37 Most Common Manipulation Tactics We Use In Relationships — And Why Manipulative Behavior Will Never Get You What You Really Want

Photo: getty
37 Most Common Manipulation Tactics We Use In Relationships — And Why Manipulative Behavior Will Never Get You What You Really Want
Self

Manipulation only makes things worse in the long run.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of every relationship — romantic or otherwise. But when manipulation lies underneath, it causes more harm than good.

The dictionary defines the word 'manipulate' as, "to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage."

No one likes to see themselves as manipulative or be accused of being a manipulator. But most of us, from time to time, engage in manipulation tactics in our efforts to communicate and fulfill certain desires or expectations that we have of others.

RELATED: The 6 Worst Types Of Manipulators (And How To Deal With Each Of 'Em)

Do you know what to look for when it comes to signs of manipulation on your part? It's probably not something you've had to think about before, but you might have done it.

Here are some examples of some of the ways that we may manipulate others:

  1. Intimidation
  2. Shaming
  3. Comparing
  4. Threatening
  5. Condemning
  6. Self-pity
  7. Insulting
  8. Humiliating
  9. Ridiculing
  10. Belittling
  11. Humor
  12. Accommodating
  13. Withdrawing
  14. Criticizing
  15. Blaming
  16. Silence
  17. Intellectualizing
  18. Crying
  19. Cajoling
  20. Flattery
  21. Bargaining
  22. Bribing
  23. Demanding
  24. Sarcasm
  25. Name-calling
  26. Punishment
  27. Playing dumb
  28. Guilt-tripping
  29. Judging
  30. Raging
  31. Whining
  32. Distracting
  33. Lecturing
  34. Nagging
  35. Nit-picking
  36. Attacking
  37. Seduction

Many of these behaviors are not intrinsically harmful and under certain circumstances even appropriate and legitimate. What determines whether or not one is being manipulative is not the behavior itself, but the context in which it is being used and the intention behind the action or words.

An intention becomes manipulative when it is driven by an unstated, covert desire that is meant to mislead another person and influence their perception.

We manipulate when there is an outcome that we desire and we are more attached to achieving that outcome than we are to maintaining integrity in our relationship.

Manipulation is what we do when we are not willing to risk openly acknowledging our intentions by expressing our desires. We feel less vulnerable when we use covert means to influence others to accommodate us.

While most of us are aware that manipulation in close relationships can diminish trust, we continue to practice manipulative behaviors.

Why then do we manipulate when we know better? And how do we justify this behavior to ourselves?

Here are a few examples of some of the more common-used rationalizations that we’ve heard from people over the years:

  • "Everybody does it."
  • "It’s harmless."
  • "I won’t get my needs met if I don’t."
  • "He/she does it and I’ll be at a disadvantage if I don’t."
  • "It’s not a big deal."
  • "It’s a habit and I can’t give it up."
  • "I don’t want anyone to take advantage of me."

You can add your own to this list. But, keep in mind that rationalizations aren’t equivalent to the truth.

And in the case of effective communication skills in relationships, there are "unintended consequences" that inevitably occur when we justify manipulations, regardless of the reasons why we do it, including:

  • A diminishment in the level of self-trust and trust in the relationship
  • An increase in feelings of anxiety (resulting from the fear of one’s deeper motives being revealed)
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • A diminishment in the quality of intimacy in the relationship
  • An increase in feelings of resentment
  • An increase in the frequency and intensity of arguments
  • A loss of a sense of personal integrity

While we may feel manipulated at times, when another person is using covert means to influence us, we are much less likely to be aware of these intentions in ourselves when we are not on the receiving end of things.

RELATED: 9 Signs You're Falling In Love With Someone Who Thoroughly Enjoys Emotional Manipulation

Most of us are inclined to recognize motivations in ourselves that are inconsistent with our image of ourselves as being a "good" person. Consequently, we are generally unaware of our manipulative tendencies.

We usually manipulate because we fear that if we don’t fulfill our desires, we will suffer. We frequently don’t realize it when we are manipulating, and it is embarrassing to catch ourselves in the act to admit that we are.

Examples of the desires that we seek to fulfill include (but are not limited to) acceptance, love, approval, sex, money, attention, security, support, agreement, control, and praise.

In becoming more conscious of our manipulative patterns and the cost incurred, we can find the motivation to interrupt manipulative impulses. Then, we can find the courage to risk outwardly acknowledging our needs and desires and make more direct requests to others.

The process of interrupting our manipulative impulses and restoring our integrity requires us to get honest with ourselves in regard to the why’s and how’s of our manipulative tendencies.

Through a process of self-inquiry, we can bring into greater awareness the unconscious motivators that may be at play. Self-inquiry enables us to assert new, more effective practices to meet our needs and avoid the damaging consequences of manipulation.

There are some examples of questions that will help you to uncover some of your competing commitments and hidden desires. You may want to respond to these questions in writing or in dialogue with another person rather than simply thinking about the answers.

With each insight into our deeper motivation, we become more empowered to act in ways that strengthen our commitment to integrity.

Each action expressed from this commitment deconditions the manipulative patterns that keep us separate from each other and ourselves.

  1. "How do I manipulate?" (Examples of ways that you manipulate)
  2. "What am I looking for when I manipulate?" (Examples of what I am seeking to get or experience).
  3. "What is the fear that drives me to manipulate?" (Another way to ask this question is: "What is it that I am afraid of losing or not getting if I don’t manipulate?")
  4. "What are the prices I pay for manipulating?" (What are the negative consequences to you and your relationships?)
  5. "What would be required of me to stop manipulating?" (What risks would you have to be willing to take in order to break this habit?)
  6. "What kind of support will be useful to me in my efforts to break the habit of manipulation?"
  7. "Who are the people whom I can count on to support me in this process?"

Such self-confrontation requires courage and commitment. The tendency to avoid facing unpleasant truths about ourselves is strong in us all. Doing so can activate feelings of shame, humiliation, and guilt.

Yet, in coming to terms with these deeper feelings we can become more able to have a heightened experience of authenticity, intimacy, freedom, and passion. We don’t have to wait until we "arrive at our destination" to begin to feel the benefits of this process.

The positive feelings emerge as soon as we commit ourselves to live more authentically and communicating more directly with the people with whom we seek to co-create a fulfilling connection. The longer we practice, the easier it gets.

It’s never too early or too late to learn the importance of communication and make this commitment to begin enjoying the results of the process. See for yourself!

RELATED: 6 Ways To Handle Parents Who Use Emotional Manipulation Tactics

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Linda Bloom, LCSW, and Charlie Bloom, MSW, are psychotherapists and relationship counselors who have worked with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations since 1975. To learn more, visit their website.

This article was originally published at PsychCentral. Reprinted with permission from the author.