Mandy Kloppers

Recognizing the Signs of a Manipulator

Manipulation can be subtle or overt, but its effects are always damaging. Recognizing the signs of a manipulator can help protect your mental and emotional well-being. Here are some common tactics and behaviors to watch out for:

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the manipulator makes you doubt your perceptions, memories, and even sanity. They might say things like, “You’re overreacting,” or “That never happened,” making you question your reality.

2. Love Bombing

At the start of a relationship, manipulators may overwhelm you with excessive attention, flattery, and affection. This “love bombing” is designed to quickly build emotional bonds and dependence, making it harder for you to see their true intentions.

3. Guilt-Tripping

Manipulators often use guilt to control their victims. They may play the victim themselves, saying things like, “After all I’ve done for you,” or “You’re so selfish,” to make you feel responsible for their feelings and actions.

4. Isolation

A manipulator might try to isolate you from friends and family to gain more control over you. They might say others don’t understand your relationship or criticize those close to you to create distance between you and your support network.

5. Projection

Projection involves accusing others of the very behaviors the manipulator is guilty of. For example, if they are lying or cheating, they might accuse you of dishonesty to deflect attention from their actions.

6. Triangulation

This tactic involves bringing a third party into your conflicts to create confusion and make you feel insecure. They might say, “Even [mutual friend] agrees with me,” to make you question your judgment and side with them.

7. Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Manipulators often use passive-aggressive behavior to express their anger or dissatisfaction indirectly. This can include the silent treatment, backhanded compliments, or intentional procrastination to frustrate and undermine you.

8. Constant Criticism

Criticism from a manipulator can be subtle or overt but is always aimed at undermining your self-esteem. They may disguise it as “constructive feedback” but consistently put you down, making you feel inadequate and dependent on their approval.

9. Lack of Accountability

Manipulators rarely take responsibility for their actions. They might make excuses, blame others, or deny wrongdoing altogether. This lack of accountability leaves you feeling confused and frustrated, often second-guessing your perceptions.

10. Blame Shifting

When confronted, a manipulator will shift the blame onto you or others. They might say, “This is your fault,” or “You made me do this,” to avoid taking responsibility and to make you feel guilty or responsible for their actions.

11. Excessive Charm

Charm can be a red flag when it’s used to disarm you and gain your trust quickly. Manipulators can be very charismatic, using their charm to hide their true intentions and make you more susceptible to their control.

12. Inconsistent Behavior

Manipulators often exhibit unpredictable behavior, switching between kindness and cruelty. This inconsistency keeps you on edge, constantly trying to appease them and avoid their wrath.


Recognizing these signs of manipulation can empower you to protect yourself and set healthy boundaries. Trust your instincts, seek support from trusted friends and family, and consider professional help if needed. Remember, healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, trust, and honesty. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and seek the healthy, supportive connections you deserve.

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