14 Things Narcissists Say to Make Themselves Look Like the Good Guy

Ever known someone who always seems to play the victim, even when they’re clearly in the wrong? Maybe they twist words, manipulate situations, and leave you questioning your own sanity. If so, you might be dealing with a narcissist. They’re masters of deception, and they use language as a tool to maintain control and avoid accountability. Here are some of their favorite phrases and the sneaky tactics behind them.

1. “I’m only doing this for your own good.”

This seemingly caring phrase is a classic narcissistic manipulation tactic. They might use it to justify controlling behavior, excessive criticism, or even emotional abuse. By framing their actions as being motivated by your best interests, they deflect blame and make you question your own judgment. They might even convince you that you should be grateful for their “help,” even if it makes you feel miserable.

2. “You’re just too sensitive.”

This is a go-to phrase for narcissists when they’ve hurt your feelings or crossed a boundary. It’s narcissistic gaslighting, as Choosing Therapy describes. They’ll dismiss your emotions as “overreactions,” making you feel like you’re the one with the problem. This tactic is designed to invalidate your feelings and make you question your own perception of reality. It’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for their own hurtful actions.

3. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Notice the wording here? It’s not a genuine apology. They’re not saying “I’m sorry for what I did,” they’re saying “I’m sorry you’re upset.” This subtle shift in language allows them to avoid taking ownership of their actions while still appearing to be the “nice guy” who’s trying to smooth things over. It’s a manipulative way to deflect blame and make you feel like your feelings are the problem.

4. “You’re always making a big deal out of nothing.”

This phrase is designed to minimize your concerns and make you feel like you’re being irrational or dramatic. Narcissists use this tactic to silence your voice and make you doubt your own judgment. By dismissing your concerns as insignificant, they avoid having to address the issue at hand or take responsibility for their own behavior.

5. “I never said that.”

Gaslighting is a hallmark of narcissistic behavior. They’ll deny saying or doing things, even when you have clear evidence to the contrary. This can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and questioning your own sanity. It’s a powerful manipulation tactic that does a serious number on your self-esteem and makes you more dependent on them for validation.

6. “You’re the one with the problem, not me.”

two men talking in group setting

When things go wrong, a narcissist will always find a way to blame you. They’ll twist the narrative to make it seem like your actions or emotions are the root of the problem, not their own behavior. This deflects responsibility and keeps the focus on your perceived shortcomings, rather than their own toxic patterns.

7. “I’m just trying to help you.”

Young couple having conversation on couch

This phrase is often used to justify their controlling or meddling behavior. They might offer unsolicited advice, criticize your choices, or even make decisions for you – all under the guise of “helping.” It’s a way to maintain control and make you feel indebted to them.

8. “Why can’t you just be happy?”

Conversation, argument and interracial couple in conflict in a park for communication about divorce. Angry, fight and black man and woman speaking about a relationship problem on a date in nature

Narcissists often have a hard time understanding or empathizing with other people’s emotions. If you express sadness, frustration, or anger, they might dismiss your feelings as invalid or see them as a personal attack. This phrase is a way to shut down your emotions and make you feel like you’re the problem for not being constantly cheerful and agreeable.

9. “You’re lucky to have me.”

This phrase is designed to inflate their ego and make you feel indebted to them. They might list all the ways they’re superior to your past partners, or remind you of the sacrifices they’ve made for you. It’s a way to manipulate you into believing that you’re not good enough for them and that you should be grateful for their presence in your life, even if their behavior is hurtful or toxic.

10. “I’m the only one who truly cares about you.”

As MindBodyGreen explains, narcissists often try to isolate you from your loved ones, making you feel like they’re the only person who truly understands or supports you. They might criticize your friends and family, undermine your relationships, or simply make you feel guilty for spending time with anyone else. This is a manipulative tactic to make you more dependent on them and less likely to try to find outside support.

11. “Everyone else is jealous of our relationship.”

iStock/JovanMandic

This is another way to isolate you and create a sense of “us versus them.” They might paint a picture of a perfect, enviable relationship, while portraying everyone else as envious or malicious. This not only reinforces their inflated ego but also makes you more reluctant to share your concerns with anyone else, because you might worry they’ll just be jealous or misunderstand.

12. “I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”

This grand statement is designed to make you feel incredibly lucky and dependent on them. It’s a way to boost their own ego and reinforce their control over the relationship. While it might feel good to be adored, this kind of exaggerated praise is often a sign of manipulation. A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect and appreciation, not inflated egos and power imbalances.

13. “You wouldn’t be able to manage without me.”

Mature married couple fighting, blaming and accusing each other, having relationship problem at home. Middle-aged man and his wife on verge of divorce or separation, arguing indoorsistock

Narcissists love to make you feel incompetent or incapable. They might take over your finances, make all the decisions, or constantly remind you of your supposed shortcomings. They hope that by doing this, your self-worth will take a hit and you’ll start to believe that you need them to survive. Remember, you are strong and capable, and you don’t need anyone else to validate your worth.

14. “I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.”

unhappy female friends sitting on couches

This seemingly humble statement is actually a clever way to avoid accountability. By admitting to a minor flaw, they’re hoping you’ll overlook their more serious offenses. It’s a tactic to deflect criticism and make you feel bad for holding them to a higher standard. But remember, everyone makes mistakes, and a genuine apology should come with a sincere effort to change, not just a vague promise to “try.”

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.
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