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Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated?

With COVID, it’s safe to say that some of us aren’t exactly used to socializing as much as we’re used to. This might mean that you could easily miss red flags in various social contexts, including those regarding emotional manipulation.

Maybe you’re sitting here reading this, and you’ve been wondering for some time now, “am I being manipulated?” Perhaps this is about your partner, a close friend, or even a co-worker.

You feel unsure, and you need a little help. This is exactly what we’re here to do. So, let’s dive straight in.

It’s time to find out if you are facing emotional manipulation.

What is Emotional Manipulation?

Emotional manipulation happens when someone else tries to get you to feel a certain way for a specific outcome. Within the confines of interpersonal relationships, this is so common. And a lot of us do it without even realizing it.

Some common emotional manipulation examples include when you try to guilt someone into doing something for you or feeling a certain way. Or when an advertising company tugs at your pain points to get you to buy.

In truth, we are all manipulators. Thus, there are some blurred lines here.

Emotional manipulation becomes harmful when someone intentionally uses it to gain control, avoid healthier strategies, and when the other person feels threatened (for instance, if you don’t give in, your partner threatens to break up with you).

And emotional manipulation effects can seriously break the trust between people and cause the victim varying levels of anxiety and fear.

Manipulation Types

So, how do you know if you’re being manipulated? Let’s take a quick look at common emotional manipulation techniques.

1. Emotional Connection for Control

In a way, a manipulator is an invisible abuser. There aren’t any outward signs, so it’s tough to tell. Yet, if someone moves quickly and intensely in a romantic relationship or other close relationship, this should be a bit of a red flag.

While this alone isn’t necessarily manipulation, if they begin to give an overwhelming amount of loving gestures or gifts and then use that to make you do something, you’re being manipulated.

2. Using Another’s Insecurities

In relationships, being vulnerable normally is such a good thing. It creates a closer bond and truly forms those meaningful relationships. Yet, sometimes, this doesn’t happen.

If a person uses any vulnerability or insecurity you’ve shared with them against you, it might be best to run. Or, if you don’t want to go that extreme, spark up a conversation about it.

The truth is that they just might not realize what they’re doing.

3. Denying & Lying

Trust is built on honesty and respect. Lying and denying don’t exactly fall into the same category. In fact, if you’re constantly catching someone in a lie and they continually deny things, this could mean they are an emotional manipulator.

4. Generalization

Using words like “always” or “never” is a type of emotional manipulation.

This not only might steer your conversation away from the topic at hand, but it also is often very untrue. Things tend to be grayer than black and white, which is an obvious example of exactly that.

5. Topic Switch

If you and your spouse or your co-worker have a heated conversation and they then deflect and switch topics, this isn’t a good or healthy sign.

For example, you might bring up that you hate always doing the dishes with your spouse and that you’d love for them to contribute. They may quickly change the subject by pointing out your ridiculous spending on wine or some other entity.

Make sure to check out: Are You Gaslighting Yourself?

6. Passive-Aggressiveness

Passive-aggressive behavior might look like back-handed compliments, guilt-tripping, or saying comments under the breath.

It is a super unhealthy way to communicate and is considered a manipulation tactic where someone indirectly voices their anger or frustration. This is really confusing for the receiver and can lead to even more problems within a relationship.

7. The Silent Treatment

Asking for time to cool off and calm down is completely okay. In fact, this is a healthy way to approach an argument when you feel your emotions are getting out of line. It gives you and the other person a chance to take a step back, chill, and re-approach the situation.

The silent treatment is not the same thing. Ignoring someone often has the sole intention of making them feel bad or punishing them for something that happened.

8. Gaslighting

This type of emotional manipulation leads the other person to question their reality. It may cause you to feel like you’re going crazy, and it can involve other aspects of manipulation, such as denial or lying from the abuser.

For example, your partner or co-worker might deny never having said something in the first place, even though you are quite sure you heard it. This is gaslighting.

How to Deal With Emotional Manipulation

So, how can you work to overcome this and speak up?

It pays to know why a person is being emotionally manipulative. Someone might be doing these things because:

  • They have developed poor communication skills and don’t know any other way to get their point across.
  • They fear connection and intimacy.
  • They don’t want to take responsibility, and it is a way to deflect blame.
  • It is the social norm (such as being friendly to a co-worker).

From there, you can understand another perspective a little bit more. At the same time, you need to protect yourself. Emotional manipulation can have serious psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety.

If you feel you’re being emotionally manipulated, make sure you’re checking all the boxes on these:

  • Use clear and direct communication.
  • Understand the difference between useful manipulation and harmful manipulation (remember, we’re all manipulating each other, so there is a line).
  • Set clear boundaries for yourself and your life.
  • Ask someone else what they think of the situation.
  • Talk to a professional.

You might want to explore: How to Know if Online Therapy is Right for You

Take Back Control

When it comes down to it, no one has the right to control you. In fact, you control yourself. Know this. And make sure you set the proper boundaries so that you don’t get sucked into a manipulator’s atmosphere.

Another person’s negativity can impact our own energy, especially when it’s someone close to us. While it’s hard to let anyone go, sometimes, relationships - whether it’s a working relationship or a romantic one - aren’t meant to last.

That’s okay.

The good news is that you have the power to remove yourself from any situation and start anew.

At the same time, it’s crucial to be aware of what exactly defines emotional manipulation so that you can protect yourself and have healthy relationships throughout your life.

Related article: 5 “Green Flags” You Might Have in Your Relationship

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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