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May/June 2010



By Carol Boulware, Ph.D.

This quiz is designed to help you recognize signs of being manipulated by someone who makes another person feel guilty, ashamed, confused or weak in order to control their behavior to get what they want from them or a situation.  Emotional manipulators believe they must control others' behavior because they feel powerless otherwise. 

The person on the receiving end of this type of manipulation, however, suffers serious erosion of their self esteem and confidence, which can negatively affect every aspect of their life. 

You can use this quiz to guide your thinking about the behavior of people you have relationships with – an intimate partner, a family member or even your boss.

Answer "Yes" or "No" to each question, then see my remarks following the quiz for help interpreting your results.


  • When something goes wrong in a relationship, do you immediately blame yourself?
  • Do you often question your own judgment?
  • Are you careful to "screen" or "edit" your words before you say them?
  • Do you worry about keeping the love of a person you care about?
  • Are you starting to think you can’t do anything right?
  • Do you get confused at times about your thoughts or feelings?
  • Does someone frequently mock or criticize you and then say they were kidding?
  • Do you frequently apologize to your partner or a loved one?
  • Have you started mistrusting your own memory?
  • Do you find yourself lying in order to avoid criticism?
  • Do you often hesitate or procrastinate before making a decision?
  • Do you think other people are better or more deserving than you are?
  • Do you constantly make excuses for someone's behavior?
  • Is the disapproval of others very hard for you to bear?
  • Is there a person in your life who belittles or criticizes you on a regular basis?
  • Are you afraid your partner will leave you if you tell them your true feelings?
  • Do you sense something "isn't right" in your life, but can't figure out what?
  • Do you ever feel threatened or intimidated by someone in your life?
  • Will you do just about anything to avoid the disapproval of others?
  • Does someone in your life frequently yell at or upset you?
  • Do you usually regard the needs and desires of others as more important than
  • your own?

Count your "yes" answers.  If you have five or more, you could be in a relationship with an emotional manipulator.  If you have more than six "yes" answers, I would strongly urge you to focus your attention on examining this relationship further. 

It may also mean that your sense of self-worth and self-respect are being undermined.  Keep in mind that you always have a choice to take action to improve your experience in your relationships, and in your life.  Even if the person in question is not willing to change, there are many ways you can strengthen and rebuild your self-confidence. 

For more information about emotional manipulation, see my article, "Feeling Guilty?  It May Not Be Your Fault," in the Article of the Month section of this site.

Feel free to contact Dr. Boulware for further information or assistance at 310-374-4173 or visit website

Dr. Boulware is a psychotherapist in private practice, with offices in Santa Monica and Redondo Beach.  She is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network.





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