Manipulation is a mental tactic used to fool someone into doing what you want. “You’re kind of trying to trick them into behaving a certain way, whether it’s giving you something, doing something for you—but without coming straight out and saying it, and instead trying to get them to do it without them knowing it,” explains therapist and relationship expert Ann Barham, MFT.
According to therapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, everyone can be manipulative from time to time, sometimes without even realizing it. “We are all human, and all of us manipulate because it’s a human defense mechanism,” he says.
There are so many behaviors that can be considered manipulative, with varying degrees of severity. The key is, you’re being manipulative if you want something from someone and feel you have to finesse it out of them rather than just expressing what it is you’re thinking, feeling, wanting, or needing. Manipulation stems from not being able to take responsibility for your own feelings and handle them in a mature way, Page says.
“If you think you’re being manipulative, you probably are,” he adds.