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5 “Fake” Nice Gestures People Casually Use To Manipulate You

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I had a huge crush on this girl in college. She was charming, and everybody wanted to talk to her. 

One day, she made a move on me. The next day, she asked me to do her a favor. She said that if I could help her finish her assignment, she’d hang out with me.

Of course, I said yes.

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I spent hours on that homework just to have a chance with her.

But when I finally gave the assignment back to her, she barely even said thank you. And then stopped taking my calls.

I realized that she used me.

And that’s when I learned that not all kindness is sincere.

But I’ve also learned that not all manipulators do it on purpose.

With time, manipulation and deception become an ingrained part of someone's personality that they don’t see another way of dealing with.

It’s not their fault — but it’s certainly your fault if you can’t guard your mental energies against their deceptive kindness.

I have had my fair share of manipulative people in life. And those experiences made me knowledgeable of certain “fake” nice gestures people often use to control you.

Here are 5 “fake” nice gestures people casually use to manipulate you:

1. The “please, let me do that for you”

This is a variant of gift-giving.

But, in this case, rather than giving an actual present, the manipulator uses their own time and energy as a weapon.

A few months ago, someone reached out to me to help with a project I was working on.

I politely declined because everything was in my control. The person didn’t take no for an answer and said, “please, let me do that for you.”

I again explained that the work was done, but they insisted.

So, I relented and sent them the project files. Two weeks later, I received a bill for $2,000. They had completed the work and wanted to be paid for their time.

While gifts often create a sense of reciprocity, this tactic is more about flat-out deception.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is offering to do something for you, make sure you establish what the terms are upfront. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the hook for a lot more than you bargained for.

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2. The empty promise

A friend was supposed to help me move apartments. I’d rented a truck and taken the day off work.

But he called me the night before to cancel, citing a family emergency. I felt empathetic and asked if I could do anything for him. He politely declined.

Later, I found him tagged in a friend’s party pics on social media. I realized he had cheated.

I was pissed, but what could I do?

I let it go.

He somehow found that I knew the truth. And so he started making amends. He’d drop by my place with a pizza, invite me for Friday nights, etc.

When I thought he had changed, he proved me wrong. He bailed out multiple times on assembling my Ikea furniture.

I usually don’t expect or ask people to help me. But I can’t bear the brunt of empty promises.

I never hung out with him.

Confronting people over such occurrences never leads to a conclusion. Instead, they blame you and make you look like a villain.

So, I parted ways silently.

It sounds harsh, but trust is the foundation of any relationship. Once it’s gone, it isn’t easy to rebuild. If you make a promise, do what you can to keep it.

3. The flattery trap

I had a manipulative project partner at work. Let’s call him Jake. In banter, he showed us how he used flattery to get what he wanted from his ex-boss.

“My technique is to use flattery as a form of verbal kung fu. I don’t try to be sincere. I use it the way Bruce Lee used nunchucks,” said Jake.

Jake would tell his boss he was doing a great job, even when he wasn’t. He’d also give him vague compliments to be interpreted however the boss wanted.

For example, he might say his boss was a “visionary.”

The goal was not to make his boss feel good but to get what he wanted from him. And it worked.

Flattery is a common manipulative tool because it’s so easy to do and works so well. We want to believe we’re doing a great job, even when we aren’t, so we fall for insincere flattery.

The next time someone flatters you, pay attention to their intention. Are they trying to make you feel good, or do they want something from you?

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4. The door-in-the-face technique

The door-in-the-face technique is a common sales tactic. Manipulative people also use it to get what they want.

Here’s how it works:

The manipulator starts by making a reasonable request, assuming you’ll say no. They follow that up with a more unreasonable request, which makes you think the second one is worse than the previous one.

And you fall for it.

It’s called the anchor effect.

Say, for instance, you’re debating the purchase of a brand-new automobile. The salesman will show you the $15,000 base model and the $35,000 fully-loaded model.

The standard version may be deficient in features, but the premium version is out of your price range.

The expensive cost of the fully-loaded version has served as an “anchor,” making the $15,000 starting price seem like a steal.

The door-in-the-face technique is a form of anchoring, a cognitive bias that occurs when we’re influenced by the number we hear.

Apple has been doing this regularly to promote iPhone sales. They introduce a cheaper phone and then a more expensive one.

The iPhone 13 starts at $699, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max goes for $1,099.

You may not believe you require the extra features of the Pro Max, but after seeing the pricing, the standard-priced iPhone 13 starts to appear like a value!

That explains why the iPhone 13 had more sales than iPhone 13 Pro Max.

5. The “I’m just trying to help” trick

This one is a classic. It’s amazing how often people use the phrase “I’m just trying to help” to manipulate and control others.

The other day, I talked to a friend about a ghostwriting book I was working on. I had done some research and knew what I wanted to do.

But my friend insisted on giving me their opinion, even though I didn’t ask for it.

After 10 minutes of listening to them, I finally said, “I appreciate your help, but I’ve already made up my mind.” Their response? “I’m just trying to help.”

No, you’re not. You’re trying to control the situation and impose your will on me.

If you want to help, ask if I need help. If I say no, then respect my decision and back off.

“Fake” nice gestures might be hard to see if you don’t know what to look for.

But we must all know the signs and behaviors and how to prevent our mental batteries from draining.

There are choices. Confront the individual, quit the relationship, or get counseling.

No one deserves to be treated like sh*t.

These are just five of the most subtle manipulations people casually use in relationships. 

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Darshak Rana is a writer, poet, and the founder of Spiritual Secrets and Candid Conversations.

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