12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Devious Tricks Poeple Use To Manipulate You

If you give them a chance, people will try to manipulate you.  It’s a sad fact of life.  And since knowledge is the best defense, here are twelve techniques they will likely try to use to pull a quick one on you.

1.  Targeting your lack of time and attention.

Someone purposely convinces you to commit to something at just the right time, when you would have otherwise said “no.”  This commonly occurs when you’re in a hurry or mentally fatigued.


At 5PM on a Friday, as you’re walking out of the office, your co-worker asks you if you mind handling X, Y and Z for him next week while he’s on vacation.  “Sure,” you say quickly.  “Shoot me an email with the details.”  On Monday morning you learn that X, Y and Z are fairly substantial tasks that you wish you hadn’t committed to.

2.  Misrepresenting facts based on popular beliefs.

When someone claims something is a proven fact simply because it’s a popular belief.


“Don’t just take it from me, 9 out of 10 doctors agree that Diet Pill XYZ is safe.”

3.  Using complex words to explain something simple.

Especially in the high-tech business world, complex jargon and obfuscation are tactics often used to intimidate you into agreeing with something you don’t fully understand.


“Our dynamic flow capacity matrix uses an unparalleled downtime resistance protocol.”

4.  Exploiting a position of authority.

You are far more likely to be persuaded by someone you like or by someone who is in an authority position.


A police officer tells you, “It’s legal for me to search your apartment right now.”  And since he’s a police officer, (even though he never showed you a search warrant) you believe he must be telling the truth.

5.  Making an unreasonable request first.

When someone first makes a request of that is excessive and to which you will most likely refuse.  Then they look disappointed and make a second request that is more reasonable.


“Will you donate $100 to our cause?”  “I can’t afford it.”  “Oh.  Well could you donate $5 then?”

6.  Drawing loosely-related conclusions.

When someone tries to convince you of something by drawing a conclusion that is loosely related to the information they gave you.


“This baby food is fortified with the vitamins and minerals.  It’s extremely healthy.  If you’re still buying other kinds of baby food, you’re neglecting your baby’s health.”

7.  The illusion of scarcity.

If the product is scarce, there must be a ton of demand for it, right?  Oftentimes scarcity is an illusion engineered by the product maker.  Because products (and opportunities) seem a lot more appealing when there is limited availability.


“One day sale!  Limited supply!  Get here before we’re sold out!”

8.  Lightly sugarcoating reality.

When someone gets you to agree to something that’s not ideal by telling you it’s slightly better than it is.


“The table will be ready in five minutes.”  Because it sounds a lot better than fifteen minutes.

9.  Changing the topic.

When someone diverts attention away from the topic of discussion to a totally new (but vaguely related) topic in an effort to persuade you.


“So you don’t think green energy is a top priority right now with the current state of the economy.  Well, we all saw what happened with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010.  Is that what you want?  You want to see innocent sea creatures covered with oil?  Then go ahead then, vote against the green energy bill this year.”

10.  Presumption of guilt.

When a question or statement automatically presumes the subject is guilty.


“I saw the bruises on your son’s back.  So when did you decide that spanking your child with all your might way okay?”

11.  Creating fear and a solution for it.

Someone plays with your emotions and subtly invokes fear in you, and then when you start thinking about a possible solution, they provide one for you.


Your performance has been lacking around here recently and the CEO suggested that I put employees who are struggling on probation.  Don’t worry, I won’t do this now.  But I do want you to show me what you’re capable of.  Do you mind working this Saturday to help build-up your numbers?

12.  Start off small and up-sell.

Someone asks you for something small, and when you give it to them, they ask for something bigger.  And then, maybe, something even bigger.


Son:  “Mom, can I go out for an hour to see Anthony?”

Mom:  “Sure.”

Son:  “I just called Anthony and he’s going to the movies.  Can I go with him?”

Mom:  “Sure.”

Son:  “I only have $5.  Could you lend me a few bucks to get in?”
Son:  “…Could you give us a ride there?”
Son:  “…Could you pick us up afterwards?”

Also, check out these great reads on influence and persuasion:

Photo by: Rebecca Finch


  1. says

    These are brilliant! I come from a family of master manipulators. We weren’t really allowed to ask for anything, you had to get people to offer it to you. There’s another “wonderful” (ahem) technique which you can use on people who care about you: The passive aggressive guilt trip.

    Example: “No, no, I don’t need any help (grunt), I can carry these heavy boxes all by myself (groan)!” – spoken loudly and with much suffering until the other person hopefully offers to take some of the workload.

    It took me a long time to realize and let go of this behavior. Upside: It’s made me pretty much immune to being manipulated. It’s always fun to see the look on peoples’ faces when I call their bluff. :o)


  2. says

    Fascinating post. I was left wondering though. What are counter techniques to prevent being manipulated? I know that awareness would be the key. Are their counters to these?

  3. says

    @Melody: That’s another good. Thanks for sharing.

    @E.J.: As I stated in the introduction, I think knowledge and awareness is the best defense (or preventative measure) for situations like the one’s discussed here.

  4. Paula says

    The one that does it for me is when a prospect says he/she has a competitive bid for much less or that so and so was able to get fabulous results in one half the time. I start to feel inadequate when really, it’s just someone either manipulating me or working with a vendor who really didn’t those results. It drives me crazy and I have to remain calm and stick to my principles. Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmm.

  5. says

    Love, love this post. Its right on. Simple, concise and clear. Its seems at times that manipulation is the dominate form of communication. Even good friends of mine are very prone to communicating this way even when there isn’t a “need” to manipulate. Its, in my opinion an epidemic. “Emotional Blackmail” is another excellent read and serious eye opener to all the destructive ways we communicate. Thank you for the post.

  6. Trace says

    whenever someone uses the word “deserve” they are trying to manipulate you. Life isn’t fair, people don’t deserve.

  7. says

    Outstanding post Marc. Eloquent, concise and discerning. I often read posts where the list is overstretched and things get overdone after the 10th point. Not with this one. Congrats! they all made perfect sense to me. Keep up the good writing.

  8. S says

    Excellent post, I have an immediate family of manipulators. They all want something for nothing and as soon as someone does something to them they’re making noise! In a way I understand why an Uncle keeps to himself and doesn’t interact with the rest. The sad thing is that because I’ve always been seen as a ‘child’ instead of the adult that I am, I now stand up for myself irregardless of the fact. I have to follow my heart not the opinions, wants and manipulations combined of these people who couldn’t give a damn.

  9. says

    I was from the life insurance industry and having had the opportunity to manage the sales agency force, I just want to ask. Have you ever been an insurance sales agent before? You were spot on in all the techniques used by these people on a daily basis. It’s really tiresome dealing with them and I’ve lost my fair share of hair in the process, too.

    Thanks for sharing this great article. Love it!

  10. says

    What’s sad about when people misrepresent facts is when they believe it to no end. You can show them and try to educate them nthe correct way but nothing will change their mind. The old adage of “can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.” is so true. Have to let them learn it for themselves.

  11. says

    I can certainly relate to this subject. Me and my wife are the responsible ones of the family. Yet someone always has their hand out because of constant bad decisions and play the Christian card like it’s always our duty to put out their fires!! There gonna be some hurt feelings because we’ve had enough.

  12. Becca says

    lol. I love this list because most of these I have been aware of a looong time and I like to ‘surprise’ people when I don’t fall for it.

    I love this because there are also ones that I didn’t even think about as manipulation and you are soo right (like nbr 9). I agree with whomever said that your list was concise and you didn’t just start throwing things in to get to 12.

    My cuz does #3 all the time and now I see why I shake my head and tune him out every time. Not just tech-talk and scienc-y words, it’s like he goes out of his way to get complex. Instead of saying “I dont like standing next to people.”, he’ll say something like “I don’t enjoy closely hovering parallel to the human form.” Which makes no sense but because it sounds different, he thinks it’s smart.

    Someone who doesn’t have a clue will hear him say it and think he just said something smart and become his puppet.

    A way to tell if someone is legitimately wired to talk that way vs just trying to manipulate you is if they are talking super fast. He does that.

    So true #11..Ex. The relatives call you up on your payday and start off rambling about how much they hate greedy people and of course you agree. Somewhere in this conversation you’ve been goaded into admitting that you’re going to be buying a new (fill in the blank) soon. Eventually the conversation changes and they’re talking about how ‘so and so is about to lose their house and it’s only $XX, but they don’t have it.’ They wait for you to offer up your paycheck and sacrifice your new (fillin the blank) for someone’s mortgage.

    The worst part is most people cosign it because THEY fell for it. When word gets around relatives that think you’re SUPPOSED to fall for it because how DARE you not?!

    I’m not perfect, I must admit though that as a child, I was guilty of #5 and #10, I thought this was genius. They usually caved at the second request. And I thought if you replaced the phrase ‘did you’ with ‘why did you’ a person would be more likely to tattle on themselves. Wow I was manipulative brat. I don’t do it anymore, I swear!

  13. Becca says

    What about people that volunteer YOUR time and when you decline, they try to make you feel bad for refusing!

    Kim to Lucy: Oh Amy’s free this Friday, we’ll get her to drop you off at work.

    Amy: Sorry, I’ve already made plans.
    Kim: I’m sure you can squeeze it in, it’s only a couple miles. What? No? How selfish… it’s not like she’s leaving the state!
    Amy: Sorry I’ll be on the other side of town and it’ll throw my plans off.
    Kim: I don’t know WHAT I’m going to tell Lucy. She’s going to think I’m such a liar. *pout pout whine whine*

    The nerve of some people.

  14. Nick says

    Ever feel like you just woke up from The Matrix? After 36 years of being alive, I am starting to understand. Thanks for a good read.

  15. Mikaela says

    I think that a person who is “manipulative” is a selfish and inconsiderate person. I have been in many situations where I’ve been manipulated to help others succeed and always got their way, and there were cases when I asked someone for help in a non manipulative way but they said they’ll do xyz for me if I do xyz for them. Bulls@$/. Excuse my French, but I got so sick of being used that I started to become aware of their thinking patterns and detected their bull@$@& from a mile away. I learned to say NO and quickly remove these people from my life. If you’re a manipulative person, you won’t always get your way and people will eventually realize what kind of person you are… humans have something called “intuition”. If someone is manipulating you, say no and re evaluate your relationship with that person…a good person will want to help you not use you.

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