12 phrases highly manipulative men love to use, according to psychology

Manipulative men have many behaviors and techniques they use to twist people to do their bidding. 

Some of these techniques are fairly easy to spot, but others are more difficult:

This is especially true in a close romantic relationship or business partnership where an individual may be blinded to just how badly this guy is taking advantage of them. 

That’s why it’s helpful to delve into the top manipulative phrases that dishonest guys use when they have an ulterior motive. 

Let’s take a look at these red-flag-phrases.

1) “Stop overreacting.”

Who’s to say you’re overreacting?

You may be, you may not be. But manipulative men love to have the “trump card” on accusing you of being out of line. 

In such a way, they hope to make you shut up, agree with them or become overall flustered and lose your train of thought and perspective. 

Don’t fall for it. 

As psychologist Dr. Cortney Warren writes:

“By accusing you of being dramatic, the gaslighter is attempting to dismiss your concerns as irrational and unfounded.”

Bottom line: Nobody has the right to tell you how to react. 

2) “It’s just a joke.”

This is a phrase that clever and manipulative guys love to deploy. 

They use it to cover their tracks and gaslight people (especially their romantic partner) into shutting up. 

By saying this, the manipulative guy is trying to control somebody’s reaction to his behavior or words. 

It’s usually just a cheap ploy.

Bottom line: Being a joke or not does not change what was said.

3) “Calm down already.”

This is a phrase men often use to try to guilt and shame women. 

The underlying implication is generally that a woman is being unreasonable or overly histrionic and shouldn’t care about something (or should care less than she does). 

It’s gaslighting. 

“Women who argue with men are often told to “calm down” simply because they’re expressing themselves. 

This gaslighting term, used in one form or another around the world, often acts as a quick phrase meant to brush off women’s ideas and opinions,” explains psychology writer Jess Saporito. 

Bottom line: Apart from rare cases, this is usually a disrespectful and manipulative thing for a man to say.

4) “You’re way too sensitive.”

This is a classic gaslighting phrase used by a man who’s trying to shame and control other people

By throwing out accusations of oversensitivity he tries to do two things:

  • Establish himself as reasonable and tough
  • Make it clear that the other person’s reactions and feelings aren’t based on reality and are an oversensitive overreaction to whatever is actually going on. 

This is classic, toxic gaslighting at work. 

Bottom line: Regardless of how sensitive you may be, you have the right to react however you’d like without somebody determining if it’s too sensitive. 

5) “You’re nuts!”

Accusations of being “crazy” or mentally unwell are another devious tool used by manipulative guys. 

This is a form of verbal abuse that can often come wrapped in the form of a joke as well. 

It depends a lot on the context and tone that this kind of phrase is delivered in, but at heart it’s a way for a guy to define somebody else as being “beyond the pale” and out of line. 

Bottom line: This is an aggressive and manipulative phrase in most instances. 

6) “You’re the only one who thinks that.”

This is a way that manipulative guys try to isolate and control people. 

By making a person feel they are the only individual who thinks or feels something, the manipulative man hopes to weaken their resolve and push them into doing or believing what he wants. 

This is a tactic often used by tyrannical regimes and in psychological warfare as well, often leading to what is known as “preference falsification.” This is a phenomenon where people lie about what they believe in order to try to fit in and be accepted by the majority or feel they are “normal.” 

As Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Sylvia R. Karasu, M.D. outlines

“Preference falsification refers to misrepresenting private beliefs and thoughts in public. 

It is universal and occurs in many contexts. This behavior can be due to people’s discomfort holding a minority opinion and the social pressure to conform in a group setting.”

Bottom line: You aren’t the only one who thinks that! And even if you were it wouldn’t invalidate it! Feelings and beliefs aren’t made right by how many people believe them! 

7) “If you really loved me you’d…” 

phrases men with low emotional intelligence use in relationships 12 phrases highly manipulative men love to use, according to psychology

This is a classic emotional blackmail phrase used by manipulative guys. 

It attaches a desired action from a person to whether or not they love the manipulative man. 

Like an immature man-child, he demands that his whims be satisfied or else states that he will have to conclude he isn’t truly loved. 

It’s disingenuous. 

Bottom line: Love isn’t something you should have to “prove” to anyone. 

8) “You’re just being paranoid…”

This is a classic gaslighting phrase that manipulative guys use to get somebody to shut up and feel stupid. 

It is especially common in romantic relationships when his partner is suspicious of his behavior. 

It can also pop up in other environments like work or in friendships, where he uses it to make friends feel like he is the one who has a firm grip on reality and not them. 

Suspicion and distrust is not “paranoia,” contrary to what this guy may be saying, and a real paranoid disorder is different, being centered around entirely unreasonable and unsubstantiated mistrust and fear. 

As the Cleveland Clinic explains:

“Paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is a mental health condition marked by a pattern of distrust and suspicion of others without adequate reason to be suspicious. People with PPD are always on guard, believing that others are constantly trying to demean, harm or threaten them.”

Bottom line: Being told you’re paranoid is usually an attempt to gaslight you and throw you off the scent.

9) “Without me, you’d be nothing.”

This is a threat phrase used by manipulative guys. 

It can pop up commonly in business or relationship contexts. 

In romance it can be used as a threat if his partner leaves him. In business it can be a threat if his business partner or employee quits or leaves. 

The root message is that the man is letting people know that they will fail if they don’t do what he says and stick by his side. 

Bottom line: This is a way to try to keep you reliant and dependent. Don’t take it at face value. 

10) “You never support me.”

Lack of support in a relationship or friendship can be a real problem, clearly. 

But when a man talks about “never” being supported or plays the victim in this kind of way, it’s generally a manipulation tactic. 

He’s just trying to weaponize a victim role in order to take advantage of others. 

As psychotherapist Erin Leonard Ph.D. explains

“The person is consumed with herself or himself and the conversation is one-sided. He or she rejects the listener’s empathy because the real goal isn’t to feel better, it’s to control another.”

Bottom line: “Always” and “never” statements are usually red flags. This phrase above is all about ginning up sympathy in order to shift your actions.

11) “It didn’t mean anything.”

Manipulative guys who cheat will often use this phrase as an excuse. 

By saying that their cheating didn’t emotionally mean something, they hope to deflect any consequences and lessen their partner’s anger. 

They may also segue this into being a “liberated” guy who believes sex should be no big deal and can then act like a partner who is upset to be cheated on is being a prude.

“Some pick-up artists (especially more covert predators) also use the Sexually Liberated Guy act to make their targets more psychologically comfortable with the idea of sex. 

“While anyone can be a manipulator, male or female, this particular tactic is primarily used by narcissistic males preying on female victims because it works with gender stereotypes and social norms,” notes Shahida Arabi, M.A.

Bottom line: Whether or not it meant something to him does not get to define what it means to anybody else, especially his romantic partner. 

12) “That’s not even what happened.”

Manipulative guys will try to control the “frame” or narrative on what is going on or what has gone on in the past. 

If they are denying wrongdoing or even trying to sway somebody to their will, they will often rephrase and reconstruct events in order to make themselves more appealing and persuasive. 

Don’t fall for this tactic. 

Bottom line: This is an attempt to reframe reality and what happened in order to gaslight. 

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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