Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
April 22, 2024 ·  6 min read

Emotional Manipulation: 7 Lines That People Use To Control Others You Should Be Aware Of

Certain individuals possess a remarkable ability to conceal their true selves and ulterior motives. Among them are masters of emotional manipulation, adept at manipulating others to fulfill their own needs. The troubling aspect is that one might not realize they are being used until too late.

Nevertheless, there are certain indicators to be vigilant about. As Mary Beth Somich, a licensed professional counseling associate, explains, emotional manipulators are often deeply insecure individuals who aim to undermine our emotional well-being.

Emotional manipulators employ specific tactics to ensnare their targets even before they reveal their true intentions. For instance, they frequently resort to flattery. Dr. Cali Estes, a psychologist and cognitive behavioral therapist, notes that they appear sweet, loving, attentive, and affectionate, making it seem like the perfect person has entered your life.

However, once they have drawn you in, their true colors begin to emerge. There are several common lines used by masters of emotional manipulation to control others.

7 Lines That People May Use To Manipulate You Emotionally

1. “If You Do This For Me, I’ll Know You Really Care”

This manipulative statement preys on the target’s desire to show affection and devotion, creating a sense of obligation and guilt if they refuse to comply with the manipulator’s request. It emotionally pressures the person into fulfilling the manipulator’s wishes, giving them a false sense of control over the relationship. In reality, it’s a tactic to exploit the target’s caring nature and manipulate them into doing things they might not want to do or may not be in their best interest. This is a red flag in emotional manipulation.

2. “Are You Sure You Want To Do That?

This seemingly innocent question is used strategically to plant doubt and uncertainty in the target’s mind. The manipulator aims to erode their self-confidence and autonomy by questioning the individual’s decisions or choices. They create an atmosphere of hesitation and second-guessing, making the person more susceptible to the manipulator’s influence and suggestions. Over time, this tactic can lead the target to rely more on the manipulator’s judgment and seek their approval before making any decisions, thereby increasing the manipulator’s control over their life.

3. “You’re Just Being Irrational

When confronted with differing opinions, emotions, or concerns, the manipulator dismisses the target’s feelings and thoughts as irrational or unreasonable. This tactic aims to undermine the individual’s self-confidence and ability to trust their judgment. By labeling their emotions as irrational, the manipulator seeks to invalidate the target’s experiences and make them doubt their perceptions.

As a result, the person may start questioning their own feelings and beliefs, eventually relying more on the manipulator’s perspective. This control tactic allows the manipulator to steer the conversation or situation in their favor and gain the upper hand in the relationship. Over time, the target may feel more vulnerable and submissive to the manipulator’s influence leading to a power imbalance in the relationship.

4. “I Never Said/Did That”

This tactic involves denying or gaslighting the target’s memories or experiences. When confronted about their words or actions, the master of emotional manipulation flatly denies ever saying or doing the alleged things, even if they did. By gaslighting the individual, the manipulator makes them question their memory, perception, and sanity.

This creates confusion and self-doubt in the target leading them to question whether their recollections are accurate or if they are simply overreacting. As a result, the manipulator gains more control over the narrative and can avoid taking responsibility for their hurtful behavior. Over time, the target may begin to doubt themselves and rely more on the manipulator’s version of events further deepening the manipulator’s influence and control in the relationship.

5. “I Thought You Of All People Would Understand”

This statement is designed to guilt-trip and pressure the target into compliance or agreement. By appealing to the person’s sense of trust, empathy, or friendship, the manipulator attempts to make the target feel obligated to fulfill their request or support their viewpoint.

The implication behind this line is that the target’s refusal or disagreement is unexpected and hurtful because the manipulator believed they had a special bond or connection. This puts the target on the defensive, making them more likely to reconsider their stance or go against their own feelings in an effort to maintain the perceived special relationship.

In reality, this tactic exploits the target’s emotional vulnerability and uses their trust and connection against them to gain control or support for the manipulator’s agenda. By invoking this line, the manipulator attempts to manipulate the target’s emotions and sense of loyalty, which can lead to further emotional dependency on the manipulator and greater control in the relationship.

6. “This Always Happens To Me”

So, by making this statement, the manipulator portrays themselves as victims of circumstances or other people’s actions. They seek to evoke sympathy and empathy from the target, making them feel responsible for the manipulator’s supposed misfortunes or predicaments.

The manipulator leverages this line to create a sense of guilt or obligation in the target. The implied message is that the target should step in to help or support the manipulator because they are constantly facing hardships. This can lead the target to feel responsible for the manipulator’s well-being or to provide emotional support at their own expense.

Emotional manipulators may use this phrase to elicit attention, gain control, or exploit the target’s caring nature. Over time, the manipulator may develop a pattern of relying on the target’s support while offering little or nothing in return. Thus establishing an imbalanced and unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

7. “I Told You My Secrets, It’s Only Fair To Tell Me Yours

By saying this, the manipulator attempts to create a sense of obligation and reciprocity in the target. They imply that sharing personal information is a test of trust and loyalty. Therefore, if the target does not comply, they might be seen as untrustworthy or not caring enough.

This tactic exploits the target’s desire to be perceived as trustworthy and caring, making them feel compelled to reveal personal details even if they are uncomfortable doing so. The manipulator may then use this information to their advantage, either by exploiting vulnerabilities or using it against the target in the future.

In reality, emotional manipulators often use this line to gain power over the target and gather information that can be later used for manipulation or control. It’s important for individuals to set healthy boundaries and only share personal information when they feel safe and comfortable doing so, rather than succumbing to pressure from manipulative tactics.

Recognizing manipulation and controlling behavior can be challenging, but being vigilant about potential red flags is crucial. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Observe Patterns: Look for consistent patterns in the person’s behavior, especially if they frequently use guilt, pressure, or emotional tactics to get their way.
  2. Trust Your Instincts: Pay attention to your gut feelings. Take it seriously if something doesn’t feel right or makes you uncomfortable.
  3. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and communicate them assertively. A manipulator may try to push boundaries, so staying firm is essential.
  4. Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a professional counselor about your concerns. Sharing your experiences can provide valuable perspectives.
  5. Maintain Independence: Avoid becoming overly dependent on the manipulator. Maintain your own interests, hobbies, and support systems outside of the relationship.
  6. Validate Your Feelings: Don’t dismiss or downplay your emotions. Your feelings are valid, and acknowledging them is essential for protecting your well-being.
  7. Choose Safety: If you feel unsafe or threatened in any way, prioritize your safety and find a way to exit the situation as quickly as possible.
  8. Educate Yourself: Learn more about emotional manipulation and controlling tactics. Awareness can empower you to recognize and address such behavior effectively.

Remember, it’s okay to put yourself first and protect your mental and emotional well-being. If you suspect that you are being manipulated or controlled, seeking help and support can make a significant difference in reclaiming control of your life.


  1. Experts Say These 7 Common Phrases Are Actually Emotional Manipulation.” Bustle. Kristine Fellizar. July 8, 2019
  2. 14 Signs of Psychological and Emotional Manipulation.” Psychology Today. Preston Ni M.S.B.A. October 11, 2015