Things Manipulative People Say
And The Effects They Have

Here's a long list of things manipulative people say in various contexts. I have also included some explanations of how the manipulation works.

I am not necessarily talking here about people who are a bit pushy or selfish or somewhat needy. The manipulators I am referencing are the ones who live their lives controlling and taking advantage of others. They are cold, calculating and callous although they can put on a great show of being kind, friendly and helpful. But then, even that act is part of their repertoire of manipulative techniques.


Things manipulative people say in intimate relationships

At the start of relationships manipulative people want to make friends as quickly as possible. There are two specific tactics used at this point.

One is to find out what a person likes, what interests and hobbies they have and what hopes, dreams and aspirations are important. The manipulator then pretends to have those same interests. "You like that? I love it, too! What's your favorite part of...?'

We like those who are like us and those who share common ideas. The manipulators know this and they will try and deceive by lying about these things. The trick here is to listen carefully to what else they say about the topic. One warning sign is when they use the jargon but it's not quite right. The use of the terminology is off in some way and it's obvious that they don't actually know their stuff. Another red flag is when they talk as if they are experts but you realize that their knowledge is actually very superficial or even non existent. Ask them specific questions about the details and they won't know the answer. They will typically try and divert attention away to something else.

The second tactic is the pity play. "I've had a very traumatic/abusive childhood", "My ex treated me very badly", "My parents were very narcissistic, too" and so on. They will claim that they have suffered terribly in the past for one reason or another. Initially they will claim that they have overcome these difficulties. This ploy is used to manipulate in various ways. First of all, it elicits pity from the listener. Being social creatures our natural instinct is to want to take care of somebody who has been injured. The manipulators know that if they can elicit pity from their listener they are well on their way to controlling them.

Secondly, later in the relationship, the manipulator claims that their (nasty) behavior is a result of the earlier suffering and abuse and they can't help it. "My last girlfriend cheated on me and that's why I want to know where you are and what you are up to all the time. I am afraid of losing you. I can't help it!" A few tears here can go a long way, too!

The victim of the manipulator may consider that they have to go along with the controlling behavior otherwise they would feel bad for re-traumatizing their 'suffering' partner.

"I am doing this for the benefit of the family." "I am doing this for your own good."

This is an argument that is often difficult to counter. After all, you want the best for the family, right? And you want to be a better person, too, don't you? It is even more difficult to challenge in a mind control environment, such as an abusive relationship, where the power imbalance is already in place. Of course, the manipulator uses this to their advantage where he or she uses it to justify nasty and abusive behavior. The latter phrase also enhances the manipulators control because it presupposes that they know better than the victim what is good for them.

"Look what you made me do!" "I am only doing this because you did..."

These are some of the things manipulative men say in order to blame the victim for dominating and controlling behavior on the part of the manipulator. It enhances the idea in the mind of the victim that they are responsible for all the bad things in the relationship, while the manipulator gets credit for all the good things. These phrases are used to absolve the abuser of any responsibility for the way they act. I know this might sound extreme to anyone who has never been under the influence of an abusive manipulator, but this is what actually happens. The abused person hears these things so often that they come to believe them to one degree or another.

While we are on the subject of abusive relationships, there are some general ideas about the things manipulative people say that it's useful to keep in mind.

One significant factor is that of repetition. The manipulators use repetition to impose ideas and beliefs on their victims. Studies have shown that if three people tell you something, you are very likely to believe it. If one person tells you something three times, it has 90% of the effect of three people telling you. That's very important. If you are, or were, in an abusive relationship, think about the number of times you heard the same things coming out of the mouth of your abuser... This is a very powerful influence technique! Now also consider TV news channels...

Lies, lies and more lies. These are typical in the things manipulative people say. There is just a cascade of lies coming at you all the time. Lies can be interspersed with the truth. The truth is twisted and distorted. It often becomes difficult to tell what is true and what is not. They will lie about anything. After all, the end justifies the means. And even when they are caught out in a lie, they will try and lie their way out of it!

So we can safely add lies of all sorts to the things manipulative people say. One common way that the lies tie in with their sob story about their past is that they recount things as if they were the victim in the story. If you have the opportunity to verify things, for example, with one of their family members, it often turns out that they were the abuser and a sibling or a parent was the person who was actually abused. The truth is that there was abuse, the lie is about who was abused.

"Which do you want? A or B? You choose!"

This structure should be treated as an abusive situation unless there is evidence to the contrary. The manipulator gives you only two options, one of which you probably don't want. Then you are told it's your choice. For example, "If you don’t like my attitude, you know where the door is". When you stay, (because leaving is not really an option), it feels to you like you chose not to leave, and by extension, to accept his attitude.

This is actually a very powerful way to let people think they are still choosing and making their own decisions. The trick is that life is not black and white, there are lots of grays, but these are not offered to you as available options. In our example above, the manipulator changing their attitude is another option but you are not allowed to go for that one.

"If you leave me, I won't be able to manage, I may as well not be around."

This is pure emotional manipulation. First of all, suicide is not actually mentioned but the listener gets the message that the speaker means that. Secondly, the manipulator knows that normal, healthy feeling people don't want to think that they are responsible for someone else taking their own life. It is a very powerful motivator to get someone to stay in the relationship. The manipulators I am talking about use this a lot. There is the threat of committing suicide but they never actually do it. Occasionally they make an attempt, but if the situation is carefully scrutinized, it becomes obvious that the attempt was half hearted, that was no actual danger of anyone dying. The attempt itself is just more manipulation!

The second aspect of this is the vagueness of the statement. This is another common ploy in the things manipulative people say. Suicide was not actually mentioned. The listener understands clearly that this is what is meant. If the manipulator is challenged on it, they may claim that they never had any intention of committing suicide. The manipulator says:

"I never said that."

Technically speaking, this is true. The manipulator did not utter those words. But his intention at the time was that the listener, the victim, was to understand that the manipulator was most definitely talking about suicide. This is one of the methods of gaslighting. If makes the listener question themselves, it makes them doubt their perceptions of reality. Another example:

Abusive father: If you don't change your attitude, we will have to talk about whether you go to college or not.
Son: So if I don't change my attitude, you won't pay for my college?
Abusive father: I didn't say that.

Quotes from other people are another one of the things manipulative people say to influence others. This can take the form of:

{Somebody important} said {something} and therefore you have to {act a certain way}

"God said women should take care of their husbands in this way so you have to..." "My therapist said it's important for me to have time with our son so you have to give me more visitation time".

A more insidious version of this is where the manipulator claims that an indistinct group claims something. "After our argument over breakfast, I spoke to people in the office and they all said that I was in the right, that you should apologize." It's difficult to argue because it's not the manipulator saying it, it's 'them', and they are not present to discuss things. Much of the time this is a lie anyway!

Signs of a controlling spouse

Some other common things manipulative people say:

"If you loved me, you would do this..."

"If you want me to keep loving you, you will do..."

"I did you a favor then, now you owe me this." You hadn't asked for that favor in the past.

"If I do this for you, then you will owe me..." Usually the return favor is much bigger!

"I don't remember that." This is used when you try to point out some upsetting thing they did or said in the past.

"You did this two years ago, that eight months ago and the other thing four months ago." They have perfect recall for things you did and said at various times.

"I am not tolerating that. If you continue, I am leaving!" This threat of leaving the relationship is one of the most powerful emotional threats they can make because of the dependency of the abused on the abuser. The abused person cannot tolerate the idea of losing the relationship and they will usually do whatever it takes to pacify the abuser. The abuser may use this threat very often. Again, this will seem strange to anyone who has not experienced it but this is how it works. You can read more about this dependency here.

The dependency is created as part of the pseudopersonality, or false personality, that is imposed by the abuser on their victims using destructive mind control tactics. You can read more about the pseudopersonality here in the article on controlling girlfriends.

The first stage in imposing the pseudopersonality is breaking down or unfreezing your real personality. How do they do this?

  • You are stupid
  • You are ignorant
  • You are useless
  • You are a disappointment
  • You are pathetic
  • You are worthless
  • You are a loser
  • You are hopeless

All these things attack a person's identity, their sense of themselves. It builds shame and embarrassment about who they are. In a mind control environment it will drive a person to try and change themselves to avoid such criticisms. You can read more about how this happens in the article on narcissistic boyfriends.

"You are too sensitive. You are controlled by your emotions. You are too serious. You can't take a joke."

This is particularly nasty because it's a double whammy. The manipulator says this when you are upset and in the moment it seems that the manipulator is correct.

However, you have to check out the full sequence of events. The manipulator says something nasty and hurtful to upset you. You get upset. Then you are criticized for being upset.

The thing here is that the vast majority of people, if they were in your position, would get upset at what the manipulator had said or done. In other words, the manipulator does something they know will get a response from you. They provoke you. Deliberately. (Remember they know what they are doing and they are good at manipulating others.)

Your response is a normal, healthy response to being insulted or abused. Then the manipulator has a second go at you by criticizing you for having this normal, healthy response! But they upset you in the first place, knowing that what they said would hurt.

This second blow is quite insidious because it puts the blame on you for being upset, when the fact is that the manipulator intentionally provoked you. What happens is it further reinforces the idea that there is something wrong with you. See the part about cults below where the victim is typically blamed for anything bad that happens. These things manipulative people say about you being overly emotional and so on are very destructive because they are redefining your normal emotional responses as a problem that you need to fix. It's not actually a problem so there is nothing to fix. But that does not stop the abusers from using it against you to reinforce the belief that you are defective in some way.

Is my boyfriend controlling? A test


Things manipulative people say to children

Manipulative, abusive parents can say the most horrible things to their children.

"I wish I never had you." "You were a mistake." You couldn't be my child." "Why can't you be more like your cousin?" "You are such a disappointment." "Your father left us because of you." "Your father hates you."

Again, these things are directly challenging the child's sense of self and their self esteem and what happens is that the child develops all sorts of beliefs about themselves that do not serve them. The real personality is never allowed to develop in such circumstances and the abusive parents are just molding the child's personality to be subservient and submissive. These children have a pseudopersonality from the very start. There is more information here about controlling mothers.

There are also lots of things manipulative people say to children in order to alienate them from the other parent. The manipulator, again often a psychopath, a sociopath or a narcissist, will blame the other parent for the breakup and any and all problems the child is having. They will even complain to their own son or daughter that they are emotionally upset, financially ruined or being dragged through courts by the other parent. This does the child no good at all. The manipulator will tell the child that the normal parent is manipulating them, trying to separate the child from the manipulator and is telling the child lies. All the things that the manipulator is doing themselves!

See the article on how to divorce a sociopath for more information on this.


Things manipulative people say in cults

"You are talented. You catch on quickly. You are special. You will do very well in this group. You are a natural at this. You are intelligent. You learn fast. We'd be delighted to have you join us. Together we could do amazing things. You are so friendly and open. We are one big family here, you will fit right in."

This level of affection is often aimed at new members entering a cult and it is called love bombing. It is feigned affection aimed at making the new member feel incredibly good about themselves and the group in order to very rapidly establish a bond and elicit a commitment from the new recruit.

While the cult members doing it may not be manipulative people themselves, they have been trained by the cult leader, who most definitely is a manipulator. In fact, they have been programmed to act in such a way to recruit new people and take their money.

"You are responsible for everything that happens to you."

This is very common in cults. What it does is put the blame for anything and everything on the individual. This makes the individual feel that there is something inherently wrong with him or her. This needs to be fixed. Who is going to help with that? The cult leader, of course.

Life is messy and chaotic. 'Bad' things happen all the time so that there is a never ending stream of things that the member has to deal with, many of which are 'discovered' or pointed out by the leader or the group. In this way the 'self improvement' becomes never ending. The members may end up in the cult for years or even decades. And even if they leave one cult, having this belief about being responsible often means that they end up in another cult, looking for a way to sort out all the things they are supposedly responsible for.

"It's just a choice! You can choose your emotions. You can choose your state. You can just decide to be happy!"

Many of the cult leaders fit the profile of a psychopath. This means that they have none of the socializing emotions such as guilt, empathy, fear, shame, embarrassment, love, compassion. One of their tactics is that they sell the idea that they can control their emotions. But it's a trick. They don't experience these things! The members don't know that though, and they believe that their amazing mentor has indeed mastered the art of emotional control. They therefore aspire to be like him (or her) and set about developing this ability.

But it's an impossible task. People cannot control their emotions all the time. They can certainly do it, to some extent, some of the time. But only experience joy, peace and happiness and never anger, grief or any upset? Impossible.

What happens when they can't achieve it? They are criticized and punished for it! This keeps the members locked into the vicious circle of trying to do the impossible while being abused and further controlled when they cannot do it.

In the same way the cult leaders will give the members other impossible tasks as a way of controlling them. Never sin, stay in a particular state forever, don’t judge anything, follow the groups (very stringent) rules all the time, these are some of those tasks that the leader claims to be able to do and the members are expected to imitate him or her. Closer analysis will reveal that the leader is not doing these things at all, but that fact is hidden from most members. Only the most devoted learn about the reality, but by the time they do, they are so committed to the group that they cannot easily leave. Finding out this info is often presented as development and progress so the members are more inclined to stay in the group than actually leave!

"We get rapid results! Instantaneous even!! And the process is easy, effortless and painless! No more struggling or suffering. No more difficulties or hardships. Just follow us and everything will be ok. Your life will be transformed. Forever."

If you read many cult web sites, this is actually what they are offering. The problem here is that people who are into the new age ideas of personal development and alternative health have had beliefs imposed on them about these things being possible. They believe that they need to improve themselves in some way, that there are experts out there who can help them and that change is easy.

These are beliefs. They are not necessarily the way the world is. Reality can be very different. Many people can lead happy, successful lives without every doing any 'personal development' whatsoever. Change is not necessarily easy for humans. If it was, things would be significantly different on the planet.

In the same way that manipulators have a sob story for their intended partners in intimate relationships, the cult leaders typically have a sob story, too. They may have been doing well at one stage. Something happens and they lose it all. They hit rock bottom. They pick themselves up and they find some technique or idea. It helps a bit. They tweak it or advance it or use it to develop something new and wonderful. Something that is exclusively theirs. Something that you can't get anywhere else (extensive use of the scarcity principle!)

This thing works magically with all sorts of problems, with all sorts of people, in all sorts of bad situations. That includes you and your situation, if you are not sure! And we know it works because it has been scientifically proven to have gotten the person who invented it out of a very bad spot. And now this person is going to show you how to use it for yourself. And you will be shown how to personalize the technique for your particular situation and your particular needs. Even if you just buy the course on the internet! Everything will be taken care of. And all you have to do is pay...

Why do so many cults say this? Because it works! There are many people who are basically programmed to believe in things like this and it generates money for the cult.

Characteristics of a manipulative person


Things manipulative people say - more information

Learn more about the characteristics of psychopaths, signs of verbal abuse, dealing with controlling people, how to leave an abusive relationship and recovery after a psychopathic relationship.

Like this page?


Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?

If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Available now!

54 tips image
54 Practical Tips For Dealing With Psychopaths and Narcissists

You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...

Find out more

Mind Control Manual

mind control manual s

Vital concepts about mind control, cults
and psychopaths

Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?

This manual will give you a different perspective!

What Is Narcissism?

what is narcissism small

A practical guide to protecting yourself

Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?

Learn how to break free, and why you need to!

Tips for dealing with psychopaths and narcissists

Fortnightly newsletter with practical tips and ideas
Learn more...
'7 Vital Do's and Don'ts of Decision Making' when you subscribe!