12 Tactics Narcissists Use To Manipulate You
If you learn the signs for them, they’re the fools!
Some people casually walk up to you and smile while taking your hand and greeting you warmly. They pretend they love you and pretend they are your loving family or best friend. But the truth is, they have bad intentions, and their kind behavior is just that—a behavior.
When you know the signs and patterns of narcissism and are in touch with your intuition, you will embrace the signs of deception and recognize them for what they are – manipulation tactics. A manipulation is a form of emotional blackmail. Manipulators secretly employ certain behaviors to influence how you perceive them. They also use these tactics to influence how you think, feel and act.
For example, they may pretend to be frail and sickly to present themselves as vulnerable and harmless. In the meantime, if you don’t realize it, they are wreaking havoc on your mental and emotional well-being. You can stand by their every step and help them as they play the I’m Helpless act.
When your gut feeling warns you that someone has the wrong intentions, take steps to protect yourself. You have no control over how people behave or whether or not they like you. They will plot and conspire if they choose. You can decide whether you allow it or not.
Watch for signs and if you see them being used against you, name them or withdraw from the situation.
The reason manipulators use these tactics is because they work! However, manipulation only works if the other person does not realize that they are being manipulated. The moment you give in, the manipulator loses control of you.
“Knowledge is power”.
Whether long-term or short-term, manipulative relationships are abusive and traumatizing. Unfortunately, victims of this type of abuse are blind to manipulation. They fail to realize that the people who claim to love and appreciate you don’t have your best interests at heart. Instead, they use forms of psychological control to undermine your happiness and success.
No matter who the manipulator is, if you’re in an abusive relationship, you need to stay safe. The hard truth is that narcissists, manipulators, and abusers don’t change. You have a bad character and a personality disorder. Their behavior shows you the truth of who they are. The best option is to walk away.
However, if the manipulator, narcissist, or abuser is your spouse, a parent, a child, or another important person in your life, you can’t go completely barefoot. The best option is low contact, where you set firm boundaries and limit the time you spend with him. Instead of reacting, you should react neutrally and confidently. If you can see through the manipulation, you can protect yourself from harm.
Here are 12 manipulation strategies narcissists use to control you.
1. CHARM OFFENSIVE
Manipulators shower you with flattery or shower you with gifts and attention. They squeal with delight and pretend to be happy to see you. Meanwhile, they plan your downfall.
Manipulators are sweethearts. They try to win you over with flattery. They want to smear you with honey and make you feel indebted to them.
They may buy you a small gift, like shower gel, and give it to you with a big public appearance. They want everyone to see how much they “love” you and “care” about you. As soon as you turn your back on them, they will throw darts at you. They look as loving and caring as they do. This is incredibly confusing because you can’t see through the charm of seduction. You think you are imagining the feeling that something is wrong.
Manipulators have a way of making you feel seen and understood. This feigns a sense of familiarity. If it’s a shady salesperson or real estate agent, they will tell you exactly what you want to hear instead of telling the truth.
Don’t let the charm fool you! Be extremely suspicious of him. Before I was super addicted and always nice, I couldn’t understand why some people were so suspicious of me. Now I know that whether kindness comes from a manipulative narcissist or a philanthropist, overly nice behavior is a big red flag. As a philanthropist, you don’t have nefarious intentions, but your kindness and overly obliging behavior come across as inauthentic. It’s best to be genuine – even if that means saying no and not being so nice all the time!
2. THEY WEAVE A NETWORK OF ENTANGLEMENT
People with strong self-confidence are a great danger to manipulators. Manipulators go for weak people with even weaker boundaries. People who can cope with low self-esteem are manipulators’ dreams. They have weak boundaries and the manipulator knows he won’t name them. Humanitarians are afraid of hurting others. To avoid conflict, they engage in toxic behaviors that others would not.
A lack of boundaries and a fear of conflict are the perfect ingredients for an entangled relationship. Entangled relationships occur in families where there are no boundaries. Everyone bleeds into everyone. In tangled relationships, you are not respected as an individual with your feelings, thoughts, and needs. Instead, a groupthink dynamic prevails and everyone is manipulated to meet the needs of the narcissist.
When the narcissist is in a bad mood, the whole household is in a bad mood. When the narcissist is happy, everyone relaxes and feels good. There is no room for you to be yourself.
3. THEY TREAT YOU LIKE A BABY
Most of all, narcissists make you a toddler. They see themselves as superior and you as weaker. To manipulate you, they emphasize your age, lack of skills, or lack of experience and make you feel like a kid. They may even address you in public using “baby talk,” which puts you in a submissive position. They may also define the meaning of words or over-explain certain concepts as if you were stupid.
One of my spiritual teachers used to do this all the time before teaching. Noticing this was a big red flag for me. Speaking to a large audience of mature, working, adult women, she patronized us by constantly defining basic English words. It’s like teaching a class of eight-year-olds who don’t understand “big words”. The problem is that the words she defined for us, even a six-year-old would understand!
This gave her a strong position and a sense of power and control. Manipulators do the same thing – they make you smaller to make them appear larger.
4. YOU ARE DEFECTIVE
Don’t forget that narcissists and manipulators want to make you weak, nervous, and insecure. To make sure they have you exactly where they need you, they will constantly criticize and undermine you. They play up your mistakes and failures and downplay or ignore your positive qualities and achievements. They always have to drop you a size or two so you don’t get overconfident.
This stage of troubleshooting follows the “charm offensive” or “love bombing” stage where they begin to devalue you.
Another powerful manipulation tactic is using shame against you. By humiliating you, they know they can hurt you. When you are in pain, you are weak. Once again right where they want you. The goal of their fault-finding and shaming is to create feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy in you. In this vulnerable state, you can be more easily forced into submission. This creates a dangerous cycle of abuse. You run the risk of being caught in a downward spiral of negative thought patterns and feelings.
Ask yourself how many days a week you feel good about this relationship. If your answer is less than 7, that’s a warning sign.
To further humiliate and weaken you, manipulators will look for ways to turn your feelings against you. For example, they will say something mean and if you get upset and confront them, they will tell you
“You’re too sensitive and don’t know how to take a joke.”
This tactic puts you on the defensive and shifts the blame away from you. The manipulator falsely accuses you of being wrong when you address his abusive behavior.
They trigger you on purpose and then innocently ask
“What is your problem? You always get so snooty.”
Or you set a boundary or state a need, and instead of respecting your boundary or need, they scold you for being “difficult.”
You might recognize this as gaslighting. You will end up doubting your sanity.
The goal of blaming and swearing is to destabilize you and make you wrong. Over time, you will be trained by the manipulator to still be quiet and suppress your feelings of hurt or anger. This allows the narcissist to deal with you however they want without the risk of blaming you or losing control.
Meanwhile, you internalize your anger, hurt, and resentment, which eventually makes you sick. Your suppressed feelings can manifest as autoimmune and thyroid disorders, migraines, gut problems, and eventually cancer. These are just a few of the health issues that keep cropping up in people living with energy vampires.
5. DIVIDE AND RULE
Manipulators use the sneaky tactic of triangulation to tell people apart. The manipulator willfully fails to communicate with you and then goes behind your back, turning the other members of the group against you. This is bullying at its best because it turns others against you.
The worst part is that you don’t even realize it’s happening. You will subtly notice that people treat you differently or avoid you without you knowing why. Once again, the manipulator has you right where he wants you: isolated from your support system and in control.
6. They refuse to give you what you need
Narcissists avoid taking responsibility for their actions at all costs. To hide their deceit, they use the manipulation tactic of withholding. For example, they do not answer direct questions. Instead, they will throw a tantrum, yell at you, or threaten you to get you off guard.
They deftly steer the conversation away from what you need and purposely dodge your questions. They will withhold information, approval, validation, finances, affection, and support from you to further throw you off balance. If they are forced to do a task, they will do it poorly. If they are forced to reply to you, they will respond with gibberish or something incoherent, vague, or meaningless. The manipulator intends to confuse and divert attention from his lies and deception.
When a manipulator or narcissist is forced to confront their behavior, they will do everything in their power to rationalize it. They justify their actions and feel entitled to do what they want. They can be so persuasive that you can even fall for their justifications and excuses.
Narcissists also use the silent treatment to manipulate you. They ignore you and play aloof. To belittle you, they will acknowledge everyone in the room but you. When you try to connect with them, they seem bored or disinterested. They leave the room when you enter or purposely look away when you talk to them.
To make me feel worthless, my ex just got up and left the room while I was in mid-sentence. Luckily I had seen through this stage of the game and knew exactly what he was up to. It was interesting watching the manipulator in action without him knowing that I did.
To keep yourself even more secret, you hide or intentionally don’t respond to your messages, questions, emails, calls, or comments. To devalue you, they refuse to even acknowledge your existence. I’ve learned to say it out loud when I see behavior like this
Then I mirror their behavior back to them. They ignore me, I ignore them. If they take a step back, I take ten steps back. On a few rare occasions, I address the elephant in the room. I tell them about their behavior directly and ask if there is a problem. But mostly I withdraw and move on.
7. THEY ARE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE
First of all, I want to say that there is nothing passive about passive aggression. It is just as violent as overt aggression. Narcissists and manipulators love to do everything in secret. They enjoy working in secret. They think they are so smart and special because they can fool people that way. In reality, it is so cowardly.
They will nudge and trigger you on purpose. They will violate your boundaries just to see how you react. They will pass off insults as “constructive criticism” and offer advice without even being asked. Again, the goal here is to belittle, demean, and devalue you while they cover their tracks.
8. They feed on your pain
Narcissists and manipulators stay in control by empowering themselves. But they are weak characters on you that have no substance. Therefore, they can only feel strong by taking advantage of the pain and suffering of others. They lie, cheat, and manipulate to get what they want. Your pain is her pleasure.
You can’t win with a narcissist out to manipulate you. They ensure that you will fail from the start. They set traps for you in such a way that you look like the bad guy if you name them and speak your mind. The manipulation tactic of sabotage is carried out in secret to undermine you and your efforts in every way. They need you weak, hurt, frustrated, and tormented to feel strong and in control.
9. You play the victim card
“Woe to me!”
Manipulators and narcissists love to use your empathy and compassion to get what they want. Playing the victim role is her favorite game. They complain, whine and talk about their suffering. They use dramatic phrases like “I had no choice”. They make you feel guilty so you can lend them money or let them off the hook.
Positioning yourself as a victim is disempowering and unhelpful. We have all experienced betrayal, trauma, bad luck, misfortune, and heartbreak. We’ve all had to do things that were difficult or that we didn’t like. We have all had to go beyond our limits and endure injustice. So, boohoo! What are you going to do about it?
10. Emotional manipulation
Narcissists and manipulators use your feelings against you. They do this by triggering or evoking an emotional response in you. Then they shame you for your reaction. They’ll defend their behavior by saying they were “just kidding” or “laughed,” and then they’ll top it by telling you that you’re “overly emotional” or “overly sensitive.”
Other ways they manipulate you are by telling you they love you to get love. Or they try to make you angry, sad, or jealous – anything to get what they want. Manipulators know that if they can make you FEEL something, they can make you DO something.
Don’t let anyone manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to. Your decisions should be based on a combination of intuition and logic. If you don’t want to do something, you have the right to say no. If it doesn’t feel good or right, it’s a no.
11. They make your life difficult
Lightness and flow let you calm down and give you a feeling of strength. This is a narcissist and manipulator’s worst nightmare! To get you back where they want you, they will disturb your peace and thwart everything you do and say.
The more agreeable you are, the more unsympathetic they become. The nicer you are, the meaner they are. If you need help, they are not available. If you need affection, they will withhold it from you. If you say it’s red, they’ll insist it’s orange. If you say left, they go right. They intentionally undermine and invalidate everything you say and do.
A frustrated, angry, and the exhausted victim is what they need. They will do whatever it takes to get you where they want you to be. Notice when you’re being countered and just back off.
12. They pressure you to make hasty decisions.
The moment you feel pressured to do something, you decide out of a fear-based mindset: afraid of running out of time, afraid of losing something, afraid of missing an opportunity.
Remember the saying
“What means to you will not pass you by.”
Unless it’s a real emergency or a matter of life and death, you always have time to sleep on it and think things through. Some of my biggest disappointments in life stem from making hasty decisions when pressured by a manipulator.
Be especially careful if someone is pressuring you to ask for money. It’s an old sales tactic. The manipulator puts pressure on you to decide before you’re ready. They trap you as quickly as possible before you can change your mind. Notice when this happens and say so
“I’ll report back when I’ve had time to think about it.”
Narcissists and manipulators are everywhere! The key is to recognize when you are being toyed with. Recognize when you’re in an unhealthy dynamic with a manipulative person by recognizing these behavioral patterns. If someone uses these manipulation tactics once or twice, don’t give them another chance to hurt you.
Covert manipulation is hard to spot, but if you educate yourself, you’ll find it easier to spot when it’s happening to you. The secret is not to make it an excuse for the other person’s bad behavior!
People of integrity do not manipulate others for their benefit. Knowing these strategies is especially important if you’ve been abused in the past or think you’re a humanitarian. Manipulation can only work in secret. By enlightening yourself, you empower yourself. Being able to name these manipulation strategies will help you spot toxic behavior and make you much more difficult to manipulate.
Learn to set boundaries. Be self-confident. Above all, trust your gut feeling and listen to the small, quiet voice within you.
If this article resonated with you, I hope it makes you feel empowered. You can heal and attract new, healthy people into your life while still keeping the toxic ones at bay.
I send you a big angel hug!