As anyone with experience with a narcissist knows, they accept no blame for anything they have done. Ever. You can confront them about something terrible they have done, then later walk away wondering why you just apologized to them instead of them apologizing to you. This post will help you identify some of the common blame shifting behaviors so you won’t fall for them in the future.
Probably the most common thing that narcissists do to shift the blame is to play the victim. This is especially common with covert narcissists, but overt ones will do it as well. The narcissist will turn your legitimate concern around in such a way that you feel as if you’re being too hard on that person, overreacting or being too sensitive. After all, they never had any idea that what they said or did would hurt you, they say. Or, they may bring up some (probably imaginary) thing you did in the past, claiming that is abusive, & turning the topic of the conversation to that incident rather than your topic.
Closely related to playing the victim is the guilt trip done to shift blame. They may tell you about something painful that they experienced in their childhood or say things like, “Why are you yelling at me? I didn’t mean to hurt you!” Before you know it, you’re comforting them even though they hurt you!
They often accuse their victims of bad or even abusive behavior, but especially during the times when they are confronted. This is an effective way to shift the blame from the narcissist to the victim. My mother did this to me when I was growing up. She said I made her do something bad to me because of how terrible I was acting. On my seventeenth birthday, she destroyed my gifts that my now ex husband gave me, then made me clean up the mess she made. She said because I was “acting so snotty”, which is what made her destroy those gifts. The truth was when I took the gifts from school to her car at the end of my day, I was terrified what she was going to do to me because she hated my ex, & was quiet. I wasn’t “acting snotty”- I was acting terrified!
Narcissists also minimize the feelings of their victims to shift blame to the victim. Basically, this shifts the blame to the victim for how they responded to the abuse rather than the abuse itself. They may say things like “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re crazy,” or “I was just joking!”
When you’re talking with a narcissist & these things happen, then you can be certain they are attempting to shift the blame off of themselves. The best thing you can do is to redirect the conversation back to the original topic, as calmly as you can. Wait on the narcissist to finish whatever she is saying, then calmly say something, “Ok, but that isn’t what we were talking about. We will address that later. We’re discussing ____ at the moment.” You may have to do that a few times, but keep doing it. If that doesn’t work, try saying, “We’ll talk about this another time when you are ready to talk,” then leave or hang up the phone, & approach her another time in the very near future.
Unfortunately with narcissists, there is never an easy answer. Doing what I suggested may not work at all for you in the sense of being able to hash out the problem at hand. However, the good thing is it will let that narcissist know that you aren’t going to be fooled by the blame shifting nor will you be pushed around.