How to understand that you are being manipulated? Advice from psychologist Elena Zenkova

Manipulation in communication is the hidden psychological influence of one person on another in order to influence his thoughts, feelings and, ultimately, behavior.

Of course, realizing that someone is influencing you and using you for their own purposes is extremely unpleasant. But the truth is that people trying to manipulate each other is a natural part of communication, that’s how we are designed.

Just learn to see the moments and situations when they are trying to control you. And then you will be able to easily and quickly recognize the hidden motives of other people.

This means that you will be able to consciously choose when it is beneficial for you to fall for manipulation, and when you will not allow your boundaries to be violated and you will not be manipulated.

What is manipulation?

Manipulation is a hidden psychological influence, the purpose of which is to take possession of the victim’s resources, and so that she gives these resources voluntarily.

What is important to know about manipulation:

  • Manipulation is psychological violence; it cannot be for the good.
  • The phrase “It will be better for you” is a lie. Only the manipulator benefits from manipulation.
  • The manipulator does not have it written on his forehead that he is a manipulator. More often than not, this is a completely ordinary person.
  • Excessive optimism and the attitude “this will definitely not happen to me” increase the chances of falling under its influence.
  • Lack of material and financial resources does not guarantee protection from a manipulator. He may also be interested in emotional, intellectual, temporary, social and other resources.
  • Long-term exposure to a manipulator destroys the psyche, reduces self-esteem and blurs personal boundaries. The further you go, the more difficult it is to escape. 95% of people want to learn how to protect themselves from manipulation, 88% want to manipulate, so they are not that rare.
What traits of yours allow you to be manipulated:
  • Emotional dependence on a person;
  • Inability to say no;
  • Vague personal boundaries;
  • External locus of control;
  • Tendency to seek approval from others;
  • Lack of self-confidence;
  • Fear of negative emotions.

And they are victims. Always.

Who wouldn't feel sorry for the poor kitten?

These are the defenseless kittens that manipulators want to appear in your eyes.

Their lives are so complicated and full of suffering that you should definitely sympathize with them and shift half of what they need to do onto yourself (of course, how could it be otherwise?!)

Manipulators use this trick when they are trying to gain your favor or trying to avoid responsibility.

If you notice that your partner is prone to constant complaints about life, this may be a clear signal that he is trying to manipulate you.

However, don't confuse this with him sharing his feelings with you in hopes of getting your support. Manipulators are in search of personal gain.

Why do people manipulate?

  • Helplessness. Many manipulators try to control people because of their own helplessness.
  • Inability to love. Love involves accepting and respecting a person. Often, the manipulator evaluates people and their actions in a “tunnel way” and is lazy to make efforts to build healthy relationships. And he prefers to have power over another person.
  • Not trusting yourself. And as a result, he sees his salvation in others. Therefore, he tries to keep others close to him “on a leash.”
  • Fear of entering into relationships with people. Leads to the replacement of close communication with formal communication.
  • The desire to increase one's self-esteem through domination over people.

Try not to be manipulated. And if you fall into this trap, try to get out of it. If you can’t do it yourself, contact a specialist.

"Everyone does it"

This type of manipulation works almost flawlessly. We even have a good buzzword for it: trend. It's trending. This is the trend now. And that’s it, you can’t argue with the trend. And if you start to argue or doubt, they will laugh and shower you with ironclad arguments so that you yourself will begin to doubt your sanity, and soon you yourself will become the happy owner of some trendy item. The herd instinct is a terrible force.

How to recognize a manipulator?

Meeting such a man can turn your life upside down in the worst sense of the word. It’s easier to recognize a manipulator at the initial stage and not deal with him than to try to clean up all the bedlam that your life will turn into with him.

Below are the main signs of a manipulator. If your man fits only one of them, it doesn’t mean anything. But if two or more coincide, it’s most likely time to sound the alarm and pack your things.

How to understand that you are being manipulated?
  1. Creates a great first impression. Such a man loves to show off and win over. Take a taxi to your first date, bring a huge bouquet, order a banquet in a restaurant. Almost all manipulators know how to win people over from the very beginning and people like them.
  2. Emotional indifference. He is not touched by pitiful scenes, compassion is completely alien to him, stories of violence, bullying, etc. do not evoke any emotions in him.
  3. He is rude to those who are lower in status. Look at how a man treats people below his status, who are weaker than him and will not benefit him. The litmus test will be the communication of such a man with restaurant staff, cleaners, pensioners, and children. If he is rude, rude, or impolite, the same attitude awaits you in the future, without exception.
  4. Trains your behavior. The simplest manipulation that women often use (but we are girls, we can do it), but from the male side it should be wary. A man reacts positively to good behavior that is beneficial to him, and if you do something that he doesn’t like, he moves away or puts out pity until you do what he needs. You can take note of manipulation, but don’t play these games with a man.
  5. Makes you feel guilty. A man constantly makes you feel guilty, shifting responsibility onto you. As a result, you are ready to do a lot to get rid of this feeling. Another manipulation that you can take note of and not do this with a man.
  6. It promises a lot . Such a man is often a deceiver and is ready to promise you even the moon from the sky while you listen with open ears.

You are a manipulator. And that's okay.

Every person does a huge amount of psychological manipulation every day, without realizing it or noticing it. Just look around and you will see many examples:

  • A mother who is trying to distract her baby from a dangerous object that interests him.
  • A sweet girl who sighs on a date, “I want something tasty...”
  • A wife who shows with all her appearance that her husband has done something wrong, and responds to any questions with a cold “Everything is fine!”
  • A man who either showers a woman with affection and attention, then disappears and begins to completely ignore her.

And how much stuff rains down on us in advertising, from TV and computer screens!

There are people who are not comfortable with manipulation; they prefer to act openly and straightforwardly. But there are also those who, due to their character and upbringing, constantly resort to manipulation. It is not so easy for a person who grew up in a family of “hereditary” manipulators to master other methods of communicating with people.

Imagine: mom, dad, grandparents constantly manipulated each other. It is as natural to them as breathing. What do you think the child learned throughout his childhood in such a family?

Manipulation as a weapon

The most unpleasant thing about manipulation is a person’s reluctance to admit that he is being manipulated.

We too often try to prove to ourselves and others that our thoughts, words, and actions are the result of our conscious choice. At the same time, we almost always make decisions under the influence of other people and circumstances.

The only question is how strong this influence will be, how useful or harmful for you, how much you will control this influence.

But at the same time, manipulations in themselves are neither bad nor good. This is just one way to influence people and get what you want. It is a psychological weapon that different people use in different ways.

Someone will attack, seize someone else's territory, dispose of other people's lives. And someone will defend himself and protect those who are dear to him, caring for the happiness of those around him.

Yes, the problem is usually that they influence you secretly, without directly voicing their intentions and goals. And it is absolutely not a fact that you would like these intentions and goals and would benefit you. Therefore, the reality is that being able to recognize manipulation is vital.

Manipulation in relationships between men and women

We propose to consider this type from the point of view of the roles in which it manifests itself.

ActorWhen you meet, you will notice for yourself that there is something special about this man that distinguishes him from others. He will really try to present himself as such. Shows the best version of yourself. Only later will you realize that the real character is completely unfamiliar to you.
SeducerYou will definitely receive an unexpected message from him with useful information. After all, he is a serious man, special. You will appreciate this and respond in response. He will pick up the topic and make a joke. This will get you excited and the correspondence will begin. Then compliments will pour in, but they will be as special as he is. About a gentle look, beautiful hands, a pleasant voice. He will touch your soul, imagination and body with words.
PlayerEverything he does is calculated and precise. He will mirror you in everything. You write a message - he answers. You pause - he is silent. In correspondence you say “hello”, he says hello, you say “how are you”, he says how are you, you say “bye” and an emoticon, he says “bye” and an emoticon. Everything is clear, without a hitch.
PsychologistNot by education, but by nature. He was reading information from you even before you paid attention to him. I assessed all the pros and cons and summed up the results. He immediately knows what his benefit is. And you have yet to understand this. After all, in your world map, a special man is in the mood for a serious relationship. Therefore, you continue to be in illusions and interact with his double.
MathematicianWhatever you say, this is his strong quality! All the manipulations that he shows towards you are determined by experience, instincts and benefit. He artificially creates conditions in which you reveal your potential by showing and proving to him your feelings, emotions and actions. As the temperature rises, they become more and more sophisticated, and he skims off the cream and introduces new strategies!

Motivation structure

If the victim suspects his opponent of manipulation, she needs to determine his goals and restore the structure of influence:

  • Myth - this is what manipulation looks like for the victim.
  • The goal is what the manipulator wants to get from the victim. Upon completion of the manipulation, the victim does something or makes a decision that is important for the aggressor. The questions “What does he want to achieve with his manipulation?” help determine the goal. or “Why is he saying this?”
  • A script is a victim’s line of behavior, a reaction to manipulation. Reactions can be passive or active: the victim may cry or begin to actively resist. The manipulator is ready for any of these options, so the best reaction is to break his script.

This is what the structure of the manipulation “Bad person - bad argument” looks like from the book by Nikita Nepryakhin:

Myth: “And this is what a person with a criminal record is telling us” or “You first show up on time for meetings, and then try to take the floor.” Most likely, the victim has expressed an argument that threatens the arguments of the manipulator, which is why he begins to aggressively attack and pay attention to things that are not related to the essence of the dispute.

Goal: The main goal of the aggressor in this manipulation is to neutralize the victim’s argument. She can understand the manipulator’s goal with the help of the question “What does he want to achieve by denigrating me?”

Scenario: The manipulator has thought through the victim’s reaction in advance: he expects her to shut up or leave (passive reaction), or to begin to actively protest and justify himself (active reaction), that is, to move away from the essence of his initial argument. The best solution for the victim in this situation is to break the manipulator’s script with the question: “What does my punctuality have to do with our conversation.”

More about the book

Nikita Nepryakhin

I'm manipulating you

“Methods of counteracting hidden influence”

The author describes in detail the scenarios of the 13 most dangerous manipulations and 30 most common tricks, constantly used not only by the media, advertisers and politicians, but also, perhaps, by people close to you.

How to avoid being manipulated?

  • recognize manipulation. Track your reaction when you begin to experience shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, pity, etc. in communication. Tell yourself: “Stop. This is manipulation!
  • be calm. A manipulator always provokes you into emotions: this makes it easier to control. The fewer emotions and clearer the mind, the more difficult it is to hook you.
  • maintain personal boundaries. “I believe that this is only my business,” “I am capable of making a decision on my own.” Clearly defined boundaries will ease the pressure of the manipulator.
  • clarify. Does the manipulator demand action or accuse you of inaction? Don’t make excuses, don’t explain, calmly clarify why and why he needs this from you?
  • approach any information and requirements critically. You should not accept someone else’s assessment of information, people, events. Think about how reliable it is? The phrase “I see it differently” can weaken the pressure of the manipulator.
  • do not agree to the requirement to make a decision immediately. There must be time to think, study, weigh all the pros and cons. Don't rush, give yourself time.
  • say no. Many people are afraid to refuse: it’s inconvenient, ugly, scary to offend someone else. But don’t be afraid of yourself! A word of just three letters, spoken confidently, blocks manipulation.
  • be internally prepared to end the relationship. If you are manipulated by your partner, you suffer from it, but remain in this relationship - this is addiction. This is the state of a victim who is easily controlled by feelings of guilt, fear, and pity.

“Do you have problems? I’ve never heard of this.”

Manipulators are united by the fact that they do not care about the state of affairs of other people.


If you want to talk about your problems and share your feelings, the manipulative partner will most likely act crazy busy and try to avoid this conversation.

There is only one radical way to deal with this behavior - find another partner, more caring and compassionate.

Expert advice: how to understand that you are being manipulated?

Elena Zenkova is a certified psychologist, certified positive psychotherapist, trained by International Trainers of the Wiesbaden Academy of Positive Psychotherapy, member of the World Association for Positive and Transcultural Psychotherapy (WAPP), author of a psychological blog.

How to understand that you are being manipulated? Those who can quickly recognize manipulation can resist it more effectively. In this video, Elena will tell you how to understand that they are trying to manipulate you and how aggressive and affectionate manipulators behave. And also how to correctly distinguish manipulation from a regular request.

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