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The Arts of Manipulation

Author: Elaine Guo

Editors: Flynn Ma and Hwi-On Lee

Artist: Felicia Chen

Manipulation is a form of toxic emotional abuse used to control or influence someone to another's advantage. By targeting how someone feels, thinks, and behaves, people can gain power over another individual to get what they want. Whether it’s in relationships, friendships, family, or even in professional settings with your boss or close colleagues, manipulation can happen to anyone. It can damage another person’s emotional and mental well-being, damaging their self-confidence and potentially lead to depression or social isolation. Despite its prevalence, a manipulative person can be hard to recognize, making it easy for that individual to deceive others.

There are many different reasons why a person would choose to manipulate someone. Some people manipulate because they get satisfaction from controlling others, which tends to become habitual behavior. Another reason is that manipulators are often obsessed with being better than others, feeding their ego because they believe they are “outsmarting” you even though they’re not. Sometimes, they do it for personal desires, such as money, power, or attention. Other times, it could be because manipulation offers them a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Research shows that people with personality disorders are more likely to engage in manipulative behaviors. 

Among the many manipulation tactics, some of the most common ones are guilt-tripping, love bombing, gaslighting, projection, and triangulation. Guilt-tripping involves making someone feel bad for their actions. In romantic relationships, a partner might try to “love-bomb” you. They will spend an excessive amount of time pleasing the victim to build intimacy and trust, making the victim devoted to them with an unhealthy attachment. They will want all of your attention, which can later isolate you from friends, family, and life goals. Gaslighting is when someone makes you feel crazy. It can make you question yourself, your memory, or your feelings, making you believe everything the manipulator says. Projection is when someone blames another person for their own feelings and actions. In triangulation, a third party is involved, often someone who the manipulator knows will be on their side and vouch for them. This ensures that the manipulator wins every dispute because they purposely chose someone they know will side with them. 

Avoiding manipulation can be simple and easy. Although you can’t prevent someone from engaging in manipulative behaviors, you can reduce the impact. Know the signs of someone who exhibits manipulative behaviors by watching out for someone who is overly friendly, makes empty promises, or often tries to make you feel guilty. To sum up, manipulation aims to control your emotions and thoughts. You can diminish others’ influence over you by mastering your emotional responses. If necessary, therapy can be an effective and beneficial resource as well.

 

Citations:

Geralyn Dexter, PhD. “How to Spot Manipulative Behavior.” Verywell Health, Verywell

Health, 15 June 2023, 

Holland, Author:  Maggie, and Kristen Fuller. “17 Manipulation Tactics Abusers Use.”

Choosing Therapy, 

Vogel, Kaitlin. “7 Manipulation Tactics to Know.” Psych Central, Psych Central, 15 Apr.

2022, psychcentral.com/lib/tactics-manipulators-use-to-win-and-confuse-you#what-is-

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