What Is Manipulation?
Manipulation is when you exploit someone in order to change how they act or think. Typically manipulation is done for a person’s gain.
What Are The 4 Stages Of Manipulation
- First a manipulator targets a person. They look for weaknesses, strengths, social connections, and how you might react.
- Then they use charm or other skills to ingratiate themselves to the environment.
- Then they begin planting negative ideas through gossip or disinformation.
- Finally comes the abusive stage where they trigger their traps.
How Do You Out Smart A Master Manipulator?
There are two ways to outsmart a manipulator. The first is to simply separate yourself from them. Often fighting with them isn’t worth it. Ask yourself if there is a reward for winning. If you walk away and maintain a happy life because it isn’t full of drama, you won.
The other way to outsmart a manipulator is to out manipulate them. This is a complex process and should only be undertaken if you must. First you must study the manipulator and look for weaknesses. Then decide how you will expose these weaknesses to the people around you. See our article about how manipulation works. Then trigger your own traps. Ultimately you want to characterize the person as a liar, cheat, and a person the general population won’t want to interact with. Check out our article on character assassination for more information.
What Are Gaslighting Tactics/Techniques?
Gaslighting is a type of manipulation where one person tries to convince the other that their memory is faulty, incomplete, fake, or false. They do this by asking questions about details you might not remember, pointing out inconsistency, and insisting stubbornly that their version of events is more accurate in a repetitive manner.
One way to withstand gaslighting is to journal your experiences. Commit yourself to accuracy and brutal honesty. Then when someone gaslights you, you will know.
How Many Types Of Manipulation Techniques Are There?
One study found 6 types of manipulation. We explained each type below. People used coercion to stop behavior from happening while they used charm to get people to do things. In fact, researchers could even predict the type of manipulation a person was most likely to use based on their personality profile. See below.
- Coercion – physical or mental threats or blackmail
- Reason – use of logic or commitment or rewards
- Regression – sulking, pouting, whining, or general childish behavior
- Debasement – look sickly, pretend to be pathetic/wounded/dumb/in a bad position
- Charm – use of compliments to get people to act
- Silent Treatment – ignore the person until they act, don’t respond to their questions
What Type Of Manipulation Is Each Personality Most Likely To Use?
The strongest relationships between personality and manipulation type were as follows. Disagreeableness was related to use of coercive manipulation techniques, conscientiousness was related to the use of reason, neuroticism was related to the use of regression, and openness was related to the use of reason.
Best Manipulation Tactics/Techniques List
- denial – refuse to admit they have done something wrong or harmful.
- selective inattention – they refuse to discuss certain areas or behaviors by making excuses.
- rationalization – the make a excuse for the behavior that explains it away.
- diversion – dodging or using other issues as distractions from topics or subjects they don’t want to discuss.
- lying – they purposefully misrepresent what happens.
- intimidation – using voice tone, physical size, or threats to compel action.
- guilt tripping – making the person feel bad for not helping or acting in a certain way.
- shaming – making fun of certain qualities or beliefs so the individual changes their behavior.
- vilifying the victim – make it seem like the victim actually deserves the treatment by exposing their negative qualities and associations.
- playing the victim – reframing situations so that the manipulator is the victim, in other words focusing on how the world happens to them.
- playing the servant – pretending to serve others while really serving yourself.
- seduction – using charm, praise, and flattery to get people to lower their defenses, trust them, and be loyal.
- blaming – shift the responsibility to another person for the way something happens or turns out.
- minimization – asserting that the behavior isn’t that bad given circumstances.
- blackmail – forcing action by threatening to release information if a person doesn’t act accordingly.
- silent treatment – see number 2 where people ignore you until you act accordingly.
- love bombing – acting overly infatuated or complementary of a person, this is usually followed by a silent treatment.
- crazy making – saying or doing something in private and then denying that the thing was ever said or done. The goal is for the target to accuse the manipulator of a characteristic that no one will agree with. For example the manipulator will lie to the target in private, but always tell the truth publicly. Eventually the target will start accusing the manipulator of lying but no one will believe them since the manipulator always tells the truth around everyone else. This is a very effective character assassination technique if done correctly.
- moving the goalposts – when someone accomplishes something the person minimizes the accomplishment and then says that the real goal hasn’t been accomplished.
- triangulation – placing oneself as the middle man relaying information and comments between people, this allows them to distort what is actually being said.
- gossip – spreading rumors and other information about the person.
- boundary attacking – purposefully crossing boundaries in what seems benign ways to make the other person seem like they are overreacting.
- catastrophizing – making a small thing seem major.
- spiritual legalism – arguing that you have to act a certain way for god to be happy with you.
- isolation – they try to eliminate close relationships by creating conflict/issues, gossip, or other negative feelings.
- projection/mirroring – if you argue that a person has an issue the person argues that you have the same problem.
- focusing on the past – they dig up issues they had with you that were either far in the past, unresolved, or that they never said they had issues with you about.
- social scalping – increasing their contribution while minimizing the other person’s contribution.
- self disclosure – they reveal things about themselves that make you want to help or give them information.
- The foot in the door technique is also a powerful manipulation technique. Get the person to commit to a smaller thing they can’t resist. Then make your ask.
- Door in face technique is when you make a large request, which the person rejects. Then you follow it up with a smaller one.
Check out the book called In Sheep’s clothing for an excellent treatment on dealing with manipulation.
Psychological & Emotional Manipulation Examples
Psychological manipulation uses a person’s behaviors, beliefs, wants, emotions, and fears to bring about a result they want. Emotional manipulation is a type of psychological manipulation that uses a persons feelings to bring about a result.
This can include the following techniques: playing the victim, guilt tripping, attacking your sense of self worth, isolation, vilifying the victim, rationalization/minimization, or passive aggression. See above for examples of each of these.`12345∞
- A real estate sales person tells you to picture your children playing in the safe, gated community. Then they tell you to make an above asking price offer so you won’t risk a competing offer stealing the house away.
- A Nordstrom sales person gives you disappointing looks when you try on less expensive products.
- A door to door pest control person tells you a story about how the neighbors didn’t catch termites and it cost them their expensive deck. Then they offer a deal on termite protection.
To better understand psychological manipulation in general, study personality theory. We suggest mainly focusing on the big 5 personalities. Also try reading up on the Schwartz value inventory, or our articles on personality profiling of characters.
Master Manipulation Techniques
- The ultimate key to manipulation is to use the person’s momentum against them. For more on this see our article.
- Priming is another manipulation technique that can be highly effective. Priming is similar to breadcrumbing. Both rely on small changes to nudge or focus someone on a specific thing. That specific thing leads to the desired outcome. For example, a chocolate store tested two store names, Studio 97 versus Studio 17. Customers were willing to spend more at 97.
If you want to know more about priming and breadcrumbing, check out our article on framing. The concepts are similar.