Are You Being Manipulative Without Knowing It?

April 18, 2024 Mahevash Shaikh

Can you be manipulative without knowing it? Is such a thing even possible? My therapist says without knowing it, you can be manipulative. Read on to learn more about what she calls unintentional manipulation

How Can You Be Manipulative Without Realizing It?

Is it possible to be manipulative without realizing it? How does that work? This is what I asked my therapist in a recent session, and she had a simple yet brilliant answer: everyone does not have a strong moral compass. As a result, a person can be manipulative without realizing it, which is called unintentional manipulation. She explained that when one does not have a strong moral compass, the line between right and wrong is blurred, and a person feels little to no guilt when they behave manipulatively.

Moreover, she said it is possible to be unintentionally manipulative and still be a decent human being. Many people lack self-awareness and do not realize how their words and actions affect others.

An Example of Manipulation Without Realizing It

Thirdly, manipulation can also be a trauma response, which is how one deals with or responds to a traumatic event. For example, consider that a heterosexual couple is in the middle of a fight. The man makes a mistake by yelling at the woman in public, but he refuses to apologize. Instead, he justifies his action by saying she "made him yell" by speaking to him when he was hungry. The woman retaliates by walking away and not speaking to him for days, also known as the silent treatment. She starts talking to him only after he calls her and apologizes. The silent treatment is a manipulation tactic, but it is also a trauma response. It would not have occurred if the man had spoken respectfully to his partner. Note that the man is also being manipulative because instead of accepting his mistake, he is shifting the blame to his partner. 

There are many more reasons why people are unconsciously manipulative, but my therapy session ended before I could know about them. Besides, I cannot list all the reasons in a single blog post because it would run too long. The bottom line is that it is difficult to deal with manipulative people, so it is crucial to know if you are usually the manipulator or the manipulated.

What to Do If You Are Being Intentionally or Unintentionally Manipulated

All of us are occasionally manipulative without knowing it, and that's okay because we are flawed beings. However, if you often find yourself on the receiving end of manipulation, you must protect yourself and your peace of mind. Check out the video below, wherein I talk about therapist-approved ways to deal with manipulative people. 

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2024, April 18). Are You Being Manipulative Without Knowing It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

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