- Master manipulators are extremely perceptive.
- Master manipulators shift environments often.
- Master manipulators can be predictable in the variety of techniques they use to control and deceive.
Manipulation surrounds us—and although it can have positive effects at times (think a boss using persuasion to get results from a team), the negative impact of being manipulated can be devastating.
Chronic manipulation is particularly damaging, with long-reaching consequences for relationships and your mental health. Learning some simple ways to recognize master manipulators can decrease your chances of falling prey to this destructive cycle.
Master manipulators are subtly different
Master manipulators are those individuals who have made a life practice of using others to get their own wants and needs met. Their relationships eventually end up one-sided, although, at the beginning, they may go out of their way to please. That desire to make others happy is short-lived, as it always serves their own purpose: to get what they want or to make themselves look good in some way.
The very fact that master manipulators have spent years practicing on numerous victims means their techniques are subtle and difficult to recognize. Most of the time, the individuals who will spot master manipulators immediately are the same people who have been victimized by them in the past.
They have an innate “manipulator” sensor that has been developed over time, as a survival strategy in dangerous relationships.
Red flags that hint at manipulation
For those who find themselves repeatedly engaging in relationships with manipulators—or are curious about how to avoid becoming the next victim—there are some subtle things to watch for.
1. Master manipulators tend to be highly perceptive. If you think that sounds unusual, you’re not alone. Most people view intuition as a positive trait that helps create healthy relationships and build empathy for others—and that’s true, in most cases. But intuition can also be a powerful tool to get under someone’s skin, learn what makes others tick, and eventually exploit those insights for personal gain.
A master manipulator must be able to predict the reactions people will have to their behaviors. The best way to ensure you get what you want is by learning which buttons to push for which reactions.
If making someone feel guilty influences them to finally give in, that’s important information to a manipulator. If instilling fear can successfully pressure someone to comply, manipulators need to take advantage of that response.
Pay attention to those people who seem to predict your reactions right off the bat. They may just be gifted with high levels of intuition—but they could also be manifesting a fine-tuned manipulative skill to get what they want.
2. Master manipulators never stay in one environment for long. Have you met someone who seems outgoing, friendly, and willing to help others—but has a history of changing jobs often, switching social groups, and shifting friendships? Though some free spirits enjoy life “on the run,” manipulators often choose that lifestyle as well.
Think about it. How easy is it to stay in a job or a relationship for decades once everyone sees through your manipulative tactics? Manipulators switch environments when they’re no longer able to get what they want. When they run out of victims—or victims see what’s going on and take a stand against it—it’s the end of the road for a master manipulator.
A red flag for a master manipulator is someone whose long-term relationships are either nonexistent or have gone through extreme highs and lows. Of course, the reason their relationships or situations have ended is always someone else’s fault, and you will rarely hear a master manipulator own up to their part in it (unless they think it will gain them something valuable to do so).
Unfortunately, this is a challenging tactic to recognize because it can present in so many other situations. Many victims of chronic manipulation end up having to start life over again, struggling to maintain healthy relationships, or experiencing the same dead-end interactions over and over again—because of the damaging outcomes manipulation has had on their coping skills and self-esteem. In the same vein, there are times when chronic illness or mental health struggles can make it necessary to change environments.
The key between innocuous environmental switches and those serving a darker purpose is the willingness to take ownership of the changes. If you run into a person whose job losses, divorces, social changes, etc., had nothing whatsoever to do with them—they were treated poorly, their talents went unrecognized, or they needed bigger and better opportunities—it’s a sign to look deeper into what’s really going on.
3. Master manipulators use the same strategies over and over. If a master manipulator has learned that being overly nice and offering to do anything to help at the beginning of relationships eventually nets them a blank check to do whatever they want, chances are they’ll keep using that technique. If they’ve grasped power out of using intimidation or fear, they’ll stick to what’s worked. Why change horses midstream?
Each manipulator will develop skills, based on their own personality and surroundings, to help them get what they want from others. Those skills will be fine-tuned over the long run, with minor adjustments made depending on how well they produce the desired outcome.
Chances are, once master manipulators have perfected their strategies, it will be their go-to approach from that moment on. When it works, it works, and these aren’t individuals who are willing to put in extra time and energy to improve their surroundings. What matters to a master manipulator is the end result only.
Observation is key
Observation is the solution when it comes to recognizing—and avoiding—master manipulators. Those individuals who take the time to observe, check into, and follow their instincts when faced with manipulation will be most likely to rescue themselves from potentially dangerous situations. Master the art of manipulator surveillance—at a minimum, it will steer you away from unhealthy relationships, but in some cases, it could even save your life.
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