Many times we are blind to the manipulation tactics that the people we love or deal with use against us.
Narcissists are self-absorbed. They often dominate conversations, manipulate their loved ones, and engage in deceptive behaviors for profit. We try to steer clear of these disingenuous individuals, but we also fall victim to their manipulation.
Recognizing their harmful influence, and removing yourself from the grip of narcissist manipulation is the best thing you can do to protect your mental and emotional well-being.
Manipulation Tactics Narcissists Use To Control You
1. The Big Lie
Spinning a lie so outrageous that others are at a loss where to even begin to refute it.
Narcissists are convinced that whatever they say in the moment is 100 percent true just because they are saying it. Lying often comes naturally. They know that the bigger the lie, the more it may overwhelm others’ critical faculties.
Narcissists will do it frequently and improve over time until it comes natural. They also use lies of omission which means instead of making deceptive statements, they simply withhold the truth.
The goal of omission is to isolate the victim behind a wall of secrecy in order to exploit the fact that they are unaware of some important knowledge to him or her.
2. Discourage And Criticize
The criticism is not for negative behaviors but rather to discourage positive outlets the victim may have to express themselves.
Any attempts to join a social club, team, or organization will be discouraged, undermined, or sabotaged by the manipulator. Any attempts to be creative artistically, musically, or otherwise will be criticized and the victim’s work belittled.
The goal is to crush the victim’s self-esteem and isolate the person from anything which might garnish him or her praise or attention from others.
4. Total Control
The conversation, the meals, the social outings, the bills – they control literally everything. The narcissist feels the need to control these things so they are the center of attention and main focus of the relationship.
If you want to talk about your day, go for it. But know that they won’t hear you, they won’t remember anything you’ve said, and the conversation will immediately encompass their day.
This eventually causes you to forget all about yourself and what you want. As soon as the relationship reaches this level of manipulation, stop, and ask yourself what you are doing and where you can go from here that will better your life.
5. Eliciting Difficult Emotions
Narcissists continue to gain control of the people in their life by eliciting difficult emotions. After going through a period of ‘grooming’ someone for a close relationship, the narcissist moves on to use shock, awe, and guilt to maintain control.
The shock and awe come from the over-the-top, emotionally charged tantrums that erupt when the friend (spouse or lover) has done something that disappointed the narcissist. Most normal people find such dramatic reactions exhausting and strange, therefore, they begin to work hard to avoid a repeat performance.
6. Monitoring and Stalking
The manipulator is always present, lurking behind the victim’s back, or from a good safe distance, keeping an eye on him or her.
If the manipulator is narcissistic or psychopathic it is common for them to monitor the victim’s computer or phone, and even use surveillance equipment in order to follow the person’s every move.
The goal here is simple, maintain knowledge of everything the victim says and does, their coming and goings, and who they know.
7. Public and Private Shaming
Whether it is in a public setting, or the privacy of your own home, a narcissist will make comments that belittle you. They derive pleasure from making others feel small, look weak, or appear less intelligent than themselves.
This form of manipulation is subtle- dangerously so. You won’t recognize it under the guise of “I’m only kidding.” “Can’t you take a joke?” or “I’m just trying to help you.” Eventually you begin to rely on their hurtful words. Or rather, you rely on the hope that one day you will be “good enough”, and they won’t have to say them. Trust me, you are good enough already.
8. Gish Gallop Technique
This is rapid-fire series of assertions, questions and accusations launched at another without giving a chance to respond.
Named after the 20th century creationist Duane Gish, this technique attempts to convince or overwhelm others by listing many shorthand arguments, any one of which could be easily refuted, but the collective weight of which seem convincing and would take time and effort to refute.
Narcissists love the feeling of power and dominance that comes from spitting out multiple statements that make others appear foolish or ignorant.
9. Playing Hot and Cold Games
Narcissistic individuals are also known to play games. One of the ways that narcissists try to control you is by playing manipulative hot and cold games. One week, they’ll flatter you to get you to do what they want, and the next week, they’ll use aggression.
The negative moments are interspersed with positive ones so that you might not even realize that you’re being manipulated. The only way to defeat this is to be cautious of the flattery and positivity when it comes. Take every action with a grain of salt, and don’t let the love-bombing be a form of bribery towards you. Niceties shouldn’t be conditional.
10. Treating as an Object
The manipulator treats the victim as a tool for their own purposes. This could be sexually, or to simply damage and destroy, for their own gratification.
The goal here is to dehumanize the victim, to the level of that of an object, as if there is no need for concern for the victim’s feelings or experiences. If done long enough the victim will also feel the same about themselves.
11. Silent Treatment
The manipulator refuses to communicate and uses emotional and/or physical withdrawal as punishment.
This is to convey contempt and communicates that the person is not worthy of the manipulator’s acknowledgement. The goal is to render the victim powerless to change the current situation and induce feelings of abandonment or rejection.
If the manipulator withdraws emotionally the victim can become love starved for their affection/attention.
12. Repeating to Make You Believe
This is about repeating a word or phrase endlessly to sidetrack discussion.
The goal is that if something is said often enough, others may start to believe it. It also is a way of dismissing what another is saying my simply talking over them, repeating a stock phrase or being unresponsive to further discussion.
13. Playing the Victim Role
Despite the fact that you’re the one who is being victimized, the narcissist will turn it around on themselves. You might have told them how it feels like you are talking to a brick wall when you try to get through to them, and the narc will say something like, “See? I just can’t get through to you.”
The goal of this manipulation tactic is to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby escaping any blame for wrongdoing or even getting support and cooperation from unsuspecting outsiders.
The manipulator asserts that their behavior isn’t really as harmful or irresponsible as someone else may be claiming. Often times down playing the behavior by comparing it to others, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone,” or such logic may be present.
The goal is to make a molehill out of a mountain, thus letting the manipulator continue the abusive behavior, or at least escape much of the guilt.
15. Symbolic Aggression
This could be something as small as giving a “look” or some other gesture. Often times it is slamming a door, punching a wall, or throwing something, otherwise a show of force not directed towards the victim.
A more extreme case would be brandishing a weapon, or at least making it known to the victim that a weapon does exist and at the manipulator’s disposal, but in a possibly non-threatening way.
The goal of this manipulation tactic is to put the victim on warning and intimidate/terrify them into compliance with future demands.
16. Hurt and Rescue
A drowning person will clutch at a straw, so push them in the water, then throw them a rope. Hurting the other person does not necessarily mean physical harm and it may not even mean making them feel bad, but it does mean creating a situation that they want to resolve.
The goal is to get the victim to play into the manipulators hands so they can rush to their “rescue” only to trick the victim into trusting, believing, or becoming dependent upon them.
Manipulators want to avoid being confronted and taking responsibility at all costs. They may avoid conversations about their behavior by simply refusing to discuss it. This might be combined with an attack, like, “You’re always nagging me,” putting you on the defensive with blame, guilt, or shame.
Avoidance can be subtle and unnoticeable when a manipulator shifts the subject. It may be camouflaged with boasting, compliments, or remarks you want to hear, like, “You know how much I care about you.” You might forget why you were upset in the first place.
18. Love Attacks
Is an attempt by the manipulator to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. The manipulator appeals to the target’s vanity and insecurity.
Their interest in the victim will be extreme once they have found their target and their “love” for the victim will be incredibly intense.
Its purpose is to override the target’s critical thinking skills so that the abuser can control and manipulate. Essentially they will gain control over their victim by making their emotional state dependent on the manipulator.
19. Crazy Making
The manipulator says or does something and later denies ever saying or doing such things.
The goal is to make the victim doubt their own sanity and perception of reality. Driving them slowly and systematically mad over multiple occurrences.
This effect can be heightened/increased when the manipulator employs others to act the same.
Is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.
Typically this undermines the victims support group carried out by a combination of other tactics synthesized into a large scale attack on said victim.
Rarely in the physical form, but more usually they are cognitive and social in nature. One of the biggest such threats is that of social exclusion, which affects our need to belong to a family, lover, etc.
Threats do not change minds, but they are often very effective at changing how people act, at least in the short term. The goal is effectively taking control of the victim’s life/choices, if done violently to terrify him or her into subordination.
22. Infantile Attitude
The manipulator does not acknowledge their victims maturity either emotionally or psychologically. The victim is treated as if they have no knowledge of life or experience dealing with life’s challenges.
The goal is to reduce a person to that of an infant or child, lowering their status in the social order, and stripping them of the ability to make choices, both in the victim’s mind and the manipulator’s.
23. Failure in All Cases
In the manipulator’s eyes the victim is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Regardless of which choice is picked the manipulator will always point out that the person should have picked the other.
This may be accompanied by remarks such as “Well if you had done this I would have done something great for you, but forget about it now.”
The goal of this manipulation tactic is to beat the victim down psychologically and emotionally, in order make him or her question and doubt their own intuition and judgment.
24. Feigning Innocence or Confusion
The manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional or that they did not do something that they were accused of. They may put on a look of surprise or indignation.
The manipulator may also try to play dumb by pretending he or she doesn’t know what the victim is talking about or is confused about an important issue brought to their attention.
The goal is to make the victim question his or her own judgment and possibly their own sanity. When others are deceived by a manipulator this way the victim feels powerless.
Also referred to as heart washing, is the act of changing a person’s mind or heart by using extreme mental or emotional pressure or abuse.
This is typically done when the victim is extremely outmatched by their manipulator either mentally, physically, economically, or socially. This can be achieved a number of ways but usually the victim is in a situation the feel they can’t escape, and will involve several tactics simultaneously.
The goal of this manipulation tactic is to convince the victim into believing their viewpoints about life, people/person, or the world are immature or pathetic, and need to be realigned to the viewpoint of the manipulator.
These tactics are destructive. You can forgive, but don’t forget. Manipulation will likely continue. Over time, this is traumatic and can severely damage your self-worth. Awareness is the first step. You may need help to see things clearly. Write out conversations and try to identify abuse and all the tactics used. Harder still is not taking the words of the manipulator personally and learning how to respond.