manipulators emotional intelligence

Did you know that manipulators often use emotional intelligence to take advantage of other people? Here is how.

Most people are aware of the term emotional intelligence (EQ or EI). The term was created back in the 1960’s by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and brought to the public’s attention in a popular book of the same name by Dan Goleman in 1996.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EI has been recognised as the ability to:

  • Identify, understand and manage our own emotions
  • Identify, understand and influence the emotions of others

This means that our emotions can not only drive our own behaviour but can also impact others around us, in both a positive and negative way. If EI is an ability that focuses on the emotions of ourselves and others, like any ability, it can be worked on, harnessed, sharpened, and ultimately used.  

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick used her employee’s emotions to inspire them to fundraise for charity. Roddick explained, “Whenever we wanted to persuade our staff to support a particular project we always tried to break their hearts.”

The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence

EI can have a dark side, as psychologist and best-selling author Adam Grant discussed in his essay for The Atlantic, ‘The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence’.

One of the most powerful manipulators of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler, spent years watching how his body language emotionally affected those around him. He perfected every hand gesture, every stance to become ‘an absolutely spellbinding public speaker,’ says the historian Roger Moorhouse.

Here are tens signs you should be looking out for:

1. They use fear to manipulate you

In order to control and manipulate you, they will often use your own fears, even exaggerating them to the point of telling outrageous lies to try and scare you.

What you should do:   

If something strikes you are being untrue, look at the bigger picture or talk to trusted friends in order to get the true facts.

2. They aim to deceive

All manipulators will try and deceive you to put you at a disadvantage. Typically you will only get their side of the story, which will always be biased in their favour.

What you should do:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure to get the whole picture and always go to a more reliable person to find out the truth of the situation.

3. They like it when you’re happy.

If we are in a good mood, we are more likely to agree with someone or say yes to favours. This is why manipulators like it when we are happy. It is a prime time for them to take advantage.

What you should do:

Be aware of your good moods and don’t be taken in just because you are happy at that moment. Try to be more balanced in your thinking.

4. They will do you favours so you owe them

Manipulators will often do you a small favour in order for you to then owe them something bigger. They know that once they have done something for you, it is much harder for you to say no.

What you should do:

Be wary when these favours come up, and don’t be afraid to refuse them, and always say no if you really do not want to do something.

5. They always want a home-turf advantage

A manipulator knows that they are stronger on their home-turf. This could be a club they own, their gym, home or office or anywhere you might feel uncomfortable.

What you should do:

Any meetings should be arranged in a neutral space, such as a bar neither of you has been to before. If this cannot be sorted out, take your time to get your bearings before you meet.

6. They ask probing questions

People love to talk about themselves, it’s a fact. But manipulators ask them to find out our weaknesses, our soft spots, or to glean information that could help them use to their advantage.

What you should do:  

If you suspect someone is trying to get information out of you, then just be wary of giving too much away. Especially if the person asking is pretty reticent about themselves.

7. They speak quickly on purpose

Master manipulators will talk at a fast pace to try and unhinge you. They will also use extensive vocabulary in order to unbalance you and make you feel less confident about yourself.

What you should do:

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so if you don’t understand a point they’ve made, ask them to repeat it, or better still, prompt them for an example. It’s highly likely they won’t be able to come up with one and you have regained the advantage.

8. They are not afraid to show their negative emotions

Causing a drama in front of people is easy for manipulators, as it makes people uncomfortable to be around them and gives them a quick and easy advantage.

What you should do:

Do not react straight away. Give it a few seconds for the person to calm down and then speak slowly and reasonably in order to diffuse the situation.

9. They want you to act quickly

If anyone wants you to make a decision in a short space of time then alarm bells should be ringing. This is because they do not want to give you enough time to think properly about what you are about to do.

What you should do:

Never give in to unreasonable demands. Ask for more time and question why the decision needs to be made so quickly.

10. They give you the silent treatment.

Another controlling tactic in order to get the upper hand. By not conversing with you in any manner, the manipulator is saying that they have the power and you must wait for them.

What you should do:

Give the person a reasonable enough time to contact you, after that issue a deadline. If that does not work then walk away.


  1. The Atlantic

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Janey D.

Janey D.

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for, she also writes for, and has contributed to She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.