9 phrases confident women use to shut down manipulators, according to psychology

If you’re reading this then you probably already know what it’s like to be manipulated, and the kind of things that manipulators say and do. It can feel pretty horrible and draining, right?

Essentially, manipulation is when someone tries to control or influence you for their own benefit, and usually against your own interest and well-being.

It can be subtle or overt and can happen in relationships, friendships and in the workplace. 

Here are some of the phrases that confident women use to deal with manipulators, showing them that they won’t be pushed around.

1) “Thanks for your feedback”

Depending on the situation, you can be more or less direct with a manipulator

In a work or school situation, it might be harder to be totally direct. So I’m going to start with more polite (but still firm!) ways of speaking to a manipulator.

By saying thanks for your feedback, you can disarm the manipulator. Why? Because they are probably expecting you to respond to fire with fire, and challenge them in some way.

But if you do that, the chances are they will just draw you into a debate or even argument, which is the opposite of shutting them down.

This phrase doesn’t mean that you agree with what they are saying, but by responding with a thank you, it stops them from continuing the conversation. By thanking them, and calling their words ‘feedback’ you show that you don’t place any emotions on what they are saying. You’re showing them that don’t accept their comments as a truth, but rather as an opinion.

And that leads me to the next phrase:

2) “I’m not interested in your opinion”

This one is a little more harsh and may not be usable if the person is someone at work who is more senior to you. But yet again, it reframes what they have said as an opinion, not an ultimate truth.

It’s a rejection of the worldview that they are trying to impose upon you.

And by saying you’re not interested you take the wind out of their sails. They may try to reply to convince you to become interested, and at this point, you can simply repeat the words ‘I’m not interested’.

Psych2go explains how this phrase really shocks manipulators, because they often have such high opinions of themselves.

3) “Mmmhmm”

I had to use this one recently. I’ve realized that a man I know is a manipulator and a narcissist. He has been trying to ruin my friend’s reputation by spreading lies about her (my friend is his ex).

I had already asked him to stop telling me bad things about her (I know they aren’t true but I didn’t say this), because she is my good friend and it is upsetting for me to hear him talk like that.

However, the last time we spent time together he kept making digs about her, trying to get me to engage in some way. I just blankly stared into space and said, mmhmm.

The beauty of this is that it is non-committal, I’m not ostensibly agreeing or disagreeing. And I’m definitely not giving him any leeway to continue the conversation. 

After the third attempt he gave up, and so far he hasn’t tried it with me again.

4) “I feel like I often have to justify my decisions/actions to you”

This is another one that can be used in a workplace or a situation where you still have to remain civil to the person.

Women who use this phrase are calling out the manipulation, showing that they recognise what is happening.

If necessary you can add something to the end like, “and I don’t appreciate it” or “I’m not interested in doing that any more.”

As this psychology article explains, they key here is to use ‘I’ statements that are clear and decisive, leaving no room for argument, and yet also avoid accusations.

5) “I can’t because that crosses my boundaries”

While in most of these examples, I favour not explaining yourself too much (as this gives manipulators an ‘in’ with which they will try to continue to manipulate you), there are exceptions.

Like what? 

Well, sometimes manipulators aren’t fully self-aware. They may have learned as children that the only way to get their needs met was to manipulate. Children may often try to do this but with caring adult help, they grow out of it.

But if they had no such caring adult in their life, they may grow up confused about how to express their needs. In this case, women who know their own strength can explain that whatever the person is trying to convince them of, is not ok.

As this YouTube video on mental health explains, if you’re going to use this phrase, first understand what your boundaries are and then make sure to stick to them.

If the manipulation keeps happening you can tell them that this behaviour is unacceptable and make consequences for them trying to cross your boundaries. 

For example, you might explain that you won’t see them again. Or if that’s not possible because you work together, you can tell them that if the behaviour continues you will speak to someone more senior in the company about it.

6) “I’m not responsible for your feelings”

Perhaps you’ve realised you are in a romantic or family relationship with a manipulator who likes to guilt trip you.

You want to go out and spend some time doing your hobbies or meeting with friends, but instead, they say “I can’t believe you’re leaving me alone again. ⁤⁤You know how lonely I get when you’re not around. ⁤⁤You’re so selfish for prioritising your friends over me.”.

This person may really be lonely but instead of taking responsibility for themselves, they are putting it on to you. 

You can offer good advice (maybe they can read a book, or do an activity – or go to counselling!) and then suggest a mutually convenient time to spend quality time together.

Ultimately though, a confident woman will let this person know exactly where she stands, in this case – not responsible for another person’s feelings.

7) Repeat back to them what they just said, but slower

Ok, so this one is actually a tip from lawyer and Instagram influencer @jefferson_fisher, who uses his knowledge of psychology to win his court cases.

The video in question is actually called ‘How to respond to a backhanded compliment’, but it also works well against manipulators who have just said something out of line.

Maybe you’re in a relationship with someone who consistently forgets important dates like your birthday, dates and special events that you have planned together. I’m not talking about once or twice but a recurring pattern.

You try to address it hoping for acknowledgement and support but instead, they try to guilt trip you and say, “I can’t believe you’re making such a big deal of this. You know I’ve been really stressed at work lately, and you’re just adding to my stress by bringing this up. Can’t you see I’m doing my best?”

While they may genuinely be busy or stressed, they are trying to blame you for their mistake instead of owning it, and make you feel bad in the process.

A confident woman can slowly and calmly reply, “So what I hear you saying is that because you’re stressed at work, it’s okay for you to forget important dates, and I should feel guilty for being hurt by that.”

This is a great way to call out this bad behaviour.

8) “I feel sorry for you”

This phrase is another great one from the YouTube channel Psych2go.

Sometimes, addressing what the person has just said gets you nowhere, since they will always have a new response to continue their manipulative diatribe. 

A friend of mine told me that when this kind of thing happens to her she simply says, with true compassion, but also a firm resolve: “I feel sorry for you”.

This is the last thing the manipulator expects, since they tend to feel they are the ones in the position of power. Here you flip the script and stop them in their tracks.

9) “No”

“No” is perhaps the most powerful of all the statements that a confident woman can use to shut down a manipulator. 

If someone is trying to influence you against your will or make you do something you don’t want to do, you can simply refuse.

No explanations, no context needed. Just a simple ‘No’, followed by walking away.

Final thoughts

Manipulation can take many forms and be done from a place of malice or ignorance (though in my experience most manipulators do really understand what they are doing).

Either way, it’s not acceptable and people cannot be allowed to get away with it.

If you or someone you know is being manipulated, use or share this list with them. 

You have a right to your autonomy and these phrases will stop people from pushing you around!

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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