Everyone knows about aggressive forms of abuse, such as hitting others. There is another form that is much lesser known called microaggression. Microaggression is a term that originally referred to subtle actions done or words said to convey hostility, anger or some type of negativity towards others in particular those of other races or sexual orientations. I believe that narcissists use microaggressions as well, & not always towards people of other ethnicities or orientations.
Covert narcissists in particular prefer subtle ways to abuse their victims rather than relying on the “in your face” style of overt narcissists, so it’s no wonder they enjoy microaggressive behaviors. These behaviors are hard to detect, so those employing such behaviors easily can fly under the radar. As an example, if someone says, “You’re fat!” it’s obvious that is an insult. However, if someone says, “Do you really want that second cookie?” it can appear as an innocent question. After all, the person asking the question didn’t say “you’re fat” so it isn’t necessarily an insult. It could be an implied one, however, depending on the person who asked the question & his or her relationship with the one expected to answer the question. In this situation, an outsider may think the person who feels insulted is overreacting or reading into an innocent question. While that can be true of course, when narcissists are involved, that is rarely the case.
Such ambiguous statements aren’t the only form microaggressions can take. A narcissist can “accidentally” forget things such as to invite their victim to a party that many other mutual acquaintances are invited to or forget their victim’s birthday as a way to let their victim know they aren’t important enough for the narcissist to remember.
They also ignore their victim or even give them the silent treatment to tell their victim that they aren’t worth the narcissist’s time or attention.
They may insult their victim for doing the exact same thing they brag about someone else accomplishing. This is to let the victim know they’ll never be good enough in the narcissist’s eyes.
They also like to give backhanded complements, which are an insult wrapped in a complement. An example could be, “You look so much better since you lost weight!” or, “Wow, I can’t believe you actually passed that test! Congratulations!”
Invalidation can be another form of microaggression, such as when you tell a narcissist about a problem, & they act as if you said nothing or change the subject as their way to communicate to you that your problem means nothing to them.
Offensive jokes are another way for narcissists to hurt their victim in a subtle way.
In these situations, if a victim says something to the narcissist about their behavior, the narcissist won’t apologize. Instead, they blame the victim for being upset because they are too sensitive, read into things too much, can’t take a joke or other similar statements designed to shame the victim into tolerating the abuse quietly.
They also deny meaning anything offensive. My ex husband was clearly disgusted by my weight, even when I was very thin, but not once did he ever call me “fat.” It was implied, & if I said anything to him about it, he denied calling me fat. He was right, he didn’t say that word, & I felt ashamed of myself for being oversensitive.
Microaggression is incredibly passive/aggressive, so it should be treated the same way you treat someone exhibiting any passive/aggressive behaviors.
Educate yourself on what behaviors the narcissist exhibits that demonstrate microaggression so you understand what is happening.
Pretend not to notice their behavior. Ignore their games as if you noticed nothing out of the ordinary in their behavior.
Refuse to be manipulated. Whatever the behavior is trying to accomplish, don’t do it! If it’s supposed to get you angry, then show no anger at all. Hurt? Don’t shed one tear. Naturally it’s best to deal with your emotions, but do so later once you’re away from the narcissist.
Never ask the narcissist why he or she said or did that. That only opens an ugly door for you to be insulted, shamed & otherwise treated badly by the narcissist.
If you’re struggling in this area in any way, never forget to ask God to give you wisdom. He will do so & gladly. Let Him help you!