Everyone with any experience with narcissists knows one of their favorite pastimes is insulting people. If they dislike a person’s new hair style, car, home, career, personality or anything about someone, that someone will know all about it!
That being said though, not all narcissists directly say what they are thinking. They often phrase their insults in such a way as to seem innocuous. For example, my ex husband never said I was fat, but I had no doubt he thought I was disgustingly obese even when I was too thin. I always had my own issues about my weight, so if I said anything about being overweight, he quickly agreed with me. He would give me tips on losing weight, even though he never had been on a diet in his life. If I said anything about him thinking I was fat, he would say that he never said that. Which was true – he never said the word “fat.” That doesn’t mean he wasn’t insulting me, however.
This is typical narcissistic behavior. Not only do they love to insult their victims, but to do so in a way as to create plausible deniability. This means if the victim confronts the narcissist about the insult, the narcissist can deny being insulting, just as my ex did with me. This makes the victim doubt their perceptions, which is gaslighting behavior. It also makes the victim tolerate more humiliation, because they believe that the narcissist didn’t mean what they said to be hurtful.
Sneaky insults come in various forms. One form is moving the goal line. The narcissist wants something from their victim, & the victim does it. Rather than being pleased, the narcissist immediately wants something else without even saying “Thank you,” or says that the thing that was done wasn’t what they really wanted. They wanted something more difficult.
Another sneaky insult is bringing the attention back to them when the victim has done something well. Let’s say the victim just got a promotion at work. Rather than simply congratulate the victim, a narcissist could say something like, “I did that job for a while a few years ago. It was boring though so I found another job.”
Being unimpressed is another way narcissists sneakily insult their victims. If a victim just published their first book, for example, a narcissist might respond with, “Oh. Well I guess that’s a big deal if you care about that sort of thing. Good for you.”
Minimizing another’s accomplishments is another sneaky insult tactic narcissists often use. Years ago, I did some editing work for a local author before I became an author myself. I enjoyed the work & the lady was a pleasure to work with. I mentioned the job to my mother, naively thinking she would be happy for me. She barely said anything when I told her about the job. However, a few days later, she mentioned she was thinking of getting into editing books. She said, “It’s such easy money! Obviously anyone can do it!”
Another sneaky insult tactic is finding the down side no matter how good something is. If the victim experiences or accomplishes something good, a narcissist will find something negative about it. Getting married? A narcissist will tell the victim that now they’ll have no freedom. Having a baby? A narcissist will regale the victim with pregnancy & birth horror stories. Graduating college? A narcissist will remind the victim of the thousands & thousands of dollars in college loans the victim owes.
When these things happen, remind yourself of what is happening. This is simply a narcissist being a narcissist. If they deny being insulting, make no mistake, they were being insulting! And, even though it feels personal, it truly isn’t. It’s their dysfunction coming out. It doesn’t mean they believe what they say. Probably they don’t, in fact. They’re only saying such things as an attempt to hurt & gaslight you.