6 Twisted Techniques Master Manipulators Use In Relationships

Yes, emotional manipulation is abuse.

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Master manipulators are all around us, living like emotional energy vampires just waiting to get their next fix of power and control in their relationships.

If you feel drained and confused after interacting with someone and just can't determine exactly why, there's a good chance it's because you've been the victim of emotional manipulation during your time with them. Even worse, dealing with emotional manipulators who exhibit these six typical behaviors (all of which are signs of emotional abuse) can leave you feeling like there's something wrong with you.


The following six behaviors are techniques that master manipulators often use to destroy the self-esteem of their victims in psychologically and emotionally abusive relationships.

1. They consistently diminish your feelings.

When you tell them, "It hurt me when you said ___," instead of offering a simple genuine apology or asking you to talk about how you felt, they will point out why you're wrong to feel that way and will likely diminish your feelings as being silly and say you're overreacting.



This is classic gaslighting, an emotional and psychological abuse tactic that causes the victim to question their own sanity and/or reality. Their calm demeanor and your heightened emotion or sensitivity may trick you into doubting yourself. You start wondering if maybe they're right. You then retreat into your own thoughts trying to process the interaction, feeling too insecure to pursue the conversation any further.


If they respond with anger, you feel stunned. You've just opened yourself up in a vulnerable way and they've barged into that soft open space with aggression leaving you feeling trampled upon, exposed and unsafe. If this is their pattern, you may even start to believe you are responsible for their anger.

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2. They deflect their behavior back to you.

When you get up the courage to tell them you feel a lack of support, closeness, friendship or kindness, they will turn it around and point out the things you did to justify their reasons for pulling away, being mean, acting insensitively or yelling at you. 

How often do you hear them say things like, "You made me yell at you," "Why are you trying to start a fight?" and "If you hadn't done ___, I wouldn't have ___"? These statements deny you the right to your own feelings. You're left, once again, wondering if they're right and doubting the validity of your own feelings. You may suppress your desire for healthy communication because of how exhausting it is to try to communicate. This keeps the toxic cycle going and your self-assuredness diminishes even further.


Unless they have an interest in learning effective communication skills and taking responsibility for their feelings and actions, cut them loose. If your self-esteem hasn't been stellar and your boundaries aren't firm, their tactics can leave you feeling worthless.

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3. They act differently toward you in public than they do in private.

You become the brunt of the joke in front of your friends. The night might be going along perfectly fine until the last sip of that second cocktail when they make fun of something about you so personal your smile drops into your stomach and you're flushed with embarrassment. Since everyone else is laughing at the "joke" or "funny story," you don't feel it's the right time to express how hurt you are, so you keep up the facade. But when you mention your hurt feelings while taking a taxi back home, they dismiss your concerns by saying you're too sensitive, "It's just a joke. Lighten up."

If they like to throw emotional daggers, they'll add in, "Do you have PMS?" If they go as far as to make their own psychological diagnosis of you, get out of that taxi and hail an Uber to drive you into your emotional freedom land.


In private, the emotional manipulator will be full of apologies when they realize you've reached your breaking point. Only then will they claim partial ownership for their behavior, but it's more common for them to still blame others, whether it's work, crazy drivers or their family. But they'll do it in such a sweet authentic tone, you'll be tricked into giving them yet another chance.

RELATED: 8 Sneaky Things Emotional Manipulators Always Use Against You

4. They refuse to explain themselves.

"You wouldn't understand." The emotional manipulator will use this statement to make you feel you're not intelligent enough to understand them. They do this because they have no desire to have authentic, real communication with you. They want to make you feel like you are beneath them by claiming you couldn't possibly understand. It's a futile attempt to ask them to try to explain it, too. Their frustration at your attempt at communication eventually spins its way back to you.

The partner who doesn't communicate what they need from you also exhibits this refusal technique. They prefer to stew in disapproval for not giving them what they need — even though they've never told you. This can leave you feeling helpless, just waiting for them to burst out in anger if you do something "wrong." Since they don't tell you specifics, all your actions and words are fair game. (There's no way to win with this one. Walk away as fast as you can.)


5. They tell you that "everyone" agrees.

This tactic instills fear, doubt and insecurity that everyone agrees on the thing the manipulator said you did that was bad, stupid, spiteful or rude — making you think everyone is in agreement and so certainly you're wrong.



Although you may question whether they're flat-out lying, you probably won't listen to that small inner voice because their tactics have already grown deep roots of self-doubt. When you ask which specific friends, you won't get an answer. You're not likely to confront your friends out of fear they'll either agree (then you have a friend issue to deal with), or they'll lie and deny (another potential friend issue), or they'll question why you're with such a crafty manipulator. All three scenarios diminish your power, so you do nothing.

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6. They make conclusions about your actions (without bothering to ask if they're accurate).

With this tricky tactic, you're likely to hear, "I know why you ..." when they really do not know at all.

While it's normal for human beings to make our own conclusions about someone else's behavior, as we reach a higher level of maturity, it's common (and healthier) to actually ask the other person what their intentions were or their thoughts behind an action they took that was displeasing to us. But the master manipulator is like a stubborn toddler holding onto their own reasoning with clenched fists. If you dare to pry them open, a tantrum ensues. They're so tenacious with their grip onto their story that you might even start doubting yourself because they are very convincing with their argument.

Usually, around the third time you've tried to explain yourself, they'll state, "I'm done," and walk away, going back to the dismissive tactic mentioned prior.


All of these tactics are part of the cycle of abuse in toxic relationships with emotional manipulators.

You can't get them off that hamster wheel because they're not interested in communicating — they're only interested in being right.

RELATED: 10 Undeniable Signs Of A Manipulative Man

Patty Blue Hayes is a life coach and author who aims to help clients find clarity through coaching sessions focused on thought-provoking questions and self-examining and playful practices that provide great insights, lucidity and most importantly, change.