Dr George Simon [blog], author of several best-selling books on psychopathy, has given descriptive labels to three manipulative tactics that all victims of narcissistic/psychopathic abuse are sure to recognize. The terminology offered by Dr Simon makes it easier to make sense of behaviors that otherwise seem confusing or even cause self-doubt, and to discuss them. When you see manipulative behavior, it will probably reflect one or more of these tactics.
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Learn to identify their tactics
Dr. George Simon, author of In Sheep’s Clothing—Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, presents this list of 14 tactics that manipulators use to get you to do what they want. He points out the importance of recognizing that these tactics are offensive moves employed by the covert-aggressive to either maintain a position of power, gain power, or remove an obstacle from getting what he wants. You’ll be better equipped to deal with manipulators if you are familiar with this list of tactics, and can identify them when you encounter them:
- Denial – playing innocent, refusing to admit they have done something harmful.
- Selective inattention – playing dumb, or acting oblivious; refusing to pay attention to anything that might divert them from achieving their goal.
- Rationalization – making excuses or justifying their behavior, often in very convincing ways.
- Diversion – changing the subject, dodging the issue, distracting us from the real problem.
- Lying – deliberately telling untruths, concealing the truth, lying by omission.
- Covert Intimidation – intimidation through veiled threats; hints that “it’s a tough job market out there.”
- Guilt-tripping – using the conscientiousness of their victim against them to keep them self-doubting and anxious.
- Shaming – using subtle sarcasm and put-downs to make the victim feel inadequate, unworthy, and anxious.
- Playing the Victim role – playing the innocent victim to elicit compassion; convincing the victim that he/she is hurting in some way so that the victim will try to relieve their distress.
- Vilifying the Victim – making the victim the “bad guy”; pretending he’s only defending himself.
- Playing the servant role – disguising their personal agendas as service to a nobler cause.
- Seduction – flattering and overtly supporting others to get them to lower their defenses and be trusting.
- Projecting the blame (blaming others) – shifting the blame, scapegoating.
- Minimization – a combination of denial and rationalization, “making a molehill out of a mountain”.
“A manipulative person … is a covertly aggressive personality.”
“You ask a manipulator a direct question, you rarely get a direct answer.”
To make good decisions in our personal lives, we need a realistic view of ourselves and others. Learning about psychopathy and the mechanics of abusive relationships brings new insights that demand a change of course. One of the strongest motivators for ending an abusive relationship is the realization that the abuser will not change—no matter what we do.