not present, the fear and anxiety caused by threats and intimidation can have a lasting impact on the survivor's well-being and sense of self-worth.It's important to note that threats and intimidation are not legitimate forms of communication or problem-solving, and should never be tolerated or excused.

Smear Campaign

A newer form of manipulation in the era we live in is the smear campaign. This is where an individual seeks to try and tarnish someone else's reputation by spreading rumors or fabricated negative and even false information about them. This can be particularly damaging in professional settings, where a smear campaign can damage a person's career prospects, friendships and relationships.

They may use social media platforms to share lies or exaggerations about the person or use anonymous messaging apps to send damaging messages to others. In some cases, they may enlist the help of others to spread rumors or even create fake profiles to amplify their negative message. Smear campaigns can have devastating effects on the target, as they can damage not only their reputation but also their mental health and overall well-being. They may feel ostracized or isolated as others distance themselves from them based on false information. The manipulator, on the other hand, may use the smear campaign to gain power and control over others by portraying themselves as trustworthy and the target as untrustworthy or unreliable.It's important to note that smear campaigns are often done in a calculated and strategic way, with the manipulator carefully choosing their words and actions to achieve their desired outcome. It can be difficult to prove that someone is engaging in a smear campaign, which can make it even more challenging for the survivor to defend themselves and clear their name.The smear campaign tactic is a harmful and destructive form of manipulation that can have serious consequences for those targeted. It's important to be aware of this tactic and to take steps to protect yourself from it, such as staying vigilant and being careful about who you trust and what information you share or just don't feed any energy into it.


Projection is another form of manipulative behavior where the manipulator places their own negative qualities or feelings onto the target. For example, if the manipulator is dishonest, they may accuse their target of being dishonest. The manipulator may also use projection as a way to deflect criticism and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. Projection is a common defense mechanism that manipulators may use to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or feelings. It involves projecting their own negative qualities, behaviors, or feelings onto someone else. For example, a manipulator who is cheating on their partner may accuse their partner of being unfaithful. This tactic can be used to deflect attention away from their own actions and to make the target feel guilty or confused.

Manipulators who use projection often do so unconsciously, and they may genuinely believe that their accusations are true. This can make it difficult for the survivor to defend themselves, as the manipulator may become defensive and refuse to accept any evidence to the contrary.

Projection can also be used as a form of gaslighting. They may use projection to convince the target that they are the problem, and that they need to change their behavior or attitudes in order to please the manipulator.

Projection can be a highly effective tool for manipulators, as it allows them to shift blame and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.


Playing the victim or portraying oneself as a victim is a common tactic used by manipulators. By presenting themselves as the victim of circumstances beyond their control or by creating a false story that casts themselves in a positive light, the manipulator seeks to gain sympathy, support, or attention from others. This can trigger an emotional response in others, such as empathy or guilt, making it a powerful tool for manipulators.

Manipulators may exaggerate or fabricate negative experiences in their life, such as claiming to have been mistreated or neglected by others, in order to elicit sympathy and attention. They may also use stories of victimhood to manipulate others into giving them financial or material resources.

On the other hand, manipulators may also distort the truth or selectively present information to create a false narrative that casts themselves in a positive light. They may do this to avoid taking responsibility for their own negative behaviors or to discredit others who have called them out on their manipulative tactics.

In both cases, the manipulator is seeking to control the narrative and gain power over others by manipulating their emotions and perceptions. It's important to be aware of this tactic and to question the veracity of someone's claims of victimhood before giving them your sympathy or support.

Let's wrap this up. So in the end, avoiding manipulative behavior requires a combination of self-awareness, assertiveness, and compassion. Manipulative behavior can be harmful to both the manipulator and those around them. It's important to remember that manipulative behavior is often a sign of deeper insecurities and issues. We should never excuse or condone this type of behavior. Recognizing and avoiding manipulative behavior is essential for maintaining that healthy sense of self-confidence and avoiding toxic relationships, friendships or workplaces. By being aware of these behaviors and taking steps to protect ourselves from them, we can build strong, positive relationships and achieve our goals without fear of being belittled or undermined while building confidence and self-assurance.

In some special cases it's important to approach these individuals with empathy and understanding but keep your ground and choose wisely. By recognizing the underlying issues that may be driving their behavior, we can work to address the root causes and possibly help them build healthier, more positive relationships themselves.

Always stand up for your own needs and boundaries. It's important to remember that you are not responsible for other people's emotions or well-being, and that it's okay to say no or set boundaries to protect yourself. There's only one of you, protect it of all its value.

<- Back to Blogs