Manipulation is not always a bad thing. All people are manipulative in one way or another. When was the last time you approached someone smiling even though you were not feeling that happy? You smiled because you wanted to make a good first impression right? Manipulation is not a bad thing as long as it’s done with good intentions without negatively affecting the manipulated person.
But why do some people always try to influence others through mind games and manipulations instead of expressing themselves genuinely? Why would someone try to make someone else guilty so that they can control them easily, instead of telling them directly to do what they want them to do? Why would someone play the victim to force others to sympathize with him? Why do some people always try to get what they want through manipulation? See: understanding psychopaths.
Manipulative people are mentally unstable.
The following are some psychological reasons that could make someone become so manipulative:
- Low self-confidence: Confident people communicate with others openly because they feel at home, welcomed and accepted when dealing with others. On the other hand, people with low self-confidence never feel that others would take their opinion and commands seriously. Therefore, they learn to use manipulations to get what they want. This behaviour is not developed overnight. A person might have been disappointed several times in the past when he was trying to express his wishes openly, hence concluding that nobody will ever listen to him if he expresses himself openly.
- Fear of losing control: when a person develops the fear of losing control, he avoids any risk that may lead to losing control. As you may have already guessed, assigning someone else tasks or requesting something openly can bring about loss of control if the other person denies. But manipulation makes it possible to control a person without risking getting a “no”.
- They learnt it from their parents: most often, being raised by manipulative parents can make a child become manipulative as well. If for example parents always tried to prevent a child from engaging in some inappropriate behaviour by shaming him, this child learns how to control others using shame. In such a case, this child knows how unpleasant feeling shame is because he felt it at one point in his life. He also knows that someone would go lengths to avoid it. Hence this child as an adult would most likely prefer controlling others by shaming them if he didn’t develop other values that prevent him from doing so.
- They are antisocial: psychopaths and other antisocial people usually engage in extreme forms of manipulation because they experience neither empathy nor guilt when making others suffer. Antisocial people usually try to get what they want regardless of how it will affect others. For example a normal person who is broke would try to get money by looking for a job no matter how tiring it may be. But an antisocial person may choose a short-cut like being a con-artist. Psychopaths not only experience not remorse when making others suffer but they also enjoy it.
- To feel smarter and superior: Some people feel smarter and superior when they manage to deceive and manipulate others without being detected. Again, psychopaths and those who disregard the well-being of others are the ones who try to appear smarter by making others look dumb. Deep down, these kinds of people usually feel inferior because they are unable or failed to feel smarter by doing something useful. A mentally stable person may also have the same goal, but he will always try to feel smarter by doing something that is useful to himself and others.
- They are narcissists: Narcissists are also highly manipulative. Although narcissists are less likely to engage in extreme manipulations like conning, still they usually try to control others through manipulations tactics such as, shaming, guilt tripping, and sometimes playing the victim. What makes narcissists manipulative is no different from what makes others become so. Lack of self-esteem, fear of losing control and lack of empathy is what makes narcissists become manipulative as well. See: how to deal with a gaslighting narcissist.