Signs of psychological and emotional manipulation are all around us, but they’re often covert. Psychology Today defines manipulation as “the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation with the intent to seize power, control, benefits, and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.” Therefore, manipulators create power imbalances and utilize their control of the victim to serve their agenda. Because these behaviors can make reality seem questionable, it can be difficult to escape from the cycle of abuse. However, these six phrases can serve as early indicators that you’re in a manipulative relationship:
“You’re impossible to talk to.”
This phrase uses a simple, direct manipulation method: avoiding discussing the issue at hand. Your manipulator will tell you that you’re too “sensitive” or “emotional” and claim that you’re “making a mountain out of a molehill.” They’ll accuse you of having poor communication skills, they can regain control of the argument and change your focus.
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
In this classic, passive-aggressive manipulation tactic, the manipulator feigns that they don’t understand what you say to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
“You’d do this if you loved me!”
Giving ultimatums on short notice distresses victims of manipulation and puts them between a rock and a hard place. When an emotional abuser puts your loyalty on the line, you’ll feel like you must do what they say if you want to keep the relationship intact. In this way, manipulators inflict emotional suffering to force their victims to do whatever they want.
“You made me do this!”
Manipulators who use this tactic seek to shift the blame for their actions to the victim and claim that the catalyst for their bad behavior was outside of their control. When manipulators focus on how your actions affect their state of mind, they twist the truth in their own favor. Moreover, they often exaggerate how you “hurt” them to ensure that their version of the truth wins out.
“I’ve never had this connection with someone before.”
Emotional manipulators often share their darkest secrets early on in the relationship, which makes victims feel like they really want to know the manipulator on a deep level. When a manipulative person claims that your connection is special, they’re planning to use your sensitivities against you later.
“All you do is…”
Emotional manipulators will often overgeneralize your actions in order to degrade victims and chip away at their self-esteem. Although they are trying to ridicule you, the manipulator’s comments really project their own insecurities onto you.
Although there are many ways to psychologically and emotionally manipulate, these common phrases can covertly attempt to subdue you. When you hear these comments in your relationships, call out manipulative behavior immediately and know that those who truly love you would never treat you this way. In your relationships, always listen to your gut, and choose to disengage if you feel uncomfortable.
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I am currently writing a book with a manipulative boyfriend, and am trying to understand exactly what being manipulative is like. I’m trying, not to become manipulative, but be able to do it meaningfully and to make it seem real. Any suggestions?
You have the same name as me.
Anyway, to answer your question, I would just follow the examples above to write the manipulative character. Just because you understand what manipulation looks like doesn’t mean you’re manipulative yourself.