Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Manipulation has become an oft-used phrase in our society. We commonly hear it used in the media when discussing politics, or in everyday conversations as well. But what does manipulate mean and under what context is it used?

Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

What Does Manipulate mean?

The word manipulate comes from two Latin words, manus meaning “hand” and pilare meaning “to control”. So, at its most basic level, manipulation means “to control with one’s hands”.

However, nowadays the term manipulate refers to the process by which one person exerts influence over another person, without their explicit permission or consent.

It involves influencing someone else’s behaviour, thoughts, or emotions in a way that serves your own purpose.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines manipulate as “to manage or influence skilfully, especially in an unfair manner.”

This definition implies that manipulation involves using tactics or strategies to achieve your desired outcome, whether those methods are ethical or not.

In fact the most common tools used by manipulators involve tactics such as guilt, coercion, threats, or even deception to get what they want from their victims.

How Does Manipulation Work?

Manipulators typically rely on psychological techniques to manipulate and control their victims.

They may employ fear tactics to scare people into doing something against their will or use false promises to entice them into doing something that benefits the manipulator.

Additionally, manipulators often use flattery and charm to gain trust and make victims feel obligated to comply with their demands.

In psychology, manipulation refers to behaviour control techniques such as gaslighting, which involve unfairly influencing another person by exploiting their vulnerability and making them feel insecure.

By manipulating another person’s emotions or thoughts, you can gain control over them and change the outcome of a situation for your own gain.

Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Different Manipulation techniques

Guilt Tripping

Manipulators adept at guilt tripping often emphasize their own sacrifices, painting themselves as martyrs who have made significant compromises for the benefit of others.

By constantly reminding the victim of these sacrifices, they create a sense of indebtedness and obligation, pressuring the victim to comply with their wishes.

This emotional manipulation makes the victim feel guilty if they don’t fulfill the manipulator’s demands, even if those demands are unreasonable or against their own best interests.

Another form of guilt tripping involves exploiting the victim’s existing feelings of guilt.

The manipulator may exaggerate or manipulate situations to make the victim believe they have done something wrong or hurtful, intentionally triggering their guilt.

This manipulation tactic aims to evoke a strong emotional response from the victim, making them more likely to comply with the manipulator’s requests in an attempt to alleviate their guilt.



Fearmongering is a manipulative tactic that exploits people’s fears and insecurities to gain control or influence over them.

It involves deliberately instilling fear in others, often through threats of violence, punishment, or dire consequences, in order to manipulate them into taking actions they wouldn’t typically choose.

Manipulators who employ fearmongering tactics capitalize on the primal instinct of self-preservation, understanding that fear can be a powerful motivator.

By emphasizing potential dangers, playing on worst-case scenarios, or exaggerating risks, they create an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty.

This heightened state of fear makes individuals more susceptible to manipulation and more likely to comply with the manipulator’s demands, even if those demands go against their own wishes or values.

Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Social Withdrawal

When someone engages in social withdrawal as a manipulative tactic, they purposefully distance themselves from others, avoid interactions, or create a sense of exclusion.

By doing so, they create a void or a feeling of loss within the social group, leading others to feel a sense of guilt or insecurity.

This manipulation can make others more likely to comply with the manipulator’s desires or seek their approval in an attempt to regain their attention or restore the relationship.

This tactic is often employed to make others feel responsible for the manipulator’s emotional state or to create a sense of dependency on the manipulator.

By withholding social connection, attention, or affection, the manipulator aims to control the behavior and emotions of those around them, ultimately influencing their actions or decisions.

social withdrawal - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Reverse Psychology

Reverse psychology is a manipulation tactic employed by individuals to influence others by encouraging them to do the opposite of what the manipulator actually desires.

It involves presenting a situation or suggestion in a way that leads the person to feel a sense of rebellion or defiance, ultimately pushing them towards the desired outcome.

Manipulators who employ reverse psychology often understand that humans have a natural inclination to resist being told what to do.

By pretending to advocate for the opposite of what they truly want, they create a psychological reaction in the person they are manipulating.

This can trigger a desire to assert independence, make their own choices, or prove the manipulator wrong.

The manipulator is attempting to make the person believe that they have agency in making a decision, while still indirectly influencing them towards the desired outcome.

reverse psychology - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Playing Victim

Playing the victim is a manipulative tactic where an individual portrays themselves as the innocent and wronged party, shifting blame onto others and avoiding taking responsibility for their actions.

By positioning themselves as the victim, they manipulate others into believing that their actions were justified or understandable due to the perceived harm inflicted upon them.

Manipulators who play the victim often fabricate or exaggerate victimhood to manipulate others for various reasons.

They do so to gain sympathy, drum up support, justify their abusive behavior, or deflect accountability.

By presenting themselves as the ones who have been wronged, they seek to evoke feelings of guilt, pity, or obligation in others, thereby influencing their behavior or decisions.

playing the victim - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?


Flattery is a powerful manipulation tactic that can easily sway individuals, as compliments are difficult for many people to resist.

When someone we admire or trust offers flattering remarks, it can be tempting to believe in their sincerity and fall prey to their manipulative intentions.

Compliments have a profound effect on our self-esteem and sense of worth.

They make us feel valued, appreciated, and validated.

While genuine compliments can uplift and motivate, flattery often has ulterior motives.

Manipulators use flattery to create a false sense of trust, exploit vulnerabilities, or gain influence over someone’s decisions.

flattery - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?


Gaslighting is an insidious and highly dangerous form of manipulation that seeks to undermine a person’s perception, memories, and even their own sense of reality.

This tactic is employed by abusers and manipulators with the intention of exerting control over their victims, effectively shaping their thoughts and behaviors to suit their own agenda.

The term “gaslighting” originated from a play and subsequent movie titled Gaslight, in which a husband manipulates his wife into questioning her sanity by denying her experiences and making her doubt her reality.

In a similar manner, gaslighters employ a range of techniques to sow seeds of confusion, self-doubt, and cognitive dissonance in their victims.

Gaslighting often starts subtly, with the manipulator making small comments or actions that cause the victim to question themselves.

Over time, the gaslighter intensifies their tactics, denying facts, distorting events, and discrediting the victim’s truths.

They twist the narrative, shift blame, or make the victim doubt their own memory and perception of events.

This intentional manipulation aims to further entrap victims in abusive situations.

By constantly undermining their sense of reality, the gaslighter gains power and control, making it more difficult for the victim to recognize and escape the abuse.

The victim begins to question their judgment, lose confidence in their decision-making abilities, and become increasingly dependent on the gaslighter for validation and guidance.

narcissistic gaslighting - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Manipulation vs Persuasion

There are some people who say that manipulation can be used both positively and negatively.

By positive manipulation they mean convincing someone to do something beneficial for themselves or others without necessarily knowing why they are doing it.

However to my mind even in such situations it is not right to use manipulation, because this involves taking advantage of the vulnerability of another person without their consent or knowledge.

If you want to convince someone to do something, we should respect them enough to use persuasion and not try to manipulate them against their will.

Persuasion and manipulation both involve influencing other people towards certain outcomes. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Persuasion involves convincing others through logic and reason, while manipulating involves using more underhanded tactics.


The Effects of Manipulation

Manipulation can have severe consequences for its victims.

It often leads to feelings of guilt or shame when they realize that they have allowed someone to manipulate and take advantage of them.

Loss of Autonomy

Manipulation is a deeply insidious process that can gradually disconnect individuals from their own thoughts, emotions, and sense of self.

As the manipulator exerts control, the victim’s autonomy is eroded, leading to a loss of independence and self-determination.

The manipulator strategically chips away at the victim’s confidence in their own perceptions and instincts.

Through tactics such as gaslighting, invalidation, or emotional manipulation, the manipulator distorts the victim’s reality and undermines their ability to trust themselves.

This gradual erosion of autonomy leaves the victim increasingly submissive and reliant on the manipulator for guidance and decision-making.

As the manipulation persists, the victim may find it harder to recognize their own needs, desires, and boundaries.

Their judgement becomes clouded by the manipulator’s influence, causing them to act against their own best interests.

They may prioritize the manipulator’s wants and needs over their own, sacrificing their autonomy in the process.

This dynamic reinforces the power imbalance and perpetuates the manipulation.

problems with identity formation - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Distortion of Self Image

When individuals are subjected to constant manipulation, it can have a profound impact on their self-image and perception of reality.

The manipulator’s tactics often sow seeds of doubt and confusion, causing the victim to question their interpretation of events and ultimately leading to a distorted self-image.

Over time, the constant gaslighting, invalidation, and manipulation can erode the victim’s confidence and sense of self-worth.

They begin to believe that they are inadequate or incapable, internalizing the negative messages and criticisms from the manipulator.

This altered self-image takes hold, leading the victim to doubt their own abilities, decisions, and beliefs.

The victim becomes overly reliant on external validation and seeks approval from others to reinforce their worthiness.

They second-guess their choices, constantly seeking reassurance and fearing making mistakes.

This loss of trust in oneself can be paralyzing, hindering personal growth and stifling their true potential.

loss of identity - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?

Emotional Turmoil

The psychological distress caused by manipulation can have a profound impact on a person’s emotional wellbeing, leading to a turbulent inner world that impacts their mental health.


Manipulation often involves subtle tactics that confuse the victim.

The manipulator may distort facts, twist narratives, or use gaslighting techniques to make the victim question their own reality.

This confusion can leave individuals feeling disoriented, unsure of their own thoughts and perceptions, and struggling to make sense of their experiences.

confusion and inner turmoil - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?


Being subjected to manipulation can be incredibly frustrating.

Victims feel trapped in a cycle where their desires, opinions, and needs are constantly ignored or dismissed.

This frustration arises from the inability to assert themselves or have their voice heard, contributing to feelings of powerlessness and resentment.

victims of abuse


The constant manipulation and control exerted by the manipulator slowly erodes their victim’s belief in their ability to change their situation or assert their own agency.

Over time, this feeling of helplessness becomes deeply ingrained, making it even more challenging for individuals to break free from the manipulative relationship.

The victim becomes trappen in a state of “learned helplessness,” a psychological phenomenon where individuals develop a belief that they have no control over their environment or outcomes, even when opportunities for control are present.

It was initially studied by psychologist Martin Seligman through experiments with animals.

trapped in learned helplessness - Understanding Manipulation – What Does Manipulate Mean?


The manipulator skillfully exploits the victim’s empathy and desire to maintain harmony in the relationship.

They use tactics such as guilt tripping or emotional manipulation to induce feelings of guilt in the victim.

This guilt can be overwhelming and debilitating, as individuals start blaming themselves for the issues and problems in the relationship, even when they are not at fault.

The manufactured guilt weighs heavily on the victim’s conscience, making them constantly question their own actions and decisions.


Long-lasting Effects on Mental Health

If left unchecked and unresolved, the emotional turmoil caused by manipulation can have long-lasting effects on mental health.

Victims are likely to develop anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a host of other psychological issues as a result of the prolonged emotional abuse.

It can affect one’s ability to trust others, form healthy relationships, and lead to a distorted perception of oneself and the world.

mental wellbeing

Damage To Relationships

Manipulation, with its insidious nature, can inflict severe damage on relationships.

This destructive behavior creates an unhealthy power dynamic, resulting in a breakdown of trust and honesty between individuals.

First and foremost, manipulation erodes trust, one of the fundamental pillars of any healthy relationship.

When one person consistently employs manipulative tactics, such as gaslighting or emotional blackmail, the other individual begins to doubt their own perceptions and instincts.

This erosion of trust leaves the manipulated person feeling vulnerable and uncertain about the authenticity of their relationship.

erosion of trust

Honesty, another crucial element in relationships, takes a significant hit when manipulation is present.

Manipulators often resort to deceitful tactics, such as lying or withholding information, to achieve their desired outcomes.

The manipulated individual finds themselves constantly questioning the sincerity of their partner, leading to a breakdown in open communication and genuine connection.

Moreover, manipulation breeds resentment within relationships.

The manipulated person feels powerless and controlled, leading to feelings of frustration, anger, and a sense of being taken advantage of.

This toxic blend of emotions can fester over time, causing irreparable damage to the bond between two individuals.

Furthermore, manipulation hampers effective conflict resolution.

Instead of engaging in open and honest discussions to address issues, manipulators often resort to tactics aimed at deflecting blame or diverting attention away from their actions.

This avoidance of authentic communication prevents the resolution of underlying problems, allowing tension and resentment to simmer beneath the surface.

broken trust

How to Deal With A Manipulator

Identify and Label the Behaviour

Manipulation is often subtle, so it can be easy to miss or downplay the signs.

Take a step back and assess the situation to identify what is happening – labeling the behavior as manipulative can help you make sense of it and recognize it as a problem.

Set Boundaries

Speak up for yourself and respectfully communicate your needs in order to set clear boundaries with this person.

Make sure to practice assertiveness when responding and do not allow yourself to be talked into doing something that makes you uncomfortable or unsafe.

Stay Calm

Maintaining a calm demeanour helps diffuse tension in tense situations, giving you time to think before responding and enabling better communication with the manipulator.

Seek Professional Support

Consider seeking help from a mental health professional in order to get advice on how best to handle manipulative behaviour.

Talking about your experiences in therapy can also be beneficial for better understanding your own emotions and thoughts in relation to the manipulator’s actions – allowing you to gain control of the situation while taking care of your own wellbeing in the process.

psychotherapy is an option for a narcissist who wants to change

Healing after being hurt by a manipulator

Acknowledge Your Feelings

It is important to acknowledge your emotions and take time to process the hurt that has been caused by the manipulation.

Recognizing and accepting your feelings is a necessary step in healing from any kind of emotional pain.

Talk About It

Reach out and talk to someone you trust such as a friend or family member and share your experience.

Talking about it with another person can help you process the situation in a more healthy and constructive way.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

If experiencing self-doubt or negative thoughts, challenge these beliefs by counteracting them with positive affirmations about yourself.

Remind yourself of your worth, strengths, and capabilities in order to rebuild your confidence in yourself again.

Practice Self-Care

Take care of yourself both physically and mentally.

Engage in activities that make you feel better such as spending time outdoors, exercising, or reading an inspirational book.

Connecting with nature or engaging in a creative activity can also be helpful for releasing stress, restoring balance, and boosting overall wellbeing.


Conclusion – What does Manipulate Mean?

Manipulation can be an unsettling and confusing experience. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the tactics used and recognize them for what they are.

When faced with manipulation, remember that it is not your fault. You have every right to protect yourself by setting boundaries with those who try to manipulate you.

Empower yourself by acknowledging your feelings, challenging negative thoughts, talking about it with someone you trust, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and take care of your wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions About Manipulation Techniques

What are manipulation techniques?

Manipulation techniques refer to strategies or tactics used to influence, control, or deceive others for personal gain.

These techniques can be subtle, psychological, or coercive in nature and are aimed at manipulating someone’s thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.

Why do people use manipulation techniques?

People may resort to manipulation techniques for various reasons.

They might seek power, control, or to fulfill their own needs at the expense of others.

Manipulators often use these techniques to exploit vulnerabilities, gain advantages, or manipulate situations to suit their agendas.

What are some common manipulation techniques?

Common manipulation techniques include gaslighting (making someone doubt their own perceptions or reality), guilt-tripping (using guilt to manipulate behavior), love bombing (overwhelming someone with excessive affection or attention), silent treatment (ignoring or withholding communication), and emotional blackmail (threatening consequences to manipulate someone’s behavior).

How can I recognize if someone is manipulating me?

Recognizing manipulation can be challenging, as manipulators are often skilled at concealing their true intentions.

However, some signs to watch out for include feeling consistently guilty, doubting your own judgment, experiencing a loss of self-esteem, feeling controlled or trapped, and noticing a consistent pattern of inconsistency or dishonesty from the person.

How can I protect myself from manipulation?

Protecting yourself from manipulation starts with self-awareness and assertiveness.

Educate yourself about manipulation techniques, trust your instincts, and maintain strong personal boundaries.

Communicate openly and assertively, ensuring your needs and opinions are respected.

Surround yourself with supportive and trustworthy individuals who can help provide perspective and support.

How can I recover from being manipulated?

Recovering from manipulation takes time and self-care.

Seek support from trusted friends or professionals, such as therapists or counselors.

Engage in self-reflection and rebuild your self-esteem.

Learn to trust your instincts and practice setting healthy boundaries.

Focus on personal growth and surround yourself with positive influences to regain your sense of empowerment.

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