How To Quickly Spot Abusive & Manipulative People


Both online and offline, there are a lot of horrible people out there who will do you a lot of damage if they can sink their claws into you. Fortunately, these kinds of people tend to have some pretty obvious tells that will give them away quickly enough if you know what you're looking for - so here are some signs to bear in mind when you're dealing with people.

And of course, remember: everyone has bad days and off-moments, so a one-time event that looks like one of these might not be a problem. But if you see a pattern of behaviors like these emerge over a long period of time, then there's almost certainly a problem.



Pay attention to how they talk about other people. Are they constantly dismissing others as incompetent, shallow, rude, etc.? Are they constantly referring to other people by negative appellations and labels? Or do they frequently complain about being victimized by everyone they were friends or lovers with in the past? Does it seem they often have something negative to say about others in general? (This can also include celebrities and fictional characters.)

The way they tell it, are they always victors or victims, but never ever villains? Do they tell stories about arguments they got in with other people and act like their insipid and childish comebacks left them demolished? Do they act like they're awesome or badass for shouting someone down or for taking acts of petty spite? And do they constantly tell stories or complain of being treated rudely, unfairly, cruelly, or disrespectfully by people in general? And on top of this, do they never admit to any wrongdoing in their stories and show genuine remorse for it?

Do their stories and accounts distort reality? Do they often omit key details from their stories (especially ones that would make it clear that they were at fault somehow), fabricate details (especially ones to make others look bad and themselves look good), or exaggerate things (again, particularly when it would make themselves look good and others look bad)?

Pay attention to how they talk about things in general. Do they always seem to have something negative to say about things that people bring up while never having anything substantially positive to say? Are they always pointing out reasons why people's hopes and dreams could never work out while never offering encouragement or tips to genuinely help people? Are they quick to point out flaws and failings, but never highlight any virtues? Do they seem to pounce every opportunity they can to take little digs or potshots at people or the things they do or love?

Do they pass snap judgments? Do they just up and decide that people are bad or defective based on things like fashion choices, interests, or personal background? Do they decide that people are awful and horrible based on maybe one interaction with them?

Do they gossip a lot? Do they readily spread stories and share juicy tidbits about other people in your social circles or workplaces? Are they eager to talk about the lurid details of other people's private lives? And this also counts if they're telling you about it, too - remember, if they're gossiping to you, they're probably gossiping about you, too.

Do they complain about drama a lot? People who constantly complain about drama are usually doing so because they're so often at the center of it - and it's usually their own faults. If they really wanted to stay out of drama so badly, they'd keep their noses out of it and/or find ways to de-escalate.

Do they make a big point of telling others that nobody has the right to criticize or judge them and that they don't need negative people in their lives? People like this are typically butthurt because other people simply had the nerve to correct them on something or very rightfully told them where to shove it.

Do they make a big deal out of being highly sensitive, but are never moved to acts of compassion by other people's suffering and/or never put any real effort into supporting or building up others? People like this are usually "sensitive" because they have highly fragile egos, not because they have high amounts of empathy.

Do they make a point of telling others how they don't care what other people think? Normal people who don't care don't make an announcements of it; they just get on with their lives. Those who feel the need to make a spectacle out of their alleged apathy are usually drama-seekers and/or feel affronted enough by people not liking them that they have to strike back by declaring apathy.

Do they often attempt to one-up others, or try to minimize their experiences or accomplishments? When other people mention bad experiences, do they have to talk about how they experienced something so much worse, or do they have to try and explain why what these other people experienced wasn't really that bad? When other people mention accomplishing something good, do they have to mention accomplishing something bigger and better, or do they have to explain why others' accomplishments weren't really so great after all?

Do they otherwise have to make anything and everything into a competition? Do they have to make massive competitions out of trivial topics, such as which brand or franchise is better than another, and then spend ages trying to prove that their preferences are superior? Do they get inappropriately competitive - EG, do they try to get competitive or pick rivalries with strangers, people several years younger than themselves (especially if the younger ones are children or teens), people they're supposed to be teaching, or people who have no interest in competing at all?

Can they never just agree to disagree? Do they act as if you having different viewpoints from them is an unsurmountable hurdle in your relationships? Do they act as if you're defective or evil when you don't always see things eye-to-eye with them? Do they get upset or angry when you don't have the exact same feelings on a subject that they have? Do they act like you're callous or evil because you don't get as worked up over some topic or other as they do?

Do they act as if their way is the only way? Do they get snide, condescending, or angry when people think that something could or should be done differently from what they propose or endorse? Do they act personally insulted or get passive-aggressive when people don't want to take their advice at face value?

Do they shift from idealizing people to degrading and demonizing them? Do they talk about various celebrities or their own friends like they're the greatest people in the world, only to change gears and decide that they're the most horrible people in the world? Do they love and adore you one day, but then treat you like the spawn of Satan the next? Do they act friendly and warm when they want something, but turn cold and start insulting you when you refuse to comply?

Do they get angry with people and cut them off over relatively minor issues, or when they refuse to comply with their demands? Do they encourage you to do the same with your family and friends? Normal, well-adjusted people do not do this!

Are they petty and vindictive? Do they ever harass, stalk, or publicly shame people they don't like for any reason, or encourage others to act like this? Or do they talk approvingly about about others doing it? Are they offended easily and never really let anything go? Remember, if you associate with people like this, it's most likely only a matter of time before you end up on the receiving end of their vindictiveness.

Do they never see or consider things from other people's points of view? Does it seem like no matter how hard you try to make them understand where you're coming from, they just don't (or won't) get it? Do they always judge other people harshly without taking their personal circumstances and reasons into consideration?

Do they come to you for sympathy and support, yet turn apathetic (or even get angry) when you come to them for the same? That's not healthy. If that kind of thing is going on, something is definitely wrong.

Do they refuse to help themselves? For example, they expect you to help them through their hard times, but refuse to learn any self-help or self-care techniques. Or they ask you to help or take care of them while refusing to learn any skills that they could use to help or take care of themselves.

Do they try to make you feel like you're the only one who can help them or give them what they need? This is just manipulative baloney to try and weasel out of seeking help from other people or resources instead of mooching off of you all the time.

Do they get angry or upset when you get sad, angry, nervous, etc.? Do they seem to react badly to your emotional states, and rather than trying to understand and appreciate why you feel that way, treat you as if you're doing something wrong or inconsiderate?

Or do they just turn off/tune out when you're sad, angry, nervous, upset, etc.? Do they just show complete apathy and disinterest when you display negative emotions? Do they show no sign of concern or interest at all? Do they just brush you off and go back to whatever they were doing before?

Do they lavish you with compliments, affection, and gifts early on, and/or when you start spending less time with them or try to get away from them, but at no other time? If that's the case, then all these nice things they're doing (or did) don't equate to love; they just did it to get you under their control.

Do they always criticize and tell you what you're doing wrong, but never praise or thank you when you do something right? Stay away from people like this; they'll slowly wear down your sense of worth and make you feel like you're only noticed when you mess up.

Do they avoid taking responsibility whenever they can? Pay attention - is trying to get apologies from them like extracting teeth from a bear? Do they constantly make excuses for their bad behaviors while never actually doing anything to minimize their bad behaviors? Do they act as if buying you gifts or giving you physical intimacy means that a verbal apology is unnecessary? Do they put on big, dramatic shows of being emotionally hurt when you try to talk about something that's a legitimate problem between you? Do they act as if you're somehow mean or selfish for wanting to discuss and resolve problems between you? Do they act as if they're being victimized or bullied when asked to apologize and take responsibility for their wrongdoings? Do they constantly try to shift the blame and twist things around so it's someone else's fault somehow?

Are their apologies shallow? Do they say "I'm sorry you feel that way" when they've said or done something that deeply hurts your feelings? (If they're apologizing for your emotions, then they aren't actually sorry for what they did!) Or are many of their apologize short and blunt, and they promptly expect you to just get over your feelings right then and there?

Do they have friends or significant others who will apologize and make excuses for them, but rarely (if ever) actually apologize themselves? And do these people tell you how "it's complicated" and how "they just get like that, I'm really sorry" or the like? Yeah, that's your cue to back away.

Do conversations/arguments with them get weird, way off-track, or just go around in circles? Do they say things in an argument or conversation that are sort of relevant to the last thing said, but don't actually make sense in full context? Do they bring up things that are completely irrelevant to the issue you're trying to address? Do you find yourself repeating the same points over and over to them? Do they ask questions that you already answered point-blank earlier?

Do they lie or contradict themselves a lot? Do they claim they want one thing, then five minutes later claim they were really after something else all along? Do they get up in your personal space and make suggestive comments, then insist that they were "just trying to be friendly" when you tell them to stop it? Do they insist that they never said or did things that happened just minutes ago or that everyone was around to witness?

Is their behavior jarringly inconsistent from one moment to the next, especially when they want something? For example, someone who wants to manipulate you into something might begin by approaching you seductively and with apparent confidence. When that fails, this person might switch gears, perhaps going over to pouting, pleading, and even self-deprecation to try and elicit pity from you. Should that fail, this person might try to switch to an authoritarian position, taking on a firm tone of voice and telling you that you're disrespectful and rude. Here's the thing: you can usually put a label of some sort to all of these roles they play (some possible examples include Concerned Caretaker, Unappreciated Partner, Neglected Child, Self-Sacrificing Helper, Strong Leader, and Smoldering Lover), and you can watch as they rapidly switch from one to another in an effort to get the results they want.

Or do they switch from warm to cold when they don't get their way? For example, when they come to you for something, they act warm and loving. Their presence might even be larger than life, somehow - they're bombastic and dramatic, and it's all focused on putting out a display for you or showering you with attention and praise. But when you turn them down or make it clear that you aren't impressed, they turn cold. They might act as if they've been grievously insulted. They might complain that they tried to be nice. They might insult and degrade you. They might act like they've been somehow victimized and that you're unspeakably rude or callous.

Do they act like they're doing you huge favors by being minimally useful? Do they do a few minor favors for you, then act as if you owe them massive favors in return, or favors that make you uncomfortable in any way? Do they expect lavish praise and over-the-top expressions of gratitude? (It's reasonable to expect a simple thank you or a favor of similar effort and commitment at some point; it's not reasonable to expect more than that.)

Do they presume to know what's in other people's minds? Are they frequently deciding your thoughts and intentions are for you? Do they act as if they know better than you what they are? Do they accuse you of things like thinking you're better than them or of thinking that you're perfect or superior? Does trying to explain yourself do no good? Do they constantly dismiss people as envious or prejudiced, despite these traits not actually being in evidence?

Do they consider your concerns and fears invalid, but consider their own super-valid? If you voice them, do they tell you that you're just being negative, paranoid, or that you're just looking for flaws? On the other hand, are you just supposed to accept that their own concerns and fears are completely justified, even when there's no real evidence yet?

Do they have double standards about respect? Do they demand that others respect them immediately, yet maintain that others must earn their own respect? Do they define other people respecting them as showing them as unquestioning compliance and deference, yet define respecting other people as treating them with basic courtesy or permitting them to speak up at all?

Do they hold others to higher standards than they hold themselves to? For example, do they read you the riot act if you show up late despite often being late themselves? Do they borrow your things without asking all the time, but lecture you if you do the same? Do they complain about people being rude and disrespectful, yet turn around and to the same thing that they did (or worse!) to others? Do they constantly expect people to "get over it and move on", but drag things out or hold onto things forever themselves? If others treat them the way they treat others, do they complain of being abused, bullied, or disrespected?

In their eyes, do they always have reasons while you only have excuses? Pay attention - are they always coming up with some reason or other why they can't really be held at fault for what they did, but are constantly telling you that your own circumstances and reasons don't count? If that's the case, something is definitely amiss.


Also, take a look at:

The Voice of Reason vs. the Control Freak - The Difference
How To Recognize Gaslighting
How To Recognize A Moral Abuser
How To Recognize Bad Creative Mentors
Signs You're In A Toxic RP Community

How To Cultivate A Strong Internal Identity
Ways To Deal With Negative Emotions
7 Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person
5 More Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person



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