Psychological manipulation

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Psychological manipulation can be perceived as an attempt made by manipulative person (manipulator) beyond his/her competence to cause the other person's (manipulated victim) specific conduct in certain matter, in accordance with own self-serving wishes of manipulator. From this point of view, to classify an act, maneuver or behaviour as manipulation assumes therefore the definition of competencies with rigid, infrangible boundaries. Then, for the undue crossing of that boundary, manipulation invokes the usage of unethical means.

The psychological manipulation is thus much most often encountered when people usurp the right to rule over the whole area of ​​human life of another person, including his/her privacy, despite they still realize that they have no legitimate means to achieve for it. Briefly speaking, one could state that the principle of manipulation rests on the well-known profane saying "the end justifies the means."[1] In the early 1970, psychologist Richard Christie made proposition that being manipulator in line with this principle is very nearly synonymous to so called Machiavellian personality. This distinct personality style is then characterized by manipulativeness, cynicism about human nature, and shrewdness in interpersonal behavior marked by using tactics that are exploitative, self-serving, and nearly always deceptive.[2]

Techniques of manipulation

Manipulator is using multitude of techniques in which he/she tries to hide his/her own true wishes and practices in the name of community welfare or higher power. Manipulative people in power are usually trying to elicit a feeling of guilt from their victims; they use emotional blackmail and make appeals for responsibility whereas on the other hand the attention is intentionally driven to distraction from the real issue or subject. During process of manipulation it is common to state things that are in discrepancy with reality or seriously distort it what normally in turn triggers a strong emotional reaction. That is then often proposed to be perceived by uninformed audience as an expression of soar, bad faith or lack of loyalty on the side of victim. For manipulator, an important factor is to focus on the way how to make the expected deformed impression rather than focus on facts or nature of the problem itself. If the one that manipulates succeeds in causing the strong emotive reaction, then he pretends to conduct himself in an extraordinarily kind manner, showing off as trying to achieve for settling the dispute, while pointing out it is the opponent who let himself to be governed by “bad faith” hence disclosing that the problem must be evidently at his side. In order to provoke inappropriate response, fabricated or invented disfavoring personal information is usually being spread, or even more preferably, some distorted real information presented against the victim of manipulation.

G.Simon recognizes the following behaviours, manoeuvres and tactics of manipulation and control when employed by disturbed characters:[3][note 1]

  • Minimization
  • Lying
  • Denial
  • Selective Inattention (or Selective Attention)
  • Rationalization
  • Diversion. Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a direct question and instead being diversionary, dodging the issue, giving "runaround" and steering the conversation away onto another subject.
  • Evasion. Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling responses, weasel words, deliberate use of vagueness and lying by omission.
  • Cover Intimidation
  • Guilt Tripping
  • Shaming
  • Playing the Victim role
  • Vilifying the Victim
  • Playing the Servant Role
  • Seduction
  • Projecting the Blame (Blaming Others)
  • Feigning Innocence
  • Feigning Ignorance or Confusion
  • Brandishing Anger

Non-verbal Techniques of manipulation

There are several tricks on the level of non-verbal communication aiming to gain dominance and evoke the feelings of guilt or anger. For example, it is possible to use long and quizzical glance focused onto eyes of other person what is in normal communication subconsciously perceived as unnatural. When given target person after some while decides to look to the side out of politeness, it naturally causes one to experience submissive emotion, which can be then misused by manipulator for introducing the uneven dominance into communication.

The second possible technique is to stage a failed greeting attempt or other similar defaming incident. It is very effective, in presence of witnesses, to stretch out a hand for farewell-shaking exactly in the moment when other person is turning backwards due to being just about to leave, thus having no chance for noticing and reacting, what is then implicitly interpreted as greeting refusal and impoliteness. It also serves its purpose in such moment to look around and get confirmed that others have noticed this “incident” and with pretended interest and contrite grimace let others know how this untactful refusal hurts and how one’s feel sorry for that.

When we meet a person that is a disguised manipulator for first time, it might be easy to get impressed by his/her charity and seeming friendship, which would however last only until the first moment when we express our independent opinion different of his/her own or when we do something what is not up to his/her expectations.

Predispositions for becoming a victim of manipulation

Important aspects of character when examining the predisposition for becoming a victim of manipulation:[3]

  • Naiveté
  • Over-Conscientiousness
  • Low Self-Confidence and lack of assertiveness
  • Over-Intellectualization
  • Emotional Dependency


Many are interested to learn whether it is possible somehow to get out from reaches of manipulation. Although there could be found many good and forethought answers, they are unfortunately rarely of any avail for victims in their situations. Some specialists are convinced that although it is possible to resist the manipulative practices of individuals, it is not the same case if the given system as such is set up in a way that enables this manipulation or if it is even built up upon it. Breaking ties of manipulation is especially impossible if the manipulator holds a very high position. If in such case a person wants to act in a righteous way, avoiding lying and the usage of the same unethical and dishonest means, then his/her efforts are a priori condemned to failure. The bottom line question is however this: Why we should keep staying in the system that allows for manipulative practices or even connives and supports them? An individual that is routinely using manipulation as a basis for his carrier advancement seeks for letting himself to be surrounded solely by absolutely loyal people which are in return rewarded for this uncritical loyalty by special favor. These supporters who enjoy back-ally support then feel no hindrances to use lie, fraud or false testimonies. On the other side, a person who feels his/her own conscience is preventing him/her to apply similar dishonest measures, is in such system condemned to be eliminated beforehand. The rule of righteousness and fair practices can never be achieved in the systems that openly despise them.[5]


  1. As a curiosity it is perhaps worth of mention that it has been suggested that there are some rather disturbed individuals that run Wikipedia via ArbCom (Arbitration Committee) and the cadre of Administrators what is perceived as its major defect which "will raise its head".[4]

See Also


  1. Aleš Franc. Co je manipulace? (What is manipulation?) (Czech).
  2. Harriet B. Braiker (2004). Who's pulling your strings? How to break the cycle of manipulation and regain the control of your life. The McGraw Hill, 85. ISBN 0-07-144672-9. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 George Simon (1996, 2010). "9:Recognizing the Tactics of Manipulation and Control", In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and dealing with Manipulative People. Little Rock, USA: Parkurst Brothers, 111-136, 140-141. ISBN 978-1-935166-30-6. 
  4. john brews (August 5, 2011). Wikipedia is the Encyclopedia that Anybody Can Edit. But Have You?: Comments. The Association for Psychological Science (previously the American Psychological Society). Retrieved on 2012-20-28. “As a professor of electrical engineering who contributed a great deal to WP, I would like to suggest that the members of the APS have a rather unique function to play there. My experience with WP has been fine on very technical matters, but on subjects with popular appeal there are very active and peculiar Talk page discussions that in my case led to eventual expulsion from WP. My take is that there are some rather disturbed individuals that run WP via ArbCom and the cadre of Administrators. I wonder if possibly APS members will be able to devise a useful method to deal with this major defect of WP, which I suspect indeed will raise its head.”
  5. Aleš Franc (2008). Co je manipulace? (What is manipulation?) (Czech). Zápas o duši.