Though it's not something most of us want to admit, we've all be stuck in a situation where we've needed to lie or even manipulate our way out of it. It happens, it's part of life, and though you may feel bad about it, know that there are people who do this every day with the goal of harming others. They're the real threats, not you.
Manipulators like that employ seemingly innocent phrases and sayings that only help them gain more control over their victims, meaning you can't trust a word they say.
Being a victim of manipulative tactics can start at a young age, and those experiences can be very harmful to a developing mind. They can stay with the person, manifesting as issues with trust, vulnerability, or affection in later years.
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A manipulator's goal, beyond gaining control over a victim of theirs, is to not be caught while doing so. If the subject realizes what's happening to them and whose fault it is, the manipulator is done for, left to fend for themselves until they find someone new to latch onto.
This means they've developed a number of covert tactics that allow them to remain one step ahead of their victims, with some of them being simple phrases that would otherwise seem innocent. Below are a few examples of this that you can look out for so you can catch an abuser in the act.
1. "I Never Said That."
The manipulative art of denial and gaslighting involves a chilling distortion of reality. When confronted with their own words or deeds, a manipulator will unflinchingly deny any involvement, regardless of the actual truth. They insist that you're wrong with the hopes that you'll back down and just agree with them in order to end the fight. Maybe you'll even begin to question your own perception of things.
You might start to think that you really are over-exaggerating things, or misremembering them, painting them to be worse than they actually were. This is exactly what the manipulator wants, for you to lose faith in your version of reality and buy completely into theirs so they can exert further control over your life.
2. "If You Really Cared About Me, You'd Do This."
This sentence aims to prey on a victim's need for affection and validation from someone. It plays into your sense of obligation, promising a heavy, unshakable sense of guilt should you not do what the abuser asks of you. They're loading an emotional shotgun and making you look down the barrel.
Phrases like this are a strategy meant to take advantage of your kindness, leading you down paths you might otherwise avoid. It's also a glaring red flag, a reminder to protect your heart and mind from those who seek to control through deceit.
3. "This Always Happens To Me."
This phrase paints the manipulator as a hapless victim of circumstance, pleading innocence to the actions of others. They say things like this to trigger sympathy in their victims with the hopes that all of their misdeeds will be forgotten (or even better, forgiven) in favor of empathetic understanding.
All sentences like these do is exploit the victim's caring nature. When used time and time again, the manipulator consistently relies on your support, offering little or nothing in return. This toxic cycle establishes an imbalanced and unhealthy dynamic, wherein the manipulator thrives at the cost of your emotional well-being.
4. "Are You Sure That's What You Want?"
This question seems innocent at first, but when in an abuser's hands, phrases like this are meant to sow seeds of doubt in their victims' minds. This subtle manipulation erodes one's self-confidence and autonomy, casting shadows upon your personal choices. The manipulator wants to make you hesitate, wants you to second guess yourself, all so you'll rely more on their opinions, and thus their control.
This tactic coerces the target to depend on the manipulator's judgment, seeking approval before every choice. In this way, the manipulator tightens their grip, extending their control over the very fabric of the victim's life. If you find yourself faced with this, trust your instincts above anyone else's opinion. You know more than they're letting you think.
5. "You're Being Irrational."
This is a classic tactic used by manipulators who want to wear away at a victim's trust in themselves. By insisting that you're wrong, that you're being irrational, that you're not remembering things correctly, you may slowly begin to believe these things, not yet aware that this person isn't to be trusted.
This is how the manipulator gradually gains control, as you now rely on their perspective when making decisions. This opens more paths for control and ultimately creates a power imbalance within the relationship. Recognize this manipulation for what it is: a deliberate assault on your confidence and trust in yourself.
6. "I Told You My Secrets, You Should Tell Me Yours."
An abuser says this to create a feeling of obligation, an immediate and intense pressure to get you to do something you wouldn't otherwise, all while insinuating that sharing personal information is a litmus test for trust and loyalty. The victim fears they may be seen as untrustworthy or uncaring should they not obey the manipulator's command.
This one isn't just about making you feel bad, it's also about gaining information that they can use against you later. This is a big reason why setting boundaries is so important in a relationship. Don't ever let them think they can force secrets our of you like this.
7. "I Thought You Would Understand."
Phrases like this are often said in vulnerable moments, in the heat of an argument, the manipulator using some emotional leverage in an attempt to get you to back down. By invoking trust, empathy, or the bond you two share, the manipulator aims to create a feeling of obligation or play to their victim's sense of justice.
In truth, this tactic preys upon emotional vulnerability, turning trust and connection into tools for control. They want to make you feel bad for ever doubting them, make you think they're truly hurt or are unconvinced of your care for them. Guilt is a powerful thing in the hands of a manipulator.
Always Double Check
Now, this isn't to say that any usage of the phrases above is an immediate red flag, though some are worse than others. There are contexts and circumstances in which these are innocuous at worst and genuinely caring at best.
This list isn't meant to leave you with your back up to the wall, it's merely meant to draw attention that a manipulator can use in covert, calculating ways. Be sure to look at the bigger picture when analyzing conversations you find suspicious and look for other signs of malicious intent. Above all else, keep yourself safe, protect your peace, and don't be afraid to cut people loose if their behavior doesn't reflect who you want in your life.
Childhood trauma can rob someone of their sense of freedom, but with this free, simple quiz, you can uncover the core roots of this trauma and begin the journey to freeing yourself from it. Click here to learn more today and see how life opens up to you.