One major tactic narcissists use to get their way is making other people feel inferior and stupid. Imagine opening up about a problem to a person you love, and then hearing, “Well you should have seen that coming,” or “Why in the world did you do that?” Ugh. Right to the gut, right? You hoped to receive some support or sensitivity, but instead you felt stupid, like you did something wrong.
People everywhere experience similar feelings when dealing with the narcissistic personality. Maybe you have a bright idea that will solve a current problem. Sharing that bright idea with a narcissist will leave you feeling dumb for ever having the problem in the first place. Maybe you feel great about a recent decision you made. Sharing it with a narcissist will beg the question, “Why did it take you so long?”
Self absorbed, narcissistic people have a way of stealing your confidence and joy right out from underneath you. They use patronizing put-downs so they can be in control. They minimize your needs, concerns and rights in order to promote their own. Having an intelligent conversation with a narcissist ends up as a one sided lecture or rant, with you on the wrong end. Disagreeing will get you attacked. Offering other perspectives will get you belittled. Having your own opinion will get you sidelined. If he can get you to feel stupid, or at least not as smart as him, then he has disabled your power and influence, and bolstered his own. He’s one step closer to getting his way, whatever that is.
In order to stay the “smartest person in the room,” there are key phrases narcissists use to manipulate you into feeling stupid. When you hear these things, you know you are getting played.
- Let me tell you how it is.
- You don’t understand.
- You need to … (fill in the blank.)
- You’re wrong, and let me tell you why.
- I know you better than you know yourself.
- You should have known better.
- I told you so.
- You’re misguided (uneducated, misinformed, etc.)
- I know more than anyone about this.
So what should you do when you think you’re being played as a fool?
- First, remember that YOU ARE NOT STUPID. You may have felt “less than” at the time, but you are not “less than.” You are “equal to.”
- Second, state your own opinion or need with confidence. It may not be received or respected by the narcissist, but that doesn’t matter. You are enacting self-respect by voicing your own needs and opinions.
- Third, avoid engaging in arguments or debates with a narcissist. Wrestling with pigs just gets you dirty in the end.
If you are living with or married to a narcissistic person, your life may feel like a never ending battle. A battle with him, and a battle to keep what is left of yourself in tact. It’s important to invite professional support to help you navigate your next steps. Dealing with this toxic personality is extremely frustrating and anxiety provoking. You shouldn’t have to do it by yourself. Sign up to take this Relationship Survey that will help you see your relationship more clearly, and get the help you need.
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Have you ever been burned, and then wonder why you didn’t see it coming? The answer is that narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators play by different rules. They speak a different language. Learning to crack the secret communication code of narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators will help you identify them as dangerous, before they identify you as prey. Narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators use tactics, strategies and well plotted plans to outsmart their victims. They like to stay one step ahead, using their power and control to get what they want. Here are ways to recognize their secret strategies, crack their code, and reclaim your own power in the process.
Be the Journalist
One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself is to take a step back and observe objectively what’s going on. Think of yourself as a journalist who’s job it is to observe her surroundings, collect the evidence and report the facts. Take yourself out of the equation for just a little bit, and notice what is really going on. Ask yourself, “If I was an outsider looking in, what would I think about this guy?”
Identify the Strategy
Narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators can garner support, solicit worship, and even radicalize followers with their influence and control. They want you to be swiftly swept along by their promises and ideas so smoothly, you don’t have time to have doubts or ask questions. However, if you recognize the strategy that’s being used to control you, you can stop to think through your next move. These common communication strategies used by narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators are easily recognized if you know what you’re looking for.
- Generalizations with few specifics (words like all, none, always, never, winners, losers.)
- The Sales pitch- a one-way conversation designed to wear you down so you’ll say “yes.”
- Over promise and under deliver- the sky is the limit, but real results are rare and shady.
- Shifts the blame to someone or something else.
- Projects his faults onto others who can’t/won’t defend themselves.
- Claims he’s the victim to secure others’ sympathy.
- Distracts others from his faults and motives with smoke screens (changing the subject, causing a distraction.)
- Uses gas-lighting to manipulate the victim into questioning her own sanity, memory or motives.
- Pathological lying mixed in with a little truth, so everything sounds “good.”
- Shock and Awe to keep people mesmerized, quiet, and unable to act.
- Threats to keep others afraid to disagree, to leave or ask too many questions.
- Abuse (financial, emotional, verbal, sexual or physical.)
- Putdowns (name calling, bullying, mocking or gossiping.)
Narcissists, sociopaths and psychological manipulators exist in families, churches, and offices. You may live or work with one, and feel the daily struggle. Working or living too close to a narcissist, sociopath or psychological manipulator can take a toll on your self-esteem, your career and your health. It can feel like a living nightmare.
What To Do
If you recognize these strategies at home or at work, and think you may be dealing with a narcissist, sociopath or psychological manipulator, seek professional counseling. A good counselor will be able to empathize with you and help you make a plan to deal with this type of personality. You will need smart and supportive assistance to help you reclaim your voice, your power and your life. Next week, Part II will help you become Sociopath Savvy and learn ways to be one step ahead.