If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re not being entirely honest with you

If you’ve ever been lied to by family, friends, or strangers before, you might know that familiar feeling when something they’re saying feels off. 

Or maybe you didn’t see it coming at all. Maybe you were completely blindsided by their dishonesty or half-truths. 

Either way, it’s not easy to be on the receiving end of dishonesty, especially if it’s someone you trust. 

But did you ever think there might be subtle indications that can help you notice that someone isn’t being entirely honest with you? 

While they may not be outright lies, these expressions often reveal hidden agendas or unspoken truths. 

These 9 common phrases that should raise a red flag if you encounter them in conversations:

1) “Trust me…”

You know what’s funny?

Every time I am actually telling the truth, and I’m aware it could sound like I’m not, I never ever resort to saying, “trust me”. 

It’s because I know how dodgy and manipulative this phrase sounds!

Repeatedly emphasizing that you’re trustworthy, rather than letting people decide for themselves, just gives off a very… try-hard vibe. 

It gives off the sense that you’re desperate for the person to believe in your lie. 

It also doesn’t make what you’re saying any more believable, it’s really just asking for blind faith rather than addressing what’s not believable about it. 

Instead, look for a meaningful explanation for the truth, rather than buying into bids for blind faith in someone – especially if you don’t actually trust them.

And if you do trust this person, it goes without saying that you wouldn’t need to be convinced to!

Remember, true honesty doesn’t need constant reassurance, nor is it desperate to be believed. 

2) “I’m not going to lie…”

Beep! Goes the lie detector. 

When someone says, “I’m not going to lie”, they’re basically saying, “I’m giving you even more reason to think I’m lying”.

It doesn’t mean you should assume they’re lying, but it does raise a few questions. 

Why do they feel the need to preface their statement with this? A honest person doesn’t have to defend what they’re saying before they even say it. 

Also, you may notice that use of this phrase often precedes not facts, but opinions. 

Usually, harsh opinions. 

In my personal experience, manipulators use this phrase a lot to give unwarranted opinions about you, someone else, or an unpleasant situation, in order to gain control over it. 

And opinions are not facts. 

For example, it’s common to hear something like, “I’m not going to lie, you’re being really annoying right now”. 

But you wouldn’t often hear, “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t eat your donuts” if someone in fact didn’t eat your donuts!

So if you hear this phrase, they probably did eat your donuts, and they’re annoyed at you for calling them out. 

3) “I promise…”

I used to fall for this one a lot, especially in toxic relationships. 

I was a sucker for a promise, because I wanted so desperately to believe it counted for something in a relationship full of lies and half truths.

I needed something to hold on to. 

Well, guess what? They didn’t count for anything.

And I know my experience is not universal. What I’m saying is, sometimes the “promise” is used as a way to make a lie more believable than others, when they know you’re already onto their dishonesty.

And because you’re invested in them, you trust them. 

Now, in the case of strangers, this can be trickier. 

A stranger who is in need of help, for example, might use this because you don’t know each other and they want to foster trust, so they can get what they need from you. 

The thing is, they might actually need help, and they want to build that trust quickly. 

But whenever I hear this phrase, alarm bells still go off. 

It feels like a shortcut to trust, which is never how trust is really built.

4) “I don’t remember…”

“I don’t remember” is a classic phrase often used when someone isn’t being entirely honest with you. 

This is one to be wary of, especially if it’s important information.

People don’t just “forget” significant details or significant events. 

It’s more likely that they’re trying to avoid revealing the details. Oftentimes, this is due to fear of losing you, or what you give them. 

It’s also a sneaky way of not being honest, without outright lying about the question at hand. 

But what they are probably lying about, is not remembering…

5) “Everything’s fine…”

behaviors show lack humility and authenticity If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re not being entirely honest with you


While this one isn’t necessarily out of malicious intent, some people say “everything’s fine” when it’s not, to make you not worry. 

Underneath, they may be going through a storm of emotions and overwhelm. 

However well-intended it is, burying their feelings is still a form of not being entirely honest!

When someone says this phrase and you’re worried about them, try to dig a little deeper or ask more specific questions. 

They’re probably wanting someone to ask them to share, deep down. 

But they’re probably used to holding it all in and not having the space to really open up.

6) “Let me be clear…”

An overemphasis on clarity may show that the person usually muddles their communication. 

Clear and honest communication should not require constant reminders, they would just be felt by you. 

Also, this phrase can often precede passive aggressive or inconsiderate comments. 

It’s another phrase sometimes used by manipulators and people who assert their dominance over others.

Be wary of them!

7) “I can’t tell you who/ why, but…”

When someone refuses to provide an explanation, it raises suspicions about their motivations. 

Transparency involves offering honest reasons for one’s actions or decisions, especially if they affect other people!

Even though they’re being upfront about the fact that they ‘can’t’ or don’t want to share a piece of information, this can be a tactic used to manipulate a situation to their advantage. 

Because if they can’t share who told them or why, then they probably shouldn’t be sharing the information in the first place. Or having an opinion about it. 

Simple as that!

8) “You’re the only one I’ve told this to…”

If someone often claims that you are their sole confidant, they might be trying to create a false sense of intimacy to gain your trust.

Or, they could genuinely only trust you! But then that begs the question: why does it need to be said more than once? 

It’s a tricky one, because it could really go either way. 

Try to trust your gut on this one, and look at the other cues to help inform your beliefs. 

If you feel like they’re trying to build trust in order to gain something… you’re probably right. 

9) “I was just joking…”

Have you ever experienced someone saying something out of left field, and then playing it off as a joke? 

Yeah, that might be a sign they’re not being completely honest. 

Maybe they were trying to approach the topic with honesty, and then changed their mind about where it was heading. 

Maybe being honest started making them uncomfortable. 

Whatever it is, there are probably deeper feelings there that haven’t been explored. 

And it’s unfair to you. Because it leaves you wondering about their true feelings without closure and transparency. 

It’s just not cool when people do this!

Final thoughts

Trust is a precious commodity in our world. 

It takes a long time to build, and is easy to break.

With someone’s trust, you can get many things, which is why manipulative people go straight for the trust-building phrases and tactics. 

Although there are many reasons someone may not be completely honest with you, ranging from trying to take advantage of you to trying to protect you from harsh truths; knowing how to identify these red flags will help you steer away from unwanted situations. 

Having a greater understanding of what honesty looks like, by observing how you would behave when you are honest, helps to filter out dishonesty in these phrases and other behaviors.

Honesty is not just about spoken words; it’s about creating an environment where open and transparent communication flourishes. 

So make sure your connections are built on a foundation of authenticity, trust, and honesty by keeping an eye out for these common phrases. 

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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