8 phrases manipulators use to make you feel like less of a person

Isabella Chase by Isabella Chase | July 7, 2024, 4:46 pm

We’ve all come across those people who, instead of lifting our spirits, seem to have a knack for making us feel small.

Their words, often subtle and masked with concern or sincerity, can slowly chip away at our self-esteem.

And before we know it, we’re questioning our worth.

These folks are manipulators.

They have a unique skill set of using phrases that can make us feel like less of a person. And sadly, their words can often go unnoticed until the damage is done.

Here’s a rundown of 8 phrases manipulators commonly use to belittle you.

Knowledge is power, so let’s dive in:

1) “It’s for your own good”

Ever heard this one before?

It’s a classic in the manipulator’s playbook.

This phrase is often used as a cover-up, a way for manipulators to justify their actions or words that belittle you.

Essentially, they present their criticisms or harmful advice as something that’s meant to benefit you, to help you grow or improve.

Sounds familiar, right?

The thing is, this phrase is not about your well-being at all.

It’s about control.

By persuading you that their hurtful words are for your own good, they’re trying to shape your actions and decisions according to their liking.

It’s a sneaky tactic, but now that you’re aware of it, you’ll be better equipped to recognize it when it comes your way.

2) “I’m just being honest”

I once had a friend who was a master at using this phrase.

She would share unsolicited advice or criticism, all under the disguise of honesty.

If I expressed any hurt or discomfort, she’d quickly counter with, “I’m just being honest.”

The truth is, there’s a vast difference between being honest and being hurtful.

Honesty doesn’t mean expressing every critical thought that crosses your mind. It should be about truthfulness coupled with kindness and respect.

Looking back, I realized she used “honesty” as a shield to hide her manipulative behavior.

This phrase allowed her to say hurtful things without taking responsibility for the emotional impact they had.

3) “You’re too sensitive”

Imagine this:

You’re upset about something someone said to you.

You muster up the courage to tell them how you feel, hoping they’ll understand.

But instead, they dismiss your feelings by saying, “You’re too sensitive.”

I bet anything you’ve already experienced this – so many of us have. 

You see, this phrase is a manipulator’s favorite tool to deflect blame and make you question your feelings.

It sends the message that your emotional response is the problem, not their behavior or words.

But guess what?

You have every right to your emotions.

And never forget – being sensitive is not a weakness; it’s a strength that reflects your capacity to feel deeply and empathize with others.

4) “You’re overreacting”

By telling you that you’re overreacting, a manipulator not only dismisses your feelings but also attempts to control how you should react or feel about a situation.

Again, they try to avoid taking responsibility for their role in the situation. 

The irony is, most times, it’s not an overreaction.

It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation created by the manipulator.

So the next time someone accuses you of overreacting, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re reacting normally to an abnormal behavior.

Take note of how often this person deflects and avoids responsibility, and pretty soon you’ll realize whether they simply misspoke or are actually highly manipulative. 

5) “Everyone thinks that…”

Now this is a sly one.

“Everyone thinks that…” is a phrase manipulators use to make you feel isolated and left out.

They’ll bring in the opinion of the ‘majority’ to make their point seem more valid, even when there’s no majority at all.

So why do they do this?

Well, simply put, it’s to make you doubt your own perspective and sway you in their favor.

I once had a colleague who used this line. Eventually, I got sick of hearing it, and demanded to know who exactly is “everyone”. 

That shut him up pretty quickly. 

6) “If you really cared about me, you would…”

Now, this next phrase plays on our emotions, especially our empathy and care for others.

You’re more likely to comply with whatever the manipulator wants because you want to confirm your care and love for them. 

But in reality, it’s a sneaky way of getting you to go against your boundaries and pander to the needs of the other person through emotional blackmail.

Just know this, setting boundaries and saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you uncaring or selfish.

It simply means you respect yourself and value your well-being.

So the next time someone tries to guilt-trip you with this phrase, stand your ground and remember that your feelings and comfort matter too.

7) “That’s not at all what happened.”

Ah, gaslighting. This is probably one of the cruelest tricks up a manipulator’s sleeve

Medical News Today describes gaslighting as:

“A form of psychological abuse where a person causes someone to question their sanity, memories, or perception of reality.”

An example of this is when my highly toxic ex outright denied embarrassing me in front of our mutual friends. 

When I tried to call him out on his behaviors, his response was:

“That’s not what happened. What’s wrong with you? Are you imagining things?”

This is so incredibly damaging to the victim because you’re left questioning your reality and in truth, wondering if you’ve gone mad. 

But of course, that’s exactly the goal of the manipulator. To strip down your sense of self and leave you feeling confused. 

8) “I know you better than you know yourself”

This, my friends, is the granddaddy of all manipulative phrases.

“I know you better than you know yourself” is a powerful statement designed to make you question your own self-knowledge.

It’s a way for manipulators to gain control by making you doubt your own feelings, decisions, and experiences.

Recognizing these manipulative phrases is the first step towards protecting your mental and emotional health.

It’s about understanding that you have the right to feel, react, and express yourself authentically without being belittled or controlled.

But remember, acknowledging these phrases is just the beginning.

The real journey lies in standing up for yourself, in setting boundaries, and in refusing to let anyone undermine your self-worth.