7 things manipulators say to make you feel bad

“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.

When it comes to manipulators, 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.

This kind of top-level manipulation is called ‘gaslighting’ after the old movie where a man manipulated his wife to the point that she felt she was losing her sanity. If you want to read more about gaslighting, we recommend this excellent book. 

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. They are at the root of the criminal offence of coercive control. They are used in relationships and at work. How can you spot them? The following expressions 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 liar 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 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”

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.

It’s important to say that not everybody that says these things to you wants to manipulate you. These are common, everyday expressions. But when you notice the same person using them 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. 

How do you counter this kind of behaviour? 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.

If the manipulation is extreme and getting worse, then you have to get away from the person. At its most extreme level, an ongoing pattern of manipulative and controlling behaviour in relationships may amount to a criminal offence, known as coercive control.

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.

Know who you are and stand your ground!

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

7 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.

  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!

  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


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