Manipulators are masters of trickery and deception. They seek to get their way no matter what, and they use their silver tongues to get out of trouble and trick those around them.
The trouble with manipulators is that they never fight fair. They use the emotions, thoughts, and personalities of others against them so they can “win” or get what they want. In other words, when you’re face to face with a manipulator, they have likely analyzed you and determined how best to push your buttons to achieve a certain outcome.
Even worse, many manipulators do their best to play the victim and act innocent. This can make it difficult for you to gauge whether you’re speaking to someone who means well or someone who is trying to deceive you.
The good news is that many manipulators use the same tactics to achieve their desired effect. Here are some phrases manipulators use often, so you will know when someone is trying to get the better of you, and how to respond to them in a positive yet firm way.
Here Are 8 Phrases Manipulators Use Often
1. You misunderstood me. / You have it all wrong.
When a manipulator is called out or caught in the act, they are unlikely to ever take the blame themselves. In order to avoid being considered at fault, they will try to twist the situation to make themselves look innocent – or worse, they’ll play the victim.
This is why if you call out a manipulator on problematic actions, they are quick to defend themselves. “That’s not what I meant!” they’ll shout. “You’ve misunderstood!” they’ll insist. “You have it all wrong!” they’ll cry.
- But what they’re doing isn’t trying to get you to see what “really happened.”
- They’re trying to manipulate you into believing that they’re the victim in the situation.
- Worse yet, they’re trying to shirk responsibility for their actions.
In this situation, a manipulator is seeking to make you doubt yourself, others, and the entire situation. This is known as gaslighting, and it can make you feel like you’re going crazy and can’t trust yourself. Your confusion, however, only satisfies a manipulator.
The next time someone attempts to play the victim or shift blame onto you and others respond proactively. Tell them to take responsibility and share the blame with others involved. Make it clear that being at fault doesn’t mean you think of them as a bad person.
2. Look what you made me do!
Similarly to our first point, this is another way that manipulators will try to play the victim. When they do something wrong, make a mistake, or mistreat you, they will find a way to turn the situation around so the blame rests on you.
- With a manipulator, their actions are never their responsibility.
- Someone else made them do it, always, even when they are adults who should be capable of controlling their actions.
- They use phrases like, “Look what you made me do,” to make you feel self-conscious and worried about your own actions, distracting you from theirs.
To deal with a manipulator who uses these tactics, be sure to stand your ground. Inform them that you aren’t responsible for their actions and that they need to take responsibility for their behavior. Preston Ni, who has an MSBA, states that avoiding self-blame is key to dealing with someone trying to manipulate you.
3. I understand your point of view, but my way is best for us.
Sometimes, a manipulator will try to pretend that they empathize with you. They will say that completely understand your point of view while reiterating that they know best. If you’re in a romantic relationship with someone who behaves this way, you need to nip this behavior in the bud before it spirals out of control.
When a manipulator says something like this, they’re showing that they supposedly have heard all your points and understood them. This will lead you to believe that they are thinking logically and rationally and finding the true “best” option. Most of the time, though, this is just another trick to convince you to do things their way.
The most positive way to respond to someone who tries to use this to manipulate you is in the same manner. Indicate that it may be what they think is best for them, but that it simply isn’t what is best for you. If you are in a relationship, partnership, or work together, tell the other person that your best option will always be to make serious decisions as a team.
4. You’re being crazy. / You’re overthinking this.
This is the purest form of gaslighting. A manipulator will try to make you believe that you’re the one being unreasonable, even for asking for very simple, basic things – like respect. A manipulator might say things like:
- You’re being crazy!
- It’s not a big deal.
- You’re really overthinking this.
- You’re thinking too hard about this.
- Just use positive thinking.
- You’re being overly sensitive.
- You need to lighten up a little!
- You’re not making any sense.
The reason a manipulator might use phrases like this is to convince you that you’re being irrational. If you allow this to get to you, it may eventually lead to you backing down, convinced that they are the ones being rational. This will only lead to a further cycle of toxicity.
Manipulators often try to convince their victims that everything is in their imagination. They might do something that greatly upsets you, then convince you that you are overreacting. It’s a dangerous game to play and can lead to prolonged emotional abuse.
Stand up for yourself. Stay calm and speak clearly and in a rational, balanced tone. If you begin doubting yourself, take a moment to pause and think about it. Are you impaired in any way? Or is this person just gaslighting you?
5. I’ve bought you a gift/apologized, so why are you still angry?
Manipulators and abusers are famous for perpetuating a cycle of wrongdoing, apologies, and forgiveness. They will do something nasty, apologize or make up for it in the sweetest way, earn your trust, and then do it all over again.
If a manipulator gives you a gift and expects an immediate positive turnaround from you, politely thank them for the gift but be firm that they cannot buy forgiveness. You can even go as far as to offer to return their gift if this is a form of bribery for them.
If a manipulator apologizes and demands that you immediately forgive them, you will have to stand your ground. Many times, apologies are only filler words. They likely do not mean a change in behavior is going to occur.
Tell a manipulator who apologizes frequently that you will not provide them with forgiveness until you see a clear improvement in their actions.
6. I would never hit/hurt you!
Many of us draw the line at physical abuse but are woefully less aware of emotional abuse. We often allow signs of emotional negativity to slip right past us, and it’s typically brushed off as “not serious.”
Manipulators know this, too. That’s why they would never hit you physically. Many manipulators know that physical assault is where most people’s limits lie, so they toe the line there. By stating that they would never physically hurt you, they’re stopping you from making a connection between their behavior and toxicity or abuse.
But something doesn’t have to be physical for it to be bad. If you feel that you are being emotionally abused, you should take it just as seriously as you would physical or sexual abuse. Some warning signs of emotional abuse from a manipulator are:
- Verbal threats
- Humiliation or embarrassment
- Lack of privacy or personal space respect
- Controlling behavior
- Overly jealous behavior
- Withholding of affection
- Blame and guilt
- Negative tone of voice or sarcasm
Do take note that these signs can occur in very, very subtle ways.