10 phrases manipulative people use to play the victim

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Ever come across someone who always seems to be the victim, no matter what? They’re experts at spinning tales so they’re never the bad guy.

Sounds familiar, huh?

Well, they’ve got a secret weapon: words. They know exactly what to say to make you feel guilty or confused.

In this article, I’ll go through 10 phrases these master manipulators use to pull at your heartstrings.

You might just recognize a few. 

1. “You’re Overreacting.”

Picture this: You’re upset about something they did, and they hit you with the “you’re overreacting” line.

What are they doing exactly?

They’re trying to make your feelings seem unimportant! They want to make it look like you’re causing a fuss over nothing.

This is their way of making you second-guess yourself and your feelings, and it’s a classic move by those who love to play the victim.

When someone says this to you, stand your ground and remember that your feelings are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

2. “I’m Only Doing This For You.”

You’ve probably heard this before – “I’m only doing this for you.” It makes them seem caring and considerate, right?


It’s actually a sly way to justify their controlling behavior. They want you to believe that everything they do, even if it’s hurtful or overbearing, is for your own good.

It’s a clever way to make you feel guilty for questioning their actions.

Don’t fall for it! Never forget that someone who genuinely cares for you will respect your boundaries and consider your feelings.

3. “Nobody Understands Me Like You Do.”

This one hits close to home for me. I had a friend who used to say this to me all the time. It made me feel special as if I was the only one who could truly comprehend her.

But over time, I noticed a pattern – she would only bring it up when I disagreed with her or when she did something wrong.

She was trying to win my sympathy and support, making it hard for me to stay mad at her or hold her accountable for her actions.

It was emotional blackmail, plain and simple. It took me a while to realize it, but once I did, I made sure not to let those words sway my judgment anymore.

It’s one thing to understand someone, but quite another to let them use your understanding as an excuse for their behavior. 

4. “I Always End Up Getting Hurt.”

This one is interesting because it’s a classic manipulation technique called ‘playing the victim’.

People who often play the victim tend to have a personality trait known as ‘Machiavellianism‘. They are manipulative and deceitful, using self-pity and emotional pleas to gain sympathy and control others.

So, when someone says, “I always end up getting hurt,” they’re trying to make you feel responsible for their emotional well-being.

The goal?

To make you go out of your way to ensure they don’t get hurt, giving them more control over your actions.

5. “I Don’t Know What I’d Do Without You.”

On the surface, it might sound like a sweet declaration of love or friendship, but when used by manipulative people, it carries a different weight.

It’s meant to tug at your heartstrings and make you feel essential to their survival.

But in reality, it’s nothing more than an attempt to create an obligation for you to stay with them out of guilt or fear.

They want you to believe that they can’t possibly function without you.

As much as we might care for others, it’s important to remember that we’re not responsible for their happiness or well-being.

It’s okay to be there for someone and support them, but it’s not okay if that relationship becomes a burden or starts affecting your own mental health.

Always remember, it’s not selfish to prioritize your own peace and happiness.

6. “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way.”

This one takes me back to a past relationship. My partner used to throw this phrase around whenever we had a disagreement.

On the surface, it seemed like an apology, but something about it always felt off.

It took me a while to realize what was happening. Instead of apologizing for his actions or words that hurt me, he was actually dismissing my feelings altogether.

His ‘apology’ was a subtle way of turning the tables, making it seem like my reaction was the problem, not what he had done.

Once I recognized this pattern, I started calling him out on his non-apologies and insisted on sincere regret when warranted.

It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and it’s okay to expect genuine apologies, not just hollow words designed to deflect responsibility.

7. “You’re Not Listening To Me.”

This one is a sneaky tool used by manipulative people to dodge criticism and make you feel guilty instead.

We’ve all had those moments when we’ve tried to express our concerns or explain why something they did was not okay, only for them to shut us down with, “You’re not listening to me.” It’s like they’re saying, “Your perspective doesn’t matter because it doesn’t align with mine.”

This is nothing more than a diversion tactic. It’s their way of saying, “I don’t like what you’re saying, so I’m going to make it about how you’re not understanding me.”

A healthy conversation involves both speaking and listening. Your perspective is as important as theirs.

Don’t let them turn the tables and make you feel guilty for expressing your thoughts and feelings.

8. “Can’t You Do Anything Right?”

This one is pretty harsh, and it’s designed to attack your self-confidence. But here’s an interesting fact: according to psychologists, this tactic is often used by people who themselves have low self-esteem and insecurities.

They belittle others to feel better about themselves, trying to shift their own feelings of inadequacy onto someone else.

This phrase is a clear attempt to make you doubt your abilities and worth. They do this so you’ll become more dependent on them and easier to control.

Everyone makes mistakes, and nobody is perfect. Don’t let anyone undermine your self-confidence with their hurtful words. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

9. “I Had No Other Choice.”

We’re nearing the end of our list with the ninth phrase – “I had no other choice.”

This one reminds me of a time when a former colleague took credit for my work. When confronted, her defense was, “I had no other choice. I needed to impress our boss.”

By saying that, she was attempting to justify her actions and avoid taking responsibility. It felt as if she was saying that her need to impress our boss somehow excused her deceptive behavior.

In truth, we all have choices. It’s crucial to remember that anyone who uses this phrase is simply trying to escape the consequences of their actions.

Hold them accountable. Don’t let them brush off their poor choices with a simple excuse.

10. “It’s Always My Fault, Isn’t It?”

This is a classic self-pity move used by manipulative people. They make it sound like they’re taking responsibility, but what they’re really doing is playing the victim.

It’s like they’re saying, “Look at me, always messing up. You must think I’m such a failure.” It’s designed to make you feel bad for them, maybe even apologize for their mistake.

Don’t fall for it. They’re not accepting responsibility; they’re manipulating you into letting them off the hook.


It’s crucial to recognize these phrases for what they are: manipulation tactics.

By being aware of these phrases and the intentions behind them, we can avoid falling into emotional traps and maintain healthier relationships.

Remember, everyone deserves respect and kindness. Stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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