10 phrases only really toxic people use, according to psychology

Our relationships should leave us feeling fulfilled, happy, and supported.

So, if there is someone in your inner circle who makes you feel on edge, insecure, or depressed, this is a major red flag!

Research shows that toxic relationships (including platonic ones) can erode our self-esteem, lead to feelings of worthlessness, and trigger anxiety and depression.

So, if you suspect someone close to you is toxic, it’s time to find out!

I’m here to help you do just that. According to scientific research and insights from psychologists, here are 10 phrases that toxic people commonly use…

1) “You always/never…”

If there is one phrase that most commonly fosters resentment and defensiveness in relationships, it is this one!

Accusing someone of always or never doing something is an exaggeration and sweeping generalization.

Think about it…

No one always or never does something. They might do something often or not very much, but it is rarely always or never.

Some people will use “you’re always” or “you never” consciously as a way to manipulate and control others. 

According to the American Sociological Review, this is a direct gaslighting tactic. 

For example, if your partner says you never clean up after using the kitchen when you do, you might question your memory, thinking ‘I’m sure I cleaned up yesterday after making food!”

But…

Many people use this phrase due to a sheer lack of self-awareness.  In this case, they try to express their frustration but don’t think before speaking.

However, using this phrase in a relationship can be highly damaging as it reinforces negative perceptions. 

Here’s another way a toxic person may use exaggeration to undermine you…

2) “Everyone agrees with me.”

Again, this is a massive exaggeration of the truth.

Toxic people love to say this phrase during an argument to prove they are right.

So, they use consensus as a means of manipulation and control. 

But of course, there is no way they have surveyed the entire world population. Likely, they have not asked all your friends and peers either! 

Usually, a toxic person will say, “Everyone agrees with me that you’re…” when only one person has signaled agreement. 

This phrase shows not only that someone seeks power and control but also that they cannot accept that people have differing perspectives.

Anyone who uses this phrase is highly toxic as they want to:

  • Dominate every conversation
  • Control every situation
  • Force others to adopt their beliefs and opinions

A similar way toxic people use consensus to manipulate you is by using the following phrase…

3) “Nobody else has a problem with this.”

Manipulative people gain control of others by invalidating others’ concerns and experiences. 

A powerful way to do this is to make you feel like you’re the only one who feels the way you do.

By saying ‘nobody else has a problem with this,” the toxic individual makes you think that you must be wrong or overreacting.

But don’t be fooled…

It is a gaslighting tactic to make you question yourself.

Their goal is to make you feel alone, and like no one else would put up with you. This belief makes you more likely to conform to the toxic person’s beliefs. 

Moreover, toxic people use this phrase as a way to justify their behavior. They falsely claim that no one else thinks their behavior is wrong to make you believe you’re being unreasonable. 

4) “You’re just like (insert person)”

Comparisons are another tool in a toxic person’s manipulative toolkit. 

By likening you to an unfavorable or undesirable person, they undermine your self-esteem and identity. 

This phrase reflects a desire to exert power and control over others by diminishing their sense of self-worth and individuality. 

It fosters insecurity and self-doubt and severely erodes trust in relationships.

That’s why it is particularly damaging when a parent negatively compares their child to the other parent, such as “You’re selfish and a liar, just like your father.”

5) “Did you hear about…”

things you should never gossip about 10 phrases only really toxic people use, according to psychology

Toxic people love to gossip, so one surefire way to detect a toxic friend is if they regularly bring up other people’s drama.

A common way they will do this is by saying, “Did you hear about…” and then telling you the drama. 

Toxic people spread rumors and gossip to manipulate and control others using a tactic called triangulation.

As psychologist Arlin Cuncic explains, the goal of gossiping is to divide and conquer. 

By instigating drama, the toxic person purposely puts people against each other and creates a divisive environment.

Why do they do this?

Arlin explains that people gossip to:

  • Feel superior to others
  • Increase their self-esteem
  • Devalue other people whom they see as competition

But remember, if someone is gossiping to you about others, you can be sure that they are gossiping to others about you.

That’s why gossipers are incredibly toxic people that you should keep out of your inner circle.

6) “No offense but…”

When someone starts a sentence with “no offense,” they know they’re about to hurt your feelings but apologize beforehand to deflect accountability.   

By framing their remarks as non-offensive, they evade responsibility for the harm caused and invalidate your reactions. 

They also use the phrase to make their insult look like “constructive criticism” or “just trying to help” when it is not constructive.

The “no offense but” makes you feel like you shouldn’t get upset because they essentially told you not to get offended.

Anyone who uses this phrase lacks empathy and tact, as well as a disregard for the impact of their words on others’ feelings.

Here’s a similar phrase toxic people use to justify their offensive comments…

7) “I’m just saying it how it is.”

By claiming they are “saying it how it is,” toxic people evade responsibility for the harm their words cause.

Moreover, like saying “no offense,” this phrase dismisses your reactions as being oversensitive. 

But in reality, this phrase stems from a desire to assert dominance through verbal aggression. It also shows zero emotional intelligence.

So it’s no surprise that this phrase rarely receives a positive reception. Instead, it creates an environment of hostility and mistrust.

So, if this phrase alone is not enough to gain power and control, the toxic person will couple it with the following one…

8) “You’re too sensitive.”

One of the most common ways toxic people invalidate someone’s feelings is by labeling them as “too sensitive” or too much of something else.

This is another gaslighting tactic to make you question your own perceptions. 

By invalidating your emotions, they exert control over your reactions.

How?

Because next time,you will be more careful not to get upset when they do or say something hurtful.

This is known as emotional suppression, which research shows can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

It’s important to realize that this phrase is a type of emotional abuse, which, over time, can erode your self-esteem and foster self-doubt.

9) “I was just joking, don’t take it seriously.”

Humor is another way for toxic people to disguise their hurtful comments or behavior. 

According to Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Cortney Warren, toxic individuals dismiss their words as “just joking” to:

  1. Downplay their insults
  2. Evade accountability for the harm they cause. 

If someone uses this phrase on you, it indicates they lack empathy and sensitivity to others’ feelings. 

Prolonged use of this phrase in relationships, families, and workplaces is incredibly toxic as it cultivates an environment that normalizes and excuses hurtful behavior.

10) “You’re being crazy.”

Finally, here is perhaps the most toxic phrase on the list. 

Using derogatory language to dismiss someone’s thoughts or behavior is a form of emotional abuse.

As Dr. Cortney S. Warren explains, when a toxic person labels you as “crazy,” they gaslight you into doubting your sanity and undermine your perception of reality. 

Even if you are overreacting to the situation, this is an incredibly spiteful comment to make.

The phrase reflects a desire to control and dominate through psychological manipulation, creating a power imbalance in the relationship.

Final thoughts

The phrases highlighted above serve as red flags for toxic behavior in all types of relationships, from professional to romantic. 

According to psychology, anyone who regularly uses these phrases possesses underlying manipulative tendencies, a desire for control, and a lack of empathy.

Recognizing these phrases and the toxic patterns they represent is the first step toward protecting yourself from toxic individuals. 

Through self-awareness, assertiveness, and support from trusted others, you can build barriers against toxic peers and break free from any harmful relationships or friendships you’re currently in.

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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