How to Recognize Emotional Manipulation

Children, teenagers, adults, the elderly. Emotional manipulators take many forms and have the ability to manipulate people of any age. It’s easy to think ‘I’m stronger than to succumb to that’ but this is precisely what emotional manipulation is; it uses tactics and methods that you’d never considered before to change the way people act around that person.

One of the first signs of someone being an emotional manipulator is often the way you, yourself feel when you are around them. Do you often feel guilty or humiliated in their company, or do they make you feel this way when you’re with a group of people? A lot of these people are not confident enough for emotional manipulation when in public or with company and this is why it is so common in marriages and relationships. When you are alone with your partner, do you argue over who said what and what they meant? Emotional manipulation often involves denial that something was said or done, so that you feel guilty for either doing something wrong, or not doing enough.

If you are experiencing emotional manipulation then you might notice a difference in how you feel in yourself. Are you relieved when someone else comes to stay, because it means you don’t have to deal with your manipulator by yourself? Emotional manipulation can include having someone complaining about ailments or making you feel sorry for them all the time. If you say something is wrong, they will have a story to top it. Emotional manipulators like to feel that everyone is there at their beck and call and if they are not, then this is a great misfortune for them. Nothing is ever the manipulators fault or responsibility; if they feel lonely when they are alone it’s because ‘everybody abandoned them’, never that they cannot keep their own company when others are busy.

If you’ve recognized emotional manipulation going on in your home or workplace then it’s time to act fast; the quicker you show this person you’re not having any of it the better. It can be tricky, especially if everyone else around you has already been sucked into their web of manipulation, but it’s certainly possible. Try to make a note or have a record of things that they say or tell you that they’re going to do. If they are a house mate and they say they’ll clean the house this week then make a rota of it and write it down. Then when they don’t do it and claim it’s everyone’s responsibility you can show otherwise. If they’re a colleague who has agreed to your proposal then write up a contract for it and get a third party to sign. Doing this might worry your manipulator at first, but it shows them who’s boss.

Emotional manipulators like to feel everyone loves them and would do anything for them, yet they are under a constant barrage of unfairness. Sit down and talk to them, if necessary, about how looking after themselves is their responsibility and that they will gain more respect that way. It’s tough, but emotional manipulation can be dangerous, especially for children who can be bullied this way.


  1. babs Reply
    January 26, 2010 at 12:51 am

    I would only add a note to say that it is the manipulator who is the person with the 'problem' and not the manipulatee. It is not easy to resist emotional twisting and it may help to be remnded of this.

  2. Le Reply
    March 23, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Bingo! I've read several articles this morning because I suspect I am experiencing this. This article pointed out an important piece…"Emotional manipulators like to feel that everyone is there at their beck and call and if they are not, then this is a great misfortune for them." I was a confident woman until I met this guy and began questioning myself… what a waste of my time!

  3. Anonymous Reply
    August 5, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    This just opened my eyes to everything that's been happening in my relationship since the day I met my boyfriend and it seem to get worse now that I'm pregnant and he doesn't want it right now!

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