“Toxic people attach themselves like cinder blocks tied to your ankles, and then invite you to swim in their poisoned waters.” John Mark Green
Manipulation is a way of life in today’s society, powering our advertising industry, driving the mainstream media and underlying a good portion of American politics. Each time we pick up a magazine, turn on the television or open up our laptop we are exposed to subtle manipulation tactics that help our world to go around.
This ability to alter and control one’s way of thinking, however, can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Toxic individuals in our lives are often empowered by their ability to manipulate their victims, enabling their negative behavior and allowing them to conceal their true, toxic nature. It is in this way that they convince us to allow them into our lives, opening ourselves to their techniques and leaving ourselves highly vulnerable.
Psychopaths and narcissists are all around us. Researchers have been studying and analyzing data for decades, tracking the prevalence of narcissists in our society. An article for Psychology Today discussing the data and the trends that exist revealed a startling fact – According to the information collected approximately 70% of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than the average student did just 30 years ago. Narcissism is on the rise, and as such, we need to take the steps necessary to ensure that we are able to protect ourselves.
The first step to protecting ourselves against the manipulative techniques of these toxic individuals is to learn what to watch for so that we can identify their efforts early. While there are many steps that we can take to protect ourselves and fight back against manipulation, awareness is the most important tool we can possess!
Watch Out for These 21 Common Manipulation Techniques:
Minimizing Their Behaviors
Anytime that the victim does notice the behavior of the toxic influence in their lives, that person will take the necessary steps to minimize and downplay their actions. They make their victims feel as though they are overthinking the situation and overreacting, creating the illusion that what they did ‘isn’t that bad.’
Early in the relationship victims often report being swept off their feet in a perfect whirlwind romance. Their partner expresses their unending love and affection, drawing them into their web before they suddenly flip the switch turning this caring side off. By the time they switch to their true, cold demeanor their victims often feel trapped and unable to escape.
Playing the Victim
As a population, most humans are highly empathetic, drawn to help those that are suffering and in need of assistance. A manipulator knows this and uses it to their advantage. When backed into a corner they will play the victim card, drawing sympathy away from the real victim and onto themselves. This also allows them to create feelings of guilt in the victim themselves, further enforcing the manipulation.
Telling the truth would reveal the negative and toxic underlying motives of their every cold and calculated move. Instead, toxic individuals will lie to in order to relay a cleverly constructed story of who they are and what their intentions are.
Targeting the Victim
In order to turn the attention from themselves to their victim manipulators will throw accusations at their victims. This turns the attention on the victim into one of a negative nature, calling any claims that they make into question.
Compliments and flattery are a well-known way to gain trust and influence in your connections with others. Self-help gurus have long included this in their lists of ways to make successful business connections. This also works in the relationship between the victim and manipulator, creating a false sense of trust early in the relationship.
Use of Punishment
As a young child, parents will use methods of punishment to enforce that behaviors are negative and as such will not be tolerated, including grounding their children or taking away luxuries like a gaming system. Using the same method of conditioning, toxic individuals punish their partners anytime they act in a way that they don’t deem to be appropriate to their view of the relationship. They may lash out verbally, give their partner the silent treatment, or break things that their partner deems to be valuable or sentimental in nature.
Rewards and Positive Reinforcement
In order to buy off their victims, maintaining their hold, manipulators will lavish gifts and positive attention upon them. They will give them money, praise and compliment them continually and give them a great deal of attention and affection in order to stay in their good graces.
If a manipulator is caught in the act of one of their manipulation tactics they will often feign innocence and naivety in order to avoid persecution. Acting surprised or confused by the fact that they are doing anything wrong may convince the victim that it was truly unintentional.
Failing to Share the Whole Story
These individuals may appear to be incredibly open with you, sharing detailed stories that help them to create trust. Be cautious though, while it may seem like they are an open book they will strategically leave out parts of the story to allow them to spin it to their advantage.
An over the top and intense level of aggression can create feelings of fear and distrust in the victim, scaring them from any efforts to question the manipulator. Instead, out of fear, they will simply step back and accept the reality of the world that they currently live in, feeling trapped.
An important part of any healthy, positive relationship is a clear understanding of the expectations that each party has for their spouse. While the victim may believe that they understand this, they find that their partner will continually redefine these expectations always leaving them falling short.
A manipulator is aware that their victim’s loved ones are able to view the situation in an unbiased manner, which very well may make it easier to see the toxic nature of the relationship leading them to encourage and assist the victim in breaking free. To avoid this from happening they isolate their victim from everyone else, leaving them fully dependent on their manipulator.
There will be times that you are positive that you can spot a manipulation as it is happening. If you choose to confront a toxic individual at this point they won’t be willing to give up that quickly. Instead, they will vehemently deny that it ever happened in such a convincing manner that the victim often ends up second-guessing themselves.
False Love and Empathy
In order to convince their victim that they are in a real and worthwhile relationship, manipulators will create false feelings of love and affection. They will also demonstrate a high level of empathy, genuinely coming across as concerned about their victim on a day-to-day basis. The truth is that manipulators are not capable of empathy and this is all a rouse.
If a manipulator feels as though they have been backed into a corner they will take the necessary evasive steps to divert attention elsewhere. For example, if the victim is starting a conversation in regard to their behavior the manipulator will be quick to change the subject.
Passive Aggressive Behavior
Rather than outright attacking their victim, manipulators may engage in passive-aggressive attacks devaluing their victim and creating a ‘hostile’ environment without leaving the victim with a clear idea of why they feel it is hostile. Instead, they are left second-guessing themselves, their feelings and their actions.
Frequent and Intense Mood Swings
If you are in a relationship with a manipulative individual you may feel as though you are constantly on edge, never sure what your partner may be feeling at any given moment. This uncertainty works to their advantage and as such is often used as a clever technique in manipulation.
While sarcasm is not always a sign of manipulation, those who engage in these toxic behaviors are often found using sarcasm to undermine and devalue their partner in front of others. This helps them to establish their dominance and power in the relationship.
Spinning the Truth
Toxic individuals don’t necessarily have to lie in order to get what they want. Instead, they can use the truth to their advantage. By spinning the truth, they are able to disguise their negative behaviors and justify their decisions.
Guilt can be an incredibly powerful and useful emotion, and it is one of the many tools that most manipulators keep at the ready in their tool belt. By using phrases like ‘you don’t care about me do you’ or ‘you only think about yourself’ manipulators are able to turn a victim’s focus back on themselves overlooking the manipulator’s actions.