Understanding Manipulation Tactics

Manipulation Tactics

Aggressive personalities of all types use manipulation tactics to get their way. (See also: Aggressive Personalities: Part 1). And covert-aggressors are the penultimate manipulators. These folks know how to appear benign. They have the skill to charm and endear others. In short, they know how to look good without truly being good. You generally realize who they really are in character after years of emotional abuse. But before you see things as they are you can feel pretty crazy. You may sense in your gut that there’s something not right about them. But the tactics they employ invite you to believe there’s something wrong with you. This is the “gaslighting” effect. (See also:  Covert Aggression Causes Gaslighting)

Covert-aggressors reveal themselves by the manipulation tactics they prefer to use. But you have to recognize and understand these tactics to truly empower yourself. You have to know how they operate. That helps you define their character. Then you have to know how to respond to their tactics. That not only empowers you but helps you see things as they really are. It puts an end to the gaslighting effect. (See, especially: pp. 109-162 in In Sheep’s Clothing.)

They Know What They’re Doing

We’ve been conditioned to think that most people do things unwittingly. Accordingly, we think if we bring things to their awareness, we’ll make things better. And while this can sometimes indeed be the case,  we can’t take this for granted in our character-disturbed age. There are too many out there who hurt us not because they’re not aware, but rather because they don’t care. Most manipulative characters know exactly what they’re doing. But they feel perfectly entitled to take advantage. In their selfishness, having their way is all that matters. So, they look for ways to manipulate your compliance.

A Common Mistake

People in manipulative relationships make the same mistake some therapists do. They assume the problem character just doesn’t get it. And then they make it their business to try and get them to “see” the error of their ways. They avoid confronting destructive behaviors directly. And they muse too much about what the underlying and presumed unconscious motivation might be.

To put an end to the gaslighting effect you have to become immune to manipulation tactics. You have to recognize them for what they really are:

  • powerful weapons of interpersonal and emotional warfare
  • crafted in a manner making them difficult to discern as such
  • effective “impression management” tools

Knowing what someone is really up to when they use these tactics is a game changer. Refusing to be swayed and standing ground is an even bigger game changer. And knowing how to respond in straightforward, ways changes the game completely. No more feelings of craziness. No more self doubt. Only healthy self-assurance. For many, it’s a whole new life.

Character Matters

Character Matters is piloting on a potential new network. Accordingly, 6 episodes will be airing in advance of a new program with a new time and format. Provisions will be made for taking calls.  I’ll have more on developments as time goes on. Here’s a link to the initial program on Mental Health News Radio (part of the Mental Health Radio Network).



29 thoughts on “Understanding Manipulation Tactics

  1. I directed a daycare center in the late 70s, early 80s.
    I saw difference of power starting with even 2 year olds!
    I always instructed my teachers to listen and intervein when they saw one child over power another with force or manipulations. These were teaching moments. The naturally empathic children were being spotted by the wolves even at that young age.
    I just was talking with a 6 year old and asking about 1st grade. “R.J. plays tag but when we decide the game is over, he tags me again and says the game is back on and I am it!”
    I showed him to put up his hand like a stop sign and say, “I know the rules, and this is not the way it is played, so even though you say I am it, I am not when the game is called.
    He smiled with empowerment.
    Or another 5 year old who was wondering why the kids weren’t playing with her. “Brandi told all the girls they couldn’t play with her if they talked to me!!”
    As well as character and virtue, we have to start empowering young children with the tools they need to learn to spot the bully, rise above it and difuse then with strong words.

    1. So true and great points, Newby!
      In our local schools they teach them to ignore the bully. While that may be effective for a milder one (I doubt this), I do as you suggest and teach them how to respond effectively, especially the vulnerable ones. The more assertive ones seem to have it down already and have no problem putting the bullies in their place. As for the bullies, first I calmly call them on their BS (even the little ones lie, make excuses, divert, etc) and then I ask them what other options they have for getting what they need/solving their problem/accepting their situation? Help them choose to cooperate/deal vs overpower. Many use what works at home and don’t understand why it doesn’t fly at school.

  2. Just to say Be careful when you describe children as wolves.
    They are just children. Do not put adult values on under developed minds and bodies.

    1. Joey, Jennifer, Healing,

      Joey, I agree, to many time we describe adult values, be it emotional, spiritual, adult, societal over reach, into labeling one (child).

      Another label that is existent today is co-dependent. Never heard of it before until recent times., we, in fact are all co-dependent on someone or something. Baby upon mother, mother upon family/husband, society, job, doctors, employers, etc…, witch I believe is another label to identify one. OK, we most assuredly cannot exist without someone most of the time.

      Be careful, as we then are all diagnosed with some type psychiatric diagnoses and are then pigeonholed into a category of needing to being cured, corrected and controlled. Control is the forefront used by the CD. We all have more power than what we are recognized for.

      Ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters, family, especially, when it comes to dysfunctional, disabling families that would steal your life force. We owe nothing to those that will steal our life and smother the very air we need to breath. These ones, get away from and find the other who in life will promote your living and your life.

      Letting go of those who proclaim to care is extremely difficult, especially, when we the need to be loved and cherished is tantamount to survival. I know I would rather live alone than be sucked dry from obligatory protocol.

      Truth will always set us free. Proud of you Little Brother and a Big Brother too. Don’t ever dismiss, I look up to You…….

      1. BTOV

        Off topic

        They Are Going to give me TWO pay Rises
        One at the beginning of Sept and another around Christmas

  3. Very disturbing stuff and wish I had learned about these things a long time ago. When everything finally became too much I went looking for an explanation of what I was experiencing. In my family, I’ve been responsible for trying to keep everyone together and okay …or I should say, I took it upon myself because I thought it was the right thing to do and what my parents would have wanted, but I’m learning that I have co-dependant issues. My biggest problem is an aunt who I am beginning to believe/accept is a malignant narcissist because so much of what is described I’ve experienced with her. I realize now that I would always feel less than when talking with her and routinely found myself trying to prove I was good enough to be worthy of our “special relationship.” Many times she would talk about how so-and-so was so great to her and bought her presents, etc. I’d feel like I wasn’t doing enough and wasn’t a good enough or caring enough person. …and maybe I’m not, but I was trying. When I realized others didn’t seem to think that about me, I did wonder, but figured she was my aunt and knew me from when I was young. I guess that’s some kind of gaslighting? Right now I’m struggling with disentangling myself emotionally and mentally from her. Luckily our only contact was by phone because I wasn’t allowed to visit her, but I feel very vulnerable because my entanglement happened mostly after my parents died and my remaining family is not reliable or supportive. There is that show Stranger Things where there exists “the upside-down” …I feel like that is the world I’ve woken up in.

      1. Healing, thank you for the kind and re-assuring words and the article, I will have to read it a few times because there is a lot in there that sounds like me. I don’t know what you’ve been through, but since you are on this site, I imagine some very hurtful and trying times. I hope things are turning around for you —as well as everyone here! I’m new to all of this having found Dr. Simon’s book in June of this year. It took life situations getting to such a point that I had to acknowledge that I don’t understand people at all.

        BTOV, good point, maybe co-dependent is more specific than what I thought. This spring I started attending Alanon meetings and thats where I first learned about it …I do have this tendency to try to compensate and rescue others instead of focusing on my own issues, needs and wants where appropriate. After re-reading my co-dependent statement above, I realize it sounds like I am reconsidering having done the right thing …I meant about accepting/excusing the bad behavior towards me from my family. As a child, I was always the peacekeeper between my parents.

        1. Jennifer, Healing

          Jennifer, Healing added a lot and appreciate the link to Dr. Simons topic. I think many times we get caught up in unnecessary labeling for the sake of finding answer’s. Its not easy letting go of and accepting the realizing fact of what and who those we care about truly are. Fight the good fight and as always the truth will set you free…..


  4. Off topic.

    Hello, I’m hoping for some encouragement/support. I’ve been taking time to heal and not deal with legal stuff as it it mentally exhausting and frustrating. I’ve been dreading dealing with it, and it’s also eating at me. It’s not just the money, it’s the principle, they stole our inheritance.

    The quick and dirty details are:
    Trustee over irrevocable trust had alzheimer’s. Her son (step brother)wanted to use the money to pay for her nursing home bills. Trust says she had to use her funds first(it was our grandfather money in the trust). He didn’t like that answer and hired an attorney. Crooked attorney came up with a plan. Blocked us from taking over trusteeship and also tried to convince us the Government was coming after the money to pay for her care. Flat out lie. Siblings were afraid and panicking, they believed him. He even wrote a letter explaining what are “options” are to avoid the government taking the money and sent paperwork for us to sign over our rights so he can move in into another trust! I don’t bite. So he tried to con me, didn’t work. So he blocked me at every turn and waited and had someone hold the trustees hand and sign the (illegal) form to liquidate the trust! She was not capable of understanding what she signed. Moved the money into a (AGED) special needs trust solely for the trustee’s benefit! So it would take many thousands of dollars to get it back and most attorney’s don’t know how to do it. I’ve basically been very persistent at every turn. I think he thought I’d give up like my siblings and go with the fantasy that he’d give us our share without pressure to do so.

    His M.O. is to buy time by saying he will do something, then not. He drip feeds info only when he feels pressure/knows we have him over a barrel. Or he’ll say something is included, then not include it. Delays, misinformation, obfuscation…you know the drill.

    So my attorney was clueless and frankly I think taken in by the other attorney. He was also keeping me in the dark and marking up the bills (exploiting the situation). So he’s been benched.

    I was able to get some statements (I had to keep the pressure up) and when the attorney asked for detail on the disbursements, they were not provided and my attorney did not pursue it (that’s when I started looking for another attorney but most were honest and said they weren’t familiar with the special needs trusts).

    The con man attorney is VERY much invested in image management (he pays an image management company) and I’ve been very verbal about what he’s done to everyone who will listen, especially in the law and legal community. I haven’t posted on social media yet (I’m not on Facebook) I’m betting that he wants to keep his good guy image. With the paperwork, I also have good evidence to support fraud on his part. He’s aware that I have looked into filing a case of fraud/malpractice.

    I’ve kept the pressure up and was able to get a partial payout. Persistence does sometimes payoff! The problem is the statements were not complete and I don’t have all of them, so I cannot get an accurate assessment of what was actually in the account. AGED, the company that was the new trustee, is not cooperating either because they, when alerted that the funds used the trust were not hers, they said they don’t verify where the funds come from (even though that is a requirement to fund the trust). They want to cover themselves. I’ve only dealt with them personally by phone so far. They did not respond to the attorney’s request for information.

    So I’m writing a letter to the con man attorney requesting a formal accounting of the special needs trust first. Then I think I’ll send one for the original trust. He simply liquidated both of them with no notification or permission from the beneficiaries and no formal accounting.

    If you have any experience with this or tips, I’d appreciate it! Writing this letter probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but after dealing with this for over 2 years as well as having my siblings attack me for fighting to get our money back (so irrational!), I’m worn out and anticipate more mind games, refusal to provide the information, excuses, etc. I’m on my own on this and figuring things out as I go along. It took me a long time to work up the energy to start. My goal is to get an accounting of both trusts as well as our full shares of our trust. Then I will file a complaint against him.

    So here’s what I have, I made it short and sweet, specific and to the point:

    Please provide a complete and formal accounting of the XXXX Special Needs Trust including all bank and brokerage account statements for the accounts held in the trust and detailed documentation supporting all transactions and distributions made from the trust.

    Please send the accounting to me via email address provided below.

    Thank you in advance for your prompt response to this request.

    What do you think? Did I miss something? Or is there another way to proceed that I missed? I’m trying to anticipate what he’ll do and I know that’s not really possible.

  5. Healing,
    Looks to me like you know more than the attorneys, and if you can figure out the system you would represent yourself.
    Myself have had a bad experience with my attorneys. It was a two and a half year financial drain, at $275 an hour. So I am biased.

    1. Lucy,

      I hear you! Thank you for your reply.

      They’ve created a big mess so it will take lots of hours and money to untangle it. I hear what you are saying about attorney’s, there have been a couple who seemed honest and admitted they didn’t know. Others wanted to charge me $5k to see if they had a case. My attorney chose not to listen to me and to keep me in the dark so he could maintain control…at $400 an hour!

      The problem I see is that they all know one another and have private relationships with them so they aren’t truly unbiased. I think my attorney wanted a relationship with the opponent and threw me under the bus. He’s also good friends with the Trustee at AGED. I think that works against the client. I liken it to what the U.S. Congress is doing when they sit by and let things happen that are catastrophic to us because they are protecting their personal interests/jobs/etc.. Not doing their job at our expense.

      Taking it step by step. Not sure if it might be a better idea to ask for statements first, then a full accounting. Baby steps. As they have provided some statements already.

      1. These complicated cases are money machines for the attorney. And attorneys do and will take advantage of a “case” – we seem to be forgotten as people.
        $400 an hour? That makes me want to throw up.
        Are you now representing yourself?
        I totally agree what you say about Congress. They watch out for themselves, not the citizens, but their contributors.
        If you’re representing yourself, it won’t cost you a thing (besides your life and time) to ask for these things.
        We pay attorneys not for results, but for their time, regardless of whether they do a good or bad job, regardless of results and closure. It’s a money machine. And they know how much you’ve got, that they’ll get.
        Sometimes the only way you can get ahead and actually win something is if you do the work yourself. It’s to the point how much will it cost to get X amount of dollars. Well, problem is they’ve screwed up your case so there goes that money, now money to fix it, and still not finished.
        I work in the legal system and am appauled by what I see happen. The only winners are the attorneys.
        I wish you the best. You seem to still have the energy to do this.

        1. Thanks, Lucy.

          I’m going to get what I can on my own. I’ve gotten most of what I have on my own anyway. A lawyer is helpful for added weight in getting a response sometimes.

          So true, the attorneys are the ones who win.

          The opposing attorney committed fraud, so I think he’s been cooperating the bit that he has to pacify so I will not pursue holding him accountable.

          Thank you for the well wishes. I’m going to do what I can when I have the energy.

      2. Healing,

        When dealing with the CD its a given how they will purposely create chaos, obfuscate, and fabricate, all the while lying with a straight face of sincerity. Dealing with the CD in the legal arena will be more of the same. For you, its sounds like your dealing with several CD in your family which presents with several problems. That being, its their word against yours and numbers do count.

        Another problem is finding an attorney who is knowledgeable and at the same time won’t eat your life savings away. I can guarantee your CD relatives will do everything in their power to rack up your attorneys fees for you.

        I think it is wise for you to document everything. Asking for itemized bills is a step in the right direction. These things can become very complicated and you alone will hold the truth to the scenario. I think it would help for you to organize the events/dates in a bullet fashion and begin there. If you consult with an attorney you will have a short, concise format to present.

        Yes, most attorneys do know each other, one minute they are fighting for your rights in court and in the evening having dinner together. Truly, lawyers aren’t reviled for nothing.

        1. BTOV,

          Yes, that’s for sure! I think my siblings have Stockholm Syndrome or something like that in addition to being CD. They are out of touch with reality. It’s sad really. Seems like a survival reaction – they went with the stronger party, even though that person took their money! We had very abusive parents, so I’m doing my best not to take it personally, keeping my distance. I’m sure they are just happy to have some of the money and are likely thinking that all of my effort was a waste and they were right to trust the attorney. They are like small children in their own little fantasy world where I am the problem. They want their way, but do not not want to take any responsibility for achieving it. I’m not even the successor trustee! She lied and said it was someone else on the first hint of trouble!

          The facts are on my side, so I thankfully don’t have to worry about anyone’s word. The lawyer actually put his false claim in writing.
          The siblings are out, they started sabotaging as soon as they had to help in any way with money or effort! They kept up with their verbal attacks and threats though until I went no contact.

          Thankfully I started a sequence of events as soon as this started and continued! It’s been a life saver. I think one of the hardest things will be breaking down the two years worth of constant violations into a concise list. When I write my complaint to the bar, I’ll need that.

          They are a different breed. Some are kind, but I wouldn’t want their job! They are teaching me how to protect myself though…getting lots of practice! :)

          Thank you for your feedback!

          1. Healing,

            Your description of dealing with siblings who “are like small children” who “want their way, but do not not want to take any responsibility for achieving it” struck a cord with me. My siblings were quick to disappear when visiting or help was needed with my parents and Grandma, but as soon as the money came into play, verbal attacks, demands, and accusations were easy to come by from them. My heart still hurts at the lack of compassion they displayed at a time when we all could have been hugging each other and sharing memories.

            On the lawyer end of things, even though the lawyers I dealt with could be frustrating, it sounds like I dodged a bullet (although its not over yet). Your family is lucky you are smart and have a lot of courage, and I wish you clarity and energy in standing up for what is right.

            From the sounds of it, you may have already been down this route, but can your state bar recommend a reputable lawyer? Do you have an estate accountant? Asking for a formal accounting sounds like the right idea. I wish you good luck!

  6. I have been through at least three-quarters of my life unless I am blessed with an exceedingly long life yet I have only recently been able to (usually) identify and (usually) respond correctly to these aggressive and covert behaviors.
    I spent most of my life believing that people wanted to do better, be kind, be fair, correct or check bad behavior in themselves. I would never have believed that much of these types of behaviors were on intentional in order to fulfill an agenda. This is of course where I got had over and over……because no one is perfect and we all make mistakes…….right? Yep we do. That is where I got had time and again because I could not understand inside of me how someone could behave in an ugly manner and not feel guilt or remorse or want to change that. I thought everyone wanted redemption and a chance to make things right to correct their behavior to grow and become better. So I tended to give chance after chance after chance for the individual to master and correct their behavior. I could not understand that the part of that last statement,”mastering”, was the only part they were interested in and never in correcting.
    I at one point there was a deluge of ugliness, pettiness and cruelty directed at me. It was overwhelming I thought I was losing my mind as I lived with tremendous amounts of gaslighting, smear-campaigning and an army of flying monkeys. The emotional pain of what had been done to me by people I loved, had been there for, had soothed been kind and also generous with, who I had extended myself to and who could always count on me, was overwhelming it was crippling it affected me from the moment my eyes opened in the morning till my eyes closed again at night.
    At one point I realized that things would not change that these individuals whom I had invested so much of my heart in, liked having me in a one down position. I completely separated myself from any contact. This helped with the gaslighting but did not stop the smear-campaigning or the flying monkeys (although when I spot one I stay away).
    Around that time I began putting what I experienced in search engines and discovered Dr Simon, your work Dr Simon was instrumental in my being able to understand and learn and I am happy to say heal(although I will probably always be healing from this) from the damage done to me.
    I am now better equipped when I run into one of these individuals. I am also better equipped to understand and address the feelings it brings up in me.
    It has been about six years since I went no contact. The smearcampaining (sometimes reaches my ears) continues and I do occasionally run into a flying monkey but it does not hurt like it used to. Instead now it makes me worried for their souls. Which in turn brings me closer to God as I give them to him and pray that he draw them to him and unbound their souls from the damage they chose to do. I also use that prayer time for my own soul so that the damage I have done myself to my soul be cleansed and healed.

    1. E,

      This is all new to me, and what you wrote sounds like how I’ve always (until recently) believed people to generally be. It hurts so much realizing that people, especially those who are supposed to be near and dear, may actually mean harm. I’ve been feeling very vulnerable and overwhelmed because my world is upside-down from where I thought it was. Its good to hear you have gained wisdom and insight, and I am hopeful I can do the same.

    2. E,

      Its been awhile since you last posted and glad you are following along. You have shared a lot in the above post and I can relate to all that has happened to you. Dr. Simons work was a real eye opener for me too.

      Truth and forgiveness sets us free. I wholeheartedly, agree with your following statement: ” Instead now it makes me worried for their souls. Which in turn brings me closer to God as I give them to him and pray that he draw them to him and unbound their souls from the damage they chose to do. I also use that prayer time for my own soul so that the damage I have done myself to my soul be cleansed and healed.”

      Amen Sister and a Big Hugs

      Hope you post more often….

  7. Jennifer,

    Yes, their lack of compassion is startling isn’t it? It’s hard to wrap your head around it that the just do not care….unless they want something, then it’s a demand. It’s tough when you’re grieving and they add to the grief instead of, like you said, hugging and sharing memories, supporting one another.

    Glad you dodged the bullet! Thank you for your kind words of support.

    Unfortunately it’s a small pool in this particular area and they all refer each other to the other one! I don’t have an estate accountant because they are blocking me from getting the statements or an accounting. He just replied to my request by saying my request for bank statements was misdirected because he’s not the counsel for the trustee. Playing games. I reminded him that he had already provided some statements and that he had told me months ago he would ask his client about providing them. If he was on the up and up he wouldn’t have a problem producing them.

    Thank you for your support!

    1. Healing,

      What you’ve been dealing with sounds so frustrating. I went back and read your posts above regarding the legal end of it. Im wondering if there is a way to prove when the trustee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? If it ends up in court maybe this would be established and help your case? Anyway, its good you have documentation of the lawyer’s false claim in writing. I wish you the best of luck in your case and moving forward!

      ps. I’ve noticed there are other Jennifers elsewhere on this site, so I am changing my posting “name” to “JenniferQ” for distinction :-) (btw, Im the same Jennifer from above).

      1. JenniferQ,

        It is frustrating.

        Absolutely, that was one of my first goals and of course they blocked access to her. To get the access, determination, that requires one files suit. The attorney kept stringing us along with bits of information and our attorney advised, and we agreed, to hold off on filing suit. (In hindsight, this may have been a mistake on our part) My understanding is that is is around 5K just to get the suit started and if it goes all the way, around 20-30K and up.

        Anyway, long story short. I do have a ton of documentation, can bury them, BUT, they have likely hidden the money (this attorney specializes in hiding money from Medicaid, Medicare, etc..) and can spend a ton of money on getting a judgement, only to have another battle getting them to pay the judgement (one very kind attorney explained this to me). This attorney has done this before.

        Now he is performing his usual tactics to keep me from getting an accounting so I do not have proof that we received a partial payout and, that he is, in fact, a criminal.

        It’s frustrating, time consuming and exhausting. Things are so much easier when you have a supportive team and can divide the workload and strategize together. I realize now that I’ve been dealing with a lot of folks who compete rather than cooperate…not team players – including my former attorneys.

        Thank you for your suggestion, response and best wishes.

  8. But you didn’t explain what manipulation tactics are; it’s a peculiar thing considering the title has “understanding”in it.

  9. John,
    The tactics can be found in chapters of Dr. Simon’s books or possibly one of the chapters on this site. Dr. Simon delves deep into manipulation tactics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *