“I thought you knew”: 9 phrases that show you’re dealing with a covert manipulator

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There are some highly manipulative people in this world.

Sometimes, we are all guilty of using others to get what we want. But a manipulator is a person who only ever uses others. To them, other people’s feelings, opinions, and beliefs aren’t important. Instead, they see other people merely as tools for them to use to get what they want.

And manipulation relies on someone’s true intentions not being found out. After all, when people know they are being manipulated, it’s a lot harder to get them to behave in the ways the manipulator wants.

That’s why manipulative people are usually extremely good at hiding who they are.

However, sometimes they give themselves away. The things they say can often be a clue that you are dealing with a manipulative person.

Watch out for these phrases. Because when you hear them, they suggest you are dealing with a manipulator.

1) “That never happened”

We live in the era of fake news, of deepfakes and artificial intelligence, and it seems like every day, it’s getting harder to believe what we see and hear.

That’s the kind of confusion that manipulative people thrive on.

You see, manipulators rely on lies. The goal is to warp your perception of reality and even make you distrust your own memory of events. That’s why they may lie to you about what you’ve said or done, say something never happened when it did, or say something did happen that you know didn’t.

This is called gaslighting, and it’s one of the most destructive things a manipulator can do.

“Gaslighting is usually performed over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories,” writes author and life coach Sherri Gordon. “A common result of this is a dependency on the perpetrator.”

And ultimately, that’s the whole point.

The manipulator’s goal with gaslighting is to make you stop trusting your own mind. That way, you will rely on them to tell you what’s real, what’s not, and how you should feel and behave.

That makes it easy to control you.

2) “Look what you made me do”

It’s more than just a Taylor Swift song. Like many of the phrases manipulators use, this one reveals their true intentions if you look beneath the surface.

This is a victim-blaming statement, along with things like, “you’re making me angry,” or, “you know what happens when you do things like that.”

What these statements have in common is that the manipulator is behaving as though they don’t have control over their own actions. As if you or somebody else is responsible for their behavior.

Of course, mature adults know that’s nonsense. No matter what other people do, we ultimately make our own choices about how we will behave.

But manipulators want to act as if that isn’t the case. That way, when they behave badly, they can blame you or anybody else around them for ‘making’ them do bad things.

3) “I can’t do this without you”

Manipulators are generally bad people. They wouldn’t get very far with their schemes if that was obvious.

Often, they can be very charming and seemingly loving. But as with everything with these people, it’s just another form of control.

And they are perfectly capable of faking helplessness to get what they want.

Often, this is a way of getting you to do something for them. They will pretend that they don’t know how or aren’t skilled enough to do something until you give in and do it for them.

Alternatively, this can also be a way of controlling you more. By making you think they are helpless and can’t take care of themselves, they rely on you getting more attached to them and wanting to help them.

4) “After everything I’ve done for you”

The guilt trip is a classic tool of emotional manipulation.

This happens in romantic relationships, where one partner will remind another of all the sacrifices they have made

But it also happens a lot in family relationships. Often, parents will bring up all the sacrifices they have made for their children to get those kids to do what they want.

Psychologist Lynn Margolies points out that guilt-tripping is often an unconscious process.

“It is easy to project our reactions and fears onto situations when we feel insecure, especially ambiguity,” she writes.

However, manipulative people know the power of the guilt trip, and they will consciously use it to get what they want.

Making people feel guilty makes them easy to control. When they think they owe someone something, they are more likely to do what the manipulator wants to make up for their supposed debt.

5) “You’re pretty smart for someone who didn’t go to college”

This is just one example of lots of phrases that can fall into the category of backhanded compliments.

Things like:

  • “You look great for your age.”
  • “I love your outfit. I would never wear something like that, but you pull it off.”
  • “Congratulations on your little project.”
  • “It’s amazing you’re doing so well.”
  • “You’re pretty when you make an effort.”

These phrases can sound like they’re compliments, but only if you don’t listen too closely. If you do think about what they’re actually saying, you’ll notice that all of these supposed complements carry a little needle of negativity inside them.

The manipulator wants you to notice that. Compliments like these aren’t intended to build you up, but instead are supposed to tear you down.

But they are phrased this way so that if you call the manipulator out, they will pretend that wasn’t what they were doing at all. They will say they were just trying to pay you a compliment, and you misunderstood them. 

6) “It’s not my fault”

Manipulators love to avoid responsibility.

No matter what bad behavior they engage in, they will find someone else to blame. And everything that happens to them is somebody else’s fault.

That’s why they will say things are not their fault. They will make excuses for themselves and act as though they have less control over their lives than they do.

It’s all part of the game of manipulation.

7) “You’re spending too much time with them”

Another trick manipulators often use to gain greater control of the people around them is isolation.

Most of us get emotional support from our family, friends, and other meaningful people in our lives. And those support networks boost our self-esteem and make it harder for a manipulator to control us.

So often, they try and isolate you from those support networks.

They will claim that you are spending too much time with friends and family and not enough time with them. They may even cause drama between you and the people closest to you, trying to make you argue and driving a wedge between you.

The ultimate goal is to make you depend on them for all your emotional needs. That way, they can control you more easily.

8) “I don’t know what I’ll do without you”

Once you see through the tricks and tactics of a manipulative person, you may want to leave. But if they’re getting what they want from you, they won’t make that easy.

One of the ways they try to keep you in a relationship is by making vague threats about what will happen if you leave. They will act as if they can’t live without you, and that by leaving them, you are harming them.

They may even threaten to hurt themselves or somebody else if you won’t stay.

Needless to say, this is a form of abuse, and not something anyone should tolerate.

9) “You’re the only one who understands me”

Manipulators like to create a kind of fairytale existence. And part of that, especially in romantic relationships, is convincing you that the two of you have something special together that nobody else understands.

Part of the reason they do this is because they know that people around you may see the manipulative relationship for what it is and tell you exactly what they think.

Often, the manipulator will try to counteract this by saying that other people can’t understand the passion of the turbulent relationship you have with one another.

They may say you’re the only one who understands them. But in reality, the last thing they want is for you to really understand them. Because if you did, you’d see them for the manipulative person they are.

Identifying manipulative people

Manipulative people are almost always best avoided. Their attempts to control others are almost always harmful.

But manipulators are good at hiding what they really are.

Listening for these phrases can help you spot a manipulative person quicker. That way, you can avoid their schemes and stay away from the drama they create.

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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