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Manipulative Behavior Types

Manipulative behaviors include threatening you, flattering you, making you feel guilty, or putting you down. Some manipulators display confusing behavior by alternating between being overly affectionate and charming and then being cold or angry.

Manipulators thrive on getting others to unknowingly act out the manipulators’ agenda. Being able to recognize manipulators in the workplace is vital to your career and your reputation.

Manipulative people are generally subtle. When behaviors are hidden — as they are with most manipulators — you know something is wrong, but you can’t pinpoint it. And, if you don’t know what’s really going on, it can make you feel as though you’re the one at fault. So, being able to recognize manipulative people in the workplace is important for your emotional health.

Categories of manipulative behavior

Manipulative behavior isn’t always easy to recognize, and manipulators don’t often admit to their own controlling behavior. There are, however, some habitual behaviors that manipulative people engage in. Once you have a better understanding of these behaviors, you’ll be able to recognize them and use strategies to deal with them.

Manipulators are driven to control things. They may be motivated by boredom in their personal or professional lives, or feel threatened by coworkers or their work situation. Or they may simply be unhappy, since being petty and vindictive are often symptoms of insecurity or unhappiness. However, manipulators may have good intentions — by meddling to try to help out — or they may be blatantly confrontational.

Manipulation tactics

Manipulators excel at controlling others. Their goal is to get you to do what they want, and they use many different tactics:

  • withholding important information as a way of disempowering you,
  • acting angry, or punishing you by shutting down and refusing to communicate,
  • playing subtle mind games that keep you on your guard, and refusing to deal with conflict directly,
  • making you feel guilty by acting ignored, forgotten, hurt, wounded, unloved, or uncared for,
  • saying one thing and doing another, such as being pleasant to your face while talking viciously about you to others,
  • pretending to be victims by acting helpless in situations where they are in fact the perpetrators of the problem, and
  • promising a change in behavior, without having any intentions of actually doing so All the different tactics manipulators use can be grouped into four general areas.

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