14 phrases toxic people use to put people down

Never underestimate how crafty toxic people can be. 

Not only do they manipulate situations, but they have a way of using their words to subtly degrade and hurt people.

You have probably experienced this. 

They’re quick. So quick, that by the time you realize what they’re saying, they’ve already moved on. 

Even worse, if you call them out on their cruel words, they’ll accuse you of overreacting!

Well, not anymore. In this article, I’ll be sharing 14 phrases toxic people use to put others down. 

Take note – the next time someone uses these phrases against you, you’ll know what you’re dealing with…

1) “You’re too sensitive.”

This is my pet peeve and something most people have been told before. 

So let me start by saying – you’re never being too sensitive. Having emotions is normal and healthy.

When someone uses this line, it’s usually to shift the focus from THEIR bad behavior to YOUR reaction. 

It’s cruel in two ways; they avoid taking accountability for their actions and leave you questioning whether you’re overreacting. 

2) “I was just joking.”

No, they weren’t. You know there weren’t and so does everyone else in the room. 

But this is another classic phrase toxic people use to put others down. 

They say something shitty and mean, and when you try to call them out on it, suddenly, “It was just a joke, lighten up.”

3) “You’re overreacting.”

Chances are, you weren’t overreacting at all. 

But a toxic person will use this phrase regardless. They want to get away with whatever bullcrap they’re doing or saying, and they don’t want anyone to challenge them. 

So, when you do confront them, they’ll find a way to put the focus on your reaction instead of their behavior, which is very similar to the first point I mentioned. 

4) “You wouldn’t understand.”

Talk about being condescending

The last time I was hit with this line was by a family member, so I very calmly responded, “Oh sorry, I forgot you were the only one capable of understanding such things. It’s a wonder I’ve survived so long in the world!” 

Never let anyone make you feel like you’re not clever enough to keep up with a conversation or learn something new. 

Their sense of superiority actually comes from insecurity, so we should pity them really. 

5) “I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal out of this.”

This is another way to invalidate your feelings or concerns. Rather than taking a minute to understand where you’re coming from, toxic people will use this phrase to shut you down

They want to make you feel like you’re overreacting. When in reality, you’re probably being very reasonable given the circumstances! 

6) “You always…” or “You never…”

Ah, definitives. As Merriam-Websters defines it: 

“Something definitive is complete and final.” 

In other words, it’s really hard to argue against it. When someone says, “You never support me,” or “You always let me down,” they’re essentially backing you into a proverbial corner.

From there, you’re supposed to rack your brain for all the times you did support them or all the times you have shown up for them, just to try and defend yourself. 

7) “If you really loved me, you would…”

Guilt. This tactic is used by someone who is toxic and wants to put you down.

Because after hitting you with this phrase, if you don’t do what they want, you end up feeling bad. And they know that.  

That’s why toxic people use this pretty common manipulation technique to get what they want. 

In a healthy relationship, you would never need to prove your love in such ways.

8) “Everyone thinks that…”

Do they, though?

Years ago, I helped an ex set up his brand-new coffee shop. I spent hours cleaning, taking orders, and helping him get systems in place (he had no clue what he was doing). 

One day during a petty argument he called me bossy. Then he took it a step further and said, “Everyone thinks that, even some of my customers.” 

At the time, it made me feel like utter crap. Then I realized; I had a great relationship with his customers and staff. I’m not bossy (I’m too British and polite to be!). 

Ultimately, he just said it to put me down. And for a while, it worked. 

9) “Why can’t you be more like [another person]?”

Making comparisons is another way toxic people will put you down. 

It’s as if they’re saying, “You’re not good enough as you are.” 

Not only does it plant insecurity, but you may even start to resent the person you’re being compared against. 

If someone in your life says this to you, you’re probably better off without them. 

10) “You owe me.”

Here’s the problem I have with this phrase – if you agree to do something for someone, it should be because you want to help them out, not so you can hang it over their head for the rest of their life! 

But this is how toxic people control others. They make you feel bad for asking for a favor, and then constantly remind you that you owe them back. 

11) “No one else has a problem with it.”

The truth is, if you have a problem with someone’s behavior, other people probably do too. They just haven’t spoken up about it. 

But by using this line, toxic people make you feel isolated and alone. As if it’s only you who has an issue. 

Rather than accept that they’ve done something to annoy or hurt you, they’d rather make you feel bad instead. 

12) “You can’t take a joke.”

This is quite similar to the second phrase mentioned in this article. 

Usually, toxic people will use this line after they’ve made a rude or hurtful remark. When you don’t lie down and take it, they make it out like you don’t have a sense of humor. 

Even though it’s obvious that they weren’t joking at all – it’s just another way to get away with their toxic behavior! 

13) “Look what you made me do.”

One thing toxic people struggle with is taking accountability for their actions.

And that’s where this phrase comes in – when they mess up, somehow, it’s your fault. 

They do this because rather than own up to what they’ve done (and feel bad about it), they’d rather put you down and place the blame on you instead. 

In these situations, don’t feel afraid to point out exactly how it’s nothing to do with you – their actions are on them! 

14) “You’re just jealous.”

And finally, another one of my pet peeves. When my ex kept texting a so-called “friend” at weird times of the night and day, and I asked him what was going on, he insisted I was jealous. 

Jealous and crazy, actually. 

It turns out they did have something going on, but for months he made me feel like I was a psycho b*tch. He made me feel guilty for not trusting him. 

But when I learned the truth, I realized my gut had been right all along. 

So there’s a lesson for you – always trust your intuition

Now, we’ve covered 14 phrases toxic people use to put others down. If you have someone like this in your life, my advice is to cut them off. 

They’re adults. They’re aware of what they’re doing. Sure, you can try to talk to them first (worth a shot) but if they don’t change, you need to distance yourself.

Words hurt, and you don’t need that type of negativity in your life

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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