Twelve Common Manipulation Tactics

People can manipulate others using hundreds of tactics. Some of the most common include:

  1. Using intense emotional connection to control another person’s behavior. For example, an abusive person may try to manipulate a person by moving very quickly in a romantic relationship. They may overwhelm their victim with loving gestures to lower their guard or make them feel indebted.
  2. Playing on a person’s insecurities. This is a popular tactic among advertisers, such as when a cosmetic company makes a person feel unattractive or “old.” It also works well in interpersonal relationships. For instance, someone may make their romantic partner think no one else could ever possibly love them.
  3. Lying and denial. Manipulators may bombard their victims with lies. When they’re caught, they may deny the lie or cover it up with another falsehood.
  4. Hyperbole and generalization. It’s difficult to respond to an allegation of “never” being loving or “never” working hard. Specific details can be debated, while vague accusations are often harder to dispute.
  5. Changing the subject. In an argument about one person’s behavior, the individual may deflect attention from themselves by attacking their critic. The deflection often takes the form of, “Well what about [X]?” For example, when one spouse expresses concern about their partner’s drug use, the partner may attack their spouse’s parenting skills.
  6. Moving the goalposts. This happens when a manipulative person constantly shifts the criteria one must meet in order to satisfy them. For example, a bully may use their coworker’s clothes as an excuse to harass them. If the individual changes outfits, the bully may claim the person won’t “deserve” professional respect until they change their hairstyle, their accent, or another miscellaneous trait.
  7. Using fear to control another person. For instance, a person may use threats of violence or physically intimidating body language.
  8. Using social inequities to control another person. For example, a neurotypical person might attempt to use a cognitive disability to demean another person or dismiss their experiences.
  9. Passive-aggression. This is a broad category of behavior that includes many strategies such as guilt-tripping, giving backhanded compliments, and more. Passive-aggression is a way of voicing displeasure or anger without directly expressing the emotion.
  10. Giving a person the silent treatment. It’s fine to ask for time to reflect on an argument or to tell someone who deeply hurt you that you no longer wish to speak to them. But ignoring a person to punish them or make them fearful is a manipulative tactic.
  11. Gaslighting. Gaslighting involves causing the manipulation victim to doubt their own understanding of reality. For example, an abusive person might deny that the abuse happened, telling the victim there’s something wrong with their memory.
  12. Recruiting others to help with manipulation. For example, an abusive parent might ask family members to remind a child how much the parent has sacrificed for the child. The social pressure may convince the child to stop complaining about abusive behavior.

A manipulative person may combine these tactics or alternate between them depending on the context.

Read more at Good Therapy

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Psychological Warfare

Psychological Manipulation

Social Control

Social Influence

Agent of Influence

The long march through the institutions

The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory – Cultural Marxism

The Four stages of ideological subversion

Rules for Radicals

Subversion

False Flag

Moral Compass

Stress

Deaths of despair

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