We all navigate the world of communication every day, but there’s no high school class that teaches us how to recognize when someone is manipulating us. Sure, we learn the basics of conversation, how to argue our point in debate class, and maybe we even dissect some cunning villains in literature.
These concepts aren’t often covered in traditional self-help resources because they can be uncomfortable to confront. But trust me, they’re necessary.
1. “You’re just overthinking”
People who frequently use this phrase are often dismissing your feelings and thoughts.
They know that “overthinking” is just another term for being cautious—a trait they might perceive as a weakness.
Individuals who use this phrase aim to make you second-guess your own judgment. It’s not necessarily because they believe you’re wrong, but because they want to gain control over the situation or undermine your confidence.
Using the phrase “you’re just overthinking” is a clever way to belittle your concerns. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though you’re being irrational or overly sensitive.
This tactic also serves to divert attention away from their actions, according to experts.
Manipulative individuals not only enjoy—but thrive on this form of dismissal so much that without an adequate amount of self-doubt instilled in you, they can actually become irritable, resort to further manipulation, and continue to erode your confidence.
2. “I was only joking”
This phrase is a common tool in the manipulator’s arsenal, used to mask their hurtful comments under the guise of humor.
They understand that “joking” is a socially acceptable activity—a shield they can hide behind when called out on their behaviour.
People who use this phrase aim to belittle your feelings and to make you question your interpretation of their words. It’s not that they genuinely intended it as a joke, but rather, they want to escape accountability for their offensive remarks.
Employing “I was only joking” is a sly way to deliver criticism or veiled insults without facing the backlash. It’s an attempt to create a sense of confusion in you, making you doubt whether you’re being too sensitive or misunderstanding their intentions.
Experts suggest that this method serves as a dual purpose for manipulative individuals—it allows them to express their negativity while simultaneously discrediting your reaction.
3. “It’s all in your head”
This phrase is a masterstroke used by manipulative individuals to sow seeds of doubt in your mind.
They comprehend that “in your head” is a phrase associated with imagination—a concept they manipulate to their advantage.
People who use this phrase aim to invalidate your experiences and emotions. They don’t necessarily believe it’s all a figment of your imagination, but they want to make you question your reality and perceptions.
Saying “it’s all in your head” is a covert way of dismissing your feelings or concerns. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though you’re misinterpreting the situation or overreacting.
Experts indicate that this gaslighting technique is a powerful tool for manipulators—it helps them maintain control while making you question your sanity.
Manipulative individuals relish this form of manipulation, so much so that without successfully instilling self-doubt, they may resort to more aggressive tactics or continue their relentless attack on your confidence.
4. “Don’t take it personally”
This phrase is another favorite of manipulative individuals, often used to deflect responsibility for their damaging words or actions.
They know that “don’t take it personally” suggests impartiality—a concept they twist to escape accountability.
People who use this phrase aim to trivialize the impact of their hurtful behavior. They don’t necessarily mean that their actions aren’t personal, but they want to create an illusion that you’re overreacting or being overly sensitive.
Utilizing “don’t take it personally” is a cunning way of absolving themselves from blame. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though you’re unjustifiably taking offense.
People say this method serves as a clever evasion tactic for manipulative individuals—it allows them to cause harm without facing the consequences.
5. “Can’t you take a hint?”
This phrase is a manipulative tool, often used to belittle your understanding and make you feel less competent.
They realize that “taking a hint” is often associated with social awareness—a concept they twist to their benefit.
People who use this phrase aim to make you feel inadequate or out of touch. They don’t necessarily believe that you’re oblivious, but they want to create an illusion of your supposed ignorance.
Using “can’t you take a hint?” is a sly way of making you question your own judgment. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though you’re lacking basic social cues or understanding.
This method serves as a subtle yet effective weapon for manipulative individuals—it allows them to belittle your intelligence while maintaining an air of innocence.
6. “Don’t be so sensitive”
This phrase is a tool manipulators use to invalidate your feelings and emotions.
They understand that being “sensitive” is often misconstrued as a weakness—a stereotype they exploit to their advantage.
People who use this phrase aim to belittle your reactions. They don’t necessarily believe you’re overly sensitive, but they want to make you doubt the validity of your feelings.
Using “don’t be so sensitive” is a cunning way of dismissing your emotions. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though your response is disproportionate or unnecessary.
This method serves as a form of emotional manipulation—it allows them to deflect blame while making you question your emotional responses.
7. “You’re not remembering correctly”
This phrase is a classic example of gaslighting, a manipulative tactic designed to make you question your memory and perception of events.
They know that “remembering correctly” implies reliability—a concept they manipulate to create self-doubt.
People who use this phrase aim to distort your recollection of past events. They don’t necessarily believe that your memory is faulty, but they want to create confusion and uncertainty in your mind.
Saying “you’re not remembering correctly” is a covert way of rewriting history. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though your understanding of events is flawed or incorrect.
8. “Everyone else agrees with me”
This phrase is a manipulative tactic designed to make you feel isolated in your beliefs or perceptions.
They understand that “everyone else” suggests a majority consensus—a concept they use to undermine your confidence.
People who use this phrase aim to make you feel alone in your perspective. They don’t necessarily have the support they claim, but they want to create a sense of you being the odd one out.
Stating “everyone else agrees with me” is a subtle way of challenging your beliefs. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though your viewpoint is flawed or unpopular.
9. “You always…/You never…”
These phrases are manipulative tools often used to criticize and generalize your behavior.
They know that “always” and “never” signify absolutes—a concept they exploit to create feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
People who use these phrases aim to paint an unflattering, one-sided picture of you. They don’t necessarily believe in these absolute terms, but they want to make you feel defensive and on edge.
Using “you always…” or “you never…” is a strategic way of launching personal attacks. It’s an attempt to make you feel as though you’re constantly in the wrong or failing in some way.
10. Knowledge is power
The complexities of human interaction and manipulation are often deeply rooted in our understanding and awareness.
One such example is the connection between recognizing manipulative phrases and boosting one’s confidence.
This knowledge, although not always pleasant, plays a crucial role in fostering healthier relationships.
For those who have been subjected to these manipulative tactics, this awareness can be key in reclaiming their confidence. Recognizing these phrases can potentially induce a sense of empowerment, enabling them to navigate interactions with more assertiveness.
Whether it’s standing up to a manipulative coworker, confronting a friend’s hurtful remarks, or setting boundaries in a relationship, the power of understanding manipulative language can transform your interactions.