woman holding her shoulder

7 Subtle Signs That Someone Is Trying To Manipulate You

Hello, climb into my sketchy white van.

Manipulation isn’t always in your face. Manipulative people aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’re probably highly skilled at it. Empaths, codependents, and love addicts can manipulate in order to feel safe.

In her book Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood explains love addiction and how we twist our environment to gain love, acceptance, and validation.

While this may be subconscious, other forms are deliberate. Some manipulators don’t care if you get hurt as long as they get what they want.

Their tactics aren’t blatant, but sneaky. They leave you second guessing yourself.

It’s important to recognize because it can prevent you from baring your soul to those who don’t care for you. It’s okay to take your time, to step more cautiously into new relationships and evaluate old ones.

Anytime someone says anything that makes you shrink a little inside, stop dead in your tracks.

Ask yourself if they’re exhibiting any of these behaviors.

1. They give you no or little time to decide.

Manipulators invoke a false sense of urgency. They’ll make it seem like you have to decide, ‘right now’ when there’s no emergency. They’re trying to force you into a decision—usually their decision.

This is how I got duped into my second car. The pressure was heavy to decide now, get the deal right away, and hurry before it’s gone. It was urgent—but no emergency.

2. They’re intimidating.

A manipulator knows how to make you feel uncomfortable. You might picture intimidation as someone domineering over you, but this can be quieter. It can look like standing too close, taking up physical space, raising their voice or constantly questioning your opinions.

If you’ve ever had anyone invade your personal space, you know how creepy this is. “Stand back Frank, I know what you’ve had for lunch.”

3. They give compliments and praise.

The ‘butter me up’ is a classic. Be wary of compliments and praise that are over the top or come right before a request.

Another way manipulators use compliments is by comparing you with someone else. “Wow, you’re amazing, my ex-girlfriend couldn’t even cook.” While it may seem innocent, it can be a way to lull you into passivity.

I’ve been hooked by this one. “You’re so happy and easy going, so many girls are mean and bitchy.” Be cautious here.

4. They frequently saying they’re “just joking” after a rude comment.

People hide what they want to say behind humor all the time. Laughing out loud (“lol”) is the quickest way to soften a blow. People will also use just joking after they’ve dissed you and your mamma to hell and back. “You dress atrociously all the time—just jokingggg.

To make matters worse, they’ll say you can’t take a joke or you’re too sensitive. Don’t let them fool you into feeling inferior.

5. They refuse to take accountability.

Manipulators and emotional abusers don’t take responsibility for their behavior.

They’ll try every possible way to make it about you, not them. They’ll guilt trip you, make you feel insane, and diminish your feelings. The next thing you know, you’re apologizing when they’re the ones who’re wrong.

“If you didn’t want me to be late, you should have reminded me.” (The nerve, right?)

6. They’re inconsistent.

They may come on strong at first, listening to you, taking you out, texting and calling you, then they drop off the face of the planet. When you address your concerns they say they’re just busy, or accuse you of being needy. They may even go into a monologue about how nobody understands them or the things they go through. Here, hold my green smoothie and watch me fiddle to a sob story.

7. They use the “you’ve changed” line.

People will use your growth against you. They’re happy to see you in a place of stagnation. They might even get upset when you try to improve yourself. They don’t want to be left behind, lose a friend, or be forced to look at their issues.

They use “you’ve changed” to guilt trip you or refuse to accept the person you’ve become.

How to defend yourself against manipulators and abusers.

When you’re in a situation where you don’t know if you’re being manipulated chances are you’re not going to remember a list of points.

I’d like to leave you with one thought: How do you feel in the moment? If you feel like something is off (your intuition screaming) you’re probably right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this and ignored it because it seemed too much. Even if you’re someone that struggles with poor boundaries have faith, don’t doubt yourself.

To defend yourself against manipulators, controllers, and emotional abusers pay attention to any discomfort you feel in your body.

Identify the manipulators’ sneaky tactics so you can address them.

Don’t be afraid to call them out or act shocked or appalled at their behavior.

Train yourself to feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t act on them at first. It takes practice. It takes time. Stay encouraged—you’re learning and getting better each day.

You don’t have to be shamed or victimized into control, manipulation, or emotional abuse. You’ve already taken the first step by identifying some of the signs. It will start to feel more familiar, and from there you will become empowered. From there you continue to heal, and from there you grow.

Arlene is a self-healing authour, and stress management coach

Keep up with Arlene on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and arleneambrose.ca