One of the favorite tools of narcissists is saying something that may seem innocuous but in truth, it’s designed to cause hurt or anger. Years ago, my late mother in-law asked something me in front of my husband… “Is your car running ok?” Sounds innocent. Also, every time we went to her home, we were in my husband’s car so how was she to know if it was running or not? The truth was she hated my car. She told me many times I should get rid of it. Her “innocent” comment was one more way to say she thought my car was a piece of junk. Later, when I said something to my husband, he defended his mother. He never heard her tell me how she hated my car, & as I said, when we visited her, we took his car. He saw no evidence that what I said was true.
This is a very effective tactic! What narcissists say may sound helpful or nice, & may even have a victim believing that for a second, but it’s manipulation. It’s also said as it is to cause confusion, so when you confront the narcissist, they can deny any wrong doing. As an added bonus, narcissists like witnesses, so they can validate that the narcissist didn’t mean any harm & you’re wrong, as in the situation with my mother in-law. This provides the narcissist with their precious narcissistic supply. And, if you stay silent, this also provides the narcissist with supply, because they see they have control over you.
The coup de gras is when the narcissist can make you apologize for your valid feelings. Unfortunately this happens often, because such devious techniques can be very difficult to spot.
There are different ways narcissist use this technique. Some are listed below so you can learn to spot this manipulation as soon as it begins.
- Mentioning an ex frequently. Narcissists love to say “my ex is still in love with me”, that he or she called or they ran into each other somewhere. They also may mention good qualities about this ex. This is to make you jealous & insecure, by letting you know the narcissist has other, better options. If you say anything, the narcissist says you’re insecure, & have no need to worry. The reassurance doesn’t feel so reassuring, however.
- Narcissists like to flirt, but not necessarily with their partner. A narcissistic significant other has no trouble flirting with other people in front of their mate. When confronted, they say things like they’re just being friendly, you need to stop being so insecure & the flirting doesn’t mean anything since you are the one he or she comes home to. Again, the reassurance isn’t very reassuring!
- Narcissistic parents “brag” about their children to others. Narcissistic parents love to share stories about their children that make the parent look good. If they were able to fix something for their child or rescue them after doing something not very wise, those stories will be shared. When their child is upset, they tell their child they have nothing to be upset about because the parent was bragging about them. How can that possibly be upsetting?
- Being condescending. Narcissists believe themselves to be of superior intellect, so when their victim is in need of advice, they offer their so called wisdom freely. They mention they’re doing it to help or they have your best interest at heart, so your accusations offend them. You should be grateful they care enough to help you!
- Talking about things with other people in front of you that you know nothing about. If you & the narcissist are with other people, they may discuss stories that you know nothing about or have inside jokes. The narcissist wants you to feel left out. If you mention it, the narcissist says he or she knew you wouldn’t want to go which is why you were left out, or you’d be bored by the silly inside jokes. You then feel ashamed of yourself for your very valid feelings.
You can learn to recognize these subtle tactics with practice. When you do, remind yourself of what is happening, & act accordingly. Don’t show the narcissist that you’re hurt or angry. Pretend not to notice their manipulation. This will deprive them of narcissistic supply, & most likely they’ll stop using that tactic on you.