15 classic phrases narcissists use to manipulate your emotions

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Narcissists are nasty individuals who only really care about themselves.

But plenty of us can still fall under their spell.

That’s because they have many manipulation tricks up their sleeves that draw us in.

Here are some of the classic phrases narcissists will use to manipulate your emotions.

1) “Chill out, you’re totally overreacting!”

The aim is to make you feel like you are the unreasonable one.

We all know just how infuriating it can be to be told to calm down whenever we are upset.

That’s because it is a blatant attempt to minimize what you are feeling and try to make you feel wrong for it.

Regardless of whether you are perfectly justified, a narcissist will throw this phrase at you to try to make you feel small.

2) “I know it’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve never felt this way before”

It’s vital to remember:

Especially in the beginning, narcissists often rely on love bombing to get you on their side. That means they will say (and do) things to make you feel special.

The key to spotting it is that it is disproportionate. For example:

  • Professing to love you madly when you haven’t known each other long
  • Giving non-stop flattery and compliments
  • Suggesting they cannot live without you

3) “You know I didn’t mean it”

Or perhaps, “You know I love you really”.

This is when a narcissist tries to use your goodwill towards them against you. They know you have strong feelings for them by this stage. So they will use that to their advantage.

When they use phrases like this, they are looking for excuses for something bad they’ve done.

They are trying to appeal to your good nature by saying you should know them well enough to know that however they behaved isn’t the “real them”.

The problem is that it IS the real them.

4) “I’m sorry you feel that way”

This is an incredibly frustrating phrase to hear from anyone.

At first glance, it may resemble an apology. But in reality, it’s not.

Rather than being sorry for hurting you or doing something wrong, they are only sorry that you don’t like it. And that’s a very different thing!

It’s a total deflection back onto you.

In the process, you probably feel like they are trying to invalidate your emotions.

5) “If you loved me you would”

Narcissists like to call into question your feelings for them. It’s a great way for them to try to play the victim.

By playing the “poor me” card they get to switch around the roles. The reality is that they are being unfair and demanding of you.

They are trying to get you to do something you do not want to do, which makes them in the wrong, not you.

But by using this phrase, they make the situation into a test of your affection. They are trying to manipulate your emotions by making you feel guilty.

6) “This nonsense is beneath me and I don’t have time for it”

This is yet another way for a narcissist to minimize your frustrations by trivializing them.

This phrase hopes to paint you as petty and immature.

Meanwhile, they are attempting to take the moral high ground by suggesting they will rise above it.

7) “If I were you, I’d be very careful about what you say next”

When they don’t get their way, narcissists are perfectly happy to resort to threats.

Yet they will most likely avoid making it overt and will use a suggestive phrase like this one.

They don’t make the details of the threat clear, but it is still implied and hence just as menacing.

It’s a warning not to cross them in the hopes of maintaining their power over you.  

8) “That’s totally unfair”

Narcissists have a warped sense of what justice looks like.

In their world, getting all their needs met constantly is what constitutes as fair. Anything else is unfair. They expect to live by their own rules, which are separate and above other people’s.

They believe they are special cases, and so if they are asked to do what is expected of others you’ll probably hear them protest that it’s not right.

9) “I don’t know why you are treating me this way”

Narcissists are the master manipulators, yet they have a knack for always turning things around.

As we’ve already seen, no matter what, it’s them who is the victim. They are the hard-done-by ones. They are misunderstood. They are the persecuted innocent party.

Even if you are confronting them about inappropriate behavior, instead of fessing up and making amends they will try to make you feel bad about it.

The hope is that you will feel guilty for standing your ground or having boundaries.

10) “You’re always such a drama queen”

Narcissists like to put all responsibility for things on to you.

It’s not them who is behaving badly, it’s always you who:

  • Overreacts
  • Can’t take a “joke”
  • Is way too sensitive

It’s designed to put your response into question.

They want you to feel foolish or misguided in your reaction. That way they can minimize the significance of their actions.

11) “I don’t know what is wrong with you, but you seriously need to get some help”

It’s called gaslighting, and it’s a classic when it comes to narcissists.  

One of the most toxic tactics a manipulative narcissist will use is to try to make you question your mental health.

They’re the unhinged one, but they want you to feel like the problem lies fully with you.

They try to make you question your version of reality.

Even though they may try to pretend that they pity you or are concerned for you, this sort of phrase has zero concern embedded in it.

It is 100% an insult they’re throwing at you to try to get you to back down.

12) “You used to be fun”

This is the sort of phrase a narcissist will pull out when you say no to one of their demands.

If you try to uphold boundaries, they’ll try to twist it into you being uptight all of a sudden.

Chances are they are the ones who have shifted from being charming to being controlling and manipulative.

But phrases like this one want to make you think that it’s you who has changed, not them.

The aim is simple:

To get you to give in to whatever they want. So they’ll try to make you feel like a killjoy until you do.

13) “We are meant to be together”

If you get romantically entangled with a narcissist it can feel even harder to escape their web.

After love bombing you, they try to create this hyper-romantic narrative around your relationship.

They may suggest you’re soulmates or twinflames. They may try to remind you that the course of true love never runs smoothly.

But this is designed to get you to stay even after things turn toxic.

This plea is manipulation to get you to invest in your relationship even though it’s not healthy.

By making you two sound like “fate” or “destiny”, they hope you will put up with their ever-increasing bad behavior.

14) “I need you”

This is a clever phase because it simultaneously makes you feel guilty and makes you feel special — all at the same time.

Hearing that someone can’t live without you and is relying on you puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

Far too much in fact!

But it can also play with your emotions by making you feel like you are more important to them than anyone else.

15) “How could you abandon me, after all I’ve done for you!”

Perhaps you have found the courage and strength to step away from a narcissist in your life.

When you can no longer deal with their unreasonable behavior you know you must cut ties with them. But they’re not going to make it easy for you.

Rather than accept your decisions, they may try to draw you back in by appealing to your sense of loyalty. They want you to feel bad for “leaving them in the lurch” or not supporting them through thick and thin.

But despite their protests, you don’t owe them anything. Your first duty of care should always be to yourself.

How to shoot down phrases from a narcissist

Now you know what to be on the lookout for, how do you deal with it?

Spotting narcissistic phrases is only the first step.

Learning how to deal with it in the best way can further protect you.

Here’s how:

  • Try to avoid confrontation and resist getting drawn in by what they say to you
  • That will mean reminding yourself that YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME
  • Instead, refuse to play into their game
  • Work on bolstering your boundaries
  • Consider if you should remove this person from your life once and for all
  • Don’t be afraid to seek outside support for guidance and comfort in doing so

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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