Can empaths be manipulative? (A complete guide)

In this article, we will answer the question ‘Can empaths be manipulative?’. We will do that by defining empaths and manipulation. This will follow up by describing signs to identify an empath and signs to identify manipulation. We will move on to discussing the usage of empathy to manipulate people. Finally, we will discuss the dark empath.

Can empaths be manipulative?

Yes. Empaths can be manipulative. Recent studies have revealed that there are people who have both traits of cognitive and affective empathy along with the dark triad traits i.e. narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. These people can use their skills of emotional intelligence to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. Consequently, they can use this information to their advantage and exploit others. In other words, they enjoy both the empathic advantage and exploitation advantage of people with. dark triad traits.

Empaths

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  People consider them to be a subset of Highly sensitive people (HSP). They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. It’s like empaths can hear the words and listen to the body language of other people including their tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, and even their silence. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together.

How to identify an Empath

As mentioned earlier, an empath is a person who is able to identify the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and energy of other people quite easily. The following are a few signs to identify an empath:

●       They can easily sense what others are feeling and the mood of the people in a room before they even know themselves.

●       People often think that empaths are emotional as they can identify the feelings of people.

●       Such a person looks out for other people especially if they are going through emotional pain and difficulties. They try hard to extend their attention and compassion to such a person.

●       Being around a lot of people for a long can drain an empath. Because of this, they frequently need time alone to recharge after a lot of social stimulation and emotional overload.

●       Empaths are usually approached by a lot of people who bring with them their problems and emotional load since they know that an empath will help them process it together.

●       They have high intuition that helps them understand things based on instinct.

●       Public places with a lot of crowds can overwhelm them.

●       Usually, they are introverted in nature and prefer to work in small groups.

●       They are good listeners.

●       They share the pain of others.

●       A lot of sensory information can overwhelm them.

●       They are givers rather than takers.

●       They make easy prey for narcissists, sociopaths, and Psychopaths.

●       They find nature calming.

Manipulation

Manipulation refers to the skill of controlling something or someone. For example, a car salesman may use his skills of manipulation to convince people to buy the car.

Psychological manipulation on the other hand uses emotional exploitation and mental distortion to get powerful, enjoy benefits, and control their victims.

How to identify when someone is manipulating you

Signs of manipulation include the following:

  • They ask to meet at a physical space where they are familiar.
  • They let their victims speak first to identify their weaknesses and understand their thinking.
  • They manipulate or modify facts to their advantage. 
  • They use multiple facts and statistics in their argument to convince others that what they are saying is authentic.
  • They present a lot of procedures and paperwork to hide facts and truth
  • They raise their voice and exhibit negative emotions.
  • They use surprises that are negative or give out unexpected information to lure someone into working for them.
  • They give little time to their victim for decision making.
  • They can be sarcastic and use negative humor on their victims to establish their superiority.
  • They judge and criticize their victim to make them feel inadequate.
  • They use the silent treatment as a form of leverage
  • They often pretend ignorance i.e ‘play dumb’.
  • They use guilt-tripping on their victim in order to get what they want.
  • They employ victimhood to get advantages from others. 

Using empathy to manipulate people

Recently a study by Sara Konrath and her colleagues indicated that people who could detect other people’s emotions also had a degree of narcissism exploitativeness i.e. exploitativeness tracked people’s skills to read emotions. Similarly, Yuki Nozak and Masuo Koyasu conducted a study to understand emotionally intelligent people and found that they could use their emotional intelligence skills to guide others into doing what they want. 

As a result of these studies, we understand that even though empathy and manipulation usually do not occur together. However, it is possible that empathic people can be manipulative. A person with cognitive empathy i.e who understands other people’s emotions at a cognitive level and a person with emotional empathy i.e. who feels and shares those emotions are two types. So, people with empathy who can understand the emotions and not share it with others are possible. They can use their understanding to intimidate and even hurt others. Their empathic value is neutral i.e. they use their empathic skills to alternate between helping and hurting others. 

The Dark Empath

People who possess dark triad traits are usually not empathic. A study was conducted on empathy and dark triad traits in order to find their relationship. In other words, the purpose was to see whether there is an empathic version of the dark triad i.e A Dark Empath. This study was conducted in London by Heyem and colleagues on 991 individuals between ages 20 and 30. They completed scales measuring Dark traits(i.e. Narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism), Cognitive and Affective empathy, Big five personality, Relational Aggression, Depression, Anxiety Stress Scale, ability to enjoy life, and self-criticism. 

Results indicated Four Types of people

Class 1: The standard Dark Triad=they had mostly dark triad traits

Class 2: Typical Dark Triad= they had average dark triad traits and empathy

Class 3: Dark Empath= they had high empathy and dark triad traits

Class 4: Empath: they had low dark triad traits and high empathy

The Dark empaths were extroverted, agreeable, neurotic, and more aggressive compared to others. In addition to that, they had high malicious humor and guilt induction. This means that they could mock others who they thought were beneath them and were able to induce guilt into others. Both these traits fall into the manipulation ability of empaths. They also enjoyed greater social pleasures. 

About 20% sample comprised of dark empaths. These people had characteristics like being cold, exploitative but with a degree of warmth and charisma. In other words, they were flawed yet gifted. 

People with dark traits are usually in an advantageous position from an evolutionary perspective i.e. they can exploit others to get benefits. In comparison, dark empaths (empaths with dark triad traits) can understand other people’s intentions and use them to make their decisions. In other words, they have adaptive psychopathy. Such people cannot completely connect with people with dark triad traits. However, it gives them the evolutionary advantage of using empathic information to exploit others. This means that they get the best of both worlds. 

“A dark empath may actually be more dangerous than a more cold and unfeeling dark triad type because the so-called dark empath can draw you in closer—and do more harm as a result.” — Ramani Durvasula, PhD, a clinical psychologist

According to Dr. Durvasula, dark empaths have the ability to understand what makes other people tick and use that information to their advantage. They can put other people at ease through their skills of empathy and get all the required information. 

FAQs: Can empaths be manipulative?

What is toxic empath?

Toxic empathy is when an individual over-identifies with a person’s feelings i.e. they absorb their feelings. This can lead them to think those feelings are their own. As a result, they feel drained and are unable to take care of themself.

Is being an empath a personality disorder?

Being an empath is not a personality disorder. It is often misdiagnosed as social anxiety. 

How can empaths set boundaries?

An empath can set boundaries by learning to say no in a tactful and polite manner.

What are empaths?

An empath refers to an individual who is sensitive and able to feel the emotional pain of other people.  They have a good awareness of another person’s thoughts and feelings. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes and understand their perspective and worldview. Such people are driven to help and heal others.  Usually,  they hold the other person’s feelings and help them process it together. 

Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question ‘Can empaths be manipulative?’. We found that Empaths can be manipulative. Recent studies have revealed that there are people who have both traits of cognitive and affective empathy along with the dark triad traits i.e. narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. These people can use their skills of emotional intelligence to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. Consequently, they can use this information to their advantage and exploit others. In other words, they enjoy both the empathic advantage and exploitation advantage of people with. dark triad traits.

I hope you found this article interesting. If you have any queries or comments, please state them in the comment section 😊

Citations

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/moral-universe/using-empathy-to-use-people-emotional-intelligence-and-manipulation/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experimentations/202008/introducing-the-dark-empath-0

https://www.yourdictionary.com/manipulation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201510/14-signs-psychological-and-emotional-manipulation

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