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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.