If someone uses these phrases, they may be trying to covertly manipulate you

Do certain people make you feel like a puppet on a string?

There’s something not quite right.

And it’s hard to put your finger on it.

The truth is…

These puppet masters could be trying to covertly manipulate and control you. It’s more common than you think, especially in romantic relationships.

Whether they’re on the NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) spectrum or just occasionally want to have their own way, it’s toxic behavior and certainly shouldn’t be tolerated.

Here’s the good news.

They often resort to classic manipulation tactics. If you learn their tricks, you can spot them a mile off and identify what they’re up to.

Here are seven phrases commonly used by manipulative individuals.

How many do you recognize?

1) “It wasn’t like that.”

Let’s start with a big one.


This is where someone tries to make you question your version of reality. They can be super determined and convincing. So much so, that they’ll have you doubting your own memories.

Let’s say you’re at a party with your significant other.

You meet friends, have a drink, and enjoy yourself.

So far, so good.

However, you can’t help but notice your partner flirting with someone all night. It’s so apparent that even your friend comments on the chemistry.

The next morning, you challenge them on it.

You bring it up gently. Something along the lines of:

“Sarah said the weirdest thing last night, she thought you were flirting with that new girl!”

Then, it starts…

“It wasn’t like that!”

They may go on for several minutes (or even hours) trying to convince you that it was just an innocent conversation. Maybe they had something in common, or they were offering their support.

But the truth of the matter is, they’ve been flirting for weeks now. And they’re gaslighting you into thinking nothing is going on.

If in doubt, ask others what they think.

In some cases, maybe you are just seeing it wrong. But many times, they’re trying to manipulate your perception of things.

2) “You might regret it.”

This phrase is a form of fearmongering.

Whether a direct threat or a subtle hint, it forces you to consider the worst-case scenario.

It’s particularly effective, as humans have evolved to pay close attention to danger.

It’s a survival thing.

Highlighting risk can be a powerful motivator. Something that manipulative individuals are well aware of.

Let’s say you discover an embarrassing fact about someone.

They might try to manipulate you into keeping it secret by threatening or fearmongering.

“If you tell anyone, I’ll deny it and people will think you’re a liar.”

In these situations (if you really need to tell someone) gather evidence to support your case. This will help in a ‘you vs them’ scenario.

3) “I’m not mad, just disappointed.”

The classic passive-aggressive statement.

Other examples include: “Sure, I’ll do it, even though I have so much else to do.” and “It’s fine, I’m used to being disappointed.”

What do all these phrases have in common?

They indirectly (passively) express hostility, resentment, or defiance.

In fact, on the surface, they can sound quite pleasant.

This makes them incredibly hard to spot.

Focus more on how they make you feel. This is the giveaway, and this is what the manipulative person wants.

Maybe you get an undercurrent of guilt and a sense of conflict. Even though they’re standing in front of you smiling and being polite. It’s a weird sensation, but highly effective.

4) “Everyone is against me. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

silent manipulator If someone uses these phrases, they may be trying to covertly manipulate you

Narcissists and super-controlling people love this trick.

It’s called playing the victim (or self-victimization).

They’ll exaggerate or highlight their unfortunate situation to justify toxic behavior (or simply manipulate others).

It’s linked to attention-seeking behavior and can also be seen as a coping strategy.

But the world doesn’t revolve around them (despite what they think) and you shouldn’t fall for it.

Here’s the thing.

Genuine victims (and those who need our support the most) are often the quietest. They could be suffering inside and be too ashamed or scared to speak out.

There’s a reason why medics are trained to help silent patients first.

5) “You’re overreacting, it’s no big deal.”

This phrase is an example of downplaying or minimalization.

It’s a slamdunk sign that someone feels guilty and is trying to cover their tracks.

Controlling individuals also use downplaying to crush your confidence.

Let’s say you get a promotion.

Rather than congratulating you, they say that you only got it because you were lucky. Or maybe because the previous manager retired and there was nobody else to fill the role.

Not very supportive, is it?

And can leave you feeling low. This is exactly what they want because, in turn, it makes you easier to control and manipulate.

6) “I thought you were better than this.”

Another common trick that narcissists and toxic individuals use is guilt-tripping or emotional blackmail.

This phrase makes you feel bad about yourself.

Usually, they have an agenda (and aren’t just making you feel like crap for no reason).

You’ve guessed it.

It’s to manipulate you into doing what they want.

Close family members commonly use guilt-tripping as it’s especially effective when you care about that person.

They might not even realize it.

Imagine the scenario…

You haven’t phoned your grandparents for weeks. When you finally get around to making that call, they start the conversation with: “Oh, nice of you to finally call.”

This sarcastic, passive-aggressive guilt trip is designed to make you feel bad, and ultimately manipulate you into calling them more often (because they want to hear from you!)

It comes from a good place, but it’s guilt-tripping nevertheless.

Naughty grandma!

7) “You’re just trying to manipulate me.”

Finally, this one is particularly sneaky (and can be difficult to get your head around).

But when someone calls YOU out for manipulation, they could actually be deflecting from their own behavior. This acts as a defensive mechanism to protect their ego.

It’s called projection.

A classic example is bullying. If someone constantly makes fun of someone else’s insecurities, they’re projecting their own battle with low self-esteem.

Just something to think about!

Hopefully, you’re now better equipped to identify these controlling behaviors.

Remember to always set boundaries and not give in to these powerful manipulative phrases!

Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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