10 phrases manipulative people use to keep you second-guessing

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Self-confidence can shield you from the schemes of manipulative people.

And that’s the reason why, if they want to exert control over you, the first thing they do is tear down your strong belief in yourself.

You see, the more you doubt yourself, the easier it is for them to control you.

So if you want to protect yourself from their manipulative moves, watch out for these phrases. 

They’re intended to make you second-guess yourself so they can finally wrap you around their fingers.

1) “Well, if that’s what you really want…”

Statements like these are meant to make you feel bad and consider not insisting on the things you’ve said.

It’s like saying “Sure, you’re causing everyone trouble, but if that’s what YOU really WANT…”

Or “Sure, it’s not the smartest move, but if that’s what YOU really WANT…”

You’re painted as self-centered because if you truly care about others, you wouldn’t make the decisions without considering them.

They’re making it clear that they would rather not go along with what you’ve said, but that by great personal burden they’ll let you be.

2) “I seriously hope you’re making the right decision.”

Casting doubt on your judgment is another of those things that manipulative people do to make you desist.

It doesn’t matter even if they know you’re in the right. By making it clear that they doubt that you’re making the right decision, they’re trying to make you doubt yourself.

Manipulative people say this to let you know that they are very, very sure you’re making a really bad decision…but it’s not like they didn’t warn you.

It’s their way to scare you and see the negative side of things instead of the positive.

When you hear it, you can’t help but think of the things that could go wrong…and if you’re scared enough, you might indeed change your mind (and even thank them for warning you!).

3) “You’re a little too dramatic”

If they hurt you, they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy. So they’ll invalidate your feelings by saying you’re too dramatic or too sensitive…because they’re just joking or it wasn’t a big deal.

Manipulators are experts at gaslighting. They make you question your feelings and you’ll start wondering “Yeah, maybe I’m indeed being dramatic” or “Yeah, maybe I’m indeed toxic.”

This makes you slowly lose your authentic self. It can even erode your self-esteem so that you’ll start hating how “emotional” you are.

This is deliberate. Manipulative people want you to start doubting yourself, especially on things related to relationships and feelings. Why? So you’ll stop asserting yourself and just let them do whatever they want.

This is the reason why, if you’re in a relationship with a manipulative person, you can get emotionally abused without even knowing it. 

4) “I’m only trying to help, but ok”

When you step your foot down or tell them “I’m good, thanks” or “No, I don’t think so”, they’ll take offense. 

They see this as some kind of rejection..and manipulative people get enraged when their suggestions and advice are dismissed.

They’d say this to make it seem like you’re ungrateful for their help.

Of course, they’re not really that hurt. They’re just saying it to make you change your mind.

5) “You do you, am I right?”


“You do you” has a ring of self-centeredness to it. They want you to feel exactly that so you’d second-guess yourself and wonder “Am I really selfish and inconsiderate?”

They shame you for making your own decisions, for following your dreams, for disobeying them.

They minimize your decision as just impulsive and careless and immature—that you’re not really thinking things through and just doing things on a whim.

6) “Well, I guess you want to learn it the hard way then.”

Again, another phrase that’s meant to scare people off. It’s like a warning really, something like “Oh, things will go bad. You will see.”

Manipulators think they’re some kind of Nostradamus who can predict the future.

They think they know how life works and that you should listen to what they’re telling you because it’s what’s good for you.

They’ll say this if you tell them that you’d really rather pursue a career in the arts than run their business, or that you’d rather stay with your boyfriend even if they don’t like them.

It’s really a mean way to say to someone you love, but manipulative people are focused on how they can make people obey them.

7) “Remember the time when you f*cked things up?”

Master manipulators will use your past against you.

If they know you messed up big time—to the point that it even gave you trauma—then they’ll remind you of how you shouldn’t trust yourself because you make catastrophic mistakes.

Let’s say you got pregnant at 19 or your business failed …well, they’ll make sure to open those wounds when you start to get confident with your life choices.

They’ll remind you that you need their guidance because you don’t know how to make sound choices.

8) “I thought you wanted my advice?”

Manipulative people think that just because you asked for their advice, you should follow it.

They find it even disrespectful that you “wasted their time” so they can tell you what you should do…but in the end you just made your own choices anyway.

They don’t have the capacity to think that their opinions and advice are just one of many, and that YOU ultimately have the last say when it comes to matters about your life.

It’s them telling you “If you won’t follow what I said, then don’t come to me again.”, which is silly and immature, if you really think about it. But that’s just how manipulative people are.

9) “Don’t come running back to me if that fails.”

This is a really scary thing to hear when all we want is support. Sadly, this phrase is usually uttered by the people closest to us.

It is actually a threat of some sort—that if you don’t follow what they want you to do, then you can’t run to them for any kind of support. And you might even lose your friendship altogether, too.

If you’re someone who badly needs some level of safety net or if you really value your relationship, this can definitely make you second-guess your choices.

This is totally unhealthy.

If someone truly cares for you, they’ll give you the freedom to carve a life that you want for yourself. They’ll give you emotional support all the way and remind you that they’ve got your back no matter what.

So if someone says “Don’t come running back to me if that fails”, that’s not love right there. That’s just pure manipulation.

10) “It’s clear to me that you only care about yourself”

Because what manipulators really like is that you care for THEM more than you care for yourself.

How dare you make decisions that don’t involve them.

How dare you think mainly of your own happiness.

How dare you not follow what they want!

They want control. And if they can’t have it, they’ll guilt-trip you into thinking that you’re not a good person because you don’t really know how to love others.

They’ll make you feel like you’re some sort of narcissist, when they’re actually the ones who exhibit those qualities if you take a closer look.


Manipulative people want you to question yourself at all costs, and will do everything they can to tear you down without you knowing what’s going on.

Sometimes they will sound like they’re “just concerned” about you, and at times they will try to guilt you into “doing the right thing”.

That’s why it pays for you to learn how to be confident all by yourself

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s one of the best tools you can have to resist manipulation.

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

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

If you do any of these 9 things, you’re more emotionally secure than most

10 signs of a highly successful person with low self-worth