If someone uses these 10 trick phrases, they’re trying to subtly undermine you

We often hear about the power of words and how they can end wars and move mountains…

But what about their subtle, sneaky side?

People might say that sticks and stones will break their bones, but they sure can manipulate them and force them to do things they might not be so willing to do.

Believe it or not, some phrases aren’t as innocent as they seem and can be used to subtly undermine you and your confidence.

Sounds like you better be keyed in so you can defend yourself against these tricksters, right?

Well, get comfortable as we delve into the world of 10 trick phrases used by people to subtly belittle you, so you’ll be far more aware of when they do spring up in conversation.

1) “You’re too sensitive”

Oh, the ol’ classic. 

“You’re too sensitive”, accompanied with a smirk or a sneer is a phrase often used to undermine your feelings and reactions

More often than not, when someone knows they’ve said something mean or hurtful, whether on purpose or unintentionally.

People use this phrase when they want to dismiss your emotions and make it seem as though you are overreacting or misinterpreting the situation (when they’ve really the one that’s done the damage). 

It’s someone trying to cover their ass, knowing they’ve hit you with a low blow or targeted a weak spot, and is now trying to belittle any very valid feelings of upset.

All round – be sensitive to the sensitivities of those you love. Don’t trivialize them but instead respect people’s boundaries.

2) “I was just joking”

If the “you’re too sensitive doesn’t work”, next in time is absolving their guilt through adamantly stomping their feet and saying it was all just a joke.

But really – who’s joking when they’ve said your nose is ugly or you’re not funny or you’re going nowhere in life?

This phrase is often used as a defense mechanism when someone’s hurtful comment or action gets called out, much as the sensitivity label. 

By saying they were “just joking”, the speaker tries to shift the blame onto you, making it seem as though you’re the one who can’t take a joke. 

And they try so hard to turn the tables and make it as if you lack humor or the capacity to ease off and not take life so seriously. What a fun sponge you are!

It’s a very sneaky way of avoiding responsibility for someone’s actions. 

Don’t let them get away with it; if a comment feels offensive or hurtful to you, it’s important to address it and speak up.

3) “I’m not trying to be rude, but…”

Cue rude statement incoming!

This phrase is a textbook example of a backhanded comment, dressed up in an attempt to make it appear not quite so acrid and cutting. 

By starting off their statement with “I’m not trying to be rude”, the speaker attempts to soften the blow. And what do you know!

More often than not, the comment that follows is indeed rude. Very rude.

This is a cunning way of delivering a harsh message whilst under the guise of appearing considerate. 

Please always remember, true politeness doesn’t need a disclaimer.

4) “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

Another sandwich-statement for stabbing you with something harsh and nasty.

As above, “Don’t take this the wrong way” is almost always followed by something you can and should take literally – as a callous and unnecessary comment made by a rather heartless person.

It’s often used as a pre-emptive strike to soften the impact of a quite offensive statement, and it’s a deceptive way of making you feel guilty for taking offense to their words.

If you hear this one coming, get your defenses up. No statement needs to be prefaced with such a disclaimer.

5) “No offense, but…”

pic1456 1 If someone uses these 10 trick phrases, they’re trying to subtly undermine you

Another breadwinner!

This is a phrase that is again almost always followed by an offensive statement. It’s a tactical maneuver used to deliver a criticism or negative comment without appearing to be the bad guy. 

But let’s be honest – someone who doesn’t want to offend you won’t try to, not even involving this sly tactic. 

So, when you hear this phrase, brace yourself and remember not to take the incoming critique to heart.

6) “Just being honest”

Said with a shrug of the shoulders and a doe-eyed look.

The phrase “Just being honest” is often used as a cover for delivering harsh or brutal criticism, which most of the time need not be said at all. 

The person says it to justify their blunt or even rude remarks, under the guise of honesty – honesty being hailed as such a virtuous and glorious trait.

However, honesty doesn’t equate to rudeness in the slightest

It’s important to understand that one can be honest without being hurtful. Just because someone wraps their words with ‘honesty’, doesn’t make their comments true or valuable.

Plus, it’s unfortunately the rude and nasty individuals out there that will try and use a front of honesty to absolve themselves the most.

7) “It’s for your own good”

“Honestly, it’s for your own good that I’m sleeping with your boyfriend! He was never good to you anyway.”

This phrase can be a little bit tricky. 

Sometimes, people do need to make difficult decisions which benefit us in the long run, even if they don’t seem so pleasant.

Like your parents kicking you out at 30. So when it’s used genuinely, with the intention of helping you, it gets the green light. 

But when it’s said because someone is implying that they know better than you when it comes to what is best for your own life, that isn’t quite so positive. 

This can also be quite disheartening, especially when it comes from someone close to you, as it makes you feel as if they think little of you and your judgment. 

Remember that you alone are the ultimate decision-maker in your life. 

Trust your instincts and make choices that resonate with you (but maybe consider moving out of your parents’ basement eventually.)

8) “You wouldn’t understand”

Because you’re soooo dumb. And you lack a sense of humor. And you weren’t educated well enough.

The horrid phrase is a subtle way of belittling your capacity to comprehend or empathize. 

It creates a barrier between you, the speaker, and the subject; implying that the speaker is dealing with issues far beyond your understanding. 

This can make you feel excluded and inferior

It’s important to recognize this for exactly what it is – a manipulative phrase designed to undermine your confidence and demean you

9) “Maybe it’s just me”

This might on the surface seem like a harmless phrase, but it is often used to subtly express disagreement or criticism. 

But the speaker pretends they’re alone in thinking your hairstyle sucks, or you act a bit weird after a few drinks. Don’t mind them! It’s just one little opinion (which will stick in your head forever.)

By framing their opinion as a personal quirk, the speaker manages to voice their criticism while avoiding a direct confrontation from you and avoids being the guilty and accusatory party. 

10) “I don’t want to argue”

But let’s get the guns out!

This final phrase can be very deceiving. 

It’s often used as a conversation stopper when someone is on the verge of losing an argument or wants to dismiss your point of view.

Or, when someone is about to drop a horrendous comment that will inevitably end up in tears and cause an argument, but they’re pretending they had no intentions of doing so.

It subtly implies that you’re the one being confrontational if you even merely try to defend yourself or express your opinion. 

Recognize this for what it is – an attempt to shut down the conversation and rob you of your voice. 

And don’t be discouraged; everyone has the right to express their thoughts and feelings and definitely defend themselves if someone else is out to get them.

Feel more prepared?

Hopefully, these phrases can leave you a little better prepared for when manipulation and snarkiness comes your way.

And don’t start snarling if you hear one out of context – they don’t always mean someone is trying to tear you down.

But coupled with a hurtful or insensitive comment, know that the speaker is erring on the mean and manipulative side of life, so you should keep your guard up.

And don’t sink to their level and fight them with fire but remain calm, composed, and the bigger person. 

Remember – you know your worth and your confidence. Don’t let someone else tear that down.

Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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