Has someone you loved told you they felt manipulated by you? Do people tend to stray away from you because of something you don’t even realize you’re doing?

Admitting you’ve manipulated people can be hard; but coming to terms with your own toxic behaviors is the first step on a journey to self-improvement. Acknowledging that you can be manipulative will not only help your relationships with others, but can also help you work on rebuilding a strong relationship with yourself.

What Does It Mean to Be Manipulative?

Being manipulative means using untruthful and indirect tactics to get someone to say or do something you want. A manipulator uses lies and threats to control people without directly telling them to do anything. By putting their own emotions at the forefront, a manipulator disregards whether or not their behavior is healthy for a person they’re in a relationship with (romantic partner, family member, friend, etc).

You might be thinking: “how could someone be so terrible to someone they care about?” Well, most people who manipulate don’t even realize they’re doing it; and there may be a few reasons for that.

Why Are People Manipulative?

Manipulative behavior can stem all the way from childhood. For example, if a child grows up seeing their mother threatening to leave their father without discussing her feelings, they may think that this is the right way to communicate. If they see manipulative tactics get results, they’ll begin or continue to use them.

People who manipulate others could even have the best of intentions, but still act in a deceptive manner. These behaviors are very common for individuals with insecurities or anxiety disorders.

Examples of Manipulative Behavior

Have you been told you’re manipulative, but don’t understand why? Take a close look at the signs of manipulation below to see if you may be behaving this way:

  • Attempting to control someone else’s feelings — making them feel bad
  • Lying or misleading people
  • Withholding communication & affection
  • Blaming others for your actions
  • Keeping intentions vague — not saying what you want
  • Having know-it-all tendencies
  • Having issues with jealousy

Behaving this way doesn’t make you any less human; it just means that it may be harder for you to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others. 

Signs of Manipulation in Close Relationships

Your girlfriend, husband, mother, brother, or best friend could feel manipulated by you. Manipulation appears in every type of relationship, but occurs most commonly in romantic partnerships.

Here are some examples of manipulation that you can find in a one-on-one relationship:

  • Withholding something (sex, money, affection) until they get what they want
  • Using love as bait, claiming, “if you love me, you’d ____…”
  • Refusing to do something until they get a favor done for them
  • Deflecting responsibility or blame in situations/arguments
  • Always needing to know where the other person is
  • Expecting others to know what they want
  • Telling others they don’t put effort in
  • Spreading gossip about the other person
  • Twisting the truth

Do any of these behaviors look familiar to you? If so, you may be manipulating the people you care about. Fortunately, there are ways to correct your behavior and potentially repair your relationships. 

How to Stop Being Manipulative

The process of reversing deep-seated patterns of manipulative, passive-aggressive or coercive behavior can feel overwhelming.

Here are eight steps to get started:

  1. Work on your self esteem. Lots of people who manipulate have some sort of insecurity. Start by practicing self love. Get to know yourself, explore your hobbies, and discover the things you’re good at. Take pride in your talents, and cultivate the skills that interest you most.
  2. Don’t be a perfectionist. Learn to go with the flow. Not everything is in your control, and not everything will work out exactly as you hope. Learn to see the good in the unexpected and to roll with the punches when things don’t work out. 
  3. Learn something new. Try something you’ve never done before. This will help you focus more on your interests and less on the minor details of your relationships.
  4. Try to ease your anxiety. Meditating and doing yoga can do wonders for anxiety. In combination with other treatments, these practices can help keep your mind and body clear when you’re feeling on edge.
  5. Exercise. Need some serotonin? Hop on the treadmill or do your favorite at-home workout to improve your mood and turn your attention toward improving yourself.
  6. Go to therapy. Therapy can help just about anybody, but especially those who may be unaware of their potentially destructive behaviors. A trusted therapist or mental healthcare provider can help you develop personalized tactics for addressing and reversing the thought patterns that contribute to your manipulative or emotionally coercive behaviors. 
  7. Respect others. Acknowledge others’ boundaries and personal space. Be respectful during arguments, and practice empathy when considering the perspectives of others.
  8. Listen. When someone is telling you how you make them feel, pay attention. 

To learn more, give our team of mental health professionals a call at 267.209.7312.