Some people thrive on getting attention, whether it is positive or negative. Love them or hate them, either is great as far as they are concerned, just don’t ignore them! In fact, that need for attention is one of the hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
One way they get this attention is by something called baiting. Baiting is anything said or done to provoke a strong emotional reaction. Behaving this way gives a baiting person a feeling of strength, because they possess such control over another person as to provoke them into very strong reactions.
Baiting is most commonly used by either covert narcissists or elderly narcissists. It is effective, easy for them to do, subtle & offers plausible deniability to the baiting person. They often claim they had no idea what they said would upset their victim or the victim took it wrong. It also can be a useful way for the baiting person to make their victim look bad to other people. These people quietly will say something cruel to upset their victim when others are around, so when the victim gets noticeably upset, others see the victim as irrational or yelling at the baiting person while that baiting person remains quiet & calm. To those who don’t know what was said, the victim looks like the problem, ill tempered or even crazy while the baiting person appears to be the rational one.
There are many ways baiting is accomplished, & some of those tactics are as follows:
The baiting person may accuse their victim of something that is completely out of character & offensive to them, such as illegal behavior, cheating on their spouse or abusing their pets or children. The shock value combined with the offensive nature of the insults easily can trigger someone into reacting badly & the baiting person may at this point accuse their victim of being mentally unbalanced.
The baiting person also may “accidentally” damage something important to their victim. Maybe they drop a treasured & fragile family heirloom or park beside their victim’s classic car & when they open the door, hit the victim’s car with their door. Anyone in this situation naturally would be absolutely furious, yet the baiting person appears innocent because what they did didn’t look intentional.
A baiting person also will love insulting something their victim loves. I have the most experience with this one. Both my mother & mother in-law loved to insult my cats & my cars, both of which always have been very important to me. My mother usually said her cruel comments very quietly & calmly so when I got upset, I looked irrational to anyone around us. My mother in-law preferred no witnesses, so if I told anyone what she said, no one believed me because they never saw her treat me that way.
Another tactic of a baiting person is to hint that they have something to tell you that will hurt your feelings, & say they don’t want to upset you by telling you that thing. Basically they make their victim feel obligated to say, “It’s ok. You can tell me.” They then dump that pain on their victim, & then enjoy that person’s pain, comfortable that the victim brought it on themselves. After all, they think, the baiting person warned the victim, so they aren’t to blame for his or her pain.
Baiting triggers a person’s adrenaline & fight or flight responses to kick in, which is why it can be so challenging. You can handle it though! Immediately, inhale deeply, then exhale to give your mind & body a moment to calm down. In that moment, ask God for help, too. My simple prayers of “HELP!” proved surprisingly helpful plenty of times.
Remember what is happening. Someone is trying to upset you as a way to make them feel better about themselves. Don’t give that person the satisfaction. Do NOT react. Stay calm. The less you react, the less likely it is this person will use this tactic again with you. Once away from this person though, vent however helps you to feel better. Holding in such negative emotions for a long period of time is unhealthy.
If at all possible, leave this person or hang up the phone immediately. Say you just remembered something you have to do & go. This isn’t a lie – you just remembered that you have to protect yourself from such volatility!