5 Tactics Used By Manipulators Who Pretend To Be Nice

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Anyone who's ever been the victim of a master manipulator knows they have a whole bag of tricks ready to pull out whenever the moment suits them. They'll go to any lengths to keep someone under their control and have no guilt when it comes to the methods they use to maintain that.

To an untrained eye, these methods can be hard to spot. They're designed to obfuscate the user's true purpose. By knowing what's in their toolbox, you can stop a manipulator in their tracks and send them running the other way.

Being under a manipulator's grasp can leave long-lasting scars, scars that can be felt years, even decades later. If you feel like you carry scars of your own that continue to poison you, know that you're not alone and that you can overcome them.

This free, simple quiz can help pinpoint the origins of these traumas and what you can do about them. Click here to learn more and start your path to true healing.

Always Blending In

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Manipulative people are the chameleons of human interaction; they blend into our lives, often under the guise of benevolence. They present themselves as caring, attentive, and altruistic, making it challenging to see through their veil of faux kindness. It's essential to recognize that not everyone who appears nice has pure intentions, as some may use a friendly fa├žade to further their own interests.

These types of people employ specific tactics in order to convince people they actually mean well, tactics just like the ones presented here.

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1. Excessive Flattery

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Have you ever met someone who seems to lay on the compliments a little too thick? While it's lovely to receive praise, there's a fine line between genuine admiration and flattery with an agenda. Manipulative individuals often employ excessive flattery to disarm and charm their targets, making them feel special and valued.

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It's a calculated move to create a sense of indebtedness to the person and lower your defenses around them. Once you're comfortable around them and think they genuinely like you, that's when they start undercutting the praise with worse and worse behavior. When someone's praise feels disproportionate to your friendship level, take the time to pause and question their motives.

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2. Selective Vulnerability

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Another tactic in the manipulator's playbook is selective vulnerability. This behavior involves sharing personal hardships or insecurities to elicit sympathy and to create an emotional bond between themselves and their victim. It's a manipulative strategy that exploits empathy, making the target feel trusted and sometimes even responsible for the manipulator's well-being.

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However, true vulnerability is a two-way street, marked by mutual sharing and support. If you notice that vulnerability is only being displayed when it serves their purpose or when they need you to feel bad for them, often to take the heat of their own actions, it's a red flag that the person may not be as genuine as they seem.

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3. Backhanded Compliments

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The art of the backhanded compliment, or "negging," is a subtle but toxic form of manipulation. It's a comment that appears to be a compliment but contains a critical, often biting undertone. This technique is designed to create self-doubt and to make the target seek the manipulator's approval. The victim wants the full compliment and wants to fix whatever thing is keeping them from getting full praise, so they'll start bending to the manipulator's will.

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Negging can be challenging to identify because it's cloaked in niceness. Recognizing this behavior involves listening not just to the words being said but also to the implications behind them. Once you start hearing that devious twist, you'll find it in every compliment they give.

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4. Gaslighting

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Gaslighting is a potent (and now very widely known) psychological tactic used by manipulative individuals to make others question their own reality, memory, or perceptions. It's a form of mental manipulation where the abuser denies facts, information, or past events, causing the victim to doubt their sanity.

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This insidious technique can be as simple as a manipulative person pretending to be nice by dismissing your concerns with phrases like "You're overreacting" or "It was just a joke." It's a way to maintain control by destabilizing your sense of truth. With a weakened, shaky, or confused mental state caused by gaslighting, manipulators then have an easier time furthering their control of that victim.

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5. Exploiting Reciprocity

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The principle of reciprocity is deeply ingrained in human behavior; we tend to feel obliged to return favors and kindness that have been given to us. Manipulative people are adept at exploiting this natural inclination by doing seemingly nice things with the expectation of something in return first, not out of kindness, with the possibility that they may now be owed a favor.

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They may remind you of their past good deeds or make you feel guilty for not meeting their expectations, turning their 'kindness' into a tool of coercion. It's always important to differentiate between acts of genuine kindness and those with strings attached.

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Protecting Your Peace

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Recognizing the behaviors of manipulative people who pretend to be nice is the first step toward protecting yourself from their influence. Empowerment comes from understanding these tactics and setting healthy boundaries ahead of time. This both deflects behaviors like the ones listed here but also shows the manipulator that you're no easy mark.

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Trust your instincts. If something feels off about a person's behavior, it's worth taking a closer look. Remember that true kindness is selfless and doesn't seek to gain at another's expense. By staying vigilant and informed, you can navigate your relationships with confidence and avoid falling prey to manipulation.

Building up the walls needed to protect yourself is valiant, but often only comes after painful experiences, often during childhood. These moments shape how we see our relationships with others and can sometimes cause us to become a little too defensive.

If latent childhood trauma still affects your mind and behaviors today, that's completely normal, but it's also something you can learn to overcome. Start here with this simple, free quiz, and see what can be done about the pains that still haunt you.