4 Phrases Manipulators Use to Make You Think They’re Harmless (And How to Respond)

4 Phrases Manipulators Use to Make You Think They’re Harmless (And How to Respond)


“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.” – Philip K. Dick

Most people don’t realize when they’re being manipulated. This is because manipulative people are good at what they do. They tend to use certain phrases that can make them seem like they’re entirely harmless. Most people don’t realize that these are the hallmark phrases of an abuser – or know how to respond when they’re met with them. Here are the common phrases a manipulator uses, and how to stop them in their tracks.

Here Are 4 Phrases Manipulators Use to Appear Harmless

1. “Look what you made me do.”

This is one of the key phrases that manipulators use. It makes them seem like they’re not in control of their actions. They want you to think you are the reason for their behavior. This phrase can be particularly jarring, especially when the manipulator has done something to punish you for a perceived slight against them. Manipulators are particularly fond of this phrase because it can be used to control other people by making them hyperconscious of their words and actions.

How to respond?

“I didn’t make you do anything”. Standing your ground and letting a manipulator know that you’re not going to fall for their tricks is key. You don’t have control over anyone but yourself. A manipulator has control over their own actions. Don’t let them trick you into thinking they don’t. According to Preston Ni, M.S.B.A, it is important to avoid self-blame when it comes to a manipulator, and make sure to keep the responsibility of their actions on them.

2. “You’re acting crazy.”

Manipulators want to get into your head and make it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about. When you try to bring up a problem that you have, a manipulator will often respond with “You’re acting crazy”, or something similar. They may also accuse you of being irrational or insist that you’re not making any sense. This is to get you to back off, and to reframe them as the logical person in the argument.

How to respond?

Stay calm and collected. You may feel yourself getting more and more frustrated, but it’s important to stand your ground when it comes to responding to this phrase. State your position clearly and calmly and refuse to get caught up in trying to prove that you’re being rational.

3. “You’re overthinking things.”

Manipulators love using this phrase to make it seem like whatever concerns someone has are just a figment of their imagination. If a manipulator does something deliberately to upset you, they may claim that you’re just ‘overthinking’ it when you try to confront them about it. Pattern recognition is important when it comes to avoiding manipulators, and this is one of the biggest red flags there is.

How to respond?

This particular phrase may be the beginning of a manipulator trying to gaslight you. If you are ever told that you’re overthinking something, trust your gut instinct. Say, “I am thinking clearly, and I need you to respond to my concerns.” Forcing the manipulator to face their actions is a key step in responding to their manipulation.

4. “I’m sorry.”

Most people would be over the moon if they got an apology from someone who had hurt them. But, “I’m sorry” is a manipulator’s favorite phrase. This is because a manipulator will use the “Catch and release” tactic when it comes to manipulating. A manipulative person will apologize over and over, without ever actually modifying their behavior. But since they always apologize, it seems like they’re really trying to be better … even when they’re not.

How to respond?

“Thank you for apologizing, but I’m not ready to forgive you until I see a change in your behavior.” According to Preston Ni, being able to control your boundaries is key when it comes to handling a manipulator. Knowing how to say “No” will help keep you safe when it comes to responding to someone’s manipulation. If someone doesn’t change their behavior, they need to know that you can see right through them.

Final thoughts

Manipulators know their targets’ weaknesses. A manipulator deliberately “creates an imbalance of power and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda,” concludes Ni. They also know how to act, and usually have just the right things to say to make them seem like they’re more innocent than they really are. Being able to respond to common manipulative phrases will keep you from getting caught up in a manipulator’s web.

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