The 5 Main Emotional Manipulators

The 5 Main Emotional Manipulators

Forewarned is forearmed!

In this article

Emotional manipulation is everywhere! It is an unfortunate truth, but it is the truth non the less!

Q: If it is everywhere, why is it being allowed to continue?
A: Because emotional manipulation is extremely elusive and hard to articulate…it hides in the shadows!

What is emotional manipulation?

When asking this question in class, very often people will mention…”Isn’t everything a manipulation?” Upon further questions, students share how when a friend of their is upset and they sit and listen or help them focus on something more positive that in itself is a manipulation…and they are right! So how do we define what’s healthy and unhealthy? To do this we will use the following two definitions…

1. Influence
2. Manipulation

1. Influence
To influence another person is to alter the persons focus for the persons benefit

2. Manipulation
To manipulate a another person is to alter the persons focus for the manipulators gain only

So here we can see that influencing and manipulating are very similar in appearance except for the fact that one action is for the gain of the person in question and the other is for the gain of the manipulator only. This answers the question of why we all know it happens, but why it is so hard to explain or articulate. 

An example of influencing in a relationship break up would be
To distract the person’s attention away from the recent break up as the continual focus is causing them too much stress and the aim is to calm them down so they can recover.

An example of manipulation would be
To offer the person support and to be ‘an emotional rock’ while they go through a hard time. With the hidden agenda of, the manipulator wants a lift to the airport for their holiday in two weeks and will use the “Well I was there for you when you really needed somebody and all I am asking is a quick lift to the airport”

The 5 types of emotional manipulation

The way that manipulators are able to stay so hidden is because they use deception. The art of manipulation (and it is an art) is to say or do something but also be quite vague.

This way the target (the person who is being manipulated) will find it near impossible (unless they know what to look for) to explain to others without looking paranoid. A manipulator will hide in the shadows and strike when your not looking…the go back into the shadows!

The 5 main styles we are going to discuss are the following…

1. The victim
2. The saviour
3. The I am too busy
4. The fault finder
5. The destroyer

1. The Victim
This manipulation is a person who continually struggles and likes to tell the world. No matter how good things may be, they will always find why something will go wrong. Their job, relationship, health, finances, government, the list goes on. 
Their intention is to get other people to feel sorry for them and then feel too guilty to leave them in their time of need. Unfortunately though, their time of need never seems to end. 

2. The Saviour
This type of manipulation is convincing people who are struggling (either a victim or somebody who is just having a hard time) and then exasperating the situation. Then once the target feels overwhelmed, the manipulator comes to their rescue

Their intention is to create self doubt in the targets mindset, weakening them and then suddenly appearing to be their helper (in their time of need). 

3. The “I Am Too Busy”
This manipulation is where the target is treated as a burden. The subtle insinuation is that the target is always pestering or too demanding. However this will be in a dynamic such as a workplace or a established relationship where a connection and interdependence is required.

Their intention is to trigger the target to feel unwanted and of no or little value… then to try and win back the manipulators ‘disapproval’ by living up to their pre-defined standards!

4. The Fault Finder
This manipulation is to undermine the targets…’everything’! Their clothes, their attitude, their job, their relationships the list goes on. This will either be blunt and direct or under the guise of “I’m only telling you this to help”, but it is far from helping.
The intention is to create self doubt in the targets choice and feel self conscious that they are not good enough and will get rejected. So they turn to the manipulator for ‘advice’! 

5. The Destroyer
This manipulation is extremely powerful, but not often used in public. It is seen as wrong and therefore done behind closed doors. The destroyer will point blank threaten or attack. This could be “You will lose your job if you don’t do what I ask” or “Tell me you love me or I will leave you”

The here intention is to intimidate their target into absolute terror of unrecoverable loss.  


To drive the point again, the reason the emotional manipulation largely goes unmentioned is because the manipulator will hide in the shadows… then jump out and attack and then retreat back to the shadows.

Unfortunately though, always seem to have a justifiable reason for doing what they did, or if not they blame the other person (“You are just being soft”).
But the main issue is the emotional manipulations is very often just on the borderline of ‘normal social interaction’ and ‘crossing another persons boundaries. This means that if the target brings attention to what has just happened they also run the risk of looking paranoid or overly sensitive. 

The first thing I recommend is to start to recognise the patterns. They are everywhere! Sit in coffee shops or other busy public places and watch to see how many you can recognise. Before you can ‘stop’ the range of emotional manipulations from being projected on to you, it is essential that you first recognise them. How, when, where, who and why, but more on that soon! 

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