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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Unintentional Manipulation: 7 Signs You May Be Manipulating Without Realizing It

    “You can't always get what you want,” the Rolling Stones sang in 1969. But more and more, people are finding they can—at least, until they realize they’ve been manipulating their environment without meaning to.

    At first glance, unintentional manipulation may sound like an oxymoron. After all, manipulation implies an intentional bending of the rules made with an end goal of getting exactly what we desire in mind. But with the subtle psychological moves we often make, this end goal can unconsciously become a reality — often with perverse results.

    If you think you may have been manipulating those around you without realizing it, it’s important to develop an insight into the matter. To help bring clarity to the situation, here are seven signs of unintentional manipulation that could be leading to less than desirable outcomes.

    1. You Catch Yourself Feeling Guilty For Little Actions

    Do little mistakes like accidentally pushing your friend's buttons or swooping in last minute to take advantage of a situation make you cringe and feel guilty afterwards? If so, it may be a sign that you're unwittingly manipulating situations and people to get what you want.

    2. Others Are Reacting Negatively To Your Requests

    Another sign that you're engaging in unintentional manipulation is when you find yourself consistently asking people for favors, yet get seemingly irrational pushback. Though these people may not be directly saying it (or perhaps even consciously aware of it themselves) their response may be indicative of a deeper issue: that your request was accompanied by some sort of “hidden twist.”

    3. You Often Feel Resentful After Getting What You Want

    When someone circles back to you to suggest doing something again that you asked for once before, do you immediately feel anger or resentment bubble up inside? More than likely, it could be a sign you're subconsciously manipulating the situation to maintain the upper hand.

    4. You Let Others Do All the Work

    It's tempting to sit back and let other people do the work for you. But if this wasn't your intention the whole time, it's likely a sign you're attempting to manipulate the situation. People like to be helpful, but knowing when to draw the line is essential to developing healthy relationships.

    5. You Passively Take Over Conversations

    Do you often find yourself quietly taking over a conversation without really commanding the room? Unintentionally manipulating people also means using body language and subtle verbal cues to subtly guide them on a path that leads to what you want from them.

    6. You Blame Others When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    Still another indicator that you are unintentionally manipulating people is when things don't quite go your way, you tend to find something or someone else to blame. this kind of behavior will only lead to a destructive cycle of guilt, shame and more manipulation.

    7. You Make Friends Feel Uncomfortable

    Do you ever find your friends growing quieter and more anxious when you're around? It could be the case that they sense something off-kilter and feel uncomfortable. If this is the case, it's a telltale sign of manipulation.

    By taking the time to examine your actions and motivations, you can become aware of your tendencies and how you interact with other people. Once you understand how you're unintentionally manipulating situations, it's possible to consciously choose a different approach and foster healthy relationships that are not based on manipulation.

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