5 Signs You're Exceptionally Good at Recognizing Manipulative Behavior

When it comes to stories of manipulation, this one from an anonymous one Quora user takes the cake.

The question: “Who was the most manipulative person in our history” was asked and the user decided to give a personal experience instead.

They met a young woman who they were fascinated by from the start. The woman was ‘sweet and friendly. She was beautiful and had long, thick blonde hair, great teeth and a beautiful, beautiful smile. She was even hotter, blonder and a fitter version of Rachel McAdams, if that’s even possible,” is how they described her.

They developed a friendship and after some time the young woman tried to get an apartment with them, despite the fact that they had not fully agreed to it. When the woman talked to them about it, they vaguely said they would think about it.

“She would have to move from her parents’ house, which was abroad, and I told her that citizenship is quite difficult,” they say.

When the young woman didn’t get the answer she wanted, she forced the issue. She quit her job and announced on social media that she was moving in with them, much to their “panic and shock,” they say.

“Eventually she wanted me to sign a lease, and once she got a job (she said) she would pay me back her share of the rent.”

When they told her point-blank that this wouldn’t work for them, the woman (who no doubt realized her job wouldn’t work) said horrible things about how they had ruined her chance at a new life.

“I was stunned by her anger.”

Although this person’s story is quite extreme, manipulative people can go to remarkable lengths to get what they want.

You might think that you are not as gullible as the aforementioned anonymous person. Maybe you wouldn’t have become friends with this woman because you would have recognized her manipulative ways the moment you met her.

That could very well be true.

Here are five key clues that you are indeed very good—exceptional, even—at noticing manipulative behavior.

1) You can spot a manipulator from a mile away

People who are good at recognizing manipulative behavior know that awareness is crucial.

Their radar goes up when they are around people who like to do their own thing.

Manipulative people often refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer, says the team at Spiritual aids. They might also “act differently towards different people, putting on a ‘face’ to see an immediate target.”

Someone who distrusts these types of people can sense this.

Manipulative people can also make excuses for hurtful behavior and stop at nothing to succeed. They are also good at guilt tripping.

“While you may not be able to avoid these people completely, you can be cautious when you are around them.”

People who are good at spotting manipulators are good at observing their behavior. By paying close attention to what they say and do, they learn their ‘tactics’.

It is often also about what they do not say and do, say Mind Tools employees.

“Understanding the weapons and strategies they use can help you avoid, laugh at or confront them.”

2) By being intrinsically skeptical, you are one step ahead of them

The anonymous person from the introduction would have done well to have been skeptical of the woman even before the “apartment incident.”

You probably have a much better radar for spotting warning signs about a person because you don’t take things at face value.

Skepticism sounds negative, but it can be your best friend when it comes to manipulative people, says Pearl Nash Worldwide English editing.

“Manipulators often rely on people to accept their words without asking questions. But not you. You dig deeper.”

This could be anything: the advice of a friend, a sales pitch or an opinion piece from a reputable media outlet. “You analyze, investigate, ask questions to get to the bottom of things,” says Nash.

“This healthy skepticism protects you from manipulation and mind games. It forces people to be transparent about their intentions and prevents them from abusing your trust.”

People who are automatically skeptical and ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ are exceptionally good at resisting manipulation.

Asking for more clarity and context is always key.

3) Your energy radiates confidence

Manipulators tend not to mess with people who have a healthy level of self-confidence.

That’s because confident people aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and call out manipulative behavior, directly or indirectly, but still in a way that shows they’re not someone to be outsmarted.

“If you are confident in who you are, what you think and feel, and how you respond to their antics, you are less likely to be influenced by the efforts of a manipulator,” says Sara Makin, M.Ed.

Makin calls trust the manipulator’s kryptonite.

Conference comes from self-esteem and a healthy self-image; they are kind to themselves and talk positively about themselves. It also means that you are willing to speak up if you notice something is wrong.

Confident people also tend to have a strong support system to encourage people.

They know their worth and stick to what they say.

4) You are aware of body language, both theirs and yours

As someone who knows how to spot a manipulator, you know that their body language can speak volumes about the fact that they are up to no good.

A manipulator uses multiple tactics to overpower his ‘prey’, says Makin.

They may be standing or sitting too close to you. They may make eye contact and then maintain it to intimidate you. They can also speak in a low, authoritative voice, Makin adds. They may point the finger at you when they speak, or lean against you “as if they are trying to dominate the conversation.”

People who are good at recognizing manipulative behavior are not only good at picking up on the manipulator’s signals, but also know how their own body language comes across.

They know that body language such as crossed arms, avoiding direct eye contact, and slouching or shrinking posture puts them at a disadvantage, Makin says.

This includes shifting in their seat, speaking in low tones, and apologizing for things that don’t require an apology—or even quickly diverting the topic from themselves.

To control the situation, they keep their body language relaxed and open. “Maintain direct eye contact, stand or sit upright, tall, (and) use hand gestures to emphasize points. Point your feet toward the person when you talk.

Makin also advises taking breaks during the conversation and not being afraid to take up space. “Avoid (also) fidgeting and don’t react too quickly.”

All these tips show the manipulator that he has no power over you.

5) You have no problem delaying a response… and you don’t give in to any pressure

Here’s an example from the team Assertive manner.

A professional was pressured by a colleague to give him an exception letter for a personal need he had. He called and emailed the professional several times that day and said the letter was urgent and had to be done that same day or he would be negatively affected. The professional first had to consult with other parties and he had priorities.

So the professional calmly and firmly said that this colleague had to wait a week if he wanted the letter and that it was not their duty to do that for them. At that point, the colleague stopped imposing his personal timelines on the professional.

People who are good at dealing with manipulators can disarm them by refusing to respond on the spot. They also stick to their guns despite the pressure to make a decision.

They’ll say something like, “I’ll think about it and come back to it later.”

In the words of the experts at Assertive Way, “Any rigid timeline is their problem, not yours.”

Move over, manipulators. Your tactics won’t work here.

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