Manipulators are quite skilled at getting what they want through subtle yet damaging actions. In many cases, a person can fall victim to manipulation without even realizing it until it's too late. This can occur in one's personal life, at work and in many other situations.
Safeguarding yourself against manipulators entails recognizing specific behaviors. Fortunately, many people use certain body language when attempting to get what they want, which can signal you to proceed with caution during interactions. Here are a few signs to look for.
Body language provides lots of information on a person's inner mental state. Fidgeting indicates nervousness, which can occur for all sorts of reasons. When a person is normally composed but begins fidgeting during a tense conversation, it could mean that they're experiencing a great deal of pressure. And if the person is in the process of convincing you of something, ask yourself why they might feel that way.
Manipulators also want to put you at ease, as they know a relaxed person is more likely to do their bidding. This is the purpose of mirroring, which means they will use similar body language and positioning as you. This builds a false sense of trust and indicates the manipulator has much in common with their victim.
3. Invasion of Personal Space
Entering one's personal space is another method aimed at building trust. Like most people, you probably only allow close friends and family into your "zone". Manipulators know this and will try to mimic those trusting relationships by standing very close to you. If you're not sure, try this trick: take small steps backward to see if the person advances.
4. Excessive Blinking
The average person blinks about 15 to 20 times per minute in normal situations. While that number seems like quite a lot, underlying nervousness can greatly increase a person's rate of blinking. Excessive blinking can also be a sign that the person is working something out in their mind as they're speaking.
Manipulators will feign certain emotions in order to gain pity from the victim. Constantly shifting or changing positions can mean that a person is uncomfortable. In this case, the manipulator hopes that you will recognize their discomfort and do something to end it. The ultimate goal is that you agree with their wishes and do as they ask to hopefully end their "suffering".
6. Rubbing Hands or Neck
While it's a cliché, most manipulative people concoct plots to realize their goals. Because plots require mental energy, they may rub their hands together frequently as they gauge your reaction and adjust their approach. They may also rub other body parts, such as the backs of their necks or arms.
7. Prolonged Eye Contact
In addition to rapid, excessive blinking, some manipulators go in the other direction. In general, eye contact is good, as it indicates that you're dealing with a trustworthy individual. Manipulators recognize this as well, so they use prolonged eye contact to garner your confidence. They will also keep their eyes trained on you even after you look away, which lets them assess their strategy and whether it's working.
So, what should you do if you notice the above behaviors? Remember, you give manipulative people power by doing their bidding. You're allowed to say no to any request, no matter your relationship with the person or the role they play in your life.
Stand your ground with a polite but firm no. If the person refuses to accept your answer, remove yourself from the situation. When it comes to working environments, involve managers or human resources staff if you feel bullied or harassed. By being assertive, you can command respect and fight off any manipulators who cross your path.