10 phrases manipulative people use to gain control over you

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Some sneaky people are able to wrap you around their little fingers with only their words.

They take the upper hand by subtly making you feel like the bad guy or gal.

They use certain phrases to suggest that you’re overreacting, being selfish, or being unreasonable. This plays on your emotions and gives them control.

So if someone says the following things to you, beware!

1) “Suit yourself…you usually do”

This one is uttered by martyrs across the globe.

People who are stuck in victimhood cannot express their own needs and wants in a healthy way. Often, neither can they respect other people’s.

So instead, they try to exert subtle pressures to get you to do and say what keeps them happy.

You’ll get clues when you’ve gone against their wishes in the form of passive-aggressive statements like this one.

Growing up, my mom always threw this one at me to make her disapproval known. 

If you make a decision someone else doesn’t like, they may say “Suit yourself”. But in doing so, it’s clear they don’t support that decision.

The extra kick in the teeth is the “…you usually do” which is there to imply you make a habit out of selfish choices.


2) “You know I didn’t mean it”

This type of manipulative phrase is often brought out after an argument or when someone has behaved badly and is looking for a reprieve.

It’s almost like offering up an excuse for what they’ve done, without actually having one. It’s a bit of an apology, but one that doesn’t take on any responsibility.

In short: It’s an attempt at winning a get-out-of-jail-free card.

They are presenting themselves as somehow innocent because what they’ve done is not who they truly are.

Trust may have been broken, boundaries may have been overstepped, and pain may have ensued.

But “Hey, you know I didn’t mean it” wants to sidestep the wrongdoing and absolve them of blame.

In abusive relationships, it may be followed up with the false promise of “It won’t happen again”…

Only for it to happen time and time again.

3) “Stop being such a drama queen”

Phrases like this one where you’re labeled a melodramatic attention seeker aim to invalidate your feelings.

If you are experiencing extreme sadness or anger it’s a way of trying to make you feel like you are totally over the top.

By making you feel wrong for your emotions, the other person wants to embarrass or shame you over them.

Being told you’re a “drama queen” or “too sensitive” is their way of suggesting your reaction is disproportionate.

Much like the next phrase on our list, this gives them control by making them the rational one and you the emotionally immature one. 

4) “Chill out!”

Phrases like “chill out” or the equally annoying “calm down” are extra grating as they suggest you are being irate or unreasonable.

The inference is that they are calm and collected and you need to check yourself.

The funny thing is, nobody ever told someone to chill out through concern or a genuine desire for that person to become calmer.

We help people to calm down by being compassionate, empathetic, and understanding. Not through a smug superior approach.

That’s why it’s used with the full knowledge it is only likely to elicit even more frustration from you.

5) “I think you need to get some professional help”

We’re not talking about a carefully crafted intervention born out of real concern. We’re talking about accusations that get thrown around during or after some sort of dispute.

It’s a way of calling your character or behavior into severe question. It’s used purely as an insult.

There is zero worry for your mental health, only judgment.

It’s an attempt to get the upper hand by portraying you as unstable. In the process, making the other person the only emotionally stable one in the conversation.

It’s a suggestion that your interpretation of events is so off the mark, you may well be unwell.

6) “If you loved me you would…”

This one is a classic.

Sadly, life’s manipulators can easily be those who are closest to us. And they’re willing to use anything they can to be in the driving seat.

That includes taking advantage of your affection for them.

The hope is that by guilt-tripping you they can make you feel bad enough to allow your boundaries to be pushed.

It’s a last resort to get you to change your “no” to a “yes”. 

But the simple fact is:

If they loved you, they would respect you enough to take no for an answer without cajoling or pressuring you.

7) “I only did it because you…”

Manipulators sometimes try to perform magic by making an emotional slide of hand.

They want to turn their wrongdoing into your fault.

It’s a total twist around to somehow try to make you the one who is to blame for their misdemeanor.

For example, a cheating spouse who is caught out tells you that they wouldn’t have done it if you were home more. They felt neglected, so what else could they do?!

There are reasons, and then there are excuses. They are not the same thing.

Because when we fail to take full responsibility for ourselves we are manipulating others. We are trying to put our portion of the blame onto them.

8) “You’ve got this all wrong”

Except you don’t actually have it wrong. But they are still going to try to convince you that you do.

They want you to question your version of reality. They want to prompt you into second-guessing your feelings or perspective.

It’s a technique employed by gas-lighters.

Insistent denial rather than owning up is manipulation.

It reminds me of that Shaggy song, ‘It wasn’t me’.

No matter how compelling the evidence is, they try to lead you to believe you’ve made a mistake, not them. 

9) “Good vibes only”

Sadly, this positive-sounding sentiment has been twisted for toxic uses.

Let me give you an example:

Whenever I see a guy who writes something along the lines of “good vibes only” or “no drama” on his dating profile I immediately swipe left.

Not because I bloody love drama and want to create it wherever I go.

But because it sets alarm bells running in my head that says he wants to act however he feels like, then suggest you are being uptight for calling him out.

Because the “good vibes only” approach to life is all too often used as a way to dismiss a perfectly normal wide range of emotions someone experiences.

Or as a way of diminishing completely reasonable expectations of decent behavior.

Life brings all kinds of “vibes” and is never 100% “drama free”. It’s manipulative to try to make you feel bad about not being non-stop fun.

10) “I don’t think you ever really loved me”

This is a fishing expedition, pure and simple.

Sure, there may be occasions when someone is feeling insecure.

But more often than not it’s an attempt to call into question the other person’s actions or way of showing affection.

Particularly after a breakup, your ex may roll this one out to try to make you feel bad.

Or in a current romantic relationship, it might be called upon to get you to back down in an argument.

They’re hoping that by saying it you will vehemently disagree and try to prove your affection.

Manipulation is pretty common

The truth is that we’re all capable of being manipulated and also of manipulating others too.

We often don’t realize when we’re trying to impose our own will or way of looking at things on someone else.

That’s not an excuse. But neither does it automatically mean someone is trying to do wrong.

So we need to stay vigilant to not only the actions of others but also keep ourselves in check for those subtle times we’re trying to get our own way.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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