Manipulation definition is a psychological term used to describe the action of influencing or controlling something or someone to exploit. From manipulating the position of a thing to skillfully dictating the affairs of another’s life through tactful means for gain; In other words, it can be referred to using a person to one’s advantage.

While it could be easy to gain control over a thing, the narrative is different and much more difficult when humans are the object of such an act, so Manipulators resort to employing physical and emotional means. Manipulation isn’t just mean or unfair, it is an abuse of the individual’s will, boundaries and person.

What is Emotional manipulation?

Emotional manipulation as defined by Brandy Porsche L.P.C, a licensed professional counselor at Mindpath Health is the disregard for a person’s feelings while strategically trying to get them to feel what you want them to instead. Manipulations could range from harmless to extreme ones which can be a big threat to the mental or physical health of the receiver.

Emotional manipulation signs

The major emotional manipulation sign to know that you’re being emotionally manipulated is the disregard for your feelings, thoughts and the boundaries you put in place. Other signs include

  • The feeling of anger and resentment directed at the person manipulating you,
  • Finding yourself acting outside the alignment of your values and principles to please the person,
  • Becoming unsure of your feelings and often questioning your individuality
  • Feeling mentally exhausted continually, especially around the person or the place connecting you both.

Types of Emotional manipulation

The magnitude of the different types of emotional manipulation could differ from one another, some being less harmful than others and some more obvious than others too. The constant factor is the control exerted on the feelings, thoughts and behavior of the one at the receiving end.

Actions that has been considered as emotional manipulations includes:

  1. Bullying: bullying might not involve physical abuse but rather verbal through threats, destructive criticism or raised voice. Here, the manipulator preys on an insecurity, deficiency or problem faced by a person to exert control over their actions. The manipulator could also make use of a factor they have against the person to get them to do what they want.
  2. Playing the hero: in every relationship, we’ve all had to receive and render help every now and then. It becomes unhealthy when it seems a person is at the mercy of past help or when one has to go against their will or values because of the constant reminder of being in a position or condition thanks to the manipulator.
  3. Passive aggression: this involves the manipulator indirectly communicating a demand through giving off negative feelings even if he/she says otherwise when asked. This can be seen when one person begins to act contrary after both parties of the relationship have agreed upon a decision, thereby indirectly making the other person conform to their wish. The techniques employed by the manipulator include continuous complaint as regards the agreement made, sullenness, intentional mistakes or procrastination.
  4. Persuasion: this is the continuous appeal to push a person do something theywon’t want to do even after making it clear that they don’t want to do it. Here, the manipulator could use word of mouth, giving a cold shoulder to convince and make the manipulated person give in to the demands made.
  5. Love-bombing: this can be a very dangerous tactic because on a shallow view, it is seen as just a positive act with genuine interest. This form of manipulation as seen in friendship and romantic relationships entails the manipulator under the disguise of showing attraction in grand style with compliments, attention and gifts, pushing the display of the actions to the extreme, that is, going too big or too fast without respect for the boundaries, time, individuality and views of the other person with the end interest of getting immediate commitment. Once you get attached, the attention and excessive love could be withdrawn and made a reward for doing as requested, leaving you needy and dependent on the manipulator.
  6. Gaslighting: this is commonly seen in relationships involving people with narcissistic personality disorder; this is where the manipulator tries to invalidate your remembrance of things or term your feelings and actions as unnecessary. This could, in the long run, have an effect on the self-esteem of the manipulated person as they get uncertain of their thoughts or opinion, as well as imbibe self-doubt in them.
  7. Smokescreening and guilt tripping: this is a tactic where the manipulator attempts to make you the culprit on a matter by bringing up a topic that occurred in the past and is different from what is being discussed at the moment. This manipulation can be seen when a person tries to change the topic to remind you of your previous misdeed as a means of getting off the hook.
  8. Silent treatment and withdrawal of emotional closure: even with closed mouths, this is a manipulation that is louder than words, silence or withdrawing of intimacy or affirmations can be very uncomfortable leaving the receiver with no choice than to give in to the demands or keep having a cold atmosphere.
  9. Moving the goal post: here, the manipulator asks for something, then pushes it further or asks for something else once the manipulated person gives in to the request. This manipulation is a disrespect to the boundaries of the person involved and has been seen in cases of sexual assaults.
  10. Toxic workplace: several manipulations could be encountered at the workplace but a good example is questioning an employee’s dedication or competency to get them to do things that aren’t stated as their duty forehand. This could include working into the night, doing extra time at work, or pushing the blame of a deficiency on their competence

Examples of Emotional manipulation

Different examples of emotional manipulation have been recorded from studies and interaction with those that have been at the receiving end, ranging from mild to extreme cases. Few examples of this event are:

  1. A correspondent in a study on how couples settle disputes, mentioned that her partner would rather buy gifts for her than apologize when he is wrong and would only bring up past wrongdoings of hers when she complains.
  2. Employees also mentioned during a 2016 study on work ethics that majority of their late night works for the company was not of choice but rather as a response to the need to show commitment to the growth of the company even if not pleasing to them

 Anyone can be manipulative and we find ourselves in emotional manipulation in a relationship by trying to get others including our loved ones to do something that we want from time to time probably due to circumstances, or being wrongly advised but in this case, the manipulation is not to hurt the other person and can be addressed by simply confronting the manipulator.

Emotional manipulation has been studied to be a common pattern in abusive relationships where one of the partners uses tactics dependent on the other’s emotional needs or their demands to directly or indirectly dictate the affairs of the relationship without regard for their feelings, thereby emotionally victimizing the partner. Such partner is left feeling unloved, invalid and emotionally unsafe, and in most cases resort to find other means to feel accepted, in which substance abuse is the most common means as shown in studies.

How to deal with Emotional manipulation?

 While it might be impossible to avoid being manipulated a couple of times, the occurrence of such should be reduced to the minimum and the possibility of harmful ones that could pose a threat to health should be eradicated.

It has been shown by studies that therapies done for individuals with abusive intents brought about no significant change, resulting in most of them returning back to abuse their partners and those involved with them. Therefore, in the case of unhealthy relationships, the best way to deal with such is to exit the relationship before one’s health is compromised.

In situations where you can’t afford to exit the relationship, certain measures could be put in place to counter emotional manipulation and ensure that your feelings are respected whether at home, work and every other association.

  • Make a decision on every matter only after deliberate and thorough thoughts on it, knowing what is at stake and why you’re making such a decision.
  • Set your boundaries and communicate them loud and clear verbally from time to time, to inform those that need to be aware of them as well as serve as a reminder for you.
  • Avoid Love-bombers and make it clear that you have the right to decide how much attention and love you receive.
  • Demand when the need arises that your feelings and opinions be respected just as much as that of the other person in the relationship; and compromises should never be left as the duty of one party.
  • Speak out when you feel you are being emotionally manipulated and request for an immediate change.

As a form of abuse, therapies are advisable for those that have been subjected to harmful forms of emotional manipulation and show symptoms as found in abuse cases such as Depression, Anxiety and low self-esteem. And there’s how to deal with emotional manipulation.