Dark Personalities

12 Dark Psychology Tricks Manipulators Use to Get Their Way

Published by
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

I’ve had the misfortune of meeting a few manipulative types in my life. One was my controlling-coercive ex-partner, and the other was a ‘friend’ that lied about practically everything. Each had their own techniques and tricks.

My ex would undermine my confidence and isolate me. My friend was a pathological liar and constantly gaslighted me. It’s taken me a long time to recognize the dark psychology tricks manipulators use. Here’s what I’ve found out.

12 Dark Psychology Tricks Manipulators Use

1. Change the perspective from ‘I’ to ‘We’, and people will align themselves with you

Queen Victoria once said, “We are not amused,” which symbolized the repressed mood of the country. Manipulators know that language is a powerful tool. They use certain words to influence you.

Research suggests that changing the pronoun from I to we subtly shifts our perspective on a task. Using we instead of I changes a request (which can be refused) to a team effort.


“I need you to hurry, or we’ll be late.”

Change to:

“We need to hurry, or we’ll be late.”

2. Twist good news and you can undermine someone

Twisting good news is a favorite dark psychology trick partners and narcissistic parents use. It’s a clever way of undermining your achievements. You are bursting with good news about your promotion at works or passing your exams, and the conversation goes like this:

“Hey Dad, I got an ‘A’ for political studies!”

“Doesn’t the grade go up to an A+? Oh well, that’s still good.”

And now you feel deflated.

3. Use nouns, not verbs, and you can influence a person’s behavior

Back to language again. This is a devious method you might not have heard of. Humans need to belong. We gravitate to certain groups which signal our identity to others. We feel safe as part of a group, and manipulators know this. Manipulators use nouns instead of verbs to include you in a group.

For example,

“I like drinking wine.”


“I’m a wine drinker.”

‘Drinking’ is a verb, whereas ‘drinker’ is a noun. Studies show that using a noun reinforces a sense of belonging to a group, and once you identify with that group, you’re easy to influence.

4. Offer something people value if you want them to help you

There’s an art to asking and getting what you want. According to the 48 Laws of Power, appealing to someone’s good nature or gratitude won’t cut it.

We’re all busy; we don’t have time. If you need help from someone, never talk about previous favors you’ve done, or appeal to their sense of duty. Instead, offer something you know they want. When people get something they value in return, they’re happy to help.

5. Word a question in a certain way and you can influence the answer

Nowadays, the police and justice system know that when interviewing children, the wording of a question can lead to false recollections. Interviewers now ask open-ended questions, without input from themselves. For example,

“In your own words, tell me what happened,” as opposed to, “Were you in your bedroom when that man touched you?”

This is because studies show that you can manipulate a question to elicit a desired response. Manipulators know this. They will ask loaded or closed questions to influence you. For example,

“When did you notice Maria was skiving off work?”

6. Agree with someone who is angry or upset to get them on your side

Keeping your cool while everyone around you loses theirs is a favorite dark psychology tactic. If someone is upset or angry, saying,

“That’s understandable,” or “I completely agree with you,” or “You’re right”.

This directs the emotion away from the manipulator. Now, because you’ve agreed with them, you’re on their side.

7. Compliment people behind their back and they feel grateful

Praise is a good thing, right? I mean, who doesn’t like compliments once in a while? But we’re talking about manipulators here. People who need external validation are rich pickings for manipulators. And don’t think that praising someone behind their back stays secret for long.

The compliments are bound to reach you and now you feel grateful to the manipulator, which is exactly what they want. Not only have they influenced you, but people now think they are being genuine. For example,

“I could never say this to his face, but he’s a really talented musician.”

8. Ask for a small favor if someone is cold towards you

It seems counter-intuitive, but if someone is cold towards you, ask them for a small favor. Benjamin Franklin came up with this dark psychology trick. He suggested borrowing a book. The trick works because we do favors for those people we like, so in doing the favor, a part of your brain now thinks you like this person.

Humans hate cognitive dissonance. You’ve also made this person feel useful and, as we are suitably appreciative, they naturally warm to us.

9. Saying ‘Thank you’ for the little things gets someone used to praise, then you can withdraw it

This is a very simple example of dark psychology tricks used by manipulators.

Say ‘thank you’ for the tiniest of things, from moving out of the way or handing you a glass of water. Make this consistent until it’s second nature, and the person is used to it. Then, don’t say thank you for one or two things. They will value your appreciation and go to great lengths to earn your thanks again.

10. Stay calm when someone gets angry or emotional

Law 39 (of the 48 Laws of Power) suggests stirring up water to catch fish. This means, when someone is emotional or angry, keeping calm and under control makes them look foolish or unhinged. Manipulators know which buttons to press to trigger a person. It’s like throwing a grenade into a crowd and standing back to watch the chaos.

11. Copying someone’s body language makes them feel comfortable with you

Mirroring is one of the more subtle dark psychology tricks manipulators use to inveigle their way into your life. It’s so effective because it works on a subconscious level.

We like people who are like us. This includes our political views, musical and literature tastes, which sports team we support and much more. This affinity with people like us extends to body language, and manipulators fool us into thinking they’re the same as we are by copying our body language.

12. Ask for someone’s advice if you want to persuade them

Studies show that if you want someone to say yes, ask them for advice, not their opinion. Asking for an opinion puts the other person at a psychological distance, makes them objective and able to critique your idea.

Asking for their advice draws them in and makes them an ally of yours. Now you’re partners in crime, trying to make the best of this idea.

Novelist Saul Bellow says,

“When we ask for advice, we’re usually looking for an accomplice.”

Final thoughts

As you can see, manipulators have a ton of dark psychology tricks up their sleeves. The above examples are just a few. If you know any, please let us know.

  1. wikihow.com
  2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

View Comments

  • Super helpful Janey. Thank you (not to be confused with #9 “thank you”) I am learning a great deal of useful and meaningful information on my path toward healing.

Published by
Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)