15 Tactics Narcissists Use To Get What They Want (And How To Protect Yourself)

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Ever met someone who always seems to get their way, leaving you feeling a bit manipulated or used? Chances are you’ve encountered a narcissist. These individuals have a knack for charming their way into getting what they want, often leaving a trail of emotional wreckage in their wake. The good thing is that understanding their tactics is the first step towards protecting yourself. By recognizing the signs, you can arm yourself with knowledge and avoid falling prey to their manipulative ways.

1. Love bombing

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This is a classic narcissist move, especially at the beginning of a relationship. They shower you with affection, compliments, and attention, making you feel like the center of their universe. It’s intoxicating and can quickly sweep you off your feet. But beware, it’s usually a ploy to gain your trust and admiration, setting the stage for future manipulation.

2. Gaslighting

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Narcissists are masters of distorting reality to suit their own needs, Talkspace warns. They’ll deny things they said or did, make you question your own memory and sanity, and even blame you for their bad behavior. It’s a subtle form of emotional abuse that can leave you feeling confused and insecure.

3. Triangulation

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This tactic involves bringing a third party into a conflict to create jealousy, insecurity, or competition. For example, a narcissistic partner might flirt with someone else in front of you or compare you unfavorably to their ex. It’s a way of keeping you off balance and feeling like you need to fight for their attention.

4. Silent treatment

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When a narcissist is displeased, they might withdraw and give you the cold shoulder. This can be incredibly hurtful and confusing, especially if you don’t know what you did wrong. It’s a form of punishment and control, designed to make you feel anxious and desperate for their approval.

5. Guilt-tripping

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Narcissists are experts at making you feel guilty, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. They’ll play the victim, exaggerate their hardships, or remind you of past favors they’ve done for you. It’s a way of making you feel indebted to them and more likely to comply with their wishes.

6. Playing the victim

Conflict, upset and couple fighting on a sofa for toxic, cheating or relationship breakup. Upset, problem and frustrated young man and woman in an argument together in the living room of their home.

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Even when they’re clearly in the wrong, narcissists often try to paint themselves as the victim. They’ll deflect blame, minimize their own wrongdoing, and exaggerate any perceived slights against them. It’s a way of avoiding accountability and manipulating people into feeling sorry for them.

7. Projection

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This involves attributing their own negative traits or feelings onto you. For example, a narcissist who is insecure might accuse you of being jealous or clingy. It’s a way of deflecting attention away from their own shortcomings and making you feel like the problem.

8. Smear campaigns

Young couple looking at each other angrily while sitting apart in the living room sofa after having an ugly fight because of their relationship problems

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When a narcissist feels threatened or rejected, they might launch a smear campaign against you. This involves spreading rumors or lies about you to other people, often with the goal of isolating you or discrediting you. It’s a malicious tactic that can have serious consequences for your reputation and relationships.

9. Hoovering

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When a narcissist senses you pulling away or moving on, they may employ “hoovering” tactics to suck you back into their orbit. This can involve apologies, promises to change, or even declarations of love. It’s important to remember that these gestures are often insincere and designed to regain control over you.

10. Financial manipulation

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Narcissists often use money as a means of control. They may try to make you financially dependent on them, withhold financial support, or sabotage your career. It’s a way of keeping you under their thumb and limiting your independence.

11. Sabotage

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A narcissist might subtly undermine your efforts or achievements. This can manifest in various ways, such as criticizing your work, belittling your accomplishments, or even creating obstacles to your success. It’s a way of making you feel insecure and dependent on them.

12. Emotional blackmail

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Narcissists often use threats of self-harm or suicide to manipulate you into doing what they want. This can be incredibly frightening and make it difficult to leave the relationship. It’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for their well-being and that seeking help for them is the best course of action.

13. Isolating you from friends and family

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Narcissists often try to isolate you from your support network, MindBodyGreen notes. They might criticize your loved ones, discourage you from spending time with them, or even create conflict between you and your family and friends. This is a way of making you more dependent on them and less likely to challenge their behavior.

14. Exploiting your weaknesses

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Narcissists are really good at identifying and exploiting your vulnerabilities. They might use your insecurities against you, play on your fears, or manipulate your emotions. It’s a way of maintaining control over you and keeping you off balance.

15. Blaming you for their problems

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No matter what goes wrong, a narcissist will always find a way to blame you. It’s never their fault; it’s always yours. This can be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing, but it’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for their happiness or their problems. You’re not the cause of their issues, and you can’t fix them.

Piper Ryan is a NYC-based writer and matchmaker who works to bring millennials who are sick of dating apps and the bar scene together in an organic and efficient way. To date, she's paired up more than 120 couples, many of whom have gone on to get married. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Cut, and many more.

In addition to runnnig her own business, Piper is passionate about charity work, advocating for vulnerable women and children in her local area and across the country. She is currently working on her first book, a non-fiction collection of stories focusing on female empowerment.