The objective of a narcissist is to subtly manipulate you into behaving in a way that benefits them above all else, and to do so without you consciously thinking about it. The most common way that a narcissist will manipulate you is by playing the victim. There are a few ways that they do this and some easy strategies for countering them.
These are the 5 ways narcissists play the victim and how to outsmart them.
1. They lie.
The first defense mechanism that a narcissist employs when they’ve been called out on something is to simply lie about it. The goal here is to hopefully disarm your concern and skepticism by getting you to agree to an event or series of events that didn’t actually happen, or happened differently. By believing the lie, you’ve let them get away with it.
When you know you’re being lied to, or are probably being lied to, don’t just take it lying down. Push back on the lie. Show the evidence that you have for the story they’re telling being a complete fabrication.
2. They gaslight.
Gaslighting walks hand-in-hand with lying. The two are closely related, and gaslighting is often the second go-to for a narcissist trying to twist the truth. Gaslighting is defined as a manipulation geared toward making the victim doubt or question what they know is the truth and the reality in which they live. Gaslighting is a challenging thing to identify in the moment. Truthfully, your best defense is going into a conversation knowing that it’s likely to happen.
You can stop gaslighting in its tracks similar to how you stop a narcissist’s lying defense: by sticking to your guns, showing the evidence that you have, and denying them the satisfaction of making you question your own truth. Denying a narcissist the ability to gaslight you is a huge blow to them, and beyond this point, their manipulations are likely to become shakier and more erratic.
3. They change the story.
If lying and gaslighting doesn’t do the trick, a narcissist will resort to simply changing the story. The truth may not change that much, but they may start fudging the details on the events that transpired, the things they said, the things you said, etc. The idea here is to get you playing defense so they can employ the first two strategies listed in this article and get you back in line.
The important thing for you to do here is stick to the truth that you know is real and not let them begin reframing the situation at hand. Once they realize that they won’t be able to get you to believe in a reframed version of the events that transpired, a narcissist will begin to go on the offensive.
4. They project.
It’s established at this point that you aren’t going to let them lie, you’re not in the mood to be gaslit, and you’re not going to believe in a different version of the events that transpired. So what’s next? A healthy person would accept that they made you feel a certain way and work to improve themselves. But a narcissist views themself as a superior being. Instead of owning their wrong-doing, they’ll try to turn it around on you. Get ready for the “But what abouts.”
When a narcissist starts projecting onto you, turn the focus back on them. Saying something like “I would like to talk more about the time I made you feel that way, but right now, I’d like to speak my truth about this situation with you.” Simply don’t let them put you on the defensive by acting like it’s you who wronged them.
5. They go on the offensive.
The final stage of a narcissist playing the victim is a go-for-broke offensive against you. This is usually the most abusive phase. It’s also the hardest to counter. By going on the offensive, they want to completely break you down, shatter your self esteem, and leave you an emotional wreck. They will do and say things that cut to the heart of your insecurities.
How you react to a narcissist on the offensive is entirely on you. You may choose to continue to face them down or leave them flailing and miserable, unable to manipulate you. But the most important thing is that you don’t let their offensive against you work. That you stand strong and look them in the face and not let them make you the victim.
It is not easy to outsmart a narcissist when they’re playing the victim, but it can be done.
That said, I’d like to point out that abuse is not normal, and if you are afraid for your personal safety at any point, it’s okay to run and seek refuge someplace where the narcissist cannot hurt you. Your well being comes first!