8 Narcissistic Manipulation Tactics (& How to Protect Yourself from Them)

narcissistic manipulation tactics

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Sometimes, the person with whom you share the strongest bond may also be the source of immense suffering and distress. Being in a relationship with a narcissist can harm your mental and physical health, as well as your self-esteem and overall well-being.

The best thing you can do for yourself is probably to break free from their manipulation and end the abusive relationship with a narcissist. However, narcissistic manipulation tactics are often subtle and covert, meaning you may be in a toxic relationship with a narcissist for years before you recognize it.

So, what exactly is narcissism, and what narcissistic manipulation tactics should you be aware of?

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a form of personality disorder characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance and superiority over others. Mood swings, manipulation, impulsive behavior with episodes of abrupt rage, and an intense fear of abandonment are typical NPD characteristics. 

People with narcissistic personality disorder are self-centered and always put their needs first. They never accept responsibility for their behavior, blaming others for their mistakes, and significantly lacking empathy. A narcissist, in essence, has a fragile ego and lacks self-confidence. So, they will always seek attention and adoration. In their relationships, they may be controlling or emotionally abusive.

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According to researchers, narcissistic personality disorder is a diverse group with three key subtypes:

  • Grandiose or overt narcissist. Charming yet heartless. Overt narcissists are self-absorbed and authoritarian, feeling entitled to everything.
  • Vulnerable or covert narcissist. Appear unfriendly and cold and have a strong sense of entitlement. They are exploitative with no empathy.
  • Communal narcissist. They are kind on the surface but cold-hearted and manipulative once you meet them.
  • Malignant or toxic narcissist. Immoral, cruel, and aggressive. May feel pleasure in hurting other people or letting them down.

Are Narcissists Good at Manipulation?

A narcissist is a pro at using manipulation to get inside their victim’s head. Although narcissism exists on a spectrum, people with narcissistic personality disorder typically function in highly manipulative and exploitative ways, particularly within their intimate relationships. They exploit relationships for their benefit, using manipulation tactics to control their victims and destroy their sense of identity, self-worth, and security.

Why is Narcissist Manipulation so Common?

Narcissists employ manipulation to achieve their goals and maintain dominance and control in their relationships. They manipulate people to fulfill their excessive need for attention and admiration and ensure they always have someone to feed their ego (the so-called “narcissistic supply“). So, they will use their superficial charm and charisma to target those vulnerable to narcissistic manipulation purposefully.

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8 Narcissistic Manipulation Tactics That Are Common

Because they have an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, narcissists may believe they have the right to control everything, including other people’s lives. So, they often employ manipulation strategies to achieve their goals.

Here are eight common narcissistic manipulation tactics.

1) They Gaslight You

Gaslighting is a toxic manipulation strategy that narcissists use to deceive their victims into questioning their memory and common sense. They will lie, deny, and twist the truth, modifying how you remember an event, situation, or conversation to escape accountability, play the victim, and exert control over you. Gaslighting can be difficult to recognize and may go on for years since you may believe it is normal.

2) They Seek Out Codependent Personalities

Codependent relationships typically involve two people, one of whom is “in need” and tends to drain the other’s time, energy, and resources. As a result, the codependent person obsessively cares for the other (a partner, a child, a parent, or a friend) at the expense of their own needs, feelings, and general well-being.

guarding yourself from manipulation tactics

3) They Make You Feel Guilty

A narcissist will never accept responsibility for their words and actions. Instead, they will blame you for everything, making you feel bad for things that are not your responsibility. Simply put, they will guilt-trip you to get you to do what they want.

4) Narcissistic Triangulation

Triangulation is a form of manipulation that narcissists use to control and manipulate their victims. To maintain control, narcissists will bring another person into the dynamics of their relationship. Anyone, from a family member to a stranger, might be drawn into your interaction to create insecurity and negativity so the narcissist maintains control in a relationship.

5) Love Bombing

At the beginning of a relationship, a narcissist will bombard you with attention, love, gifts, and admiration. While being put on a pedestal may feel good, this is actually a narcissistic strategy used to gain power in a relationship. Extravagant love gestures from a narcissist are intended to indebt you and trick you into thinking you owe the narcissist something for them to acquire influence over you.

6) They Play the Victim

When narcissists’ ego is challenged, they frequently respond abusively. Things get worse when you have no choice but to fight back to protect yourself. The narcissist then utilizes your protective behaviors to demonstrate that they are mistreated. This might make you feel guilty, accept responsibility, and agree to reconcile on the narcissist’s terms.

7) They Will Infantilize You

A narcissist may speak to you in a tone similar to what parents use with their children, lowering you to the status of a kid or someone with less intelligence or rights. This demeaning tactic aims to make the narcissist feel powerful and superior.

8) They Try to Get Revenge

In their narcissistic abuse, narcissists twist the situation to make it look like you are the offender. They love playing the victim, so they will commonly seek revenge.

How to Protect Yourself Against Narcissistic Manipulation

Here is what you can do to protect yourself against narcissistic manipulation:

  • Recognizing narcissistic manipulation tactics is the first step to escaping the cycle of narcissistic abuse. 
  • Set boundaries and communicate to a narcissist what you are uncomfortable with. They will attempt to push back against your boundaries, but you must stay firm.
  • Prioritize self-care since it will improve your coping skills and help protect your well-being.
  • Seek the assistance of a mental health professional. Surround yourself with positive people who support and accept you for who you genuinely are.
Are you ready to heal and let go? Find out what a self-love coach can do to help you take back your power and rediscover your AuthenticMe.

Moving On from the Pain of Narcissistic Manipulation

You can break free from a narcissist’s manipulation. But you might need some extra support. It is critical to seek help from people you trust and attend coaching to move on and heal from narcissistic manipulation. 

I can help you recognize manipulation, set boundaries, break the cycle of abuse, and regain your sense of self-worth, so contact me to set up a free empowering conversation.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™