If someone repeatedly uses these 12 phrases, they may be subtly manipulating you

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Ever had a chat and walked away feeling a little odd? Like you’ve been gently nudged into a corner you didn’t want to be in?

Guess what, that might be subtle manipulation. It’s not always loud and clear. Sometimes, it’s so sly we don’t even see it coming.

But some people are experts at using simple phrases to guide our thoughts and actions – often without us realizing it!

So, hold on tight as we explore these 12 phrases that might be signs of someone subtly trying to manipulate you.

Stay sharp, folks! You’re about to get enlightened!

1) “You’re too sensitive”

This seemingly innocent phrase is a classic in the subtle manipulator’s playbook. It’s a way of dismissing your feelings or responses. If you’re upset about something they’ve said or done, they’ll use this phrase to shift the blame onto you, making it seem like your reaction is the problem, not their actions.

This is called gaslighting – it’s a manipulation tactic meant to make you doubt your own feelings and perceptions. So next time someone tells you that you’re being “too sensitive,” take a moment to consider if they’re genuinely expressing concern or subtly trying to manipulate you.

Your response could sound something like: “My sensitivity is a part of who I am, and it’s important to me. I’d appreciate it if you could respect that and consider how your words or actions affect me.”

2) “I don’t remember saying that”

Another phrase that manipulators often use is “I don’t remember saying that.” This is another form of gaslighting, designed to make you question your memory or perception of events.

By denying their past statements or actions, they’re attempting to rewrite history and avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. If you hear this phrase frequently from someone, it’s a red flag that they might be trying to manipulate you subtly. Always trust your memory and instincts.

When confronted with “I don’t remember saying that” after recalling that they did indeed say it, you can respond assertively while maintaining a respectful tone with something like: “I understand that memory can be tricky sometimes, but I distinctly remember you saying [repeat the statement]. It’s important to me that we address this issue honestly and find a resolution together.”

3) “I was just joking”

This phrase is a classic that I’ve personally encountered. “I was just joking” is a phrase manipulators often use to disguise hurtful comments and actions. Here’s how it played out for me.

A friend of mine would often make snarky comments about my appearance. Naturally, these comments upset me. When I confronted him about it, his immediate response was, “I was just joking! Can’t you take a joke?”

This phrase made it seem as though I was the one overreacting and that he wasn’t at fault for making the hurtful comment in the first place. It’s a subtle way of shifting blame and dodging responsibility

When faced with “I was just joking,” it’s essential to address any potential harm caused by the remark while also maintaining a sense of humor if appropriate. My suggested response would be “Even if it was meant as a joke, it’s important to consider how it came across. Let’s make sure our humor doesn’t unintentionally hurt anyone.”

4) “Trust me, you can’t do it without me”

This phrase is a classic example of manipulative behavior. By insinuating that you lack the ability or resources to accomplish something on your own, the manipulator is attempting to make you feel dependent on them.

According to WebMD, manipulators often use such tactics to create an imbalance of power in their favor. They want to cultivate a sense of insecurity in you, so you feel you need them more than they need you.  

When someone tells you “you can’t do it without me,” it’s important to assert your independence and confidence. “While I appreciate your support, I also value my independence and believe that I’m fully capable of achieving this on my own” would be a good response.  

5) “No one else will ever love you like I do”

How many times have we heard this one, right? It’s a phrase that tugs at our heartstrings and often leaves us feeling a sense of dread and uncertainty.

But let’s get real here. This phrase is pure manipulation. It’s not a declaration of unmatched love, but rather an attempt to make us feel undeserving of love from others. It’s designed to trap us in a relationship by stoking our insecurities about our worthiness.

When confronted with this statement, put your foot down and maintain assertiveness with a firm response like: “Love isn’t about control or possessiveness. I value myself and deserve to be loved in a way that respects my autonomy and individuality. Your statement feels manipulative, and it’s not a healthy way to express love.”

6) “If you really cared about me, you would…”

Oh boy, this one hits close to home. “If you really cared about me, you would…” is a phrase that manipulators often use to make us do things we’re not comfortable with or ready for.

I remember a friend who would constantly use this phrase to guilt me into doing favors for her. “If you really cared about me, you would cover my shift,” or “If you were a true friend, you’d lend me the money.” It put me in a position where saying no would make me feel like a bad friend.

This phrase is manipulative because it ties your actions directly to your feelings for the person. It suggests that if you don’t comply, you don’t care about them, which is absolutely not true. No one should use guilt to coerce you into doing something.  

An appropriate response? Maybe something like: “Caring about you doesn’t mean I have to fulfill your every demand. Let’s focus on mutual respect and understanding instead of guilt-tripping.”

7) “You’re overreacting”

Let’s cut to the chase. This one’s a doozy. “You’re overreacting” is a phrase manipulators whip out when they want to belittle your feelings or reactions. It’s their way of saying, “Your feelings don’t matter, mine do.”

It undermines your right to feel and react to things the way you do. It creates self-doubt and makes you question your own instincts and perceptions. Let this be your constant reminder: your feelings are valid. You have every right to react to things the way you do. 

A suitable retort to “You’re overreacting” would be to assertively express your feelings and boundaries while also addressing the dismissive nature of the statement. Here’s a response you might consider:

“I understand that you may see it that way, but my feelings are valid. It’s important to me that my emotions are acknowledged and respected in this conversation. Let’s focus on finding a constructive way to address the issue at hand rather than minimizing my response.”

8) “I’m sorry you feel that way”

This statement might come across as an apology, but it’s anything but. Instead of owning up to their actions or admitting fault, the manipulator is cleverly redirecting the blame onto your emotions. By saying “I’m sorry you feel that way,” they sidestep accountability and dismiss your feelings altogether.

When you encounter this phrase, don’t mistake it for genuine remorse. Clearly communicate how their words or actions have affected you. Assert your boundaries and express what you need from the conversation. You might say, “I would appreciate it if you could acknowledge the impact of your words on me.”

9) “I hate drama”

This one might catch you off guard, but trust me, it’s a sneaky one. From my own experience, I can tell you that people who constantly say “I hate drama” are often the ones creating it.

I had a colleague who would often make this statement. Yet, he was always at the center of office gossip and conflicts. He’d use this phrase as a shield, making it seem like he was the victim of all the ‘drama’ he supposedly hated.

In reality, declaring “I hate drama” can be a tactic to divert attention away from their own behavior and actions. It’s their way of playing the innocent while causing chaos. 

If you feel something’s amiss, reflect on any patterns of behavior you’ve observed that contradict their claim. It doesn’t hurt to share your observations and experiences calmly and factually. For example, you could say, “I’ve noticed that there have been several instances where conflicts or gossip have arisen, and you’ve been involved.”

10) “I never said that”

Let’s be real. This phrase is a manipulator’s best friend. “I never said that” is a clear attempt to rewrite history and make you question your memory. It’s gaslighting at its finest.

If someone is constantly denying their words or actions, they’re messing with your reality to avoid taking responsibility.

My advice? Clearly state what you heard or experienced without accusing them of lying. For example, you could say, “I distinctly remember you saying [repeat the statement]. It’s important to me that we address this.”

11) “You owe me”

Straight up, this one’s dirty. “You owe me” is all about creating a debt that you never agreed to. It’s manipulative because it forces you into a situation where you feel obligated to fulfill their requests or demands. Remember, genuine acts of kindness or help don’t come with strings attached.

Depending on the situation, you can assert your boundaries and negotiate a resolution. If you genuinely owe something, discuss a plan to fulfill the obligation. On the other hand, if you believe the demand is unwarranted, politely but firmly express your perspective. For instance, you might say, “I don’t believe I owe you anything in this situation, but I’m open to discussing it further.”

12) “It’s for your own good”

Finally, let’s tackle this beast. “It’s for your own good” is manipulative because it assumes they know what’s best for you better than you do. It undermines your ability to make decisions for yourself and positions them as the ‘savior.’ 

It’s essential to recognize this manipulation for what it is: a tactic to exert control and influence over your decisions and actions. 

In response to someone using the manipulative phrase “It’s for your own good,” it’s crucial to assert your autonomy and maintain boundaries. For example, you might say, “I appreciate your concern, but I feel confident in making my own choices in this matter. 

Decoding the code of influence

As we wrap up our deep dive into the twists and turns of human dynamics, it’s clear that spotting sneaky manipulation is like cracking a tricky riddle. Those twelve phrases we’ve been dissecting are like secret clues, hinting at invisible puppet strings.  

So, let’s channel our inner detectives and fine-tune our radar for these subtle mind games. By tuning into the vibe and mastering our emotional IQ, we’re flipping the script on manipulation. It’s time to reclaim our power and steer our relationships with confidence and flair.

As we journey forward, let’s keep it real, keep it chill, and keep our connections grounded in trust and authenticity. Because in this wild ride called life, there’s nothing more empowering than owning our story and calling the shots.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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