Emotional manipulation in a friendship is toxic to your self-esteem and confidence. The worst part is that the victims are generally people who are already struggling with loving themselves or co-dependency and who often lack self-confidence. This makes it hard to recover and to protect yourself from the effects of emotional abuse. The more you know about emotional manipulation, the easier it will be to protect yourself from emotional manipulation in your friendships.
If you’ve ever suffered from emotional manipulation, it’s likely you didn’t even notice it until you were deeply invested in the relationship. I had no idea one of my best friends was manipulating me until I was blaming myself for her emotions and making sure she wasn’t angry or upset; I even allowed her to call me names and make fun of me in front of others. Who puts up with that? Well a lot of us do without realizing it.
Emotional Manipulation: ‘Friends’ Look for an Easy Target
You see, I was the perfect victim in some ways. I was insecure after a myriad of life changes — a breakup, a new job, a new apartment — and all I wanted was a real friend. She could spot me from a mile away. I was a people pleaser and wouldn’t hurt a fly. If you’re an empathetic person like me then your whole world is turned upside down when someone blames you or gets upset with you. These negative people use your insecurities against you so that they feel more control.
What Does Emotional Manipulation by a Friend Look Like?
Notice if any of these common signs of emotional manipulation appear in your relationships.
- They frequently diminish your feelings and tell you you’re overreacting and saying things like: “Stop being so sensitive, can’t you take a joke?”
- They call you names in person, via text, or in front of family and friends.
- They blame you for their behavior, their day, or their situation.
- They are always one-upping you. If you had a bad day at work, their day was worse.
- They are defensive and don’t apologize unless you threaten to break off the relationship.
- They will not take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they will place blame on you and claim their response was justified based on something you did.
Many of us are highly aware when we’re being manipulated in friendships, but are still left unsure of what to do (Dealing with Emotional Abuse: How to Stop Emotional Abuse). Manipulators thrive on hiding their motives, so it can be challenging to get them to admit what’s really going on and many people will refuse to do so even under pressure. You must be willing to set boundaries and limits with yourself and try to gain self-respect even if it’s minor (waiting a few minutes to call them back, for example). If you feel stuck or scared, seek out the help of a trained therapist. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.