Woman dealing with a man emotionally manipulating her

Manipulative Behavior: How To Spot the Signs in Yourself and Others

Manipulation comes in many forms. But it’s not easy to spot the subtle shifts in behavior that lead to manipulation. However, by looking for specific cues, anyone can pick up on manipulative behavior in others and themselves.

Another aspect of manipulative behavior to remember is that not all manipulation acts are malicious. In fact, acts of manipulation are often related to attachment issues or other types of need fulfillment.

Recognizing Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation often falls into the malicious category. And this is because this form of manipulation is often identified in people with personality or behavioral disorders such as:

  • Sociopathic behavior
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Anti-social behavior

In this form of manipulation, a person is often focused completely on getting something they want without any regard or consideration of the feelings of others.


Gaslighting is perhaps the more recognizable type of malicious manipulation simply because the term has found its way into popular culture. But the term itself regards the attempt to get something you desire by making another person question their own minds- or reality itself.

For example, anyone attempting to gaslight another person may say something mean or hurtful, then pretend that they never said it, or that they weren’t being serious and accuse the gaslit person of being too sensitive or taking things too personally.

Downfalls of Manipulative Behavior

Just as manipulation can hurt the person who’s being manipulated, it can also hurt the person doing the manipulation as well. For example, a manipulator may build up a great deal of guilt, or develop imposter syndrome – feeling as if they are a complete fraud.

In addition, if anyone finds themselves doing a lot of people pleasing just on instinct, this may be a clue that they are engaging in manipulative behavior so that other people will like them.

Working with a therapist can help to identify and manage manipulative behavior. And at the Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, a team of professional therapists can assist you in attaining greater mental health by finding healthier, more genuine ways to seek happiness and fulfill your needs.

Read More About Examples of Manipulative Behavior