Social Manipulation: 7 Common Methods It Maybe Operated

Social manipulation examples are all around us. From the white lies, we tell to avoid hurt feelings, to the more widespread use of social media to spread misinformation, social manipulation is a common occurrence in our everyday lives.

While some forms of social manipulation can be benign, others can be quite harmful. In this article, we’ll explore some of the more common examples of social manipulation, as well as the potential consequences of this type of behavior.

What Is Social Manipulation?

Social manipulation is a process of influence that attempts to change the behavior or perception of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. Although social manipulation can take many different forms, it typically involves some type of exploitation, coercion, or manipulation of another person’s emotions.

In some cases, social manipulation may even involve making someone feel guilty or ashamed in order to get them to comply with your demands. Anyone can be a victim of social manipulation.

You might not even realize it’s happening until it’s too late.

Social manipulation means making someone ashamed

Social manipulation examples can occur in any type of relationship – between friends, family members, coworkers, or even strangers. The goal of the manipulator is to gain power or control over the other person. They may do this by flattering or complimenting the person, making them feel special or needed. Or they may play on the person’s fears or guilt.

Social manipulation examples can be hard to spot, but it’s important to be aware of the signs so you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of. If you think you’re being manipulated, trust your gut and get out of the situation as soon as possible.

How Do You Socially Manipulate Someone?

Social manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive means. Unlike social persuasion, which is typically used to persuade someone of something with good intentions, social manipulation is often employed with ulterior motives. 

There are many different ways to socially manipulate someone. Here are just a few common examples:

  1. Get them to like you: This is probably the most basic form of social manipulation. If you can get someone to like you, they’ll be more likely to trust you and do what you want them to do. This can be as simple as being nice to them, making them laugh, or giving them compliments.
  2. Play on their emotions: Another way to socially manipulate someone is to play on their emotions. This could mean making them feel guilty, manipulating their empathy, or even making them angry. If you can make someone feel strongly about something, they’re more likely to do what you want.
  3. Use flattery: Flattery is another age-old tactic that can be very effective. By complimenting someone, you make them feel good about themselves, and they’ll be more likely to trust you and do what you say.
  4. Give them what they want: People usually want something, whether it’s attention, approval, or even just a sense of importance. If you can give someone what they want, they’ll be much more likely to do what you want in return.
  5. Be assertive: Assertiveness is key when it comes to social manipulation. If you’re too passive, people will walk all over you. But if you’re too aggressive, they’ll see right through you. The trick is to find the perfect balance between the two.

In some cases, social manipulation can be relatively harmless. For example, if you use flattery to get a friend to do you a favor, that’s not likely to do any lasting damage. However, social manipulation can also be used for more sinister purposes, such as gaslighting someone into doubting their own memories or perceptions.

This can be extremely harmful, and it’s important to be aware of the signs of social manipulation so you can protect yourself from it.

14 Social Manipulation Examples 

Social manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics.

Although it can be used for good, such as when persuasion is used to convince someone to quit smoking, social manipulation more often has negative connotations.

Common examples of social manipulation include:

  1. Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a technique where someone manipulates another person into doubting their own sanity and reality. It can be very effective in getting someone to do what you want them not only because they doubt themselves but because they doubt the reality of the situation as well.
  2. Guilt Tripping: This involves making the victim feel guilty in order to get them to comply with your wishes. For example, a parent might guilt their child into doing their homework by reminding them of all the sacrifices they have made for them.
  3. Excessive Flattery: Buttering someone up with excessive praise in order to get them to do something for you is a common form of social manipulation. However, it can also be used in a more sinister way, such as when someone flatters a colleague in order to undermine them later.
  4. Playing on Emotions: Manipulators will often play on their victim’s emotions in order to get what they want. For example, they might feign sadness in order to elicit sympathy or anger in order to intimidate.
  5. Spying/Intimidation: Sometimes people will use spying or intimidation tactics in order to manipulate others into doing what they want. For example, they may follow someone around and stalk them until they agree to do what they want, or they may threaten physical harm if the person doesn’t comply with their demands.
  6. Using Authority: People often use their authority (or the authority of someone else) to manipulate others into doing what they want. For example, a boss may threaten their employees with job loss if they don’t meet certain deadlines, or a parent may use their power over their children to make them behave in a certain way.
  7. Exaggerating: This is similar to lying, but instead of telling a complete lie, you exaggerate the truth. This can be used to convince someone of something or make them think that something is better or worse than it really is.
  8. Lying: This is a classic way to manipulate people. By lying, you can get people to do what you want them to do, or make them believe something that isn’t true.
  9. Withholding Information: Another way to manipulate someone is by withholding information from them. This can be done to control them or to make them do something that you want them to do.
  10. Making False Promises: A common way to manipulate people is by making false promises. This can be done to get someone to do something for you, or to get them to trust you.
  11. Playing the Victim: Another tactic that people use is playing the victim card. This can be done in order to gain sympathy from others or to get them to do what you want them to do.
  12. Social Engineering: Social engineering is a type of social manipulation that exploits human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. For example, a social engineer might trick someone into giving them sensitive information by pretending to be a friend or authority figure. Or, they might exploit a natural disaster to take advantage of people’s generosity. Social engineers are often very successful because they prey on our trust and our willingness to help others.
  13. Playing The Friend Card: One common social manipulation tactic is known as “playing the friend card.” This involves acting like you’re someone’s friend in order to get them to do something for you. For example, let’s say you want your coworker to cover for you on a project. You might tell them about how hard you’ve been working and how much you could use a break. You might also mention that you’ll owe them one if they can help you out this time. By playing on your coworker’s sympathies, you’re more likely to get what you want. 
  14. Coercion: Coercion is one social manipulation technique that relies on threats or intimidation to get someone to do something against their will. For example, a boss might threaten to fire an employee unless they agree to work overtime, or a kidnapper might threaten to harm a hostage unless their ransom demand is met. 

These are just some of the most common examples of social manipulation. If you think you are being manipulated, it is important to trust your gut and get away from the situation if possible. Remember, manipulators are experts at getting what they want—and they will often go to great lengths to achieve their goals.

7 Common Methods For Social Manipulation 

While social manipulation can be used for good, it is more often employed in order to gain power, control, or material advantages at the expense of others. Here are 7 common methods of social manipulation:

1. Inducing Fear

One common method is inducing fear. This can be done by making someone believe that something bad will happen to them if they don’t do what you want, or by threatening to hurt them physically. 

2. Isolating the victim

Isolating the victim is a common social manipulation tactic. This involves cutting off the victim’s social ties and making them feel like they are alone. The manipulator will often pretend to be the only person who cares about the victim and isolate them from their friends and family. This can make the victim feel dependent on the manipulator and make it easier for the manipulator to control them.

3. Playing On Emotions

Playing on emotions is a way to manipulate someone by making them feel an emotional connection to the person manipulating them. For example, a manipulator might say something like, “I know how you’re feeling because I’ve been through the same thing.” This technique can be effective because it makes the other person feel understood and connected to the manipulator.

4. Criticizing And Putting Down The Victim

This is a form of manipulation whereby the manipulator criticizes or belittles the victim in order to make them feel inferior. This can be done directly or indirectly, and it is often done in order to get the victim to do something that the manipulator wants them to do.

5. Making Unreasonable Demands

If you’ve ever been in a situation where someone is making demands that are impossible to meet, you’ve experienced social manipulation. This is a common tactic used by manipulators, who take advantage of the fact that most people want to be helpful.

By making an unreasonable request, the manipulator can set themselves up for success: either the other person will agree to do what they ask, or they will look uncooperative. Either way, the manipulator gets what they want.

Manipulators make unreasonable demands

This tactic is often used in workplaces, where colleagues may make demands on each other’s time or resources. It can also be seen in personal relationships, where one person may make demands on their partner’s attention or energy.

6. Blaming The Victim

Blaming the victim is a common social manipulation tactic. This involves shifting responsibility for a problem or negative outcome onto the victim instead of the person or institution responsible. For example, if someone is mugged, the blame may be placed on the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for not being vigilant enough.

This shifting of responsibility can absolve the perpetrator of responsibility and make the victim feel responsible and to blame. In some cases, this may even lead to self-blame.

7. Using Triangles

This involves creating a relationship between two people and then manipulating them both by pitting them against each other or setting them up to fail. For example, you might get your boss and a coworker to start arguing with each other, and then you can step in and be the voice of reason.

Triangulation is a common social manipulation tactic because it’s effective and it’s also hard for people to see what’s happening until it’s too late.

Consequences Of Social Manipulation 

While social manipulation can have positive consequences, such as convincing someone to vote, there are also potential negative consequences. The potential consequences of social manipulation behavior can be serious and far-reaching: 

  • People may feel deceived or manipulated, which can lead to feelings of betrayal, anger, and resentment.
  • Manipulative behavior can damage relationships and create trust issues.
  • It can be difficult to resist social manipulation, especially if the manipulator is someone we care about or someone in a position of authority.
  • Manipulative behavior can be addictive and lead to progressively more manipulative tactics.
  • It can be damaging to our self-esteem and confidence to be constantly manipulated by others.

Some potential consequences of social manipulation behavior include: 

  • Damaged relationships: social manipulation can damage relationships by breaking the trust between people. Once someone has been manipulated, it can be difficult to rebuild that trust. 
  • Emotional distress: social manipulation can cause emotional distress by preying on people’s fears or insecurities. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 
  • Financial ruin: social manipulation can also have financial repercussions, especially if someone falls victim to a scam. In some cases, people have lost their life savings or been left with crushing debt. 

While social manipulation can have serious consequences, it’s important to remember that not everyone who uses it is doing so maliciously. Sometimes, people turn to social manipulation because they genuinely believe it’s the best way to achieve their goals. However, regardless of the intent behind it, social manipulation is a risky strategy that should be used with caution.

13 Tips For Avoiding Social Manipulation 

Social manipulation can be difficult to deal with because it’s often not obvious when it’s happening. Sometimes, people are manipulated without even realizing it. There are a few things you can do to try to avoid social manipulation, or at least minimize its impact:

  1. Recognize when it’s happening. Oftentimes, social manipulation can be difficult to spot. Pay attention to the words and actions of the person who is trying to manipulate you, and look for any ulterior motives.
  2. Keep your emotions in check. Manipulators will often try to take advantage of your emotions in order to get what they want. If you can keep your emotions in check, it will be more difficult for them to manipulate you.
  3. Set boundaries. Let the manipulator know what you will and will not tolerate. This will help to discourage them from trying to manipulate you.
  4. Stick to your guns. Once you’ve said no, don’t let the manipulator convince you to change your mind. It can be difficult, but it’s important to stand your ground.
  5. Know your worth. Manipulators will often try to make you feel like you’re not good enough. Remember that you are worthy of respect and love, no matter what the manipulator says.
  6. Distance yourself from the manipulator. If possible, try to distance yourself from the person who is manipulating you. This may not always be possible, but it can be helpful if you’re able to do it.
  7. Speak up for yourself. Don’t let the manipulator walk all over you. If they say or do something that isn’t ok, speak up for yourself and let them know that their behavior is not acceptable.
  8. Get support from others. Social manipulation can be a difficult thing to deal with on your own. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what’s going on, and get their support and advice.
  9. Don’t give manipulative people too much power over you. If someone is constantly trying to control or take advantage of you, it’s important to set boundaries. Remember that you have a right to say “no” and to stand up for yourself.
  10. Don’t be swayed by empty promises or flattery. Manipulative people often use false promises or insincere compliments as a way to get what they want. If someone is making grand promises that seem too good to be true, be skeptical and ask yourself why they’re really saying it.
  11. Be discerning about who you trust. Not everyone is out to manipulate you, but it’s important to be careful about who you let into your life. If someone seems unreliable or untrustworthy, it’s probably best to keep your distance.
  12. Know your rights and how to assert them. If you feel like you’re being manipulated or taken advantage of, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Knowing your rights and how to assert them can help you stand up to manipulative behavior and protect yourself from exploitation.
  13. Seek professional help. If social manipulation is starting to affect your mental health, it may be time to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide you with tools and strategies for dealing with social manipulation in a healthy way.”
Not even visible social manipulation examples make it easy to spot


Social manipulation is a powerful tool that can be used to influence the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. While it can be used for good, such as helping someone overcome a fear or changing a bad habit, it can also be used for evil ends.

Those who are skilled in social manipulation can use it to control and manipulate others for their own benefit. Because of this, it is important to be aware of the signs of social manipulation and to know how to defend yourself against it.


Izuma, K., & Adolphs, R. (2013). Social Manipulation of Preference in the Human Brain. Neuron, 78(3), 563–573.

Buss, D. M., Gomes, M., Higgins, D. S., & Lauterbach, K. (1987). Tactics of manipulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1219–1229.


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