9 phrases manipulators use to gain trust, according to psychology

There’s a fine line between influencing someone and manipulating them.

Manipulation, unlike influence, relies on deceit and hidden intentions to get others to comply with your desires.

And as per psychology, manipulators are skilled in using specific phrases to gain your trust and get their way.

By using these statements, they try to steer you towards their desired outcome and remove any active choice you have in the situation.

Sounds like you better wise up to protect yourself!

So keep reading to find out more about the 9 phrases that manipulators commonly use, according to psychological research.

1) “I understand how you feel…”

Trust is necessary to manipulate someone. Once you have them feeding out of your hand, it’s a lot easier to get them to do what you want.

Hence why one phrase manipulators often use is, “I understand how you feel.”

These words play on the human need for empathy and understanding. We all yearn to be understood, so someone tells us they understand how we feel, we’re more likely to lower our guard and trust them, making it easier for them to manipulate us.

According to psychology, this phrase is a classic tactic used by manipulators to make you feel like they’re on your side. They create a sense of shared experience or emotion that fosters trust and rapport.

Remember, genuine empathy is a two-way street and it involves more than just saying the words. If someone frequently uses this phrase but their actions don’t match up, it could be a red flag that they’re trying to manipulate you.

Keep an eye out for such phrases as you navigate your relationships and interactions. This awareness can help you distinguish between genuine empathy and manipulation.

2) “I know more about this than you do…”

Assuming a position of superiority allows manipulators to dive in and have the last word.


You’re uneducated and unknowing. The more they insist that they have the upper hand, the less confident you’ll feel in standing up for yourself or speaking on a topic.

A classic manipulation tactic, be wary of anyone who seems to thrust themselves into interactions and repeatedly state that they have psychological superiority

It’s vital that you recognize when you’re being manipulated in this way. There will always be topics on which you’re less informed and should therefore wait to be educated before speaking, but those who try and quieten you up to better influence you aren’t behaving in a polite nor respectful manner.

3) “I hate to ask, but…”

I’m asking!

Manipulators use this to make it seem like they’re so disinclined to ask, but that doing so is an absolute last resort.

By starting their request with words akin to these, manipulators aim to trigger your empathy and make it difficult for you to refuse their request. After all, they’ve already established a premise that they’re in a desperate situation – however could you refuse!

Using reverse psychology, manipulators allow you an opening to swoop in and save the day of your own accord.

You insist you’ll help them, you feel bad. No need to hate asking for a favor – you’re happy to help!

Research shows that people are more inclined to comply with requests when they feel the other person is in a tough spot and has no alternative but to ask for help. 

Hence why it’s important to be aware of such tactics. While it’s good to help those in need, it’s equally essential not to let manipulative phrases cloud your judgment.

4) “It’s for your own good…”

Another form of reverse psychology as mentioned above, this phrase makes it seem like 1. the manipulator knows you so well and knows what is good for you, and 2. they’re acting for your own benefit.

In reality, neither of these is true; they’re acting solely on their own behalf, but trying to make you second-guess your own judgment or feelings about a situation.

So be cautious of this one, as it’s often used in an attempt to silence any objections you might have.

After all, who would argue against something that’s supposedly for their own good?

5) “I didn’t mean to…”

phrases someone socially awkward 9 phrases manipulators use to gain trust, according to psychology

Accompanied with a sad face and wobbling bottom lip, this phrase is commonly used as a way to avoid the consequences of their actions and to gain sympathy.

By playing the innocent victim, they create a smokescreen that distracts from their manipulative behavior. You’d feel bad speaking up or saying otherwise, since everyone makes mistakes – right?

In this way, they can maintain control over a situation without having to admit fault or take responsibility for any harm they’ve caused.

It’s a clever way of keeping the upper hand we mentioned above, and subverting your perceptions..

6) “I really care about you…”

Another phrase that, when used sincerely, can be incredibly heartwarming.

However, manipulators often misuse it to gain your trust and loyalty, most of the time only pretending to care.

By expressing their care or concern for you, they aim to create an emotional bond – one that they can exploit to serve their own needs. This phrase is used to make you feel special and valued, encouraging you to let down your guard.

It’s heartbreaking to think that such a beautiful sentiment can be used manipulatively.

But recognizing this tactic can arm you with the knowledge to protect your emotional wellbeing and better tell who actually cares about you, and who is playing charades.

7) “I’ve never told anyone this before…”

Another sneaky psychological move used to win trust and curry favor, this type of statement makes you feel like you’re in cahoots with the manipulator.

You and them against the world…

Secrets create a shared sense of intimacy.

They’re shared diligently with those we care about.

Manipulators, however, exploit these secrets and use them to pull their targets closer and make them feel obligated to reciprocate with their own secrets (blackmail material!) or to agree with their viewpoints.

The intent is rarely genuine sharing, but a more calculated move to deepen their emotional investment and loyalty.

8) “I’m only trying to help…”

Similar to “I didn’t mean to”, manipulators use this to make their actions seem benign or even noble, making it harder for you to challenge them.

It creates an illusion of good intentions, which can cloud your judgment and make it more difficult for you to speak up or say anything to rebuff them. They’re only trying to help, after all!

This phrase often accompanies unsolicited advice, interference, or control.

Remember, genuine help is offered respectfully and without any hidden agenda. Be wary of those who use these words lightly to accompany snarky and nasty statements about you.

9) “Trust me…”

“Trust me…” is perhaps the most direct phrase used by manipulators to gain your confidence. It’s an overt appeal to your faith in their honesty and reliability.

The phrase is short and bittersweet, designed to shortcut your critical thinking and create a sense of safety and trust – thus opening the door for manipulation.

It’s often used when the manipulator wants to convince you of something without having any sufficient evidence or reasoning to actually make you trust them.

Trust is earned through consistent, honest, and respectful behavior over time. It’s not something that can or should be demanded with a few words.

So, be wary of anyone who frequently uses this phrase in an attempt to persuade you without substantiation.

Final thoughts

As we’ve explored, manipulators often use certain phrases to gain your trust and sway your decisions.

These phrases play on our innate desire for intimacy, understanding, and validation. It’s a sobering reminder that words wield power, and that power can be used both for encouraging growth or exploiting vulnerabilities.

So how do we navigate interactions with manipulators?

Firstly, awareness is the first step.

Being able to recognize these phrases and understand their manipulative intent provides a measure of protection. If you can spot when someone is trying to manipulate you through playing on your trust and empathy, you’re more capable of maintaingn control over your decisions and preserve your emotional wellbeing.

Remember, trust is a precious commodity, earned through consistent honesty and respect. It’s not something to be demanded or manipulated.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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