7 Things Manipulators Say to Make You Feel Bad

When it comes to the things manipulators say, it can be extremely difficult to be aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it. They are masters of deception and deceit. When you are on the receiving end of an experienced manipulator you can even end up feeling that it’s all your fault.

“If you are an approval addict, your behaviour is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.” — Harriet B. Braiker

Manipulators make you feel bad about yourself to get what they want from you or to lift up their self-image.

No matter what their reason, it is hard not to take it personally and feel those unpleasant emotions of rejection. But the fact is, it’s not about who you are, it is about who they are.

Manipulators are incapable of feeling good about themselves without pushing someone else to the ground. Plus, they don’t have the interpersonal skills to get what they want in a way that benefits everyone.

This article will outline some of the common phrases manipulators use. It will then look more closely at the characteristics of manipulators and how you can deal with them.

How can you spot a manipulator? The following emotionally manipulative phrases can be a clue:

7 things manipulators say to make you feel that you are the bad person in the room

1. “You are lying”

Most of us like to be perceived as honest and truthful people. Yes, perhaps we let slip the odd white or convenient lie; who doesn’t? However, most people are good-hearted and honest. And because of that, we feel, incredibly hurt when others see us as dishonest no matter who those people might be: from strangers to loved ones, from habitual liars to the most honest of them all.

Manipulators know that by saying “you are lying” you get into the defensive mode where you are more vulnerable and prone to give in to their wishes.

Listen, know who you are and don’t allow others to cover your self-image with their subjective opinions; or even, worse, use your feelings to manipulate you.

2. “You misunderstood what I said”

Stand your ground, be assertive and let people know what you want or don’t want. Make clear to the other party that, when it comes to what you are willing to do or not, it is irrelevant if you understand precisely what they meant.

3. “I don’t like drama”

Do you feel more self-conscious when someone tells you that? Don’t you have the tendency to automatically assume that it is your fault? That you are making a drama out of nothing? When you do, they win!

Be less self-conscious and more self-assured. Know that when you express a feeling, an emotion or a thought, you are entitled to it!

4. “You are too sensitive”

Maybe you are more sensitive than others about certain issues or situations, but that doesn’t mean you should allow people to use it against you. You have your reasons to feel the way you do and no one has the right to demand explanations for it.

Manipulators are telling you that even though they don’t believe what they are saying. They are doing it because it is a way of making you feel weak and doubt your judgement and, in the end, to come to the conclusion that they know better than you.

5. “I didn’t say/do that” or “It wasn’t my idea, it was yours”

These are some of the things gaslighters say. Gaslighting is a form of abusive manipulation that makes you question your own memory or perception of reality. It can make you feel like you are going mad. 

When things don’t go too well, manipulators put all the blame on you.

  • They didn’t even mention that subject
  • You did not understand them
  • They didn’t say/do that
  • It was your idea
  • They said the right thing and you the wrong one

6. “I see you want to start a fight”

If you don’t agree with them, you are threatened with a fight or a conflict as if that is the only way things can move on.

7. “You are so negative”

Why can’t you just cheer them on and get along with what they want? (please, notice the sarcasm)

Manipulators are using this kind of expression and tactics to divert your attention from them and their intentions and to exploit your good nature.

Wrap up – things manipulators say

Those are some of the most common examples of manipulative phrases. It’s important to say that not everybody that says these things to you wants to manipulate you. While those phrases are things manipulators say, they are also common, everyday expressions.

But when you notice the same person using those manipulative phrases often, regardless of the circumstance or situation, it is worth considering what their intentions might be and whether they are using this language on purpose, to wear you down and control you. 

Master manipulators can use these expressions to flip the situation and suggest that you are the perpetrator. This is a tactic known as DARVO (deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender). It’s a very powerful form of manipulation often used by psychological abusers and narcissists.

Read on to learn more about how to spot a manipulator and how to deal with them.

Characteristics of a Manipulative Person

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The techniques manipulators use are unfortunately all too common; they are used by controlling personalities at every level, from bullies and narcissists to dictators and cult leaders. Those types of manipulators vary in degree but they share the same underlying characteristics. 

Manipulators can be apparently charming and thoughtful. When you first get to know them you may feel quite bowled over by how generous and considerate they are.

They ignore boundaries. Often they will stand too close, call or text too often and move very quickly to get into your inner circle.

They don’t take responsibility. If something goes wrong they always blame someone else and never accept fault.

They cannot accept criticism. You will know that your manipulator is a narcissist if they respond particularly strongly to criticism. It corrodes their grandiose self-image and they can respond with rage, gaslighting or self-victimisation.

They act as the victim to gain sympathy. This can include exaggerated illness symptoms and issues at work and in relationships. They bring the drama.

Their morals are fluid. They will hitch themselves to whatever moral bandwagon suits their needs.

They tell lies. Manipulative people do not have a problem twisting the truth to get what they want.

What manipulators say and the things manipulators do, don’t match. They say all the right things but their actions and lifestyle are different.

How to Deal With a Manipulator

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Manipulators use the phrases above to make you feel bad and shatter your self-confidence. That way they can control you and get what they want. How do you deal with it?

Work on your own self-esteem

Simply, know who you are! Build your self-esteem and don’t allow others to cover your self-image with their subjective opinions and views. 

Know who you are and stand your ground. No one knows better than you what is right or not for you. No one knows better than you do how you feel, what are your intentions, and where are your boundaries.

Avoid isolation

Make sure that your life includes a range of relationships and activities so that you never allow yourself to become defined or constrained by the narrow views of other people. 

Cool the drama

Ideally, you wouldn’t respond to the things manipulators say and the hyperbole. Ideally, you would distance yourself from a manipulator and get away from them. But if that’s not possible because they’re a dependent, boss or co-worker then the next best thing is to cool down the drama.

Either ignore the statement or respond in a neutral and factual manner.

Don’t accept generalisations, such as ‘you always’ or ‘you never’. Insist on specifics and do not allow the discussion to accelerate beyond that specific situation.

Set boundaries

Be very clear about your boundaries, whether that is time, money or topics you are not prepared to discuss. Use the broken record technique to coolly repeat what you have said if they ignore your boundaries.

Do not accept their help or gifts

Manipulators love to put you in their debt by apparent generosity. At the beginning of a relationship or friendship, this can take the form of ‘love bombing’, where they shower you with gifts and compliments.

But eventually, they will want to control you in return. Remember it is a transaction and the ultimate price is pretty unpleasant. So decline their offers firmly. ‘No thank you’ is all you need to say, you do not need to explain why not.

What Happens When You Ignore a Manipulator?

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When you ignore a manipulator, it will initially make them mad. Their behaviour may accelerate and become more volatile. They may pull out the stops to win you back, bouncing between anger, charm and playing the victim. If you are able to keep ignoring them, eventually they will lose interest.

It goes without saying that using the tactic of ignoring a manipulator very much depends on the nature of the relationship and your situation. If it is a friendship that has gone wrong, then ignoring or going no contact may be a good option. If it’s a work situation then ignoring a colleague might not be possible.

If you are in a relationship with a manipulator, a strategy that might accelerate their behaviour in the short term can be dangerous. Extreme emotional manipulation and control within a relationship is now a criminal offence, known as coercive control. If you think you might be in such a situation please do something about it and get help. See here for advice and support services.

This is a guest blog from Carmen Jacob, co-founder of the Self Improvement blog.

16 thoughts on “7 Things Manipulators Say to Make You Feel Bad”

  1. Thank you. This article is very clear and has helped me to understand how a friendship, that seemed very important to me, has gone wrong. I definitely need to move away from that person.

    • I just discovered the same thing about me best friend of 3 yrs ( or so I thought) I have been doing so much research on this, and all of it describes her behaviors and actions ,to a TEE.Now the hard part is distancing myself,cause i feel guilty.

  2. Thank you for the article. I got an younger siblings that calls me fat and makes me feel like everything’s my fault and says he’s never in the wrong and I am always

  3. Been in a relationship for 7 years he tells me im stupid or he feels manipulate he’s tired im pushing him away I gets very angry with him until it gets out of control trying to sum this up to make sense

    • Tell him you could be stupid for the company you keep then part ways let him go, he will call the next woman stupid too, that is if he can find one that will put up with him being so immature, I send good feelings to you for you are smart you can take care of your self and you do not need anyone putting you down <3

  4. My pregnant daughter-in-law told me that she and her friends were discussing the amount of gifts I brought to her first baby shower (6.5 years ago for my 6 yr old grandson) and stated, “we’re not going to do the same at this baby shower, ok?.” I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about gifts especially what the grandmother brings to a baby shower for her grandchild. After being told this three times, I finally told my daughter-in-law that it wasn’t her friends talking about me, it was her! At this point, I limited communications with her to avoid being blamed for stressing her out during the last two months of her pregnancy. Surprisingly, my son…her husband, defended whatever conclusion he developed since he was not a part of the initial conversations and accused me of lying because “she would never do that!” According to my son, they can’t believe I’m not excited for the arrival of the new baby! This continued by way of several long text messages where he was accusing me of causing the problem. He also withheld information regarding my 6 yr old grandson’s football games until this is resolved. Basically, until I get over her nasty comments about me and just be happy. So I don’t get to see my grandson until I disregard the crap from my daughter-in-law and my son is satisfied with my behavior…(I guess). I am furious and hurt. I wish I could hate him, I really wish I could!

    • I really don’t have any advice except u buy that baby whatever you want. And I’ll make you feel good that’s what matters she gets upset about it oh well hopefully your son will come around I really hate this for you and I hate that you’re missing out on your six-year-old grandson I just can’t imagine someone upset about gifts at a baby shower that sounds insane. More than likely you’re going to have to suck it up and play there well rather her game so you can be in those babies laugh and convince your son that you didn’t do that stuff. I wish you the best of luck

  5. Thanks. Exactly same characteristics of my Boss Madam. It was all over my mind and i. Could not perform. Finally I left the job to get away from her. I am better now emotionally mentally and physically

  6. “Most” people are NOT good-hearted and honest. That hasn’t been my experience; if only it were true. Only sheltered people believe that. There are more toxic people than not.

    • I’m sorry you feel this way, i hope more good people come into your life, I’m sure you’re worthy of them as am I.
      But I promise you they’re not all toxic. I’ve known more kindness and love than hate and toxicity. Keep your chin up xo

  7. Wow, funny, I just learned about a manipulative person who put me through a lot. Only the first time, he visited me and he did it with the purpose to pay for the ticket on our valentine’s day. He returned home because he thought ” It was your idea” to send him home. I started feeling funny about him but I did guilt for nothing. Afterward, we spoke together on the video chat for 2 months and I told him I’d like to visit him on the Easter weekend. He said, ” no I have to discussion with my roommate after all he said I had a big house and two cars!” I was surprised because I’ve seen any guys who had motivated me and would say” I would love to see you and invite you come over to my place to have a romantic” or” spend time with me” BUT he never say anything. How I can tell that he is manipulative when he kept saying if I cheat or something he would be “punished’ on purpose. Also, he never come to my place for 6 months after he went back home. I lost my time being with him. He did see his daughter and not far from my home. He made too many excuses so I was so done with him. From what I learned about him, I realized that he had a bad habit to manipulative during relationships and he came from a dysfunctional family the way he was raised was horrible. Please keep your eyes open when it comes to your relationship because of losing time. I spent time with him for 6 months and I dumped him because of too many RED flags.

  8. My daughter-in-,laws nan told me that she is very selfish and everything has to be her way, which I have seen, she tends to get her own way with my son but I have become wise she does not get her own way with me, so now if they go out I am not allowed to know where they are going, whereas before she came on the scene my son always informed me where he was going

  9. Everything is so true. I’m dealing with my girlfriend for two long years, she has this problem to control everything, manipulative personality and compulsive Lier. I recommend everyone that see the red flags since the beginning just end the relationship and don’t waste your time with this kind of persons

  10. These articles can be dangerous, as whilst I agree with a lot of the content, this can be flipped around to be used against the so called manipulator. I have a partner who is very insecure and negative (and we have to appreciate we are all built in different ways and have different attributes). Their past experiences have shaped them to such a way that I am tarnished with the same brush (guilty until proven innocent. They check the ring camera and doorbell and then immediately question me waiting for the wrong answer. They hide dictaphones around the house to capture my conversations to see if I’m up to anything, which I can say I’m not). However, if I tell them they are being negative (and I should add they have a very bad memory also) and they read this article, then this simply justifies their actions and look at me as the manipulator and not take a look at themselves.

    • I agree with you. I think some of the points made in this article are valid but in general, the article is over-simplistic.

      I am concerned that if there are any ‘amateur psychologists’ who seem to think they know it all reading this article, they may jump to the wrong conclusion and side with the actual manipulator. If the manipulator needs witnesses especially in the workplace environment, this could be detrimental.

      It’s not just manipulators who make comments such as, “You are lying”, “I didn’t say/do that”, “You are so negative” and “I see you want to start a fight”.


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