11 Nasty Manipulation Methods Most Narcissists Use To Control Others

The one character trait that sets narcissists apart from all other toxic and manipulative individuals, including sociopaths, is their selfishness.

Speaking of a narcissist’s personal interests, first I should mention that they narrow everything down to one word: POWER. They will stop at nothing to get it. On their malicious march to the top, they’ll use every manipulative trick they know to get those around them work for their prosperity.

What drives a narcissist forward through life is a string of selfish, malevolent motives, well complemented by their insatiable desire to cause distress to others, without showing even the slightest remorse for their actions.

It’s not that they do not understand that their behavior is hurting those around them. Narcissists, unlike sociopaths and psychopaths, aren’t completely devoid of empathy. Because they are so preoccupied with their own persona, they have little time to care for other’s feelings. Their perception of the universe invariably puts them in the center.

If you are lucky enough to spot the narcissist as he or she is approaching, immediately put an emotional barrier between them and you.

If you suspect that a person near you is a manipulative narcissist, here are the top 11 signs that you should be careful with him or her:

1. Projection

Narcissistic bullies are the kings of blame shifting. A sure sign that you have a selfish narcissist on your hands is that whatever they do, they always blame you for whatever goes wrong.

This behavior on their part is called projection. Because narcissists want to dodge taking responsibility for their own actions at all costs, they use this technique whenever they make a mistake, even the most insignificant one.

Their huge, bombastic ego just can’t take any criticism, however constructive and creative it may be. Therefore, they immediately counterattack by blaming those around them for their own shortcomings.

In this way, they fool themselves that they’ve gotten away with it again. In fact, they haven’t and all that the wrong that they’ve done to others is going to catch up with them sooner or later.

2. Making you feel worthless

When you first meet a narcissist, they will immediately start flattering you. They will tell you how perfect you are in whatever you do and how much they wished they were like you.

Over time, however, you can expect a narcissist to start derogating your achievements thereby making you feel worthless. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. As a next step, a narcissist will probably start to imply that you could have done better at that exam, or in that particular situation.

The next phase of their plan involves heaping reproaches at you in private and even threatening to get physical with you. As a rule, they only threaten individuals who obviously are weak and vulnerable and cannot effectively defend themselves.

The final stage of their plan to make you feel worthless involves openly criticizing you in the presence of your friends and even your own parents. If you are wondering why the hell he or she is doing this to you, here’s the answer: the more worthless they make you feel, the more they boost their own ego.

3. Unjustified outbursts of aggression

Living with a narcissist is like living close to an active volcano: you never know exactly when the next big eruption is going to be.

This is because narcissists tend to accumulate negative energy in themselves, not sharing with others if there’s something that has been bothering them. Instead, they pretend that everything’s fine and you should not worry about them.

At some point, however, they make it painfully obvious to you that it is actually not OK, and that they’ve been holding a huge grudge against you for a long time.

As it was mentioned above, narcissists do not hesitate to threaten, harass and abuse physically weak and vulnerable individuals. A narcissist makes you feel scared and vulnerable so as to be better able to manipulate and control you.   

4. Narcissists know the power of triangulation

In most general terms, psychological triangulation is a technique of manipulating other individuals by not communicating directly with them. Instead, you use a third person as a messenger to carry your words to the person you’d like to communicate with.

Unfortunately, children very often fall victims of triangulation on the part of their own parents. When mom and dad are having an argument, they often use their children as “mailboxes” to exchange bitter remarks and nitpicky complaints.

If you suspect that you are in a relationship with a narcissist, one of the most telling signs to confirm your doubts is if he is using your best female friend to pass on his messages to you.

And if you confront him with “Why didn’t you tell me this in person?”, he’d most probably come up with the innocent “Oh, I didn’t want to bother you, you know”.

5. It’s always the narcissist who’s been wronged

Narcissists just love complaining, no matter what of. And the more intently you listen to them, the more clearly you’ll notice how they’re trying to suggest that they are being wronged all the time and that all the people around them are playing faulty tricks on them for no particular reason.

As soon as you start siding with them, you can be sure that they’ll turn against you and will go straight for your soft spot.

6. Narcissists make you question your own sanity

Back in 2016, journalist Nina Porzucki wrote on the excessive use of the term ‘gaslighting’, defining it as “ a term used to describe abusive behavior, specifically when an abuser manipulates information in such a way as to make a victim question his or her sanity”.

The term’s origins can be traced back to 1944, when George Cukor’s psychological thriller Gaslight was released, starring  Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman.

In it, narcissistic husband Gregory (Boyer) manipulates his wife, Paula (Bergman) into thinking she’s been going mad. He tricks her into believing she’s been stealing things without realizing it and hearing voices. As a result, Paula starts to question her sober judgment.

If you recognize yourself as Paula, try to gaslight the gaslighter. That is, use this same technique against the narcissist and they’ll back off.

7. A narcissist will do everything to make you feel ashamed

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines shame as “the intense, painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”.

A narcissist will take every chance to induce the powerful feeling of shame inside you, thereby making you more vulnerable to his manipulations. To do that, they usually try to find out if you have any secrets or anything you feel genuinely ashamed of.

8. A narcissist will call you names

Because narcissists are convinced they’re always right, they are genuinely incapable of listening to someone’s logical arguments against what they’ve just said.

Instead of accepting your criticism, or trying to justify their words or actions, they’ll start calling you names. In that way, they give vent to their negative feelings, pouring them onto you. More often than not, narcissists pin negative tags on those around them so that they can justify the mistreatment they give them.

They will not hesitate to insult you, reproach you and disparage your beliefs so that they can ultimately make you feel down. Seeing that other people suffer fills a narcissist up with reassurance and energy.

9. Brainwashing

This manipulative technique that narcissists use to control those around them is closely linked to gaslighting. Once they have managed to trick you into thinking that you are going mad, they immediately move on to brainwash you and make you believe what they want you to believe.

10. A narcissist will always make you feel out of place

One of the strategies narcissists use to get you out of your zone of comfort is constantly making you feel out of place and awkward. When you are at a party or other social event with a narcissist, he or she will not hesitate to crack jokes at your expense as if this was the most normal thing to do.

11. Monopolizing your personal space

Once a narcissist has made you feel out of place and awkward, he or she will move on to monopolize your personal space. For example, your conversations with a narcissist are actually moralizing monologues, in which he’s constantly telling you what you should and should not do.

If you give in, you can expect them to start telling you what to wear, where to go on Saturday night and who you should hang out with.

A brief conclusion

Now that you know of the most common manipulative strategies that narcissists use to control those around them, you can think of how you can defend yourself in each of the situations described above.

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