18 common phrases people use to manipulate you

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There are times when somebody is trying to take advantage of you and you don’t realize it until it’s too late. 

But there are hidden clues in many manipulative and exploitative situations that can help you raise the red flag and get out as soon as possible. 

Manipulative people can often be spotted in the language and phrases that they use. 

Here are eighteen common phrases people use to manipulate you. 

1) “Calm down!”

This is one of those common phrases people use to manipulate you.

“Calm down!” is very effective because it’s a way to tell someone to shut up or stop being upset that is disguised as being worried about them. 

This is a way to claim the upper hand in an argument or fight as well. 

If somebody is telling you to calm down they are generally demonstrating that they have succeeded in making you upset and have thrown you off your balance. 

Telling you to “calm down” is their way of laughing at you and telling you that you losing your cool means your point of view is also invalid and you should walk away. 

2) “If you really cared you would…” 

The next of the disturbing common phrases people use to manipulate you is “if you really cared you would…”

This is generally the precursor to some very exploitative tactics. 

The next part may be “you would loan me that money…” or “you would accept my apology for cheating on you,” and so on.

This is really the perfect verbal setup to almost any lie, excuse or manipulation as it puts all the burden of “caring” on you and demands that you prove it by doing whatever the other person wants or agreeing with them. 

3) “It seems like you’ve never really loved me.”

This is a very manipulative phrase that’s sometimes used in romantic relationships to take advantage of you.

The entire idea of “proving” how much you love someone or whether you really do is quite toxic at base. 

After all, if you have to show or prove that you love someone, how would they even know if it was real or only done out of a sense of obligation or guilt? 

Forced love and love-by-guilt isn’t love. 

4) “You’re the only one who can help.” 

Next up we get this gem. 

It puts all the burden on you and demands that you do something or help in some way or else be responsible for something bad that happens to this person. 

It could be an individual asking you for money on the street or it could be a friend telling you that he needs a loan and only you can give it. 

Whatever form it’s in, this is generally a manipulative line as it puts all the pressure on you alone. 

5) “Can you just help me out a bit?”

This is usually a very manipulative phrase

Sometimes we all need help, that’s a fact. 

But by couching this in “just” and “a bit,” the person is making it clear that you not helping or being unable to help would be very selfish or unreasonable. 

6) “Why can’t you just listen to what I’m saying?” 

This is another of those very common phrases people use to manipulate you.

It indicates that not only are you not understanding what’s being said, but you’re also either not intelligent enough or don’t care enough to actually try to understand. 

This is both an insult and a dismissal at the same time. 

It’s a way to demand that you accept the other person’s framing and narrative fully or else be accused of ignoring or misconstruing what they’re saying and “not listening.” 

7) “I’ve been trying to go easy on you, but…” 

This is another of those common phrases people use to manipulate you, often your superiors at work or even a romantic partner who’s become abusive.

This is a way to say that somebody “tried” to see the best in you and treat you well but you forced their hand to treat you harshly or be strict with you. 

It’s basically victim blaming in most cases and is usually the type of thing somebody says before exploiting or mistreating you in some way. 

8) “You haven’t changed at all.”

To be fair, this can actually also be said in an affectionate or loving way. 

But it’s usually meant as a manipulative phrase that people say in frustration. 

It reduces you back down to some negative image or stereotype they have of you and demands that you “prove” or earn your way out of it. 

This phrase pushes you to not be who you are and to somehow show you have actually changed (hint: it’s by doing whatever the other person wants or agreeing with them). 

9) “Let me handle it, don’t worry.” 

This is a phrase that often involves a kind of manipulation. 

It could be said by someone you know well or somebody you just met. 

The basic message is for you to let go of control or involvement and allow them to handle it. 

This can often be because the other person is doing something which is not in your best interest. 

10) “Stop trying to control me.” 

Nobody likes being controlled or feeling someone is monitoring all the time, fair enough. 

But when this phrase is used, it’s usually:

  • Not true;
  • Being said in order to get you to allow or permit this person to do anything they want even those things which are harmful to themselves or others. 

This is a favorite phrase of teens who are rebelling against their parents, for example, and want to manipulate their parents into relaxing any rules and restrictions. 

11) “We all good?”

This is a phrase that’s asking if an apology was accepted or asking if you’re feeling OK towards this person. 

It demands that you either nod and say yes or continue an argument or difficult subject. 

If you’re not “all good” then it then puts the burden of an issue on you, since the person asking it is indicating they’re ready and happy to be all settled at this point. 

This is often a gaslighting phrase unless it’s being used to just genuinely double check if you’re OK after somebody has apologized and you’ve accepted it.

12) “You won’t regret this!”

Next up in common phrases people use to manipulate you is “you won’t regret this!”

I mean, maybe you won’t?

But when somebody is promising you that you won’t regret something, it’s usually because there’s a very good chance you will regret it. 

This usually means you have been roped into something that’s not necessarily in your best interest and you’re now being told to relax. 

13) “I have no idea why you feel that way.”

This is another of those really dodgy statements that some people say. 

It basically “otherizes” you and makes it clear that your feelings are unjustified and hard to understand

It lets you know that whatever you’re feeling it’s invalid and you probably shouldn’t be insisting on it. 

14) “You’re crazy.” 

The next of the common phrases people use to manipulate you is telling you “you’re crazy.”

This indicates that whatever you’re saying or feeling is so out of bounds that it’s not even worth consideration. 

You’re being told that whatever you’re doing or saying has no merit and is outside the realm of any reasonable discussion. 

15) “You made me do it.”

This is a classic gaslighting term

It has various forms such as the literal above version or iterations like “I wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t so…” or “I never used to be this way before you…”

The bottom line is you’re being blamed for someone else’s behavior or choices. 

Talk about manipulation. 

16) “You don’t understand.”

This is another of those phrases that’s often said to manipulate. 

Of course it is possible you really don’t understand something. There are many situation where clarification and hearing more about what’s happening can be helpful. 

But this is often used in such a way as to gaslight somebody and make them feel inferior. 

If you’re often being told you “don’t understand” keep in mind that it’s often a way to simply be pressured into accepting somebody else’s version of reality. 

17) “What do you think about opening our relationship?”

This is another of those manipulative phrases that are often said in a romantic context. 

If you want an open relationship that’s your business, but this is often what’s said by a partner who’s no longer in love with you but doesn’t want the trouble of breaking up. 

18) “What more do you want from me?”

This is another of those common phrases people use to manipulate you.

It indicates that this person has done all they can and that you’re being unreasonable and unduly harsh on them.

Whatever else you do want or hope from this person is being indicated to somehow be either not reasonable or mean on your part.

A definite manipulative phrase right here! 

Better luck next time 

The phrases above are often used to manipulate

There are times they are said genuinely and with full sincerity. 

But more often than not, they are a way for somebody to try to shift you into doing what they want and playing along with them. 

When you hear a partner, friend, family member or work colleague or boss using these kinds of phrases with you, be cautious. 

Chances are they’re trying to unfairly manipulate you

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