Recognize the 11 most common manipulation techniquesHow to protect yourself from being manipulated
This is how you identify manipulation techniques
Discover how to recognize manipulation and choose counter-strategies. Here are descriptions of eleven types of manipulation techniques including body language.
- How to protect yourself from being manipulated
- What is manipulation?
- What possibilities of protection exist?
- How can manipulation attempts be identified?
- 10 manipulation techniques
- Training and support
- Supplementary articles
The language is given to man to hide his thoughts.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
What is manipulation?
The term manipulation has different, sometimes more, and sometimes less negative meanings. This article is about targeted and covert influence aimed at controlling perceptions, decisions, and the behavior of individuals and groups. This can be done with good or bad intentions. Manipulate means for most people to manage or influence skillfully, especially in a manner that seems to be unfair:
What possibilities of protection exist?
The first step is to identify the most common manipulation techniques. Then you can choose and use the appropriate counter-strategies.
How can manipulation attempts be identified?
The most essential requirement – to protect yourself from manipulation – is to know yourself well. Then you can interpret a possible gut feeling without detours.
We are especially manipulable when we are uncertain. Point!
Okay, I’ll decorate it a bit more, but that’s the core message: Someone who rests in himself is harder to manipulate! Many manipulation techniques are based on sowing doubt, making others feel guilty, or taking advantage of low self-confidence.
The 11 most common manipulation techniques
Let’s start with the different manipulation techniques in detail. Which manipulation techniques do exist?
Here is a selection:
- The principle of reciprocity
- The persistence trap
- Herd instinct
- The friendship trick
- The authority trap
- Emotional tricks
- Selective information
- Killer phrases
- The fear trap
1. The principle of reciprocity
With small favors, other people can be guilty. That’s a popular way of manipulation. Living together is mutual. As long as the principle of reciprocity leads to a largely balanced exchange, everyone benefits from it. Thus, the reflex of responding to a gift with a gift is deeply rooted in many people. However, the connection between giving and taking can also be exploited. For example, investing one easy favor on another makes one feel obligated and desirous of reciprocating. Frequently, the response does not correspond to the actual intention in other circumstances.
Unfortunately, the experience of being manipulated in such a way often leads to a profound reluctance to accept a favor from other people in the future.
As with all other attempts at manipulation, coexistence becomes more difficult when people feel manipulated. Too bad, because small gifts are good for human relationships. As long as these mechanisms are not unilaterally abused, the principle of reciprocity benefits everyone.
- If a small favor of a colleague is accepted there are then inhibitions to reject the request for an inappropriate favor.
- Beggars with flowers, who first give away a withered flower and then demand a donation, for which one could buy a whole bouquet of fresh spring flowers.
- A harmless variant that uses the principle: There are higher tips if the waiter puts a candy next to the bill.
While stocks last! Not only the spectators of the teleshopping channels succumb to the fascination of scarcity. It is easy to get the impression that offers that are almost always sold out must be particularly worthwhile. Otherwise, they would not be so popular, right? The bottleneck is usually homemade to manipulate and make something more attractive than it is. Again, it helps to understand your own needs, instead of being pressured. Reject inappropriate calls without a guilty conscience!
- Special editions
- Sale, special offer, special occasion. The impending loss of freedom to make a decision urges people to choose the option, even if it has not been a priority so far.
3. The persistence trap
The “foot-in-the-door technique” entices to take the first step in a certain direction. This happens, for example, by asking for a small favor. This favor serves as a door opener. People are then much easier to persuade. Sometimes it is enough to ask someone to take a look at a task for a moment and then ask them afterward if they take over the task completely. This persistence trap significantly increases the probability that we say yes. People tend to be consistent.
In other words, once a person has taken a commitment, he or she is more willing to comply with requests that are consistent with it. “He who said A must also say B” or “what has been started must also be brought to an end. This often works but is nonsense. Pay attention to your gut feeling; Do you want that?
- During the Milgram experiment, this principle was also used. Initially, subjects were asked to administer harmless surges. This was then slowly increased, so it was harder to get out.
- Fundraising collections that ask for a signature and then a donation.
- Colleagues ask you to read something first and then ask for help.
- Sales events with friends
4. Herd instinct
Holy crap: Billions of flies can not be wrong … Even humans are herd animals. What many others do and approve of is considered proof of correctness. As we know from the lemmings, this is not always recommended in practice. It’s not that easy with group intelligence. So beware of purchased references and peer pressure.
The safer you are, what is important to you, the harder you are to manipulate.
- Haha! In shallow TV series and talk shows recorded laughter ensures that the audience also laughs.
- A company describes its product as the best-selling. Well then …
- “Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg?” (Do you want total war?) To this question in the speech of Joseph Goebbels of 1943 probably no mentally healthy person would have answered with “Yes”.
5. Friendship trick
Pleasant, nice to meet you. For people who are sympathetic to us, it is much harder to deny wishes. That makes use of the friendship trick. It creates a pleasant atmosphere first. This creates a basis for influencing the manipulator. Experienced observers recognize the overly conspicuous techniques for the promotion of rapport, such as the mirroring of body language, statements, etc.
- The cliché of the used car dealer in TV series agrees with the customer during the small talk, coincidentally has the same hobbies, etc.
- Excessive praise.
- Trying to anchor good states.
- The exaggerated imitation of verbal language, body language, and statements.
6. The authority trap
I am Professor Dr. hc. Trickster.
The authority and the expert trick are based on combining a convincing appearance with credible-sounding arguments that are not always true. This works especially well if we have no authority in the relevant field.
Authority can also be borrowed. Some manipulators hide behind other supposed authorities. This often has the purpose to prevent openly expressed doubts. A particularly striking example of this is the electric shock experiment by Stanley Milgram. In experiments, more than 60 percent of the authority-led participants were willing to administer surgeries to supposed participants who would have been deadly in reality. And that, although the supposed participants groaned after every impulse, screaming in pain and begging, the experiment may be ended. No mercy, the expert said …
Knowledge is power? Yes! So in case of doubt, inform yourself! And that’s especially true when you encounter resistance. How real is the expert status if he refuses to prove the correctness of statements or if we want to inform ourselves? The alarm bells should ring!
- Acquisition and use of titles.
- Status symbols like expensive cars, luxury watches, etc.
- The dentist or the wife of the dentist in advertising for tooth cream.
- The quality seal of a more or less prestigious institute.
- The reference to the result of a well-known management consultancy.
- American scientists have found out …
- The colleague who claims that the management wants …
Through constant repetition, we can be manipulated. It is often tried to increase the credibility of a statement by the constant repetition as in brainwashing. As the number of repetitions of an assertion tends to increase, the willingness to accept an assertion as true tends to increase. Through repetition, a notoriety effect occurs that causes us to adopt a familiar friendly attitude. Yes, we humans are quite vulnerable.
- Advertising messages are repeated very often.
- Brand symbols that are placed at sporting events etc. in as many places as possible.
- Repetition of messages in presentations.
8. Emotional tricks
Appealing to a person’s feelings is often more effective than turning to their reason. Concerns that are likely to fail at the logical level can sometimes be enforced on the emotional level. This is often used to eliminate our logical decision-making ability.
- Sad photographs at a fundraiser.
- Horror scenarios in sales talks with the solution by a particularly expensive product.
- Creating feelings of guilt to reduce self-esteem followed by a request (emotional blackmail).
- To appeal to vanity.
- Donation or hell as in the Middle Ages
9. Selective information
The exposure or omission of relevant information is very often used for manipulation. Even the line between truth and lies still offers a lot of leeway for liars. Sometimes this latitude is even used with good intentions, but it is a delicate step to the dark side.
Education offers some protection, as well as own research, as far as information is available. Good listening provides unintentional hints. Whereby sometimes the missing statements are more informative than the voluntarily expressed information. The exploration of possible interests of the manipulators also provides clues and urges caution.
- Study reports with predetermined goals
10. The killer phrases
Ouch, what a painful argument! Killer phrases are attempts to manipulate individuals or groups by ostracizing any further treatment of a topic. Killer phrases are to be discovered as such and may not distract you. Killer phrases are taboo!
- We have always done this way!
- That’s not possible anyway!
- That’s none of our business.
- If I were you, I would say so.
11. The fear trap
Even those who consider themselves relatives of Vulcanian Commander Spock are rarely truly objective in their perception and decision-making. We, humans, are very guided by feelings. That’s why manipulative people like to foster fears. They exaggerate the unpleasant consequences and if possible give the impression of time pressure. This works particularly well in large groups, in which less swarm intelligence rather than mass hysteria dominates.
- It may be too late tomorrow.
- Imagine …
- If you don’t accept the chance, who could forgive you for not acting?
Preparation of important conversations and negotiations
Communication can be very easy. But often it is not. Sometimes we say things and then later notice from the reaction of our conversation partners that they seem to have spoken to someone completely different. I didn't say that with the best will in the world. - Or did I say that after all?
More or less consciously, conversations are about convincing other people of something - be it a special offer, your personality, a perspective, or a necessity. If this doesn't happen fast enough and above all not exactly to the point and descriptively, the person we are talking to quickly loses interest, and we lose the hoped-for opportunity. — Conversation failed.
You can let me support you in the preparation of your conversations and negotiations (to be on the safe side: no legal advice!). Find out how you and your message are perceived (arguments, body language, language, voice, and much more). I will familiarize you with effective tools and communication strategies. Develop your psychological skills, learn to stay calm, act confidently, remain authentic, and finally convince.
Just ask me personally
Please post any questions that may interest other readers in the comments. Are you looking for professional support?
Transparency is important. Therefore, you will find answers to frequently asked questions already here, for example about me (profile), the services, the fees, and getting to know me. If this suits you, I look forward to working with you.
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This article is a short excerpt from the more comprehensive course materials my clients receive in group or individual training or coaching.
Published: June 20, 2016
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: October 6, 2021
German version: https://www.karstennoack.de/manipulationstechniken-erkennen/
Ü: Review required
What, when the intention is good? How to deal with attempts in such a case?
How about having a conversation with the one doing it and explaining how you feel and what you prefer?
Thank you for this enlightening article.
Yes, I believe we are being manipulated to the finest at the moment. This article and your examples couldn’t be any more appropiate. Thank you.