10 phrases manipulative people use to play the victim

We’ve all had that one friend who knows exactly how to make you feel guilty or confused. They’ve got that one phrase, or a handful of them, that work as an emotional trick up their sleeves.

Imagine you’re sitting at your local coffee shop, sipping on a latte, lost in thought. Suddenly, your friend bursts in. They sigh dramatically, “You won’t believe what happened to me today,” and you prepare for another whirlwind of their drama. 

As their tale goes by, they stop, and say: “You’re not even really listening, are you?” Manipulative people use phrases like this to tug at our heartstrings and cloud our judgment. They leave us questioning our feelings and instincts — it’s a sneak attack on our emotions.

Let’s explore 10 common phrases used by manipulative people to play the victim card, and how you can navigate them.

1) “You’re abandoning me.”

Manipulators often use this phrase to exploit your sense of loyalty and guilt. They are implying that you owe them endless support because of past favors they might’ve done for you. 

It’s possible that they have been keeping score all along, waiting for the moment to cash in their emotional debt.

This phrase might make you feel nervous about setting boundaries or looking after your own needs. Just remember to show this person gratitude for their past support, but remind them that healthy relationships require mutual understanding and respect. 

When this phrase comes up, it’s important to help them to communicate openly about their needs without the focus being on guilt-tripping.

2) “I really thought you were different.”

This phrase is often used to make you feel like you’re just like everyone else who’s disappointed them. Basically, you’re being unfairly grouped in with a bad bunch.

The manipulative person might be using your desire to feel unique and special to guilt you into meeting their impossible demands.

When you can, remind this person that no one person can meet all their expectations — it’s just not fair to expect, nor is it humanly possible.

In these moments, ask them to communicate their needs clearly and to work with you to find common ground.

3) “Nobody cares about me.”

With this particular phrase, the manipulative person is trying to paint a sad picture of their life, one where they’re constantly being abandoned and misunderstood.

It’s meant to make you feel guilty for not offering them the exact kind of support or attention they’ve been looking for.

Basically, they want you to prove that you care, even if it means bending over backward to meet their demands.

Don’t fall for it.

The best thing you can do is to remind this person that they are not alone. You could even suggest that they talk to a mental health professional if their feelings of abandonment continue.

4) “How could you do this to me?”

This phrase is a bit of a curveball, as it usually means the manipulative person is turning the tables on you. Suddenly, you find yourself on the defensive, questioning your actions and intentions. 

Stop right there. This person is positioning you as the villain, leaving you with a feeling that you’ve done something very wrong.

When someone uses this phrase, they’re attempting to guilt-trip you into playing along. By making themselves look like a victim, they are trying to get the upper hand.

Should you encounter this phrase, make a point to remain calm and assertive. Ask for clarification and establish an open and honest line of communication. Don’t let yourself be manipulated into taking responsibility for something you clearly didn’t do.

5) “You’re so lucky, it must be nice to have everything.”

Manipulative people often play the victim by making out that your successes and joys are the source of their sadness. 

By emphasizing their own apparently unlucky life, they’re making you feel guilty for the good things happening in your life.

This situation can be really tricky to navigate. It might not be easy, but sometimes the best thing you can do for the relationship is to acknowledge their feelings while reminding them that everyone’s own their own journey.

Encourage them to focus on their own goals and aspirations rather than focusing too much on what they don’t have. As they say, comparison is the devil.

6) “Nobody wants me anyway.”

phrases theyre probably a narcissist 10 phrases manipulative people use to play the victim

This phrase is a recurring one in the manipulator’s playbook. By presenting themselves as flawed or unworthy of love, they hope to elicit your pity and affection. 

They might make you feel like their personal hero, responsible for healing their perceived issues or imperfections.

Whenever this phrase surfaces, show empathy towards this person while also gently reminding them that self-love and personal growth are super important before looking for love and validation from others.

7) “I never get what I really want.”

This phrase is often used to paint the manipulator as a victim of circumstance, someone who never truly gets their fair share in life.

It’s meant to make you feel guilty if you have something they want but don’t have, or guilty if you hesitate to fulfill their requests.

Show them that you’re trying to understand them, but remember, remain fair and honest.

Try to remind them that life often involves compromises and patience — and that we don’t always get what we want. If you’d like, you can prompt them to go after the things they want in positive and constructive ways.

8) “This kind of thing always happens to me.”

Manipulative people often kick off the victim act with this line.

By framing every unfortunate event as a personal catastrophe, unique to them, they create an atmosphere of chaos, drawing other people — including you — into their emotional instability.

Manipulative individuals are experts at playing up their misfortunes, making it seem like the entire world is working against them. 

Their issues soon become the focal point, making it really difficult for anyone to address their own needs or concerns.

When you come across this phrase, try acknowledging their feelings but gently remind them that everyone faces challenges from time to time.

You might even like to prompt this person to open up and share their experiences. Just keep this in mind: their pessimism does not need to overtake your reality.

9) “I can’t believe you’d say that!”

When manipulative individuals use this phrase in conversation, they aim to make you question your own words and intentions. 

By acting as if your statement is some kind of huge betrayal, they hope to gain the upper hand and control the narrative.

In these times, it pays to remain calm but also assertive. Seek clarification about what they meant and engage them in a constructive, healthy discussion. Don’t allow their dramatic reaction to chip away at your confidence.

10) “I bet you must hate me now.”

Manipulators often kick off their pity party by using this phrase. By suggesting that your actions or words have made them believe you hate them, they play on your sympathy.

The goal is to make you feel guilty, prompting you to reassure them of your affection and loyalty.

When this happens, you can try to express understanding about their feelings and address any misunderstandings. Remind them that it is unfair to assume the worst of you and that you don’t in fact hate them.


To sum things up, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” couldn’t be more accurate. The phrases we’ve explored in this article are not just words; they are subtle tools used by manipulative people in their quest to play the victim.

But now that you’ve been armed with knowledge, so that you can hopefully feel more empowered to respond to manipulative attempts with calmness and grace.

Being conscious of manipulation is not about closing off to others or becoming guarded, it’s about establishing healthy boundaries. It’s about nurturing relationships built on mutual trust, respect, and open communication.

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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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