15 clever phrases to turn the tables on a manipulative individual

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Manipulative people cross our paths in many situations:

Pesky telemarketers, toxic romantic partners, self-interested friends and even family members who want to twist our emotions or thoughts. 

But whichever kind of manipulative person you’re dealing with, it helps to have some arrows in your quiver. 

These are highly effective (and clever) phrases that can work very well to turn the tables on an emotional or intellectual manipulator. 

Want to stop them in their tracks? Try these. 

1) “I can make my own decisions.” 

It doesn’t get much clearer than this. 

When a manipulator tries to tell you what to choose, let them know that you’re a sovereign individual. 

You can choose for yourself: and you also don’t appreciate the way they are trying to twist and control you. 

2) “That’s not going to work on me.”

The attempts to manipulate you are falling flat and they aren’t working. 

This phrase is best delivered almost bemusedly, rather than angrily:

You’re not fighting or getting upset, you’re just clinically observing that their manipulation tactics won’t work. 

You’re not engaging or taking the bait. Not even close. 

3) “If you want to keep talking, please change your tone. I’m not going to be shouted at and talked down to.”

No matter what they are saying or its veracity, manipulators often use their tone and way of speaking to manipulate you. 

Let them know that it won’t work on you. 

You make it clear that you won’t tolerate a condescending or angry tone against you. 

They can either adjust their tonal manipulation and bullying or shut up. Simple choice. 

4) “I may be thin and friendly, but don’t mistake me for your doormat.” 

This is a good one that also throws in a little self-esteem boost for you. 

It’s especially well suited for you, if you tend to be a “nice guy” or “good girl.” You can shut down your inner people pleasing side with this one. 

You’re aware that you’re a kind person, but you’re informing the manipulative person that it doesn’t mean you’re a dupe. 

You’re aware of what’s going on and you won’t be used and mistreated by them.

5) “I don’t have money to give you. But if you want to talk the idea over, other than from the financial side I’d be interested.” 

This is an excellent thing to say when a manipulative person is trying to get money from you or focus on money.

It’s simple:

Take money and financial aspects out of the conversation and see if anything else is left. 

If not? It was always only about money to start with. 

6) “You can’t see inside my head or heart and know what I think or feel. Stop assuming.”

This is a way to tell the manipulator to stop gaslighting you. 

You have your own thoughts and feelings, and they’re ultimately known only to you. 

When the manipulator tries to tell you what you think or feel, you let them know it’s incorrect for them to do so and you won’t stand for it. 

7) “Let’s find a win-win solution instead of arguing.”

Whenever possible, a win-win solution should be looked for. 

Those who engage in manipulative behavior often see everything as a zero-sum game:

They win or you win.

By reframing this as a situation where you can both get what you want or reach a productive compromise, you can sometimes make excellent progress and defuse their manipulative tendencies. 

8) “I appreciate your input, but I see it differently.”

This is a polite phrase and is a way to respectfully disagree

You’re informing the manipulator that you disagree and giving them the option to respond respectfully. 

You’re not in agreement, and you’re not going to be bullied or twisted into agreement. 

You’re being honest and giving the other person the option to also de-escalate and recognize your perspective. 

9) “What you said would be convincing if it was true. But it’s not.”

Ouch!

Saying this phrase is both hilarious and confronting. 

You’re letting the manipulator know that you don’t believe what they have said or have proof that it’s not true. 

Once they recover from the sting of this one, they’re likely to approach you with a little more caution and respect next time. 

10) “Pressuring me is only going to drive me further away.” 

You’re giving them a friendly warning:

Tap the brakes, sweetheart. 

Because if the manipulator continues on their current course, you’re only going to exit the situation. 

They will likely try a relaxed and subtle approach after you say this, which you can also call out if it’s still manipulative. 

11) “If you think mind games will work on me, you got the wrong person.”

Boom!

This pushes back at the manipulator with ample force, informing them that their attempts to mess with you have failed.

Whatever mind games they are playing, they are failing. 

You’re telling them in no uncertain terms that they are wasting their time on you. 

12) “I like traveling, but I don’t go on guilt trips. Not my cup of tea.”

This is both funny and clear. 

You are calling out the manipulator for trying to guilt trip you and letting them know that you see right through it. 

Guilt trip? No thanks! 

You’re not even going to browse the brochure for that trip. You’re out. 

13) “Let’s take a step back. I need some time to think about this and get input from other people, too.”

Many manipulators derive their power from gaslighting and forming your frame:

They try to shape the boundaries of your reality so they can then control what you do within their (false) version of reality. 

When you indicate that you want input from others, it is a hex through their heart:

They know that their spell won’t work on you. Not this time. 

14) “I understand what you want. But I also exist and have my own goals and perspective.”

You’re recognizing this person’s point of view and goals. 

You understand what they want from you or from a situation, and you’re not even necessarily indicating that it’s invalid or wrong. 

But you’re also letting them know in no uncertain terms that you have your own point of view and objectives. 

And what you want doesn’t necessarily line up with what the manipulator wants. 

This simple but powerful comeback can stop a manipulator in his or her tracks, mostly because it is so simple and logical. 

15) “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you don’t know what you’re talking about. Because if not, I should warn you that I don’t like liars.” 

This is a good phrase for when a manipulator is getting quite aggressive and insistent in their schemes. 

You throw down the gauntlet and inform them that you are not buying any of what they’re selling. 

They’re either ignorant of the facts or lying. And in both cases, you’re not continuing the interaction based on the way they have framed it. 

This gives them the option to either adjust and admit a mistake or walk away.

Drawing the line

These phrases assert your autonomy and boundaries.

They let the other person know that you won’t be manipulated and, even better, they inform them that further pressure and mind games will just be counterproductive. 

This then puts the ball in the manipulative individual’s court:

They can decide whether they want to start over and treat you with respect and honesty or whether they want to walk away. 

Your conditions are clear:

Speak with me transparently and respectfully or not at all. 

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