Narcissists can be masters of manipulation. They’ll do everything in their power to win your attention and once they have it, they’ll try to control and exploit you for their own gain. Sometimes, the tactics that they use to lure and keep you in an abusive relationship aren’t displayed as bright red flags. They can be hard to spot. The relationship and behavior look normal from the outside. It can even be confusing to pinpoint or explain, but keeping an eye out for the following manipulative techniques can save you from becoming a victim of a narcissist.
They chip away at your boundaries. Narcissists need to be an all-consuming force in your life, and the more boundaries you have, the less powerful the hold they have on you will be. One of the first things they do is try to challenge or invalidate any boundaries you set. They make it seem like what they’re asking for is no big deal and you’re just being selfish by not indulging them. They give you the silent treatment, put on a guilt trip, get mad, and go into dramatic mode until they wear you down.
They use your insecurities and flaws against you. You think you’re building intimacy when you share your secrets and struggles with a narcissist, but you’re really just giving them ammunition to use against you later on. They pretend to empathize with you and support you when you tell them these things only to turn around and use those same shortcomings and insecurities to devalue you. They’ll make it seem like whatever happened to you was your fault, like you should be lucky they even bother with you,
They attack your accomplishments and strengths. In the beginning, it seems like they can’t get enough of your brilliance and success. They brag about you every chance they get. They treat you like you’re the best thing to ever happen to them because their association with you makes them feel better about themselves, but once that phase passes, the things they used to love become the things they hate. Your efforts to look good will become vanity. Your confidence is now cockiness. Your intelligence is you being a know-it-all. Your achievements suddenly don’t mean anything to them or the world.
They use threats to subdue you. When you call a narcissist out on something they did or when you don’t let them have their way, they react by lashing out at you. They threaten to leave or do something that they know will hurt you. Over time, your fear of what they’ll say or what they might do will keep you under their control. You start to do whatever you can to prevent them from saying or doing something that might hurt you, even though it makes you unhappy.
They play the hot and cold game. One day, they’re being very affectionate and letting you know how much you mean to them. The next day, they’re acting like you’re dispensable. They shower you with niceties to get you to do what they want and if that doesn’t work, they switch to being aggressive. The aim of this dance is to keep you confused and waiting for the next moment when they give you the things you want.
They use your empathy or need for validation against you. If you’re the kind of person who likes to see the good in people, you’re a narcissist’s dream come true. They know that your generosity, kindness, agreeableness, and forgiving nature will make you more compassionate towards their problematic behaviors. They’re going to exploit that. They make it seem like you’re the only one who understands them and like it’s your job to fix them. Like you have the power to influence their behavior. The truth is, nothing you do will ever be good enough.
They go out of their way to make you feel special. This manipulative tactic is called a “love bomb.” In order to win affection, the narcissist showers you with care, gifts, compliments, and affection. They make you feel really important, needed, loved. Their interest in you is unbelievably intense. You can’t believe your luck that you’ve found someone who cares about you this deeply, and then, without warning, they take it all away. You’re left wondering what you did to make them change and you start to chase after that feeling over and over, ignoring all the pain they cause along the way.
They use the gaslighting tactic. Narcissists are very good at getting you to question your reality. When you bring up something they did, they flat-out deny it and accuse you of lying about them. They throw tricks and false information at you until you begin to doubt your own memory, sanity, and perception. Even though they’re the one in the wrong, they twist events until you’re the one who’s apologizing. You start to lose confidence in your thoughts and decisions and start taking the narcissist’s word as the truth.
They play the victim card. Accepting responsibility is not a language the narcissist understands. Nothing is ever their fault. They’re always the victim. They just did what they had to do because of the situation they were in or something that happened in their past. The goal of this tactic is to make you feel sorry for them, to gain your sympathy and compassion and avoid blame for their bad actions. Don’t fall for it.
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