Manipulation: 11 of the most famous tactics and how to counter them

Nobody wants it to be controlled. However, belief methods, in other words, manipulation, are very common. We have gathered 11 working manipulation tacticians and advice on how to resist them. Hopefully this article will help you not to get caught by manipulators.


Manipulations are not a new phenomenon, they exist as much as a human society. Almost all people are in one way or another subject to someone else’s influence and it is typical for everyone to convince others of something. It is good if suggestion has good motives. But if there is a desire for profit behind it, for example, a serious problem emerges.


Therefore, everyone should have the skills to resist other people’s manipulations. To do this, you need to know what are the most famous of them.

  1. Built-in speech commands

You can evoke emotions and create a certain mood in your listeners with the help of ordinary words emphasized by an intonation or gesture. This is called a built-in command. It is possible to use both positive and negative colored vocabulary. By highlighting words with a change of intonation or active gestures, we make you pay special attention to them. In this way you can set the direction of a person’s thinking, and then convince him/her of something much easier.


  1. Vertical method

It is possible to convince without words, for this purpose it is enough to visually present to the audience a higher, respectively – significant. Speech on the podium above the eye level of the audience, a table on the top, a high chair – it is important to look at people from the top down. After all, subconsciously we perceive those who are higher as authorities, whether it is a politician on stage or our parents when we were children. The same person who occupies a lot of space in the room “grows” in the eyes of opponents. Active gesticulation, moving from place to place, confident wide postures, for example with hands spread on the back of the chair, helps to achieve this effect.


  1. Social Proof

To clearly illustrate this principle, let’s dive a little into history and present a classic situation in the Soviet Union: the queue. In the Soviet Union, it was often occupied before the necessity of a product or service was understood. People thought that if there was a big queue, then everyone was waiting for something worthwhile. The more people waited, the more valuable the product seemed. Another example: comedies with a laughing stockade. When viewed, it seemed annoying, but if that background sound hadn’t made people laugh, it wouldn’t have been inserted into every second sitcom.

In other words, social proof is a herd instinct. It is the result of the protective function of the brain. In this way, the brain absolves itself of responsibility for making decisions. When a person finds himself in a difficult situation, it is easier for him to do as everything else than to look for a solution by himself. Hence the mainstream in everything: clothing, food, movies, music, etc. Manufacturers actively use this principle, supporting the advertising with the feedback of other buyers. And whether it is real or not, the positive opinion of other people about the product makes us buy it.


Marketers do not advise us to show the audience low statistics so as not to spoil the impression. For example, the number of subscribers: if it is small, then a new visitor is unlikely to want to subscribe. And subscribers are more likely to subscribe to pages with a large active audience. The principle of social evidence has caused a number of professions, the essence of which is only to create a certain mood among visitors. These are clackers that enthusiastically clap and shout “Bravo!” at speeches, or cryers that weep at the funeral.


  1. Group reinforcements

This method is somewhat reminiscent of the previous one, but is more focused on the beliefs of the person than on his behavior. According to it, for a group of people to accept some kind of judgment as truth, it has to be repeated many times inside it. And this, of course, is not always a true judgment. However, it is enough to declare an idea as a group value or doctrine. Then, if people want to become members of this group, they will believe in the idea without any proof and will not critically assess it. This is because most people have a fear of becoming an outcast.


Professionals call it indoctrination. The opposite position – an intentional desire to exist independently of the group and the rejection of its ideas – is nonconformism. Every society has its own stereotypes that are accepted by default, and the method of group reinforcement works. It is constantly used by the mass media: manipulating facts and repeating the same theses once in a while, they make the audience believe in the truthfulness of even the most absurd ideas. While critical thinking is not taught anywhere, most people only have to choose for themselves what to believe in and what not to believe in.

  1. Mutual exchange

There is a tacit rule: you have to respond to the good with the good. Or any service must be paid for. We all know about this rule, and we all unknowingly follow it. When someone provides us a free service, we begin to feel obliged and want to pay back the person as soon as possible. Even knowing about this psychological effect, it is very difficult to overcome it. People who like to use someone else’s kindness, always use the principle of mutual exchange: they provide an unsolicited service in order to ask for what they need. And all kinds of companies give out souvenirs, organize free tastings and send customers gifts for this purpose, too.


  1. The Benjamin Franklin method or request for help

The famous American politician Benjamin Franklin established contact with his detractor as follows. Franklin politely asked the man to lend him a book. Also politely and wholeheartedly thanked the adversary when he agreed. And so they became friends. The essence of this method is that anyone feels good when he is asked for help. On the one hand, it helps to feel important and useful, and on the other hand, relying on the previous principle – to count on mutual service. When using this method, it is advisable to ask a little more than you want to get. In case of refusal, then you can make a real request and, with a high probability, a person will be uncomfortable to refuse twice.


  1. Motivation by fear

Fear is the strongest emotion, it is often called for by manipulators. There are a lot of commercials that show the terrible consequences that will allegedly come if you do not buy this or that product. Insurance companies are always willing to provide accident statistics to stimulate the client to buy an insurance policy. But you should use this method carefully. If you scare a person too much, his future actions may become chaotic and ineffective. Therefore, it is wise to motivate with fear, starting with the “carrot”. If you tell an employee that they want to promote him, but this will not happen, if he does not fulfill the plan, he will more willingly sign on additional responsibilities. It is the threat of loss that motivates the best, as psychologists have proved.

  1. Positive reinforcement

Waiting for a positive result encourages people to perform certain actions. Therefore, a fairly common method of manipulation is to offer rewards or praise. The method was confirmed by students from Harvard that somehow they set up an interesting experiment on their teacher. They agreed that they would smile when the lecturer stands in one part of the audience, and frown when he goes to the other. We think it is clear where the lecturer spent most of his lecture. The precedent was called “Verplank experiment”. American psychologist Berres Skinner believed that praise is a better incentive than punishment. In his opinion, the whip method is even harmful. The effectiveness of positive reinforcement was also noted by Freud. He wrote that a person is most likely to perform those actions that are associated with pleasure.


  1. Logic chain

Psychologists have proved that man is inherent in nature to strive for consistency of their actions. Moreover, consistency is considered a great virtue, while inconsistency and illogicality are negative traits. Michael Faraday, a famous physicist, argued that consistency is more important than correctness. And often this forces us to go against our interests. That’s why skilled manipulators operate on this principle, launching a certain process of sequence. For example, they take a commitment from someone. Most people will do their best to fulfill it, because this is exactly what a logical chain of actions implies. It is also possible to use the method with good goals. If you call someone the best in his field, the person will try twice to justify the trust.


  1. The spiral of silence

We always unknowingly divide people into two types: those who are not afraid to express their opinion, which drives progress, and those who rely on public opinion and adhere to stability. The concept of the helix of silence was proposed by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noel-Neumann, just based on this division. According to this concept, people are afraid to speak out if they think they are in the minority. This is also due to fear of social isolation. To manipulate with this principle, it is enough to express your opinion very confidently. It is as if there is a majority behind it, even if it is not true. And dissenters are not just afraid to object, but can also believe in the truth of their opinions.

  1. Aikido principle

In this martial art to win use the strength of the opponent. “To win by conceding” – this is how the first principle of aikido sounds. In communication, you can also use a similar method. It consists in returning to the person his own aggression, and then agree with him. That is, in a dispute, it is necessary to respond to a person with his words and expressions, and then calmly state your demands. For example, the interlocutor says that you are a fool and it is all your fault. You answer: “Yes, you are right, I am a fool and it is all my fault. But let’s solve the situation so…”. Instead of looking for more hurtful words and wasting energy on endless arguments, you save energy and eventually get what you want.


How not to give in to manipulation

Our subconscious works for us and evaluates any information for its usefulness and security. It rejects everything dangerous and useless. So the manipulator needs to convince us that his idea is exactly what we need. And it is not as easy as it may seem. It is almost impossible to do it with a balanced person who knows exactly what he wants. But it is much easier to manage a tired, hungry, upset person. The load on the perception organs is also influenced. Loud music, chatter, bright light, screaming colors, intrusive smells – all this can break the protective mechanism.


Manipulators often deliberately create stressful situations: limited choice, time constraints, the same threat of loss. As it happens during sales in stores: goods are placed chaotically, sellers warn that there is no time left, these are the latest copies and the best prices. The crowd and the noise are also shaking the protective mechanism. It begins to seem that if you do not buy now, something terrible will happen. So you should never decide anything in a hurry. No matter how profitable the offer may seem, take at least some time and think it over well.

Another trick – a false alternative. When offering two or more equally inappropriate options. For example, pay in full or by installments. Seller refuses to hear that his product is not needed at all, offering more and more new, supposedly more favorable conditions. In the end, he may talk about an unnecessary purchase. If you are not initially interested in it, do not even enter into a dialogue with the seller.


To protect yourself from any suggestion, it is important to develop critical thinking and awareness. Always ask yourself what you want at this very moment, how you feel – if it feels good enough. What exactly causes the desire to buy something, to do it, to help someone. And what is the result you would like to get. When you light up with a new goal, make sure that it is yours and not imposed by someone else. And that on the way to the goal no one intentionally puts obstacles to you with allegedly harmless requests and suggestions. It is important that in any situation you are moved by a sincere desire and you do not do harm to yourself.


If you feel that you can’t find the answers to these questions or you go too often to others, think about going to a psychologist or coach. He will help you establish a dialogue with yourself and always remain independent.