This Is How a Manipulator Acts When They Don't Get What They Want

This article explains how a manipulator acts, and how you can act to avoid becoming a victim of a manipulator.
This Is How a Manipulator Acts When They Don't Get What They Want
Leticia Martín Enjuto

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Leticia Martín Enjuto.

Last update: 21 September, 2023

The characteristics of a manipulator are diverse, as are their actions, since not all of them are the same, and neither are the situations. However, sometimes there are some common trends in their behaviors. Below, we’ll tell you all about how a manipulator acts and reactions when they don’t get what they want. Take note.

The characteristics of a manipulative person

At some point in our lives, we may have been the victim of a manipulator. Some of us may soon realize it, but others often remain under the spell of these people who know how to use their charisma and skills for their own benefit. Not to mention that some people also have a tendency to allow themselves to be manipulated.

Although there may be differences from one individual to another in the way they are or behave, manipulative people show some or several of the following characteristics:

  • They’re unscrupulous; they are usually cynical and attach little importance to ethical principles, considering that the end always justifies the means, as Machiavelli would say.
  • For this reason, they don’t mind lying, as long as they achieve the objectives they have set for themselves.
  • Their interest is to take advantage, not only of situations, but also of others.
  • They show little empathy in relation to the feelings of other people; and when they do it, they only pretend, out of interest.
  • They don’t usually experience remorse of conscience or repentance for their actions.
  • They’re good with words and may even appear intelligent, methodical, and reflexive.
  • They have the facility to detect weaknesses in others.
  • They are often driven by narcissism and selfishness, so it’s not unusual for them to like to stand out or be chosen as leaders.
It’s a good idea to clarify that this type of person doesn’tt always want to succeed or reach high positions, but they have realized that they can solve problems using others; and sometimes they don’t know any other way.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: 7 Toxic Emotions that are Keeping You from Being Happy

How does manipulator react when they’ve been discovered?

Fortunately, this kind of people don’t always achieve their goals. Then, they can lose their mask of affable people and act otherwise. Let’s see how an uncovered manipulator reacts in an attempt to regain control.

1. They play the victim

When noticing that they don’t succeed in influencing the person, because the latter realizes the true intention, the manipulator may change the way they behave and assume the role of victim, playing the helpless one in order to try to play to to the other person’s emotions.

2. They pretend that everything has been a misunderstanding

Another attitude that can show a manipulator discovered is to try to divert attention and make believe that everything has been a misunderstanding, perhaps a product of the imagination of the other person, using well-known phrases such as: “I am incapable of wanting to take advantage of someone”.

3. They downplay the seriousness of the matter

Perhaps, when there is no other choice, he/she will admit that something he/she is doing is not right, but trying to minimize the impact. “It’s not that serious, after all, many people do that,” among other phrases made for the occasion, with which they will try to justify their behavior.

4. They resort to emotional blackmail

In other cases, they won’t give up, and will try to continue in their efforts, but by other means. To do this, they may try to make the manipulated person feel guilty, as if they had caused everything. With this, they also manage to look good in front of a third party, at least, perhaps a future victim.

5. They explode

A manipulator may explode with anger, or pretend to do so. Then, they tries to intimidate, even issuing threats. In this way, they seeks to gain some time and space, to get out of the situation or to reduce some of their victims, no longer with deceit, but with violence.

6. They threaten to self-harm or even commit suicide

If they feels very cornered, the manipulator may resort to the last resort: threatening to commit suicide; some even try it. This is a continuation of the attempt at emotional blackmail and the role of victim, but with more forcefulness.

7. How a manipulator acts: They attack other people’s self-esteem

Althoughtheir emotional manipulation strategy attacks the victim’s morale on a daily basis, when they are discovered, they will often attack even harder in an attempt to lower the victim’s self-esteem. In these cases, they may resort to strategies such as belittling, insulting, offending, or humiliating, even publicly.

8. They don’t react at all

It may be that the manipulator is impassive and doesn’t react. Many of them have learned to control their body and verbal language, so as not to show anger. Thus, this attitude can contribute to the aforementioned idea of making believe that there was a mistake. And then, they will continue in their efforts, deploying all the weapons of persuasion.

How to avoid being a victim of manipulation

To relate to a person who behaves in the described way is complicated – and even unadvisable. However, since you know how an uncovered manipulator reacts, you must act to avoid being or continuing to be a victim. How can you do this? You can take into account the following suggestions:

Keep your distance

The best way to avoid being manipulated is not to have a relationship with manipulators. It’s as simple as that. However, it’s possible that this person is part of the family or work environment. In this case, the recommendation is to reduce contact to the minimum possible. And that includes social networks.

Set limits and be discreet

In the same vein, you must set boundaries, even with people close to you. If you don’t want to be manipulated, for example, with situations that could embarrass you or make you look bad, it’s best to avoid disclosing information about ourselves or giving opinions about others.

Be firm and decisive

Once you set boundaries and say no to something, the worst thing you can do afterward is to give in. A manipulator will know how to recognize the weak point, what it was that made him weak, in order to use it in the following. And theywill use it to persuade the person. So, if the manipulator becomes insistent, it’s better to cut to the chase.

Know who you are and what you have

If you know who you truly are, what you’re capable of, and what you can and cannot do, you shouldn’t allow yourself to be manipulated if you’re told something that isn’t true. For example, one friend may tell another married man that if they don’t go out for drinks at night, they’re proving that their wife rules their life. But if a man knows he has a good relationship with a woman who values him, he shouldn’t fall for that kind of deception.

Working on your emotions

Everyone is vulnerable at some point. If you were ever manipulated because of fear or guilt, you need to recognize that emotion, work on it, and learn to manage it so that it doesn’t happen again and so that no manipulator can control us.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 11 Toxic Phrases that Should Never Be in Our Inner Dialogue

When to seek professional help

You’ve just seen some attitudes that demonstrate how an uncovered manipulator reacts. However, if you’ve noticed them and it’s still difficult for you  to get out of the situation, whether it be or reasons of affection or emotional attachment to the person, then perhaps it’s time to seek professional help.

When a manipulator doesn’t get what he or she wants, it’s possible that their behavior becomes worse, and the victim ends up affected, not only in their self-esteem, but in their emotional, mental, and even physical health. Therefore, if you don’t have the tools to deal with the situation, a professional psychologist can help provide you with them through therapy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.