8 deceptive phrases low-key manipulators love to use, according to psychology

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If you’ve ever encountered a low-key manipulator, you know how subtle and confusing their tactics can be.

Manipulators, in a classic move, often resort to certain deceptive phrases that can leave you second-guessing yourself.

It’s a puzzling experience, for sure.

But don’t worry, there are ways to recognize when you’re being manipulated. Understanding these deceptive phrases and the psychology behind them might be the first step towards that.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into it.

1) “I never said that.”

This is a classic phrase used by low-key manipulators, often referred to as gaslighting.

The manipulator will deny ever having said something, even if you clearly remember them saying it. It’s a psychological trick that can make you question your own memory and perception.

Let’s say you have a disagreement with someone, and they distinctly state something that upsets you. When you bring it up later, they casually dismiss it with an “I never said that.” This can leave you feeling confused and doubting your own recollection.

You need to understand that this isn’t just forgetfulness or a misunderstanding. It’s a deliberate tactic used to control and confuse.

Manipulators like to use this phrase as it allows them to rewrite history according to their perspective. It helps them avoid accountability for their words or actions, and it can make you feel guilty for accusing them falsely.

Dealing with this can be a challenge, but remembering that it’s a manipulation tactic is the first step towards taking back control.

Trust in your own memories and perceptions, and don’t let anyone else overwrite them.

2) “You’re too sensitive.”

Contrary to what you might expect, this phrase is not a comment about your emotional state. Instead, it’s a manipulative tactic to deflect blame and make you question your feelings.

Imagine being upset about something they’ve done and expressing your feelings. Instead of addressing the issue, the manipulator labels you as “too sensitive.”

This implies that the problem isn’t their behavior but your reaction to it.

Essentially, they’re shifting the focus from what they’ve done wrong to how you’re wrongly perceiving their actions. It’s a clever way of avoiding responsibility and keeping you on the defensive.

Your feelings are valid. Being labeled as “too sensitive” is often just a manipulator’s way of maintaining control. Stand firm in your emotions, and don’t let anyone undermine them.

3) “I was only joking.”

This phrase is a common tool in the manipulator’s toolbox. It allows them to say something hurtful or inappropriate and then avoid the consequences by claiming it was just a joke.

When you express your hurt, they quickly retort, “I was only joking.” This not only dismisses your feelings but also implies that you’re lacking a sense of humor for not finding it funny.

In reality, humor is a complex social function that serves many purposes, including bonding, expressing forbidden thoughts, and, yes, manipulation.

Jokes can often be used to express truths in a socially acceptable way. So when someone uses “I was only joking” to dismiss your hurt feelings, they’re most likely trying to get away with their offensive behavior.

Remember, if a joke hurts, it’s no longer a joke. And you have every right to call them out on it.

4) “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

On the surface, this phrase may seem like an apology. But look closer, and you’ll see it’s not about expressing regret for their actions but about your feelings in response to those actions.

By using this phrase, they’re subtly turning the tables. Instead of taking responsibility for what they’ve done, they’re making it about how you’ve chosen to react. It’s a way of blaming you without appearing to do so.

You deserve to be heard and understood. Your feelings matter, and a genuine apology should acknowledge the other person’s actions, not just your response to them. 

5) “Don’t you trust me?”

We’ve all heard this one before. It’s a question that can send us spiraling into self-doubt. When a manipulator asks, “Don’t you trust me?”, they’re essentially putting you in a lose-lose situation.

If you say no, it puts strain on the relationship and makes you seem like the bad guy. If you say yes, it means ignoring your doubts and potentially enabling their manipulative behavior.

This phrase is designed to make you question your instincts and overlook their questionable actions. It’s a way of sidestepping responsibility and making you feel guilty at the same time.

Always remember, trust is earned through consistent actions, not just words. If something feels off, it’s okay to voice your concerns and stand your ground. You’re not wrong for wanting honesty in your relationships.

6) “That never happened.”

This phrase is a manipulator’s ace up their sleeve. It’s another form of gaslighting, where they deny an event or conversation ever took place, making you question your sanity.

I remember being in a situation where a friend borrowed a significant amount of money and promised to return it by a certain date. When that date came and went with no repayment, I brought it up.

Their response?

“That never happened. I never borrowed money from you.”

This blatant denial of reality was shocking. It was an attempt to rewrite history and evade responsibility.

Always trust your memory and stand firm in your truth. If necessary, keep tangible proof of occurrences to counter such deceitful tactics.

7) “If you really loved me, you would…”

Let’s set this straight: love is not bending over backwards to fulfill someone’s every demand; it’s not losing yourself or compromising your values; and it certainly isn’t proving your affection by doing things that make you uncomfortable.

This phrase is a manipulator’s way of playing with your emotions to get what they want. It’s a powerful statement that can make you question your feelings and commitments.

It’s a manipulative tactic designed to guilt-trip you into compliance. It’s about control, not love.

Genuine love respects boundaries and values mutual understanding over selfish demands. Your worth isn’t determined by what you’re willing to do for someone else, but by how you uphold your own self-respect and values.

8) “You’re overreacting.”

This might be the most damaging phrase of all. It’s a manipulator’s way of belittling your feelings and making you feel like your reactions are irrational.

Manipulators use this phrase to undermine your confidence, making it easier to control you. But don’t let them.

Your feelings are valid. No one else gets to decide how you should react or feel about a situation. You’re entitled to your emotions, and expressing them doesn’t mean you’re overreacting.

Trust your instincts and emotions. They’re your personal compass, guiding you through life.

If someone consistently makes you question them, it may be time to reconsider that relationship. You deserve respect, understanding, and honesty—never forget that.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot to digest here, but it’s important to remember that understanding these deceptive phrases is more than just identifying manipulators—it’s empowering ourselves.

This article has hopefully given you the tools to recognize manipulation when it’s happening and stand up for yourself. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to use them.

Your feelings, perceptions, and experiences are valid and should be respected. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

Becoming aware of these tactics is a step towards healthier relationships. You’re now equipped to spot these phrases and understand what they truly mean.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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