Five Warning Signs You are being Manipulated

Sometimes, in our interactions with another person, we can become aware of something being ‘off’, or ‘not quite right’. It can be as subtle as a sense of feeling ‘yukky’ or squeamish about a person. With nothing concrete to put our finger on.

Or, it can be outright emotional coercion that is obvious and we definitely can assess exactly what is going on.

In the first instance, it often is our non-rational senses that are attempting to ‘warn us’ about a potential threat.

Which, for many of us who have been well trained in not taking notice of our non-rational sensing, we ignore. Subsequently our mind kicks in with:

“Nah, I’m making this up”

“He looks good and is saying the right things”

“What’s wrong with me, to think this of such a nice person?”

Afterwards, if at all. It’s only after we have time for reflection, do we begin to realise we have been manipulated into doing or saying, something we did not want to. Or, we did not speak up about something because we felt uncomfortable.

The challenge is in taking notice of and trusting those moments where we become aware of those subtle ‘yukky’ or ‘nauseous’ feelings in our belly. As well as the more obvious signs that the person we are interacting with, has an unspoken agenda.

These agendas can be as someone finding it hard to ask for what they really want. Therefore, they manipulate others, to reduce the chance of experiencing feelings of: rejection, shame, judgement, lack of control, humiliation etc.

Or, it can be that the person knows exactly what they are doing. They also know it’s wrong. Yet they will persist it doing it anyway. As getting what they want by any means possible, outweighs being ethical & honest.

With more experience in all sorts of relationships, we begin to learn to recognise the more obvious signs of manipulation. However sometimes, we overlook the more subtle and devious strategies – and the only tell-tale sign is the uneasiness in our belly, or a feeling of resentment that lingers.



Sometimes, like a bolt of lightning. We ‘wake up’ as if from a trance, to find ourselves doing something we really don’t want to be doing. We stand back and say to ourselves “I don’t want to be doing this” then ask “How did I get here?”

This occurred to me when I was with a group of people many years ago. We were on our way to a ‘spontaneous’ outing, that was not planned.

I suddenly ‘woke up’ and took stock of what was happening. I began to ask the others in the group ‘Who wanted to be where we were or do what we were doing?’ It turned out no one else was keen. So I back tracked over the previous hours to reflect on how we all got here – doing something we did not want to!

I learnt that the oldest woman of the group, had cleverly & strategically manipulated all of us into doing what she wanted – without once having to risk rejection or a ‘No’, by asking anyone if we wanted to.

The power she had over us was staggering – none of us had any idea what she was doing, or how she was doing it!

This can easily happen between two people.

A friend of mine reported that she went to dinner with a guy she had met. Later that evening, she ‘woke up’ from a trance. To find herself being undressed in his room. She stopped and thought to herself “I don’t want to be doing this” “How did I get here?”

After leaving, she reflected upon the evening, to work out how she had gotten herself – in his room, being undressed for sex. Reflection on the evening conversation revealed he had cleverly used NLP inspired, sales manipulation techniques, to get her to say ‘Yes’ repeatedly all evening, intending to induce a trance, so he could get her do what he wanted.

Fortunately, she ‘woke up’ when she did.


Many ‘Nice people’ do not like to; upset anyone, risk rejection, or uncomfortable feelings, and will do almost anything to avoid anger. I know this, as I used to be a very ‘nice man’.

Asking for what you want is risking rejection and is therefore something to avoid.

So some ‘nice people’ get very good at getting what they want without asking, or negotiating for it. We can be very good at creating a sense of ‘obligation’ within the other, so it can actually feel unfair, if you do not want to do what we quite reasonably want.

Sometimes we are so ‘nice’.

How can you say no?

3 – “I DON’T KNOW”

This strategy can be confusing and frustrating to be in relationship with. Particularly in a committed, intimate relationship – as it ruthlessly plays on your self-doubt and implicit trust in the person saying ‘I don’t know’ – whose intent is to get what they want, without the need to negotiate, compromise, or argue.

Each time you come to negotiating some aspect of the relationship, or make decisions on the future. He or she, will respond with a version of “I don’t know”.

The end result is no agreements can be made, nothing gets settled, leaving feelings of frustration and uncertainty. Particularly if, after some time of enduring this pattern of behaviour, it suddenly dawns on you that everything is the way your partner wants – even though he/she has not negotiated it!

And the person acting in good faith is the one who feels guilty, because their repeated attempts to get agreements, are portrayed as harassment.

It can be like ‘being in relationship with smoke’ – there is nothing to hold onto, or be certain of.


Have you ever had an agreement with someone, only to discover what they were agreeing to, was quite different to what you thought the agreement was?

And when it came time to confront them and claim the agreement has been broken. The other claims “What I meant when we agreed to was …”

And you think to yourself “Well, I did not mean that and I was pretty clear on what I intended”

With this tactic of manipulation, common words are used in a way that is deceptive and not in the spirit of the agreement. “Oh no, I did not mean it like that” they say. Yet, they did not state what they meant at the beginning.

It’s very popular with politicians.

Of course, this can happen, despite the best intentions. However, if you find that it repeatedly occurs with the same person, it’s likely to be a deliberate strategy to deceive and manipulate.

This tactic relies on using words with ambiguous meanings and that are being used in ways that are outside of normal usage. They will often have their own special meanings for words, that they fail to convey. Leaving lots of ‘wiggle room’ for one person to have more options, than what is apparent.

The person being straightforward is made responsible for finding out exactly what meaning is intended, and what exactly they are agreeing to.

The person who uses this tactic does not like to be ‘pinned down’ with exact language – as it leaves them with no room to get out of an agreement, if they happen to decide it does not suit them.

A strategy in dealing with someone like this is to go for clarity each and every time it comes to an agreement. Each time you begin to sense something not quite matching. Ask them: “What do you mean when you use that word?” “When you say…….For me it means…..Is that what you mean?”

This can go some way towards gaining clarity, so both of you have a greater chance of being on the same page.


Manipulators rely on tricking your mind and emotions into doing, saying, feeling and agreeing to things you really don’t want to.

Your body cannot be so easily tricked, as your mind and emotions can. Learning to trust your body is the key to not being taken advantage of, by manipulators. The body knows when something is amiss, when someone has an agenda that is not being spoken and does not ultimately serve you. Your body will let you know.

Each of us is unique, so our body will respond differently when faced with any attempt to manipulate us. For some it will be a ‘sick’ or ‘contracted’ or ‘butterflies’ feeling in the belly. Others, can experience; tingling, weakness, persistent rapid vibration in the body, or a simple need to get away from the situation quickly.</P >

Recently, I had the experience where I felt totally drained and exhausted after listening to a woman’s story. So, a severe energy drain was sign I was being manipulated.

Trust your body.


When faced with someone attempting to manipulate you, often the simplest strategy is to just walk away – excuse yourself, get some space to check in with yourself and gain clarity.

Manipulators rely on your self-doubt and lack of trust in your perceptions. They want you to trust them and their words, more than you trust yourself and your perceptions.

Generally, manipulators do not want to be ‘seen’, or found out.

The manipulator will always attempt to deflect, or render any attempt to bring their behaviour into the light, with increased intensity of manipulation and/or hostility. Often this will be experienced as an attack on yourself as ‘the problem’.

So unless you are absolutely sure about what is happening and have the confidence and verbal skills to manage the situation – just walk away.

Manipulators generally are not bad people. It’s their way of navigating safely through a potentially hostile world. It’s a way to compensate for their failings in being able to cope with vulnerability, strong feelings, rejection, loss of control and humiliation.

By controlling others through manipulation, they prevent others from seeing who they really are – which they must hide by all means available.

Therefore, keep yourself safe from manipulation without going on the attack yourself.

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