It’s difficult to recognize when you’re being manipulated because the tactics that manipulative people use can be very subtle and sneaky.
The goal of a manipulative person is to control and have power over you. They’ll use different tactics to weaken your confidence, make you second-guess yourself, and ultimately make you dependent on them.
You should never feel inadequate, dismissed, or defined by someone else, and if this is happening to you, it’s important to consider the 9 phrases manipulative people use to control and dominate others.
It isn’t easy, but only when you’re aware of your situation can you do something to change it. Let’s explore some of the most common phrases to look out for.
1) Why are you so sensitive?
I remember the first time my partner said this to me; I stood in silence, not sure what to say next.
It completely caught me off guard.
If you don’t know that you’re being manipulated, you wouldn’t be wrong to second-guess yourself when someone criticizes you in this way.
Phrases like “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re crazy” are meant to minimize and make you question how you feel so you think your emotions are invalid.
This is gaslighting.
It happens when someone wants you to believe that your thoughts, emotions, or opinions don’t matter or that they aren’t real. You become upset and confused by the manipulator’s actions, and the more you experience gaslighting, the more you question your sanity.
If you notice that you’re feeling increasingly insecure or that you doubt yourself, it’s time to look at the relationships in your life and to make a change where negativity and manipulation are weighing you down.
2) If you really loved me
Relationships can be complicated, but when you have a manipulative partner, it becomes an emotional rollercoaster.
If your partner is using phrases like, “If you really loved me, you would do it,” they are trying to guilt you into doing what they want.
It’s an awful way to get you to prove your love by doing whatever it takes to make them happy. I understand that it’s not always easy to say no or to recognize when someone is taking advantage of you.
But once you are aware of their intentions, take steps to free yourself from their manipulative and toxic personality.
3) I know what’s best
You’ve been capable of making your own decisions, but lately, you feel the need to double-check everything. There’s something in the back of your mind that is making you doubt yourself, and you aren’t sure where it’s coming from.
“Trust me, I know what’s best,” or “You won’t make it without me.”
Have you heard this before?
A manipulative person will say this to gain the upper hand, whether in the workplace or at home.
They use the words “trust me” to win you over and get you to listen to them. Then they tell you that they know what’s best because they want to convince you that they’re an expert.
They’re trying to make you believe that you’re incapable of making good decisions without them.
This is a classic dominance strategy.
You feel less confident in your position or judgment because they’re so good at convincing you that they are smarter. The more they chip away at your confidence, the more you depend on them.
4) You’re overreacting
When you’re in the heat of the moment, has someone told you that you’re overreacting or being too dramatic? It’s another tactic to minimize your emotions and get you to keep quiet.
Don’t ignore this sign.
Someone who frequently tells you that you’re overreacting wants to control what you say or think. Perhaps you’re calling them out on their behavior, or you’re asking them to respect a boundary, and they don’t like what they’re hearing.
As soon as they dismiss your behavior, you become defensive and upset, and the conflict is steered away from them. The focus is now on you trying to protect your feelings and the angrier or more frustrated you become, the more it feeds into their notion.
You find yourself wondering whether you are overreacting or being too dramatic.
Don’t let someone play mind games in their bid to control you. Calmly walk away from the situation because they are not willing to respect you.
5) I’ll leave you
Manipulation and control in a romantic relationship are emotionally harrowing. One of the extreme ways that a manipulator tries to gain control is by threatening you into doing what they want.
They try to scare you by telling you they’ll leave if you don’t give in to their ways or requests.
In some instances, a manipulative person may threaten to harm themselves if you don’t give them what they want. This is emotionally manipulative and abusive behavior.
By setting clear boundaries, you can let the manipulator know that you won’t be bullied into giving in to their demands.
If you’re with someone who is intimidating and threatening you with possible self-harm, it is best to calmly suggest that they see a mental health professional. If you feel uncomfortable in their presence, reach out to friends and family for support.
6) Why can’t you be like (someone else)
When a manipulator’s goal is to dominate you, they target your self-worth by planting seeds of doubt.
You might hear them say, “Why can’t you just be like (individual’s name)?”
By comparing you to someone else, they hit you right where it hurts by making you question your self-worth and abilities. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a friend or a family member they’re comparing you to; the whole purpose of doing this is to break you down.
I remember being asked, “Why are you who you are?” This was right after getting upset in an argument and expressing how I felt. Again, I was left so stunned because it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.
By undermining you, it creates feelings of inadequacy and is one of the sneaky tactics that manipulators use to gain power over you.
7) I don’t get why you feel that way
Manipulators don’t like when your feelings or emotions don’t align with their agenda. If you get into an argument with them and they don’t like what they hear, they’ll probably say, “You’re wrong to feel that way,” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
Dismissing your feelings is a controlling technique.
They want to sway your emotions, and in most cases, manipulators use this approach to target individuals who have a sensitive nature and won’t stand up to them.
This can happen in intimate relationships, among family members, and even in a work setting.
If someone is making light of how you feel or completely dismissing your emotions, it’s time to address the situation by letting them know that your feelings and perceptions are valid.
8) I never said that
You’re imagining things; I never said that.
If this sounds all too familiar, you’re probably being manipulated.
Your manipulator wants you to believe that things didn’t play out the way you think they did. They want to confuse you because they can easily control you and the situation.
Believe me, they know what they said, and because you’re right, they need to twist your mind to shift the power dynamic in their favor. This type of deception is another form of gaslighting.
When you second-guess what you heard or what happened, the manipulator avoids accepting any responsibility for their role. They might add that you misheard or that you’re delusional, suggesting that you find it hard to understand or hear what was said.
This entire scenario confuses and belittles you, putting them in a more powerful position.
9) I’m saying this for your own good
How can somebody who is on your side be manipulating you? That’s exactly where they want you.
By using terms like “I’m telling you this for your own good” or “I want you to know this because I’m the only one on your side,” they want you to think that they’re being sincere, but it’s just another way to exercise control.
When they appear genuinely concerned and supportive, the last thing you do is question their behavior. By manipulating your trust, it becomes easier for them to influence your decisions and emotions.
In relationships, there are instances where a manipulator will say this to isolate you from friends and family. “I’m the only one who really cares about you,” or “You’re lucky to have me in your corner.” These are simply different ways of trying to get you to see them as your only means of support.
Look out for these phrases, along with steps to get you to spend less time with other people. If you notice that they’re making excuses for the two of you to avoid family gatherings or that they tell you that you happen to spend more time with other people, be aware of manipulation.
Manipulative people will control and dominate others, particularly their partners, to get what they want. Whether this is to gain attention, meet their own needs, or avoid responsibility, they tend to break you down in the process.
Phrases like “You’re too sensitive” and “You shouldn’t feel that way” are typical of manipulators because they know that it affects your self-esteem and creates self-doubt.
Once your confidence is crushed and you’re questioning the validity of your thoughts and emotions, they can control you and exercise power over you.