15 classic phrases manipulative people say when they want something

We all have things we want, and it’s frustrating when that doesn’t happen. 

But manipulative folks are on another level:

They don’t just get disappointed or frustrated by not getting what they want or being delayed, they become deceptive and play all sorts of mind games. 

They begin using emotional blackmail, gaslighting and all variety of other nasty techniques to pressure you to give them what they want. 

Here are some of the common phrases a manipulative individual will use when they want you to give them their way. 

1) “You owe me…”

When somebody does you a favor, that’s their choice. 

Calling in that favor with this kind of phrase is manipulative. Like it or not, a favor with conditions attached isn’t a favor: it’s a contract. 

When they tell you something like this you are being guilted. They are trying to make you feel obligated to do what they want.

That’s inherently manipulative.

2) “Stop overreacting…”

Your reactions are your business. 

Being told you are overreacting is a common form of gaslighting in which you are being told what you can or should feel. 

This is a way to manipulate you into having the reactions that the gaslighter would prefer. 

As Dr. Cortney Warren warns: “By accusing you of being dramatic, the gaslighter is attempting to dismiss your concerns as irrational and unfounded.”

3) “I’ve done so much for you, the least you can do is…”

This is another way that the manipulator will try to call in a favor. 

They make you feel guilty and in debt to them and then offer you a way “out” by doing just one “small” thing. 

This is all intended to make you feel terrible if you don’t do what they say, and is deeply insidious. 

4) “Come on. It’s not a big deal”

This is a classic example of dismissive behavior. 

The manipulator is trying to control your frame of reality by telling you what is or is not a big deal. 

Who is he or she to say? If it’s a big deal to you, it’s a big deal! 

As Rena Goldman writes: “Dismissive behavior is not simply forgetting to attend an event after agreeing to it. This is an intentional attitude that can leave the other party feeling rejected.”

5) “If you really cared about me, you’d…” 

This is an “either / or” sh*t test. 

It is simply designed to trap you in the mind game that the manipulator plays: It’s a game where either you care about them and will do what they ask, or where you don’t care about them enough and are a terrible person who doesn’t belong in their life. 

It’s a game you can’t win. 

6) “You always make me feel so sh*ttty…”

At times it is fair to be direct and point out a problem, especially in a close relationship. 

But this type of statement about how you “always” make them feel a certain way is very manipulative.

First of all, you surely don’t “always” or “never” do anything. Secondly, you aren’t responsible for taking ownership of how somebody else feels. 

As psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle, Ph.D. points out: “Generalizations make the person on the receiving end feel stupid or incompetent. 

Their mistakes are the end-all and be-all for their partner.”

7) “You’re the only one I can trust with this”

phrases manipulative people use to undermine your sense of self certainty 15 classic phrases manipulative people say when they want something

There are times that this could be meant in a genuine way and be absolutely true. 

But this is often used to manipulate and tell you that it’s on you to fix a situation or keep a secret that’s dangerous or upsetting. 

You’re being forced into a position you don’t necessarily want to be in. 

8) “If you don’t do this for me, I’m screwed” 

This is another either / or proposition. 

You are the only one who can supposedly save this person. 

It’s unlikely to be true

Even if it were, who’s to say you’re in a position to do what they ask? 

Maybe you have another pressing commitment or difficult problems of your own that take precedence.

9) “I’d do anything for you. It’s sad to see you don’t feel the same”

This is another very manipulative statement. 

The claim that this person would do “anything” for you is obviously exaggerated language to start with. 

The secondary aspect of assuming you “don’t feel the same” is presumptuous and manipulative. 

It is simply an attempt to guilt you, no question about it. 

10) “You’re being way too sensitive”

Who are they to say that you’re being too sensitive

Maybe you are, maybe you’re not.

But this phrase is rarely meant as a way to offer realistic feedback. 

It’s almost always about gaslighting and control. 

“These are things toxic partners say to make their partners stop arguing. They will say that something is not a big deal even though it is,” notes mental health writer Rachael Pace.

11) “You’re so selfish, why can’t you just…” 

You may be selfish, you may not. All of us are a tiny bit selfish at times. 

But when a person says this kind of thing you can be certain they’re not giving you a well-intentioned free psychological assessment. 

That’s because the second part is about getting you to do something they want you to do. 

Classic manipulation. 

12) “Just do what I say and stop arguing”

This is the type of thing that certain people will say when they simply can’t tolerate disagreement.

It can be especially common among men who never were taught to be “Alpha” and boss around women, and among women who have not been taught an appropriate respect level for men. 

It’s sad when this kind of statement is used to shut down communication and verbally assault somebody into compliance. 

“Sadly, the dating industry is still largely dominated by so-called ‘pickup artists’ who teach this outdated, ‘just be a man’ approach to dating, and a lot of young men learn these messages from misguided coaches on YouTube, or on Reddit,” notes dating coach Connell Barrett. 

13) “Why don’t you trust me?”

This is a common but very sneaky manipulative phrase. 

It is the kind of thing a manipulator will say when they are trying to pressure you into doing something. 

It is deceptive, because you have the right to say no regardless of your overall level of trust of them. 

You should not be gaslighted into feeling guilty for being skeptical about something just because of who is telling it to you. 

14) “I thought you cared about me…”

This is a darkly manipulative statement:

The manipulator indicates that unless you do what they say, agree or behave in some form they consider acceptable, you don’t truly care for them. 

It’s a terrible dilemma to be put in:

Comply or be told you’re an unloving individual.

It’s the brute sledgehammer of manipulative statements and is extremely hurtful and simplistic, but that’s why it so often works, especially for those people pleasers who find it very hard to displease or upset somebody. 

15) “If you really loved me, you’d…”

This is in the same vein as the previous statement and others in this article which hint at obligation and either/or traps. 

You are being demanded to prove your love? You are being asked to do a favor that is either you do it or you don’t truly love somebody?

That’s a mind game. That’s emotional blackmail. 

As Karen Young, BSc. Psych. writes: “You don’t owe anybody anything. If it doesn’t feel like a favor, it’s not.”

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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