16 Clever Phrases To Put A Manipulator Back In Their Place

16 Clever Phrases To Put A Manipulator Back In Their Place

There are lots of reasons why it’s wise to hold your tongue around a manipulator, whether for safety or you’re just using common sense. However, if you feel yourself inching to hit back, here are a few phrases or techniques that will put them back in their place.

1. Correct them with facts.

If a manipulator is trying to use hyperbolic language or prove how educated and important they are, don’t just let them say stuff that isn’t right. While they’re trying to pump themselves up, deflate their ego by poking a hole in their story. It will embarrass them and shut them up.

2. Hit back when they get personal.

Mature married couple fighting, blaming and accusing each other, having relationship problem at home. Middle-aged man and his wife on verge of divorce or separation, arguing indoors

Manipulative people always try to hold power over other people—particularly when they view the other person as meek or vulnerable. They won’t expect you to hit back, so take your chance wisely, and aim for the throat—as it were. Topics could include their personal appearance, their weight, their receding hairline—the avenues are endless.

3. Map out the conversation.

serious blonde woman sitting on bed

If you’re putting them back in their place for the first time, a good way to keep in control is to map out how the conversation is likely to go. If you know they go straight for a personal insult or rhetorical device, use that knowledge to have a cutting response for every way things could go. It will shock them into submission.

4. Trick them into contradicting themselves.

Manipulative people rarely have any particular intellect or wisdom—they just talk a lot and interrupt other people. Lure them into contradicting themselves by asking questions designed to unpick each lie they tell. The more lies they’ve told, the more you can undermine them. Bonus points if you get to do it in front of their friends. Don’t let manipulators and liars ruin your day—bite back!

5. Threaten them with your success.

man and woman talking outside

Manipulative people tend to want to control the people in their lives and keep them in place. Show that you are accomplished and are seen as a talented person outside of their dingy flat. Tell them about your promotion at work or the compliment that guy at the bar gave you. Remind manipulators that they don’t control you.

6. Tell them they’re repeating themselves.

Manipulators love to think of themselves as being witty, cool, and adventurous. In reality, they crave control and submission—so it will really infuriate them if you tell them they’re just recirculating the same old stories all the time. Remind them that they aren’t interesting and that they’ve always lived in the same, small town.

7. Rhetorical devices are your friend.

Flip their words back on them with commanding phrases such as ‘Did you think that would work?’, or ‘Were you at least impressed by that?’. If they want to use hyperbole on you to inflate their ego? While they bluster and shout, you can be cool, calm, and collected as you dismiss them.

8. Ask if they practiced their insults in the mirror.

Female psychologist talking to young man during session.

Puncture the performance that they are trying to get away with. Show that you can see through all of their insecurities and fears. Show that you aren’t hurt by their pitiful attempts to insult you.

9. Keep it corporate.

two businessmen talking at office

The implied slap in the face of telling someone that we can ‘circle back’ to their rampant tantrum or ‘put a pin in it until next quarter’ is truly delicious. It’s the crossover no one knew they needed, but it’s so effective.

10. Be the bigger person.

This isn’t as fun as the other options, but you can certainly choose silence. It’s very powerful to most people, but sadly, manipulators will see silence as compliance or agreement. It’s an option—just a less satisfying one.

11. Be just as condescending as they are.

two female friends at outdoor cafe

If your resident manipulator makes a comment about women staying in the kitchen or ‘keeping quiet and looking pretty’, it will be a good time to return with a good old-fashioned slap to the butt or an incisive inquiry into how his dead-end minimum wage labor job is going. This is particularly potent if you recently got a promotion.

12. Make them repeat themselves.

Lesbian couple talking on the bed at home

Sometimes people see the error of their ways when they’re forced to repeat a statement they made in the heat of the moment. Manipulators are unlikely to, but if you’re trying to plan your next move, it buys you some time.

13. Ask if they kiss their mother with that mouth.

male and female friend talking outside

It’s a little old-fashioned but very effective. Manipulators almost always have Mommy issues so bringing them up in this context is always a good idea.

14. ‘Your insecurity is not my problem’.

redhead woman looking out cafe window

This retort is almost too good because it’s wasted on a manipulator. They will barely be listening to you so, philosophical though it is, this is more of a statement that empowers you rather than one that puts them in their place. Still very satisfying though!

15. Tell them they’re being sensitive.

man and woman talking to each other on bench

A common charge that a manipulator will accuse their subjects of being is sensitive. It’s refreshing to have an opportunity to fling that back in their face if they’re getting precious about something. It’s a shame that you have to resort to these games, but it’s true that dating a manipulator can mess with your head.

16. Gaslight them right back.

Two businesswomen talking and discussing in office. Female colleagues sitting on couch. Work teamwork people job concept

Use all their favorite phrases against them. Say that they’re being dramatic or that they don’t understand the pressure of being so important. Reduce and minimize their experiences in every way that they have for you.

There you have it—for the next time that you fancy throwing caution to the wind with your manipulator, enjoy these starting points.

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Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.