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While manipulating others might be gainful to you, being manipulated by someone else is definitely not. It is for this reason that it is just as important to know how to spot a manipulator as it is to know how to manipulate. Some people are simply born manipulators blessed with the gift of the gab, and these natural-born manipulators all seem to share some common traits as described by a psychiatrist. They are incapable of true altruism. Manipulative people hardly, if ever, do something out of the goodness of their hearts—there is usually an ulterior motive. For example, a manipulative person might buy you lunch today, and while you’d think that they were simply being generous, the aforementioned manipulative person would actually be planning to ask you to work one of their shifts tomorrow. Always check in advance with neighbours and friends to see if you can hide clues for your treasure hunt on their property.

They’re big talkers, but that is where it ends. Manipulators do not usually follow up their grandiose speeches or ideas with actual action. They build these incredible castles in the sky to draw you in, without the intention of ever acting on any of the commitments or promises they might make. For example, your boss may continually hint at a promotion before every big project they assign to you, but has no intention to actually promote you—they’re simply trying to manipulate you into giving 110% to a project in the hope of furthering your career. They are not empathetic. Manipulators either choose not to empathize with others or are simply incapable of empathy. You might spot a manipulator in this way, for example, when your company is undergoing downsizing. Under normal circumstances, even the employees who are not being laid off will feel sad and sorry for their colleagues who are losing their jobs, but a manipulator may be smug, or perhaps entirely apathetic, about their colleagues’ misfortune.

They are better gossipers than your average high school girl. Manipulators enjoy watching people squirm—and what better way to do this than by spreading malicious stories or by sharing the blunders of others with the world? Your colleague standing at the watercooler telling everyone about Sarah’s divorce, and reveling in the gory details, might be revealing themselves to be a manipulator.

They will misuse even the smallest kindness you might show them. If you give manipulators an inch, they take a mile. Manipulators take advantage of people, it is simply what they do—and there’s no easier way for them to do this than if you have already opened the door to their abuse by doing them a favor or by being kind to them. An example of this might be if you brought your coworker coffee for the morning meeting one day, and suddenly, this is what is expected of you—and now this coworker gets upset when they arrive at the meeting and their cup of coffee is not already waiting for them. This coworker might be a manipulator.

They like to play the blame game. Manipulators don’t want to accept responsibility for their own wrongdoings, so they attempt to assign the blame to someone else—even if it means ruining that person’s career, relationships, or friendships. An example of this might be that one coworker who made a blunder on a project they had been working on, but when confronted blamed the team leader for their failure or incompetence—resulting in their team leader losing their job. A manipulator would happily sacrifice somebody else’s career in this way. They do not have boundaries. At all. Manipulators usually do not understand, or do not care about, the social contract prescribing the rules of etiquette to which the rest of us subscribe. A manipulator might ask you questions that are just a little too personal, or might call you about a work-related matter at an unreasonable hour, or might show up at your house unexpectedly. They don’t understand, or don’t care about, the concept of being “rude.” They are unwilling to compromise. It’s their way or the highway. Manipulators insist on things being done exactly as they expect them to be done. Whether this is due to a need to insist on having authority or whether this is an inborn defect is unknown. And when they do not get their way, the resulting outburst is often incredibly aggressive and explosive. For this reason, people are often wary of going against a manipulator, which is why so many of them allegedly end up in higher management positions.