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Identifying Psychological Manipulation – Part I

Identifying Psychological Manipulation – Part I


Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits and/or privileges at the victim’s expense.

It is important to distinguish healthy social influence from psychological manipulation. Healthy social influence occurs between most people, and is part of the give and take of constructive relationships.

In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda. Recognizing manipulative behavior

1. Home Court Advantage: A manipulative individual may insist on you meeting and interacting in a physical space where he or she can exercise more dominance and control.

This can be the manipulator’s office, home, car, or other spaces where he feels ownership and familiarity (and where you lack them).

2. Let you speak first to establish your baseline and look for weaknesses: Many sales people do this when they see you as a likely prospect for a sale.

By asking you general and probing questions, they establish a baseline about your thinking and behavior, from which they can then evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

This type of questioning with hidden agenda can also occur at the workplace or in personal relationships.

3. Manipulation of Facts: Examples: Lying; making excuses; being two-faced. Blaming the victim for causing their own victimization; Deformation of the truth; Strategic disclosure or withholding of key information; exaggeration or Understatement.

4. Overwhelm You with Facts and Statistics: Some individuals enjoy “intellectual bullying” by presuming to be the expert and most knowledgeable in certain areas.

They take advantage of you by imposing alleged facts, statistics, and other data you may know little about.

This can happen in sales and financial situations, in professional discussions and negotiations, as well as in social and relational arguments.

By presuming expert power over you, the manipulator hopes to push through her or his agenda more convincingly.

Some people use this technique for no other reason than to feel a sense of intellectual superiority.

5. Overwhelm You with Procedures and Red Tape: Certain people use bureaucracy – paperwork, procedures, laws and by-laws, committees, and other roadblocks to maintain their position and power, while making your life more difficult. This technique can also be used to delay fact finding and truth seeking, hide flaws and weaknesses, and evade scrutiny.

6. Raising Their Voice and Displaying Negative Emotions: Some individuals raise their voice during discussions as a form of aggressive manipulation.

The assumption may be that if they project their voice loudly enough, or display negative emotions, you’ll submit to their coercion and give them what they want.

The aggressive voice is frequently combined with strong body language such as standing or excited gestures to increase impact.

7. Negative Surprises: Some people use negative surprises to put you off balance and gain a psychological advantage.

This can range from low balling in a negotiation situation, to a sudden profession that she or he will not be able to come through and deliver in some way.

Typically, the unexpected negative information comes without warning, so you have little time to prepare and counter their move.

The manipulator may ask for additional concessions from you in order to continue working with you. To be Continued