12 seemingly innocent phrases that are actually quite manipulative

Right now, I’m struggling with a friend of mine. I haven’t known her for very long, but recently I’ve noticed some comments that don’t sit well with me.

The type of comments that start ringing alarm bells. 

I didn’t want to admit it, but I’m now 99% sure she’s quite manipulative. But on the surface?

She seems like such a lovely person. That’s why it’s taken me this many months to make my mind up about her.

Want to know some of the seemingly innocent phrases she uses? Read on to find out…

1) “I’m just saying…”

When someone is sneakily trying to attack or criticize you, they’ll often use this phrase to try and make their comment seem like a casual observation instead.

“I’m just saying, you could do with losing a bit of weight. For your own good, you know?” 

Or, they make a comment, and when you try to call them out on it, they respond with, “I’m just saying! No big deal…” 

Let’s call a spade a spade – it’s a manipulative way to get out of taking responsibility for their words. 

2) “No pressure, but…”

If someone asks you for something and starts with, “no pressure” it’s usually because there IS pressure to do what they say.

But by adding this phrase to the start, they’re trying to sound innocent and kind. Patient, even. 

They want you to do what they want, and they want you to do it now or as soon as possible. But rather than be upfront and honest, they make it seem like they’re the good guy in all of this. 

In the meantime, they don’t care about the impact of their words on you, they know you’ll probably feel obliged to fulfill their request. 

3) “Don’t you want to be a good person?”

A good person would never actually guilt someone by saying a phrase like this. But a manipulative person would.

By saying this, they know they’re playing on your desire to be accepted, to fit in, and to genuinely be a good person.

But it’s not a healthy approach to take. Guilting people into doing anything, even good things, is never the way to go. 

4) “I thought you were the type of person who…”

Well – you thought wrong! This is my go-to response to this phrase. 

This one is a pet peeve of mine. It’s a manipulator’s “innocent” way of projecting their built-up image of who they think you should be onto you. 

And again, it makes you feel guilty for not living up to their fantasy or expectation.  

5) “We’re just concerned about you…”

This is one my “friend” used the other day. 

It actually came right out of the blue, we were talking about her husband and the issues she’s having. 

And all of a sudden, she said, “I’m just concerned about you and your partner. I feel like you’re being neglected.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth, and since we don’t know each other very well, it felt like she was majorly overstepping the boundaries. 

Not to mention, projecting her insecurities onto me and my relationship. 

But she got away with it by prefacing her comment with a fake act of being concerned for me. At that moment, I didn’t quite know how to respond except to reassure her that I was not being abandoned and I was actually very happy, thanks. 

6) “If you really cared about [X], you would…”

show a master manipulator you wont play their games 12 seemingly innocent phrases that are actually quite manipulative

Have you noticed a recurring theme yet?

A lot of manipulators use guilt to get what they want. Especially to control a situation or the people around them.

They’re pulling on your heartstrings but implying that if you don’t do XYZ, you don’t really care. This isn’t fair – you can still care about something but not want to involve yourself in the situation.

That doesn’t make you a bad person, but the manipulator wants you to feel otherwise

7) “It’s for your own good.”

When a manipulator wants to justify their unsolicited advice, they’ll usually use this phrase.

And while they try to make it seem like they have your best interests at heart, what they’re really doing is shutting down your autonomy. 

It’s almost like they know better than you what you need, completely stripping you of personal choice. 

8) “Just trust me on this.”

My so-called friend came with me a few weeks back to get my first tattoo. She was with me when I was given the aftercare instructions.

As my tattoo is on my ankle, I have to avoid submerging it in water for at least a month. Now, she is fully inked up. Arms, legs, you name it. She’s not new to the game.

Around 3 days after getting my tattoo, she wanted to go for a pedicure. I said no, as per the instructions. Her response?

“Just trust me on this.”

I think it was around this time I had my suspicions confirmed – she only cared about getting her way, not about jeopardizing my tattoo or health if I caught an infection. 

9) “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but…”

By starting off like this, a manipulator is trying to come across as regretful or reluctant to share the news. 

But this is usually a mask, a cover for the fact that what follows is probably aimed at sowing doubt or insecurity in your mind.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your girlfriend isn’t as genuine as she seems.” 

Comments like this are designed to make you think or feel a certain way, usually in accordance with the manipulator’s hidden agenda.

But you know, since they “hate” to be the one to break the bad news, they come across as being innocent and caring. 

10) “It’s common sense, don’t you think?”

This is another of my pet peeves. It sounds innocent enough, right?

But the underlying message is:

“Your opinion isn’t up to my standard, so I’m going to berate you and make you feel small and stupid and lacking in common sense.” 

See what a difference it makes when you read between the lines?

Suddenly, a phrase that could be completely overlooked in a conversation is now a red flag of manipulation

11) “You would understand if you…”

This is another one my “friend” likes to use. And in the beginning, it worked. 

I would value her opinion more on certain topics because she made me feel like I didn’t have enough experience in those areas. 

But now I’ve realized that it was just a way for her to control the narrative. At the same time, she would use this phrase a lot to garner sympathy (since she’s been through so much and I haven’t, apparently). 

It’s hard to call someone out as being manipulative when you’re being made to feel 1) sorry for them, and 2) less knowledgeable than them. 

And they know that.

12) “All I’ve ever done is support you.”

“All I’ve ever done is support you, so just trust me on this. I’m just concerned about you. Don’t you want to be a good person? I’m saying all this for your own good.”

When you put a phrase into context with other manipulative phrases, it all makes sense.

This is used to guilt you. To make you feel indebted to the other person. They’ve supported you, now you need to do what they say.

But that’s not how healthy relationships work. We shouldn’t feel obliged to someone just because they may have been there for us during a rough time.

Sure you can repay the favor when they’re down in the dumps, but not if it’s done through guilt-tripping and manipulation.

So, keep in mind these seemingly innocent phrases. Manipulators are great at masking their true intentions, and it takes a while to read between the lines, especially if they’re good at what they do. 

But the quicker you cotton on, the sooner you can either put boundaries in place or exit the relationship. 

Picture of Kiran Athar

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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