Look for the Hook – Recognize the Signs of Manipulation

Manipulation is defined in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary as the following: “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.” Put simply, the art of manipulation is used by others to get what they desire or want in any variety of circumstances.

A phrase that my mother and I came up with in regards to dealing with manipulation in relationships is “look for the hook”. All of us have most likely dealt with (or are dealing with) someone who may be known as a manipulator in our own lives.

The interesting tidbit to hold on to is that some people are manipulators, while others can simply use this “skill” of manipulation. Manipulation is a learned habit.
Someone else most likely manipulated them in some shape or form in their past. This blog post will focus on how to deal with someone that you could be manipulated by and how to apply this “look for the hook” motto to your own life.

Manipulation is a learned habit. To find more tips on how to recognize manipulation in yourself or
others, please see the section below.

It is important to note here that we are all capable of manipulating others. However, some people have more experience in the art of manipulation and can use it more effectively than others. This does not make this right, though, to use something like manipulation against others because one is good at it.

That is a phrase that my pastor has taught me. If someone is hurting, they are likely to hurt others. Keep this in mind as well as you read this article and deal with people in your own life.

One must instead recognize the signs of a manipulator to keep yourself from being hurt or simply just learning to work with these individuals. Maybe this will even help you realize that you yourself are a manipulator.

The main sign that one should notice regarding a manipulator is that they will throw out a “hook”. A hook could be something like posing an open-ended question, a subtle comment that makes you wonder, or just simply using various means to bend someone’s emotions or prey on their curiosity.

For example, may say something to the effect of “I know something you don’t about this _______”. That can be a great demonstration of trying to hook someone with a subtle comment. You can fill in the blank with a person, situation, or even some obscure topic they know you clearly aren’t completely aware of, but that they know more about than you do. Manipulators use situations like these to cause the other individual they are engaging with to wonder what they are thinking about and thus want to know what the manipulator knows. They are simply throwing out a line to try to get the other person to grab hold and become obsessed with whatever the issue or topic is that they mentioned.

It is best to not allow yourself to get “hooked” on to whatever they threw out to you. Instead, you must first realize the situation for what it is—a hook being tossed out to you. Then, you must either change the conversation altogether, or simply just direct it into a different direction. This can be through a different comment or asking a question. If they persist in throwing out a hook, you can try to speak on something positive that is going on in your life or speak positively about the topic (or person) that the manipulator is trying to hook you with.

Manipulation can be verbal or emotional as well. There are other dimensions that manipulation can be a part of, but we will not focus on those today.

In regards to emotion, someone who is using manipulation will use their emotions to persuade someone to react in a certain way to get what they want. For example, someone may use a sad situation to cause you to pity them, thus, playing right into their hands. If they come from a difficult background, certainly that is unfortunate, but they can also use this to get away with things they ought not to get away with. They may use their harsh upbringing to get pity, and thus take advantage of other people’s kindness and understanding. Furthermore, they could even use a situation with you that occurred in the past to persuade you of how you are wrong in a certain present circumstance. They may bring up old feuds or issues in order to show you how they are right and you are wrong.


1. Be Rational
In emotional manipulation situations, you must recognize them also for what it is—a form of manipulation. Secondly, one must decide within themselves that they will not choose the negative situation and give in to this person’s “hook”.

2. Be Calm: BREATHE
Instead of giving in, you can change the circumstance by remaining calm and rational. Take a step outside of yourself and view the situation rationally. If it is a heated discussion, perhaps try to take a step back to breathe for a moment, and then come back later to handle it more efficiently.

3. Know When to Walk Away
Ask yourself, “is this a battle worth fighting?” We must learn at some point pick & choose our battles. Some fights aren’t worth doing. You will learn to distinguish this as time goes on. If it is not, walk away. If it is a battle worth fighting, you need to tell them that you both are going to decide to focus on the present, not the past.

4. Agree to Disagree
If they cannot agree, you have done all you can do. You can only control yourself, not your partner or friend.

5. Find Common Ground
If they agree, then discuss the present situation with them without time constraints and in a private, safe place free of distractions. Set aside the time to work out this problem.

6. Respond not React
These solutions counter bad habits and, in a way, trains the manipulator to see that their manipulations will not work with you, and they can learn to not use these manipulations on others. You must be consistent in your approach.

7. Is it Worth the Effort?
Keep pressing forward and choosing to look for their “hook”. If you are noticing negative, consistent patterns of manipulation in a certain relationship, it is probably best to reevaluate if it is a relationship that is worth staying in.

8. Choose to Invest
If it is, then great! You now have some new tools to use. If not, then kick them to the curb because they are not worth being a part of your life.

I hope this helps you view manipulation in a new light. I have learned a lot about this in recent years and I am still learning. Take time and be patient with yourself in this process of learning to work with others. We are all imperfect so give yourself and others a break.

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6 thoughts on “Look for the Hook – Recognize the Signs of Manipulation”

  1. Hola! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally got
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    Just wanted to tell you keep up the excellent job!

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