Uncover Subtle Forms Of Maniptualtion

Some Subtle Forms of Manipulative Behavior to Be Aware Of

Some  Subtle Forms of Manipulative Behavior to Be Aware Of

At one point or another, we’ve all encountered or exhibited signs of manipulation—it’s an inherent aspect of human interactions to some extent. Recall a young child feigning tears or gazing at you with hopeful eyes when they desire something. However, as we mature, these manipulative behaviors morph into less adorable forms such as deceit, injunctions, or other tactics to control or influence others to achieve specific outcomes. Recognizing these manipulative behaviors is essential to addressing them and establishing healthy boundaries for oneself and others.


Manipulation can be defined as a tactic where one individual attempts to sway another’s emotions to achieve a specific reaction or result, notes Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, therapist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health. While the definition may seem simple, the manifestations of manipulative behavior can be veiled as various interpersonal dynamics. Generally, manipulation is at play when one feels devoid of autonomy, choice, or the ‘license’ to set boundaries, states psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Babita Spinelli, LP.

To help identify manipulation in real-life scenarios, we contacted mental health professionals to shed light on some seemingly innocuous actions that are red flags. Here are five common yet subtle manipulative behaviors to be vigilant about:


Originating from the 1938 play Gas Light and its subsequent 1944 film adaptation, the term ‘gaslighting’ has become synonymous with manipulation, where the manipulator causes the victim to doubt their reality. Sadly, this form of manipulation remains prevalent today, particularly in toxic relationships, says Spinelli. Confronting gaslighters with phrases like “We remember things differently” or “I am not interested in debating what happened with you” can be a way to address this behavior.


The Silent Treatment

Here, the manipulator sometimes shuns communication with the other party to assert control. While they may be genuinely upset, the silence is used as a tool of power, making the victim feel they’ve committed an unforgivable act, explains mental health counselor Leon Garber, LHMC. Digital silence, like intentionally ignoring texts or emails to elicit anxiety or maintain control, is also a manipulative tactic, adds Spinelli.

Guilt Tripping

Guilt tripping is aimed at making someone feel remorseful or embarrassed to sway their behavior. It often involves reminding others of personal sacrifices made for them or evoking guilt over attributes the manipulator lacks, states Garber. Recognizing and addressing guilt tripping when it occurs is crucial for maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships.


While compliments are generally well-received, excessive or insincere flattery is a manipulative tactic. It often includes exaggeration to gain favor or maintain closeness rather than fostering genuine.

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