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Do you ever feel on edge around a person and you don’t know why? Their presence or just the thought of hanging out with them makes you anxious.

When you get an uneasy feeling like this around someone, your brain might be trying to tell you something. It might be warning you that this person is manipulating you – or at least, they’re trying to.

I always think it’s best to trust your gut if something doesn’t seem right. But when your gut fails, you need more evidence!

Watch out for these 10 subtle behaviors of someone who’s trying to manipulate you, as they could be the evidence you need!

Up first:

1) They overstep the mark

Crossing your boundaries is something a manipulative person will do “accidentally on purpose”.


They do this because 1) they want to do the thing that’s over the line for you or 2) they know doing it frustrates or hurts you – and they want to get under your skin!

Say you tell your partner you don’t want to talk about your mom when you’re with friends. The next time you’re out, they bring her up. And the next time and the next…


At first, you confront them and ask them to stop. But eventually, you get tired of bringing it up, only for them to ignore you.

Sadly, this is exactly what they want. They intentionally keep overstepping in the hopes you “get used to it”. Because then they can keep doing what they want.


2) They apologize but keep doing what they apologized for

An apology is only acceptable if the behavior stops afterward. If someone hurts you and apologizes, you should accept it if you want to move on.

But they shouldn’t do what they did again. If they do, their apologies aren’t genuine. They’re just telling you what you want to hear so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

If you continue to accept their apologies, they know they can keep getting away with it over and over again.

This isn’t your fault – it’s theirs. They’re the ones doing the bad thing by taking advantage of your forgiveness.


3) They drop hints about things they want

Some people simply ask for what they want.

But others prefer to be sneaky and subtle about it, playing mind games or dropping hints until you do what they want.


Why? It’s usually because they don’t feel good enough to ask for help (even though you’d probably willingly give it to them if they asked). They lack self-esteem and asking for help opens them up to rejection, which they struggle with.

So they drop hints, since that way, they haven’t actually asked for help and therefore can’t be rejected.

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I dated someone who did this with everything and it was exhausting! I was constantly trying to figure out what he really wanted. It took a while for me to see that even though he didn’t mean it maliciously, his behavior was still manipulative and not right.

4) They spin conversations away from them

A conversation should be a two-way street. When someone constantly deflects, this is suspicious and they might be hiding something from you.


My friend once dated a guy who did this to her. Every time she asked him questions, he deflected them. It turned out he was a journalist trying to get intel on her employer, so he was lying about everything!

I’ve experienced it at work, too. A coworker wouldn’t give the full story, no matter what you asked them. It turned out that they wanted me to do something they knew I shouldn’t do so I got in trouble for it.


When someone does things like this, they’re trying to control what you know. Which is manipulative behavior, even if they don’t think it is!

5) They get nervous around certain topics

When someone is intentionally playing games with you, they know what they’re doing. So they’re always on high alert!

It’s why they might act weirdly when you bring something up. They might get defensive, suspicious, or just very obviously nervous!

To you, you’re just making conversation. But to them, they think you’re onto them and trying to catch them out!


6) They make you feel bad for doing something you like

youre dealing with a manipulative person

Also known as guilt-tripping!

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Insecure people are the most prone to manipulating others. It’s why they’ll guilt-trip you into doing what they want, rather than what you want.

Say you’re going out with a friend you haven’t seen in ages on Saturday night. Instead of saying, “Have a great time!” they get upset. They say they can’t believe you’re going out without them and leaving them alone on a Saturday night.

Or if you decide to start getting fitter and going to a gym. Instead of supporting your goals, they say, “But what about me? What am I going to do while you’re at the gym? If you get fit, you’ll make me feel bad about my health”.

You end up feeling like you’re intentionally hurting them by doing what you want to do. When really, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.

7) They say it’s OK then complain about it

I’ve experienced many people do this before and it’s just totally unfair! It’s also a bit manipulative, even if the person doing it doesn’t realize it.

Say you ask your partner to give you a ride to the station because it’s raining. They say OK, but then complain about how they had to do it. All day long, they bring up how tired they are from getting up early to drop you off.

They say how they didn’t get to have breakfast this morning because they dropped you off and now they’re really hungry. And that their hair doesn’t look nice because they had less time to get ready after dropping you off.

This is manipulative behavior. Even though they said it was OK to give you a ride, it wasn’t and they want you to feel bad about asking them to do it.  

8) They say things to make you look bad

Some people just say the wrong thing sometimes and they aren’t manipulative because of it.

But watch out – because some people know exactly what they’re doing by “saying the wrong thing” all the time!

Like if you were meeting your new boss for the first time. Most coworkers wouldn’t bring up the fact that you tripped over on the stairs on your way up. Or share the story of how many shots you ordered at the bar last Friday…

Why? Because even though these things aren’t anything to be embarrassed about, they make you look bad!

When someone brings up things like this all the time, especially when you know they know better, they might be trying to sabotage you, your career, your relationship, or other parts of your life.

9) They make small criticisms of you

Does anyone like it when someone points out their flaws? I don’t think so!

Sure, some people don’t realize they’re doing this. Like if someone says that you’re bad at running. They might just be saying what they’re thinking with no ulterior motive.

But some people will do this in a more sinister way. They’ll state the obvious to intentionally and subtly criticize you.

Usually, they do this to make you feel insecure about it. Or just because they want to feel like they’re better than you.

Even if they apologize for “saying the wrong thing” afterward, be careful!

Once the words have left their mouth, it doesn’t matter what they say afterward. You’ve heard what they said, and it’s already had the impact they want.

10) They get annoyed if you don’t agree with them

A friend or partner who gets annoyed when you disagree with their suggestions, ideas, or views doesn’t like rejection. Their behavior is also manipulative, even if they don’t realize it!

Like if your boyfriend suggested a restaurant for you and your friend to visit. You eat somewhere else. He gets annoyed and says, “What was wrong with my suggestion? Are my ideas not good enough for you or something?”

This can just be a sign of immaturity in a person, but it can also be a subtly controlling behavior. By making you feel bad about your decisions, you feel more inclined to do what they want in the future to keep them happy.

Final thoughts

The thing about manipulative people is they often don’t think they’re being manipulative.

Most of the time, they’re just acting the way they’ve always acted! Sometimes they know they’re being clever, but they think they’re being smart, not manipulative.

Other times, they genuinely think they’re doing the right thing – by you, someone else, or just themselves.

But even so, manipulative behavior can take its toll on you. Just because someone doesn’t realize they’re doing it or they “didn’t mean it like that”, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

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