10 phrases people commonly use that are actually quite manipulative

Ever felt uneasy about something someone said, but couldn’t figure out why?

Maybe it left you feeling uneasy, pressured, or even guilty.

The truth is, everyday language can sometimes be peppered with manipulative phrases, often used subtly and perhaps even unintentionally.

It’s good to spot these, so you’re not caught off guard or to even prevent yourself from using them.

Here’s 10 these sneakily manipulative phrases:

1. “Don’t you trust me?”

This phrase might sound like a genuine question, but it’s often used to make the other person feel guilty or doubtful about their feelings.

Instead of addressing the actual issue or concern, the person using this line is trying to shift the focus to the trustworthiness of their character.

It’s a way to deflect from the real topic and put the other person on the defensive.

Next time you hear this, remember to stay focused on the original concern and don’t be sidetracked by guilt.

2. “I mean, if I were you…”

Whenever I hear this, I can’t help but feel a nudge towards seeing things from their perspective, even if it’s not right for me.

The phrase sounds like helpful advice, but it’s often a veiled attempt to guide decisions or actions towards what the speaker wants.

By saying “if I were you,” they’re implying a certain wisdom or insight, suggesting that their way is better.

I’ve learned that it’s crucial to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, and it’s okay to trust your own instincts.

3. “I’m just being honest…”

At face value, this sounds like a breath of fresh air. Who doesn’t appreciate honesty, right?

But when I’ve delved deeper into conversations that included this phrase, I’ve realized it’s often a cloak for blunt or even hurtful opinions.

By prefixing a statement with “I’m just being honest,” the speaker tries to get a free pass on tact or empathy, making it seem like they’re doing you a favor with their “candor.”

But true honesty doesn’t need a declaration.

It’s important to differentiate between genuine feedback and someone using “honesty” as a guise for insensitivity.

4. “Just saying…”

This phrase often comes after a jab or unsolicited advice.

It’s a quick exit strategy, attempting to downplay the weight of the preceding comment.

By ending with “just saying,” the speaker tries to dodge accountability for their words, making it seem like a casual observation rather than a pointed remark.

Beware of its dismissive nature.

5. “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but…”

Every time I hear this, a little alarm bell rings in my head. Because it often precedes a potentially judgmental or critical observation.

The phrase seems to softly introduce a topic, but it’s typically a setup to highlight a perceived flaw or shortcoming.

I’ve come to realize that when someone starts with this, they’re cushioning a critique, making it sound like a harmless observation when it’s usually more loaded than that.

It reminds me to brace myself and take the upcoming feedback with a grain of salt.

6. “You’re too sensitive.”

At first glance, this seems like a simple observation, maybe even a nudge towards self-improvement.

However, when I’ve been told this in the past, I’ve realized it’s a subtle way of invalidating genuine feelings and reactions.

Instead of addressing the issue, the phrase shifts blame onto the person’s emotional response.

Being sensitive isn’t inherently bad; in fact, it can be a strength.

This phrase is often a mask for avoiding responsibility or deflecting criticism.

7. “Everyone else thinks/feels the same way.”

This one’s a classic.

By implying that a majority shares a particular opinion or feeling, the speaker tries to sway you into conforming or doubting your own stance.

It’s a pressure tactic, leveraging the fear of being isolated or going against the grain.

But remember, just because “everyone else” supposedly thinks a certain way doesn’t make it right or true.

It’s always worthwhile to trust your instincts and beliefs.

8. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…”

Every time I hear this phrase, I instinctively brace myself.

While it might seem like the speaker is expressing empathy, I’ve found it’s often a way for them to deliver criticism or negative information without taking much responsibility for it.

It’s as if by acknowledging the unpleasantness of the news, they’re distancing themselves from the impact of their words.

I’ve learned to separate the message from the packaging, focusing on the information and not getting sidetracked by the faux sympathy often accompanying this phrase.

9. “For your own good…”

This sounds caring, right? Like someone’s genuinely looking out for your best interests.

But dig a bit deeper, and it’s often a mask for controlling behavior.

By suggesting that their advice or action is for “your own good,” the speaker positions themselves as the knowledgeable guardian of your well-being, even if their suggestion might not align with what you want.

In reality, only you can truly determine what’s best for you. It’s a phrase that, at times, can blur the boundaries between concern and control.

10. “If you really cared, you would…”

This is a heavy-hitter.

It’s a guilt-tripping tactic that aims to question your feelings or commitment to a person or cause.

The underlying message?

Your actions (or lack thereof) don’t align with what the speaker believes proves genuine care or love. It’s manipulative because it presents a very subjective standard as the definitive measure of genuine concern.

Instead of open dialogue, it corners you into defending your feelings, often leading to decisions made out of guilt rather than genuine conviction.

Beware of its emotionally charged undertones and remember that true care doesn’t come with conditions.

Picture of Brendan Brown

Brendan Brown

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