7 phrases that sound friendly on the surface are actually incredibly manipulative

by Isabella Chase | April 18, 2024, 7:48 pm

You know the feeling, right?

When you hear certain phrases and something just doesn’t sit right.

Sure, they sound friendly enough or at least harmless. But, you can’t shake off the suspicion that there’s something more to it.

Well, you’re not alone.

It’s pretty common to miss the underhanded manipulation hidden behind seemingly innocent statements.

The truth is, some phrases are wolf in sheep’s clothing. They sound friendly, but are actually incredibly manipulative.

And today, we’re going to uncover them.

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to turn you into a cynic here. My aim is simply to make you aware of these disguised manipulations.

Perhaps you’ve heard them all before…

Let’s dive right in.

1) “I’m just saying…”

Ever had someone throw a harsh criticism your way, only to follow up with “I’m just saying…”? Yeah, I’ve been there too.

It’s like they’re trying to soften the blow, disguising their unkind words as mere observations. But let’s face it, it’s a clever way to get away with saying something hurtful or offensive without taking responsibility for it.

The thing is, if someone truly cares for your well-being or improvement, they wouldn’t need to hide behind such a phrase. They would communicate their thoughts openly and respectfully.

2) “Don’t take this personally, but…”

Ah, the infamous “Don’t take this personally…” line. I remember a former colleague who’d use this phrase a lot. It was her go-to whenever she had something negative to say.

On the surface, it sounds like they’re trying to protect your feelings. But in reality, they’re just setting you up for a harsh critique.

By saying “don’t take this personally,” they are manipulating the situation to make their negative comment seem less offensive and more acceptable.

These phrases can be subtle and tricky, but once you recognize them for what they are, you can better handle them.

3) “No offense, but…”

“No offense, but…” is one of those phrases that immediately puts you on your guard. It’s as if the speaker is preparing you for a blow, and in most cases, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

When someone starts a sentence with “No offense, but…”, they’re usually about to say something offensive or hurtful.

They use it as a shield to hide behind, trying to absolve themselves from any blame for the hurt their words might cause.

The truth is, kind words don’t need disclaimers.

If someone truly respects and cares for your feelings, they won’t need to preface their words with “no offense”. They will communicate their thoughts honestly and kindly, ensuring that their words uplift rather than tear down.

4) “I’m not trying to be mean, but…”

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this phrase? I bet you have. It’s a phrase that people often use when they want to say something harsh or critical, but don’t want to appear mean-spirited.

“I’m not trying to be mean, but…” is a classic manipulation technique that allows the speaker to express negative thoughts or criticisms under the guise of honesty or concern.

Genuine feedback or criticism doesn’t need such a preamble. If someone has something constructive to share, they can do so respectfully and directly, without resorting to such manipulative phrases.

5) “You won’t understand until you’re in my shoes”

This one is another typical phase. It’s often used as a way to dismiss someone else’s opinion or perspective.

By saying “you won’t understand until you’re in my shoes,” the speaker is effectively shutting down any possibility of discussion or understanding.

The irony here is that empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – is a fundamental part of human interaction.

We may not fully comprehend another person’s experience, but we can listen, empathize, and offer support without having to be in their shoes.

6) “Just between you and me…”

This phrase might make you feel special at first, like you’re being trusted with some confidential information. But be careful – it’s often used as a manipulation tactic to spread rumors or gossip.

Sharing confidential information under the guise of trust is not only unethical, it’s also a form of manipulation.

Respectful communication involves honesty and openness, without resorting to gossip or breaking confidentiality.

7) “I’m just trying to help”

This phrase often comes up when someone gives unsolicited advice or criticism. They might say they’re just trying to help, but in reality, they’re asserting their own viewpoint or agenda.

True help is offered out of genuine care and respect for the other person. It’s not about pushing one’s own agenda or opinions, but about providing support and assistance in a way that respects the other person’s autonomy.

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