If someone uses these 11 phrases, they’re an emotional manipulator

Have you ever been chatting with someone and felt like something was off?

Maybe you couldn’t pinpoint why you felt that way, but something was definitely not right.

Well, you could be dealing with an emotional manipulator.

It doesn’t matter who it is – a friend, co-worker, or even your partner. It’s really important to know when someone is trying to mess with your feelings. Emotional manipulation can be sneaky and hard to spot until it’s too late.

In this article, we’re going to go over 11 phrases that emotional manipulators often use. These are the warning signs you need to keep an eye out for.

1. “You’re too sensitive.”

This is a classic one.

If someone tells you that you’re too sensitive, they might be trying to manipulate your feelings.

By saying this, they’re not only invalidating your emotions, but they’re also shifting the blame onto you for overreacting, instead of addressing the real issue at hand.

This phrase is often used to make you question your own reactions and to make you feel guilty for feeling upset or hurt.

2. “I was just joking.”

Ever had someone say something hurtful or inappropriate and then backtrack with, “I was just joking“?

This phrase is a common tool in the emotional manipulator’s arsenal.

The aim is to say something upsetting, and then when they are called out on it, brush it off as a joke.

This way, they make it seem like you’re the one overreacting or not being able to take a joke, when in reality, they’re the ones being disrespectful or hurtful.

3. “You’re overreacting.”

This phrase is a personal favorite of manipulators, and trust me, I’ve been there myself.

I remember once when a friend borrowed my car and returned it with a huge scratch on the side. When I confronted them about it, their immediate response was, “You’re overreacting. It’s just a scratch.”

But here’s the thing, it wasn’t just about the scratch. It was about respect and accountability. By telling me I was overreacting, they were trying to shift the focus from their mistake to my reaction. They were trying to make me feel like I was the one in the wrong for being upset about something that was genuinely upsetting.

Don’t let anyone trivialize your feelings or reactions. Your emotions are valid!

4. “If you really loved me, you would…”

This phrase is a master manipulator’s trick and it’s all about guilt-tripping.

The idea is to make you do something you’re uncomfortable with by questioning your love or commitment.

This is a type of manipulation called ’emotional blackmail.’ It’s a powerful form of manipulation where people close to us threaten (either directly or indirectly) to punish us if we don’t do what they want.

It’s not just about love or relationships, it can happen in any situation where someone holds emotional power over you.

5. “Nobody else would put up with you.”

This one really tugs at the heartstrings.

It’s a cruel phrase designed to make you feel unworthy and unlovable.

Those who use this phrase are trying to make you feel like you’re lucky to have them because, in their words, “nobody else would put up with you.”

But let me tell you something from the bottom of my heart – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single one of us is unique, special, and more than worthy of love and respect. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise. Everyone has flaws and makes mistakes, but these things don’t define our worth.

So, if someone ever tells you this, take a deep breath, hold your head up high and remind yourself of your worth. You are enough just as you are.

6. “I never said that.”

This phrase is a classic example of gaslighting, a manipulative tactic that causes someone to question their own reality.

I’ve experienced this firsthand with an old friend. We’d make plans, and then when the day would come, they’d act as if the conversation never happened. I’d remind them, and they’d say, “I never said that.” It happened so often that I started doubting my own memory.

But I learned an important lesson from this: Trust your reality. If someone consistently denies their words or actions, it’s not you – it’s manipulation.

7. “You’re just not the same person I fell in love with.”

Ouch. This one hits hard, doesn’t it? It’s like a punch to the gut, and it’s meant to be.

This phrase is designed to make you feel inadequate and question your self-worth. It’s a manipulator’s way of saying that you’re not good enough anymore, that you’ve somehow fallen short.

But let’s get real here: people change. We grow, we learn, we evolve – that’s just part of being human. If someone uses this phrase as a weapon against you, it says more about them than it does about you.

So don’t let it shake your self-esteem. You’re growing and changing, and that’s something to be proud of, not ashamed.

8. “You owe me.”

Manipulators often use this phrase to exert control and demand something from you. They create a sense of obligation, making you feel like you are in debt to them.

This tactic is referred to as ‘loan sharking’ in the world of psychology. The manipulator gives you something – a favor, a gift, help when you needed it – and then they use it as leverage to make you feel obligated to them.

But the thing is that a genuine act of kindness or help doesn’t come with strings attached. If someone helps you out, it shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip later on. Healthy relationships are not about keeping score; they’re about mutual support and respect.

9. “You always…”/ “You never…”

These absolute statements are a manipulator’s go-to phrases.

I’ve had someone in my life who loved to use these phrases. “You never listen to me” or “You always forget what’s important to me”.

The problem with these statements is they are often exaggerated and only serve to make you feel defensive and guilty.

In reality, nobody ‘always’ or ‘never’ does something. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we constantly do.

When someone uses these phrases frequently, it’s often an attempt to make you feel inadequate and to control your behavior.

10. “Maybe we should just break up then.”

This phrase is a manipulation bomb, and it’s often dropped when the manipulator isn’t getting their way.

It’s a threat, a way of forcing you to back down from an argument or to go along with what they want.

The goal is to scare you into submission by hinting at the possibility of ending the relationship.

But here’s the truth: a relationship should never feel like walking on eggshells.

Love isn’t about fear.

If someone constantly threatens to leave as a way to control you, that’s not love, that’s manipulation.

You deserve better than that, you deserve respect and stability.

11. “Why can’t you be more like…?”

Comparisons are a manipulator’s bread and butter.

They use this phrase to belittle you and make you feel like you’re not enough as you are.

They point to someone else – a friend, an ex, a family member – and ask why you can’t be more like them.

But let’s be honest: You are not them, you are you. And you are enough as you are. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Comparisons are not only unfair, but they also undermine your self-worth and individuality. You’re unique in your own way, and that’s something to be celebrated, not criticized.

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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