15 perfect comebacks for dealing with a manipulator

When you first realize that someone important in your life is actually an emotional manipulator, you don’t really know what to do.

You don’t know how to react.

How could this person who was supposed to care for you and love for you, be so horrible?

How do you deal with a manipulator in your life?

It’s all about not letting them in, and not giving them the power to control you.

Here are 15 perfect comebacks for dealing with a manipulator and putting a stop to their mind games:

1. “We’re not talking until you calm down.”

Emotion is key to a manipulator’s magic, manipulating your emotions with their own emotions.

Those being manipulated tend to be submissive and kind, willing to change their own mind about their feelings if they see that their partner is in distress.

So avoid that situation altogether.

When you see the manipulator starting to become emotional, say to their face: “We’re not talking until you calm down”.

And stick to it.

Force them back to the real world, away from the tantrum. Play on a level playing field.

2. “No thanks.”

When the emotional manipulator is your best friend, your significant other, or even your relative, the words “No thanks” in response to them trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do might not even come to your mind, because you don’t want to insult someone who means so much to you.

But shutting them down early — before the arguments and manipulation even begins — is the best way to deal with them. Let them know right away that you’re not going to deal with any of it.

3. “That’s not actually what I’m feeling.”

An emotional manipulator thrives off of making you feel what they want you to feel, rather than allowing you to feel your true feelings.

By barraging you with their accusations, you get to the point where you’re too exhausted to keep defending what you actually feel, and you cave in and just accept whatever they say.

By telling them that that’s not actually what you’re feeling, you put a brick wall in front of them immediately, because they realize that you’re aware of the game they’re playing.

But how can you be sure of what you’re feeling?

Start by taking a deep breath.

When I needed to get a grip on my emotions, I was introduced to an unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.

My relationship was failing, I felt tense all the time. My self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I’m sure you can relate – heartbreak does little to nourish the heart and soul.

I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.

But before we go any further, why am I telling you about this?

I’m a big believer in sharing – I want others to feel as empowered as I do. And, if it worked for me, it could help you too. 

Secondly, Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in. 

Now, I don’t want to tell you too much because you need to experience this for yourself. 

All I will say is that by the end of it, I felt peaceful and in control of my emotions, more than I ever had before.

So, if you want to stand up to a manipulator, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video.

You might not be able to change them, but you will stand a shot of saving yourself and your inner peace.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

4. “You should tell me what you’re really feeling.”

This is one comeback that will really get under their skin because it shows them that not only are they failing to emotionally manipulate you, but that you’re trying to manipulate them in return.

By saying this line with a partly sarcastic tone, you say to the manipulator, “I know what you’re doing.

Why don’t you stop pretending and tell me what you’re really feeling?”

5. “Say that again but without the insults.”

When a manipulator gets to the point that they’re insulting you and cussing you, they’ve lost all control of their manipulative tactics, and they’re simply using you as an emotional punching bag now.

They might have even forgotten themselves in their rage, which is why they’re going all out with their verbal abuse.

So simply say to them, “Say that again but without the insults.”

It forces them to think back on what they just said, and realize how much of their words are actually cusses and curses.

They’ll feel small immediately, knowing that they lost their own game.

6. “I need some space.”

An emotional manipulator knows that all they need is time.

As long as they have a bottomless pit of time with their victim, they know that they can convince them of anything.

So how do you make a manipulator feel helpless?

Simple: cut away all that time.

Tell them that you don’t want to be around them and that you need space.

They’ll immediately revert to kindness, begging you to stay, or they may try to guilt trip you for leaving them.

7. “I’m an incredibly valuable person.”

Manipulators are very careful with the people they choose to be their victims.

They know that emotional manipulation only works on people who don’t have high self-esteem; it requires people who don’t believe in themselves and are willing to submit to others.

So prove them wrong.

Show your manipulator that they made the wrong choice picking you as their victim.

Tell them, “I’m an incredibly valuable person and I’m worthy of love”, and they’ll get the idea that you’re not (or no longer) a person they can control.

8. “You can’t get in my head, sorry.”

Manipulators know that the only way they can “win” is if they successfully get in your head.

And getting in someone’s head isn’t that difficult… unless they know what you’re up to and start looking out for your tactics.

By telling your emotional manipulator the line, “You can’t get in my head”, you make them feel helpless right away.

They might come back with the line, “You’re crazy”, but you already know that you’ve spoiled their efforts.

9. “I’m actually busy right now. Let’s talk later.”

Don’t let the manipulator schedule your discussions; that gives them power.

Don’t give them the ability to decide on your behalf when you deserve to talk to them.

Every tiny sliver of power they have over you reinforces their confidence that they can control you.

So you have to chip away at that belief until they fully understand, they have no power over you.

So the next time they approach you, tell them that you’re busy and you’ll talk to them later.

It’s like pulling the rug out from under their feet, and they’ll feel a little less confident in their ability to manipulate you.

10. “Your words don’t mean anything.”

Bullies always want to have control.

They need to know that they have power over you, and the only way they can do that (without resorting to physical violence) is with their words.

They love knowing they can smooth talk their way out of any situation, and smooth talk their way into making you do whatever they want.

By saying the words, “Your words don’t mean anything”, or “Your words have no control over me”, it’s the same as looking them in the eye and saying, “I know what you’re doing, I’m sick of it, it’s done.”

11. “I’ll only talk to you if <a friend> is with us.”

Emotional manipulation thrives on isolation of the victim.

Bullies know that their mind games only work when their victim is alone, because they have no one to reassure them that their thoughts aren’t actually wrong.

When someone is alone, it’s easier for them to doubt their reality, and thus believe whatever the manipulator wants them to believe.

But if you stop putting yourself in situations where you’re alone with your bully, and you have a friend by your side, it takes away all of their power immediately.

They won’t have the same confidence when another person is in the room, and you won’t fall victim to the same self-doubt.

12. “Do you realize what you just said?”

Stop letting them get away with their verbal abuse.

When your manipulator says something that you just can’t swallow, don’t let it pass without accountability.

Stop the conversation immediately and say something along the lines of, “Do you realize what you just said?”, or, “Do you hear yourself?”

Your manipulator will take a moment to reflect on what they said if you point it out, and realize that they went too far.

And if there’s any goodness in their heart, they’ll regret it immediately and try to tone down the argument.

13. “Let’s move on.”

Bullies need to control the conversation.

They need to define how much time is spent on each topic, on each discussion; they want to be able to say when we’re done talking about whatever we’re talking about.

By saying the words, “Let’s move on”, you take away another small power giving them the confidence to manipulate you.

Show them that you don’t care about whatever agenda they might have in mind; you control the conversation as much as they do, if not more.

14. “I have the power to make you feel that?”

One way to make a manipulator doubt themselves is by reminding them that they don’t have total control over their own emotions, something they like believing they have.

When they tell you that they’ve become riled up because of you, all you have to say is, “I have the power to make you feel that way?”

This will immediately make them realize that they were emotionally manipulated by you, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.

When they realize that their emotional control is more vulnerable than they believed, they’ll lose faith in their own manipulative abilities.

15. “You’re wrong.”

The easiest and quickest way to show them you’re not playing games: tell them that they’re wrong.

Explain that they have the right to their opinion, but you also have the equal right to ignore their wrong opinion.

Their opinion isn’t fact, as much as yours isn’t either, but you’d rather listen to yours than theirs.

Don’t even play their game with them. Just tell them they’re wrong and cut them out. Move on.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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