Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

What You Need to Know About Psychological Manipulation [Infographic]

This post accompanies my previous post on manipulators. One particular piece of information that I find valuable here is a guideline for distinguishing social influence from manipulation. In my view, what qualifies as manipulation is an attempt to restrict another’s sense of free will. Furthermore, as I am a “no means no” kind of person, my interpretation of “[social influence] does not threaten anyone’s health or well-being” extends to influencers’ being able to accept “no” for an answer. Continuing to persist violates the time and psychological space of the one who refused. Finally, to clarify, the “emotional hot buttons” section lists characteristics of individuals who are easier targets for manipulators. I welcome your thoughts on the information presented here.Emotional Manipulation Infographic


19 responses to “What You Need to Know About Psychological Manipulation [Infographic]

  1. Marianne April 24, 2015 at 10:48 am

    A thought provoking post, especially since I felt I had to do a bit of a blackmail move this morning- making me a manipulator, but not one that was feeling good about it. Maybe now even a bit worse;)
    I’ll explain below, but wanted to first reply to your content.
    I think I have experienced all forms, for example with manipulative acquaintances or study mates. The sort of people that ignore you or keep you at a ‘hi’-level of relationship, unless they need your help on something, and suddenly take interest in what you do or what is going on in your life.

    As for my manipulative action:
    For my thesis experiments I need arsenic (for bronze casting), yesterday I inquired whether it was there and learned that we’re basically at the same spot where we were a month ago, and the clock is ticking. So I suggested he phoned them (-). It is not the sort of thing a student would easily acquire, but a research institution with more credibility and a license would. So I emailed him with my thesis counselor in the bcc, to say if he was ‘ too busy’ whether he could not give me the name of the supplier, telephone number and what he thought would be a reasonable price for it, so I could give it a try as he was going on holiday. I have a deadline to think about. I included a joke mentioning that, even when it was very little (not too interesting for the supplier), it would be enough to decimate a small class of children (social/ moral conscience), not that we were planning on that ofcourse ( ; ) ).
    I know full well that I pressured him by including a colleague of equal ‘importance’ under the guise that she is also important for the financial aspect of it, subtly adressed what I felt was lack of really helping or taking care of a small issue (picking up the phone, all of 5-10 minutes). Within a months time, I do not want to hear that ‘ you still got no email back’ suggesting we passively wait for another month. I needed odd elements in small quantities – but in the end I managed to get those via the help of the faculty for Engineering & a private company, so I was able to cast the samples without arsenic, but still need the ones WITH arsenic;).

    However, it magically worked as now 50 grams are ordered (median lethal dose= 0,763 g/Kg), i suppose fatal is one adult person or two 7 years olds of medium weight swallowed it. Quite disturbing that that is the least they are willing to sell, but it also the easiest crime to detect it does not break down in the body.
    Luckily I only need 2 grams and have no intend of harming anyone.

    So would you say, manipulation is sometimes justified if someone else either doesn’t care enough, sabotages your project or is trying to screw you over?

    • L. P. April 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Good morning Marianne! I’ll have to reply quickly since I have to be off to work soon, however I can’t think of a single individual who’s perfect.

      I’ve done something very similar. Several years ago, someone (a guest of someone at my apartment complex) parked in my designated parking spot. As I was a resident and she was not, she was not allowed to park in residents’ spaces. I couldn’t get hold of anyone who could straighten this situation out at this time of day and the local towing company had some number of hours that they must wait for (24 or 48?) before they could tow anyone’s car that was in the wrong spot (as I could prove that I’m a resident and that was my spot according to my lease and everything). I didn’t want to park far away from my unit, so as some people were walking by I loudly hollered, “Hey do you know who’s car this is? It’s in my spot and the towing company will soon be here to tow it away!”

      The driver came running out of one of the apartments and moved her car. Thank goodness! Anyhow, I don’t know whether she intended to inconvenience me or not (and I think you’re the better judge of your situation since it’s all hearsay for me), however the degree to which manipulation is justifiable does depend on context. For example, my passion as a child was playing card games where cunning, trickery, and bluffing are all part of the game and everyone who played knew it. So no big deal there.

      With my previous post in particular, I’m more concerned about continuous, ongoing relations in which one person is keeping another person down through manipulation. So rest easy Marianne! 😛

  2. Mike April 25, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    How they push your buttons, thanks to Lynn!

  3. insanitybytes22 April 25, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Great chart, indeed. Thanks! 😉

  4. lemonchronicle April 25, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Reblogged this on LemonChronicle and commented:
    Too many psychopaths and sociopaths running very responsible positions at all levels~!

  5. Malcolm Greenhill April 26, 2015 at 7:56 am

    I can’t think of anyone I know, myself included, who hasn’t been guilty of psychological manipulation at some point or another in their lives. I would go so far as to say that everyone has to use some manipulation to get their point across effectively or to sell a product or service. Politicians are masters of the art of psychological manipulation. Isn’t part of the process of growing up learning how to deal with serial manipulators? Just my half-pennyworth.

    • L. P. April 26, 2015 at 8:25 am

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Malcolm. My response to Marianne (1st comment on this post) echoed yours. I clarified that just about everyone (people with Autism, Aspergers, and other cognitively disabled people excluded – I have relatives who have that kind of brain wiring and they can’t manipulate others owing to the low cognitive empathy – Dr. Simon Baron Cohen’s model of empathy. People who are most adept at manipulation (like psychopaths) have high cognitive empathy. I was quite a master at card games involving trickery and bluffing myself, so yeah I’ve manipulated too.

      However, my intent in putting out this information is because people often don’t question people who want to “help” them and so this gives them a look at helping behavior form an angle they might not have otherwise considered. It takes some degree of what’s called “multiple level thinking” or “tier level thinking” – an ability used in poker, chess, and as a lawyer to be adept at recognizing manipulation at higher levels of sophistication. See or

      And some people will grasp this more easily than others. At any rate, many of us move from relationship to relationship and escape manipulative people but there are cases in which one party holds another party down in a more long-term fashion, like when it comes to “help” provided by some societal institutions. It was more my intent to spark the thought, for those who hadn’t thought of things this way, that all is not as it seems. So recognizing it in each other, as individuals, is the first step in understanding that.

  6. Marianne April 26, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Hello L, how devious of you – yet still effective.
    Yes, I understood the main point of the article – and I recognized the situations. I also love some psychology during games, although I have a bad poker face.

    I have read your guest post too, which is excellent, and also made me think. I would one day like to work for Amnesty International, to intervene where some oppressive leaders would make their opponents disappear or inhumane treatment is still prevalent. I know that a lot of money also goes into this organization- I’d like to think it is used to aid people who need it, and that is does not end in the pockets of the top layers of management under the guise of a humane face. I am trying to think of situations where this organization may have over-helped, but generally I think they do good work.

    But yes, governmental aid to countries where oligarchy and cronyism is prevalent, does little to empower ‘the people’, unless it is distributed at the base. I would say, medical aid, watchdog presence, education might help individuals – I would urge to train locals to offer help to their communities once you leave- but then the question is- do you create a power imbalance rather than balancing out the power- by offering specialized knowledge not accessible by many. In other words…do you create more dependency or independence?
    How would one counter such a possibility?

    • L. P. April 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

      There was one article (here, section under the heading, “Lords of Poverty” that was really critical to my guest post, and it makes you think that there are times and circumstances in which those people in dire straits in other countries could pick themselves up and improve their situation on their own. However, once you start helping them, you can’t really go back and envision how the alternative course of action (not helping) would’ve panned out. In the case they could’ve improved conditions on their own, going in to help is “overhelp.” In other words, they wouldn’t need us to go in to provide a watchdog presence or education either (because this also assumes a position of superiority over them). In this view it’s still not “nice” to presume they want our authority as educators and security and force it on them. And it forces them to perceive us as being “better” than them. This is what leads to the unequal relations and, hence, dependency.

      That article I cited by the way ends with recommendations for fostering symmetry in asymetrical relations that are a natural byproduct of helping relationships.I won’t even try to paraphrase the author because I don’t think I can do him justice! 😛

  7. Marianne April 26, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Sorry, this might move away from your topic again- I think it is good to think about the other side of the coin of helping, some people in these situations might have an uneasy feeling without really realizing where it comes from.

  8. telmoquadros April 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for this very interesting post! I got amazed because I understand well this subject (not as a technician, but as an individual), and one thing I often feel is that sometimes you just dont know what is right and what is wrong…And it get’s quite difficult to come out of this. Confusion…Once again, good job, clear, focusing on the hot points.

    • L. P. April 30, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks telmoquadros, for visiting and commenting! And you’re welcome! Yes, indeed, the line can be quite blurry on this one so distinguishing between them can be difficult from time to time.

  9. cindy knoke May 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Well deconstructed and laid out. Helpful to be on the alert for the manipulators~

    • L. P. May 26, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Thanks for visiting and commenting Cindy! Having experienced a rare encounter with one who seemed to always be “working” people to get what he wanted, yes indeed! And it’s the ones who people generally don’t expect to be this way (e.g., seems like a sweet, harmless old guy who just wants to help) that get away with it. Quite eye-opening for me!

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