5 Common Techniques Your Boss or Spouse Uses to Manipulate You

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One of worst things that can happen to you is to marry a manipulative spouse or work for a psychopathic boss. They have a bag of techniques to manipulate you and the problem is, you usually won’t know it until it hits you hard, and that could take years.

The effects of being manipulated creep up on you insidiously and chip away at your emotional, mental and spiritual well-being slowly but surely. It changes your behavior and perception until you have little left of your self-esteem and sense of identity.

Manipulators deliberately use underhanded influence to distort and exploit another person’s mental and emotional state to control him or her. The balance of power shifts steeply in favor of the manipulator and you become a puppet acquiescing to every demand.


In the office or in your own home, here’s how to tell if you’re being manipulated. Ask yourself these questions: a “No” answer may be a hint that you’re living with, or working for, a manipulative person.

  • Do you feel you are being treated with respect?
  • Can you express your opinions freely, even if they are different from the others?
  • Can you say “no” without being feeling guilty?
  • Are you happy and do you feel good about yourself in the relationship?
  • Do you feel you are subjected to physical or psychological abuse?

Knowingly or not, these psychopaths employ quite a few tricks to serve their purpose. Here are 5 common techniques your boss or spouse may use to manipulate you:


1. Projection

Projection in psychology is a defense mechanism people use to assign their negative traits and feelings to another person. A manipulative spouse may accuse you of being unfaithful or getting angry easily when in fact, he or she has thoughts of infidelity or has no control over his or her own anger.
How to deal with it? Don’t accept the projected traits or feelings. You will only be subjected to more if you do.

2. Constant criticism and name-calling

Whether it’s your boss or your spouse, they resort to constantly belittling and criticizing your work or your cooking skills. This way, they will always be superior to you and no matter how good you are, you will never surpass them. Done often enough, you begin to doubt your own abilities and slowly lose your self-confidence. Name-calling is a form of verbal abuse and is just as destructive to your well-being. Manipulators apply this technique to erode your sense of self-worth and elevate their own.
If you feel the criticism is uncalled for and invalid, don’t change your perception of yourself. It’s a bit tricky at work but you can always ask the boss how you can improve your work, and your spouse what is lacking in your kitchen skills. Manipulators criticize but cannot offer constructive solutions. As for name-calling, never tolerate or internalize it. Simply walk away and ignore the person.

Caught in a spider's web

3. Playing the victim

A manipulative employer or spouse uses self-victimization to influence your own thoughts and behavior and justify their own actions. An example is heaping verbal or physical abuse on you (the real victim) and then unreasonably blaming you for provoking them into doing their destructive behavior. The motive is to make you doubt your own self and believe that it was your fault for being subjected to abuse.
Keep yourself grounded in reality. Abuse can never be justified; don’t feel sympathy for their actions and remember that they are not the victims even if they claim to be so.

4. Negative humor

A manipulating employer or partner makes disparaging comments about you in the guise of a joke. And oftentimes, they do it in front of your co-workers during a meeting or in a social circle, among your friends. The remarks are passed off as humorous but are actually embarrassing for you. You feel inadequate and demeaned but when you call their attention to it, the manipulator will blame your lack of sense of humor.

5. Guilt-tripping

One common intimidation technique of manipulators is guilt-tripping. Your boss or partner makes guilt-inducing statements so that you feel bad about yourself and give in to what they really want. Examples of such statements are:

“The client is available only on Saturday…”
“If you knew what I’ve been through today, you’d never ask me to do it.”
“You go ahead with your friends. I’ll just stay home and watch the kids.”

If you recognize the manipulation your spouse or boss is using on you, learn to say No and avoid feeling guilty or sympathetic. Once you give in, they will use these guilt trips as bait to reel you in.

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