Toxic Manipulators And How To Recognize Them

It is always important to take care of ourselves emotionally as much as we do physically. Part of caring for ourselves emotionally means that we become aware of our environment and the people in it. Sometimes we find ourselves in the presence of friends, co-workers, and family who seem to drain us after short interactions with them. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Human beings can be very sensitive to their surroundings naturally, but sometimes when you are left feeling stressed, angry, sad or negative after dealing with people its because they are toxic. Some people have even developed the ability to use their toxicity for their own gain. These people are toxic manipulators.

What is a toxic manipulator?

Author C. Joybell C. put it rather well:

“There are those whose primary ability is to spin wheels of manipulation. It is their second skin and without these spinning wheels, they simply do not know how to function.”

In short, toxic manipulators not only gain a sense of power and joy from manipulating people around them, they do not know how to be any other way. Ever have a friend who wasn’t happy for you when you achieved a huge accomplishment and made it seem like you were somehow doing a bad thing by being great? Maybe this person mentions to you that they’re not sure if they can continue to be your friend if you continue focusing on your goals and not giving them the attention you once did. Any person who does this simply seeks to emotionally punish you for what they perceive as an injustice done to them. They have no problem dangling their friendship in your face as a way of letting you know that they can take it away at any time should you continue the behavior they called you on. This is just one of many examples.

According to Psychology Today, most toxic manipulative people share the following characteristics:

  1. They know how to detect your weaknesses.
  2. Once found, they use your weaknesses against you.
  3. Through their shrewd machinations, they convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests.
  4. In work, social, and family situations, once a manipulator succeeds in taking advantage of you, he or she will likely repeat the violation until you put a stop to the exploitation.

Let’s examine these characteristics further, shall we?


They Know How To Detect Your Weaknesses

A toxic manipulator will be an expert at figuring out what your weaknesses are. They will watch how you behave in good times and bad, notice the details of how you handle things and store those details away for later. They collect every indication you give them of what bothers you and why watching how you respond and paying specific attention to what upsets you.

Since toxic manipulators are very slick you may not notice when they are paying attention to your weaknesses. Most know how to hide this well and very rarely will do or say anything that would make them come off as excited or happy to unearth one of your weaknesses. This being the case, you usually won’t notice someone’s manipulative behavior until they show the next characteristic.

Once They Find Your Weaknesses They Use Them Against You

All of us have weaknesses and flaws and usually those closest to us know what they are but a toxic manipulator will always use them against you.

If you have a tendency to be too nice and are rarely known to say no, your toxic friend may decide to ask you for things they know would be hard for you to give them. They will rely on knowing you have a hard time saying no to coerce you into giving them what they want. Down to your last $20 and need to make it last until payday? A toxic manipulator will know you are uncomfortable saying no and will then come up with a way to make you give them the $20 instead.

They Will Do Or Say Whatever They Have To In Order To Get What They Want From You

A toxic manipulator will know exactly what buttons to press and create whatever story they need to in order to make you give them the $20 mentioned above. They will lie, exaggerate circumstances, use crocodile tears or anything they know will tug at your heart strings. They feel no pure sense of shame for any of their actions as their minds are fixed upon the end goal- to manipulate you.

Often they’ll use the tactic of overly complimenting you while making themselves seem beneath you. This a super sneaky tactic because they realize that you probably won’t suspect them of trying to get over on you if they can appear to look up to you and want to be like you. If you notice that your friend who is usually so confident and assured about themselves suddenly loses their self esteem and belittles themselves when they need something, this should be a major warning to you.

They Repeat Their Toxic Behavior Over And Over Again

Since toxic manipulators thrive upon the control they have over you it is never enough for them to manipulate you once. They don’t know any other way to be so the minute they have gotten what they want from you they excitedly start thinking of the next way they can use you. Oftentimes, they will cleverly use a sob story that connects their series of unfortunate events together to increase the odds of them convincing you to do what they want. Ever have a friend that seemed to constantly have bad things happen and after each event, they came to you to fix it? Pay close attention to people like that. There is a big difference between a friend who inconveniently seems to have a slew of bad luck and one who creates “emergencies” just to suck the resources out of you.

Toxic manipulators will never stop trying to manipulate you as they cannot bear the thought of losing control over someone they found a way to manipulate. This never-ending game will be fun for them but end up making you miserable.

Psychology Today  had these excellent tips on confronting the demands of a toxic manipulator:

Inevitably, psychological manipulators will make requests (or demands) of you. These “offers” often make you go out of your way to meet their needs. When you hear an unreasonable solicitation, it’s sometimes useful to put the focus back on the manipulator by asking a few probing questions, to see if she or he has enough self-awareness to recognize the inequity of their scheme. For example:

  • “Does this seem reasonable to you?”

  • “Does what you want from me sound fair?”

  • “Do I have a say in this?”

  • “Are you asking me or telling me?”

  • “So, what do I get out of this?”

  • “Are you really expecting me to [restate the inequitable request]?”

When you ask such questions, you’re putting up a mirror, so the manipulator can see the true nature of his or her ploy. If the manipulator has a degree of self-awareness, he or she will likely withdraw the demand and back down.

There are many ways that manipulative behavior can emerge from toxic people so it’s a good idea to be aware of the following:

  • People who seem to delight in your failures but have a hard time congratulating you
  • People who want to know more about the things that are wrong in your life than the things that are right
  • People who continually offer you advice that feels off or wrong
  • People who clearly get excited about the misfortunes of others
  • People that resort to emotional blackmail the moment you say no

It is best to avoid these sort of people at all costs but sometimes that is easier said than done. There are co-workers and family members included among the toxic and at times you are unable to break the connection. You can, however, set healthy boundaries by remembering:

  • You have the right to be treated with respect. Anyone who constantly disrespects you will continue to do so until you set boundaries.
  • You have the right to express your feelings, opinions and wants. Do not let anyone belittle you for feeling, thinking or wanting things different than they.
  • You have the right to set your own priorities. You should not be made to feel bad if the priorities you set for yourself don’t include other people.
  • You have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty. You should never allow anyone to let you saying know make you feel bad about yourself.
  • You have the right to get what you pay for. Don’t allow anyone to try to cheat you out of what you are buying
  • You have the right to have opinions different than others. Do not accept your character being degraded for having a different opinion than someone else.
  • You have the right to take care of and protect yourself from being threatened physically, mentally or emotionally. Period.
  • You have the right to create your own happy and healthy life. This sometimes means cutting out people who threaten your well-being with their toxic ways.

Recognizing toxic manipulation can help you get away from people who mean you no good.  Have you ever experienced a toxic manipulator? Let me know in the comments!

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