Physical or verbal abuse is easy to recognize because you can see it or hear it. However, emotional manipulation tactics aren’t always obvious.

At some point in our lives, we’ve either witnessed emotional abuse, or we’ve been victims of this heartache. I can attest to being a survivor of a couple of decades of this type of abuse myself.

Emotional abuse is hard to see sometimes, and that’s why, in my opinion, it’s one of the worst types of abuse of them all. It also leaves deep scars that only really strong individuals can carry.

Emotional manipulation tactics

Emotional abuse isn’t just a random form of abuse used out of anger or frustration. Not to excuse physical violence or verbal assault, but emotional abuse is sometimes planned and perfected before use. It sounds kind of evil, doesn’t it?

Well, in some cases, it is. In other cases, it comes from a long pattern of abusive behavior through generations. This is why we need to recognize tactics used by emotional abusers to manipulate people, and we need to put a stop to these subtle attacks.

Different tactics used in emotional abuse:

1. Getting close… fast

Individuals who use emotional manipulation tactics tend to act as though they are falling in love with you fast. If it’s not an intimate relationship, they may try to convince you that they are your best friend after only knowing you a short time. So, how does this become abusive?

Well, what happens is they tell you a few really deep things about themselves, and act as if no one else knows this about them. Then they use these secrets to coax information from you! Are you still wondering how this leads to manipulation?

Here’s the thing, what they tell you isn’t all that secret, but your secrets are. They use these things that you tell them to manipulate you, while the things they tell you, many other people already know. You see…it was a trick. Now, they have ammo against you.

2. Twisting facts

Emotional manipulators are experts at twisting facts. If they don’t straight out lie, they will exaggerate, say you said what they said, or simply pretend they never heard you say anything at all. They will lie in creative ways, and push the agenda that something happened in a way that it did not.

Twisting facts, for this type of abuser, is easy for them. They’ve been doing it most of their lives to get what they want and never be responsible.

3. The raised voice distraction

I am familiar with this one, but I only learned about it in the last couple of years. Until last year, I’d never seen a grown man throw a child-like tantrum when caught in the act. Not to give details, but he was using the raised voice distraction and intimidation tactic to get what he wanted… an apology, when he should have been apologizing.

You see, screaming or getting loud is shocking if you’re not used to that sort of behavior in a discussion or confrontation. Emotional manipulators use this tactic when there is nothing else they can use.

It took me a while to recognize what was happening, I stopped apologizing when I wasn’t in the wrong, and I made peace with the fact that he may leave.

Truth is, when someone screams, threatens to leave, or acts childlike, sometimes it’s best if they leave if they cannot stop. You have to come to terms with this because not only is raising the voice emotional abuse, it’s also verbal abuse as well.

4. Rushing decision making

Okay, this may sound weird, but I also started to catch on to this one lately. Emotional manipulators, when they want to do something they know would upset you, will ask your opinion in a rushed environment.

They will ask you questions as they are walking out the door, or by short text during a work break, or even ask right in the middle of an unrelated conversation. They assume you will just go along with whatever it is because you were caught off guard.

Watch out for this seemingly innocent tactic, which is, in fact, emotional manipulation. It’s irritating.

5. Overusing the word “insecure”

No matter what’s bugging you, you must be “insecure”. This is one of the emotional manipulation tactics that drive me crazy. You see, if they are the type to flirt, and you get angry when you see it or find out, they will say you are insecure about getting angry. Here’s a lesson. YOU ARE NOT INSECURE BECAUSE YOU GET ANGRY.

I typed that in all caps so you will understand how important that is to remember. Just because you don’t want certain boundaries crossed by other women or men in your relationship doesn’t mean you are insecure.

It means you stick to your morals and standards. And honestly, if they don’t stop using this word, then maybe you don’t need them. I absolutely hate this, and yes, it’s personal.

6. Running out

An emotional manipulator will leave the scene when they realize they haven’t got a chance in winning an argument. They secretly want you to chase after them, and they threaten to leave the relationship too. This is in intimate relationships mostly, of course. They may stay gone a few hours or all night, leaving you worried and nervous.

I think it’s one of the cruelest forms of emotional manipulation. If you’re caught off guard, you will cry and call them over and over trying to get them home. It’s okay, it takes a while to catch on.

Personally, when I decide to leave relationships or friendships, I don’t run out, scream, threaten or anything. I usually just have a nice calm “sit down” and explain that I no longer wish to continue in the relationship anymore. But I think long and hard before making this final decision.

All these theatricals that manipulators use are time wasters and abusive behavior. The next time it happens, try not to be frightened, and maybe even hope they are serious about leaving. You don’t need those games in your life….trust me.

7. Pretending to be dumb

Oh, and adults will pretend to be dumb too. If you tell someone you have boundaries, they will break them, and then say that they never understood exactly what you meant. This releases them from the responsibility for their actions.

They even say they forgot, or try to twist your words about what you did and did not want in a relationship. They play dumb, but you have to be smart, and call them on every single time they try this crap. It’s just one of many tactics of emotional manipulation used by predators. Show them that you know what they are doing.

8. Playing the victim

I remember many times laying my standards and boundaries out on the table for the people I loved. I did it in the beginning so they had a chance to run if they wanted to.

The problem is, sometimes they agreed to each and every one of the things I held important, only to break them later in the relationship. Then they played the victim when I got angry about broken boundaries and hurts.

You see, unfortunately, some people never plan to respect your boundaries and standards, but they still want to be in a relationship with you. What they do is hope that they can change the way you believe. If you are entering a relationship, please be clear on what you want, and if you both are too different, then just walk away.

Most people don’t change unless they make the decision to do so on their own. If someone is playing victim to you, remind them of the standards and boundaries you set in the beginning, and leave the door open for them if they wish to leave.

Why people who use these emotional manipulation tactics are the worst abusers

Do you know why emotional abuse is worse than any other abuse? It’s because emotional abuse doesn’t harm you physically, it’s more than screaming, and it doesn’t rape you. Emotional abuse goes beyond every muscle and fiber of your being and attacks the essence of who you are.

It makes you question everything. It makes you doubt your worth as well. I would never downplay other forms of abuse because I’ve been through them all, but the emotional abuse makes me angrier than all the others. Once I understand this is happening,  I learn not to respond to the call to fight.

You can do this as well. It just takes a little education on the subject and a little practice. Do not let them take away your self-worth, and do not let them make you afraid to be alone. That’s all you need to fight with.

Sending blessings.

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This Post Has 8 Comments


    Thank you.
    You just saved my life with this journal.
    I will not let anybody make me loose my self-worth any longer.

    1. Anell,

      I do hope that you are well. I want you to be strong, loving, kind and embrace your beauty…always. Don’t believe the lies, but always accept your responsibilities. There is this balance in life that can sometimes be difficult. I wish that you find balance and keep it as long as possible.

  2. Catherine

    Dear Sherrie ~ I am so grateful to have found this article. I have been trying to justify his behavior on every level, just so my story could move towards the happy ending My happy ending was asking him to leave, and changing my story without his permission. Thank you and God Bless.

    1. I am sorry that it didn’t work out. I wish you happiness and safety during this time. I always hope that what I write can help and do no harm. Thank you for your words and for reading. Be blessed and comforted.

  3. APO

    Thank you.

  4. Jessie

    Hi Sherrie! This is a complicated and very underrated topic and thank you for sharing. I have been in a relationship of this kind and looking back I see all this manipulation was coming from his own securities because he couldn’t face / process them. The way I handled it was by owning up to my insecurities and working on them so he could no longer use any of the tactics like you wrote in your article above as I was learning to stand my ground. In the end I even got him to go see a psychiatrist for his issues. One less emotional abuser in the world

  5. Name Withheld

    Thank you for writing this article. I just went through 8months of being completely torn apart by woman who everyone knows as a friendly, sweet, outgoing, thoughtful, humble and vulnerable person. But when she was alone with me she added to those kind and admirable traits behaviors that I had never encountered in any other girlfriend or person. While masking herself behind naivety and innocence she created major trust issues, directly targeted my forgotten childhood trauma, told me confusing narratives, created meaningless conflicts, atacked my personality, insisted that my insecurities made me controlling and abusive, yelled at me if she couldn’t convince me to agree with her as well as completely refusing to ever admit to being wrong or at fault for anything – even small daily mistakes were not really her fault. Blame shifting and constant gaslighting were used to convince me that I had personality and psychological issues and because she loved me so much she was willing to help me with fix them so we could be in a stable relationship. In my prior 25 years of relationships I had not had issues like these..
    Now that I’m no longer with her, I have been in disbelief at how I could be so under another person’s control..
    A person who uses psychological manipulation is truly evil, manifested on Earth. and The public needs to be made aware of it’s existence.

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