Manipulators Accuse Others of Manipulating: Are You a Victim?

Have you ever been accused of manipulating someone, when in reality they're the manipulator? If so, you may have fallen victim to a preemptive strike tactic. To find out how to protect yourself from this type of toxic behavior, read on.
Manipulators Accuse Others of Manipulating: Are You a Victim?
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 21 March, 2023

A common characteristic of manipulators is to accuse you of behaving in the same way as them. Indeed, the manipulator sees it as a useful resource to divert attention away from themselves, generate doubts, and modify the narrative of a situation by creating false nuances.

One of the manipulator’s main objectives is to distort the facts. This, in itself, is a way of twisting reality according to their own interests. As a rule, they want to establish the idea that they’re acting correctly, while it’s the others who are making mistakes or carrying out negative behaviors.

Manipulators are usually extremely skilled. Furthermore, they mainly attack those they detect as being insecure or vulnerable. For this reason, it’s important to understand their games and be ready to decipher them when they happen.

“To effectively manipulate people, it is necessary to make everyone believe that nobody is manipulating them.”

-John Kenneth Galbraith-

Manipulators and the preemptive strike

The preemptive strike stands out as one of the usual tactics of manipulators. This consists of judging and accusing you of the kind of negative behavior that they use themselves. The main objective is to put you on the defensive and divert the focus of the conversation onto you and what you’re doing.

For example, manipulators often use this tactic in the context of infidelity. A manipulative unfaithful partner will accuse you of cheating. Moreover, their attacks can be quite virulent, so their outrage seems genuine and logical.

If this happens, you might drop your inquisitorial attitude and begin to defend yourself. In effect, you focus your attention and your emotional resources on trying to convince them that you’re not behaving badly. You may even start to feel guilty when you begin to process the events by following their story.

Woman sitting on a sofa in front of the computer doubting because of the manipulators
Assiduous manipulators make you doubt your behavior, even though you know that you haven’t been dishonest.


Projection is an unconscious defense mechanism. This is a tactic similar to the preemptive strike, except that there’s no conscious aim to manipulate the situation.

In fact, projection occurs in such a way that the manipulators don’t realize that they’re doing it, even though they take advantage of it. As a rule, projection occurs if the individual doesn’t want to take responsibility for their behavior. Consequently, they attribute it to another.

When a manipulator accuses you of manipulating, they’re probably deploying this defense mechanism. However, the goal is the same: to control you and benefit from the situation. This often happens because, deep down, the manipulator is feeling guilty or ashamed about what they’re doing. Projecting their feelings onto you is a way of getting rid of these annoying feelings.

One example is the manipulator who’s used to lying and then mistrusts everyone because they believe they’re also lying to them. It’s common that aggressive people justify their violent behavior by arguing that they do it to defend themselves because the other wanted to do them some harm, even though there’s no reasonable proof of this.

Couple arguing sitting on a sofa
The manipulator tends to project their behavior onto others, sometimes unconsciously.

What can you do?

Not all manipulators are the same. Some people exhibit this dysfunctional behavior due to mislearning or unresolved difficulties. In these cases, they don’t take their manipulation to extremes. However, in others, the manipulations come from a narcissist. In this case, the issue is far deeper and can rarely be satisfactorily resolved.

Whatever the scenario might be, whenever another person accuses you of something, it’s important that you evaluate whether it refers to facts, actions, or assessments. If they tell you that you’re manipulating them, ask them why. What behaviors of yours support their accusation? It’s highly likely that they won’t be particularly sincere in their response. That said, it’ll provide you with certain elements to figure out if it’s a reasonable statement or not.

In addition, if someone accuses you of manipulating them, ask yourself if they’re getting any benefit from doing so. Whatever the case, don’t waste your time arguing your innocence. If you know that you haven’t done anything wrong or engaged in any behavior that hurt them, that’s enough. Don’t let the manipulator fool you.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Álvarez Ramírez, E., García Méndez, M., & Rivera Aragón, S. (2014). Medición de la culpa en la relación de pareja. Ciencias Psicológicas8(2), 115-128. Recuperado en 12 de marzo de 2023, de
  • Chiale, G., & Husmann, G. (2022). Manipulación. Del Nuevo Extremo.
  • Cramer, P. (2013). Estudios empíricos sobre mecanismos de defensa. Subjetividad y procesos cognitivos17(1), 97-117. Recuperado en 12 de marzo de 2023, de

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.