The 8 Most Common Narc-Sadistic Conversation Control Tactics

Do you often engage in conversations with your narcissist that leave you feeling like you were talking to a brick wall –or worse, maybe leave you feeling like banging your head against a brick wall? Perhaps, it has even crossed your mind that you would have been better off conversing with a brick wall because the wall would have more capacity of providing understanding, validation, and empathy than the narcissist in your life!

Real life conversations with a narcissist are exhausting, dizzying, nerve-racking, and make you feel like you’re going crazy, or at least drive a compassionate person to question their own reality, and even their sanity at times. The circular conversations leave you feeling worse off than if you had never had them in the first place. You begin to blame yourself, doubt your instincts, and wonder what the heck is going on?

REVERSE PROJECTION

Before we realize the truth about the narcissist in our lives, we relate to them as if they are normal human beings possessing a conscience, integrity, and some degree of self-awareness. We trust their words because we don’t deceive and manipulate people, and trust that the people who claim to love us, will do the same. We give them the benefit of the doubt because we believe they truly love us, and no one, who truly loves us, would purposely say or do anything to hurt our feelings and us. We are, in essence, projecting our good qualities on to them, and when they don’t respond the way we expect a normal person would, we become confused and hurt, question our reality, and believe we must be to blame in some way. The problem is that narcissists don’t think, operate, or play by the same rules as us, and our failing to recognize this sets us up for manipulation, and misery by default.

Conversations with a narcissist, especially if you hold opinions about anything that contradict with their opinion of what is the gospel truth, are jam-packed with a barrage of covert manipulation tactics, that are intrinsic to the narcissist, and entrenched in their personality. They will make you wish you had never disagreed with them in the first place, and regret that you ever dared to express your point of view. A simple disagreement will often incite a full-fledged attack on you. Somehow, they manage to twist the conservation, so you wind up feeling like the bad guy/girl, while they assume the role of the innocent victim –of you.

CONVERSATIONS ARE NOT CONVERSATIONS, THEY ARE VERBAL COMPETITIONS

When you challenge your narcissist’s lies, discrepancies and groundless accusations, suggest that they are less than perfect, try to get them to understand your point of view, confront them on their cruel behaviors, or approach them about the lack of reciprocity in the relationship, the discussion will likely decay into a crazy-making, chaotic, drama packed, mind-spinning, migraine induced headache that is intended to wear you down, and punish you for suggesting, or exposing a fact that doesn’t support their grandiose view of themselves or maintain their need to feel superior, and all mighty.

Narcissists never enter into conversations. They enter into verbal competitions. Their goal is to win at all costs. They have no interest in seeking understanding, clarification or compromise, or in reaching a meeting of the minds. Their conversations are only meant to manipulate, confuse, control, destabilize, deflect accountability, cast doubt, distort reality, and create drama.

ENABLERS AND TONGUE BITERS

Narcissists only surround themselves with people who are either so charmed by them that they blindly believe every word they say is true or people who have learned that it’s easier to keep their mouths shut rather than reap the wrath of expressing an opposing opinion.
Anyone in a narcissist’s life that doesn’t fall into one of the two categories of Enablers or Tongue Biters will certainly be given the boot. But, first, the narcissist will discipline you with their collection of manipulation tactics, so when they do give you the boot, you will be sure to go out believing the reasons for your dismissal were all your fault.

THE 8 MOST COMMON CONVERSATION MANIPULATION TACTICS


1. TOPIC SWITCHEROO

Here’s how this works. You and your narcissist are in the middle of a conversation; it’s going well until you disagree, or present facts that contradict the narcissist’s point of view. The narcissist knows that your facts are indisputable, and you have the upper-hand. So, to gain control of the conversation, and win the argument, the narcissist will deviate into a tangent of verbal vomit attempting to hoodwink you, and pull the ole’ topic switcheroo. Before you know it, you’re discussing something totally unrelated to the original conversation, and you find yourself in defensive mode about some issue the two of you disagreed on last year.

2. THE BLAME GAME

Blame shifting is usually a tactic used subsequently to the Topic Switcheroo. The narcissist, like a magician, successfully changes the topic and diverts your attention by pointing the finger at you, and you suddenly find yourself on the defensive end of the conversation stick. The narcissist will raise questions about any and all of your real, or perceived faults, and pummel you. You, in turn, instinctively defend yourself, and the narcissist, just like Houdini, makes the original topic of their bad behavior disappear and escapes having to take any accountability for their actions. Meanwhile, you’re tricked into taking on the defensive position and accused and blamed for creating problems and drama, in the relationship.

3. PROJECTION

Hypocrisy is the narcissist’s middle name. What they say and do, when no one is watching, is drastically different from what they say and do in the presence of others. Since they are all about maintaining their false persona, they use projection to rid the unwanted traits in their character. But, since they are the emotional equivalent of a five-year-old, they magically disown the parts of themselves that reflect negatively on their personas and accuse you of the exact things they’re guilty of doing. Did you ever notice how they will accuse the most generous person of being selfish or having a hidden agenda behind their generosity? The most honest person is accused of being a liar. Their faithful partner is accused of cheating. The narcissist’s projections are really confessions, that reveal what the narcissist is guilty of, and/or believes about himself/herself.

In contrast, emotionally healthy people don’t use projection when they’re on the defensive. When, and if, they resort to character assignation, their comments more closely resemble the truth, and tend to resemble slander; not the outright lies that characterize projection.

4. TURNING UP THE VOLUME

When narcissists act with a disproportionate amount of anger or rage, by increasing the volume and tempo of their voice, you can bet that they’re trying to shock and bully you. Their actions are an absolute declaration of psychological warfare. Their increased volume is a ploy to get to you to back off.

The sudden, shocking, cruel and disproportionate attack is an offensive maneuver aimed to destabilize, confuse, and intimidate you. When you’re under attack, and in a state of shock, your defenses naturally become weakened. The stress of being attacked, and yelled at, decreases your mental acuity and leaves you open to suggestion. As a result, your weakened state renders you less of an intellectual threat, to the narcissist’s need for control and dominance.

5. PLAYING THE VICTIM

There is much truth in the quote: “Deceit’s favorite role is playing the victim.” It’s no wonder why, when the narcissist isn’t playing the role of the hero, he/she is playing the role of poor victim. Through garnering pity, narcissists will play the victim, while vilifying the real victim, as a way of concealing their abusive behavior, and avoid taking responsibility for their cruel, and deceitful actions. Narcissists capitalize on the compassion of others, and exploit their sympathy in any way they can, depending upon what their goal is at the time. If the narcissist doesn’t want to keep a promise, and you become upset, your feelings won’t be validated; there will be no apology or display of empathy. Instead, the narcissist will get angry at you for being upset, and blame you for your lack of empathy in not considering that they may be having a bad week, stress at work, or so on. You will be labeled selfish, or accused of being needy, or demanding, for expecting the poor narcissist to honor his/her word.

However, if you have a bad week, don’t expect to receive the same treatment. The narcissist will expect you to keep your promise and will minimize, and invalidate your feelings, by portraying themselves as the victim. The narcissist will always one-up you, by reciting a litany of reasons why their week was so much worse than yours, or lecture you on how your life is so much easier than theirs, and so on. Whatever you can do, they can do better. Whatever bad thing happened to you, something worse happened to them.

6. GASLIGHTING

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, so insidious, that many articles have been written about it. Narcissists use this tactic in conversations, by purposely altering, or not sharing information, and replacing it with false information. This tactic is designed to systematically dismantle the victim’s ability to trust their own judgment, and undermine their confidence to the point where they begin to doubt their own memories, and judgments, thus, rendering them highly suggestible to the narcissist’s opinion.

For example, a narcissist may casually, but consistently, suggest how their memory is superior to yours, especially if you ever admit to being forgetful about anything. They may even go so far as hiding or rearranging your belongings, intentionally trick you into believing your memory is faulty. Then when a difference in opinion arises, or you expose a discrepancy in their story, the narcissist, with absolute conviction, will use your faulty memory, as evidence to make you doubt what you heard or saw, and second guess yourself, causing you to ultimately accept the narcissist’s rendition of the truth.

7. INTERRUPTING

Narcissists are notorious conversation interrupters. They love to be the center of attention and control the focus of the conversation. They have no interest in having a two-way discussion with you. If you dare attempt to get a word in edge-wise or make your point of view heard, if it at all contradicts the narcissist’s point of view, your opinion will most likely be ignored, or dismissed. While many people with ADHD and other mental disorders struggle with problems of poor impulsivity, or poor communication, and often interrupt others, the narcissist intentionally interrupts to redirect the focus of the conversation back to themselves, since they believe their opinions are superior and correct, and that whatever they say should be accepted as the gospel truth.

They genuinely have zero interest in hearing other people’s viewpoints, or reaching compromises, or win/win solutions to disagreements. They have a my way or the highway frame of mind, and interrupting allows them to control the conversation, and manage it in a direction that parallels their point of view, and agenda. By monopolizing the conversation, they exert their control and avoid taking responsibility or addressing important issues. In their minds, their ability to dominate conversations confirms their superiority.

8. THE SILENT TREATMENT

The silent treatment is probably one of the most common forms of emotional abuse used by narcissists, when all the above tactics have been tried, and have failed. Narcissists use the silent treatment, as a form of punishment for not acquiescing to their point of view, or as the way to gain the upper hand, and control in their relationships. It’s also a way to avoid discussing important issues in the relationship and avoid taking accountability for their wrong-doings. When a narcissist uses the silent treatment, they will do it in a way that is so out of proportion to the situation. Narcissists will also tend to demand a perfectly delivered apology. If the apology is not said correctly, or in the right way, the narcissists will extend the length of the silent treatment. By demanding a perfectly delivered apology, narcissists confirm their dominance and support their exaggerated importance.

The silent treatment is intended to make the victim feel completely unloved, invalidated, and insignificant. The use of the silent treatment is usually about control. Sometimes the narcissist will use the silent treatment just to assess the amount of control they have over people. Often, it will be used as a tactic to create distance and free up space to engage in infidelity or pursue new admirers. Victims are left feeling destroyed, as the silent treatment kills any possibility of reconciliation.

THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

The many people who’ve been expelled from the narcissist’s life know there is something terribly wrong with the narcissist. However, many of them never bothered, or cared enough to connect the dots and define the craziness they were subjected to. But for those who have had intimate relationships with a narcissist, for any length of time, it almost becomes an unsettling necessity to search for answers, and put the pieces together to restore their equilibrium, and unearth the reality of the absolute insanity that had become their normal existence.

This is what drives most former partners of narcissists to hit the Internet, and actively Google the WHY DID questions –for example: Why did my partner always think they were right? Why did my mother never apologize? Why did my spouse always give me the silent treatment? Why did my sibling always make me feel like I was to blame? Why did my perfect partner change?

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY ABOVE THE CLOUDS

Their Google search queries lead them to articles about narcissism, and narcissistic traits. Survivors voraciously ingest the massive amounts of information permeating the world-wide web. The descriptions are so eerily accurate, that if they didn’t know better, they would swear the articles were written about their relationship. The precision, in which the articles depict their relationships, from the golden beginnings right down to the horrid end –to a T, becomes the indisputable validation that precipitates the cloud of confusion to dissipate, allowing enlightenment to illuminate the truth of their situation, with profound clarity. No, narcissism is not limited to vanity, or arrogance, as they originally believed. It is so much more pathological and insidious than they could have ever imagined; and even worse, there is no cure.

Gradually, through their research, they realize that the narcissist never really loved them, or anyone for that matter, as narcissists are wholly incapable of love, and have a rather limited conscience, if not, lacking one altogether. Survivors slowly accept that the person they were in love with was just a façade, and never really existed. Finally, this awareness forces them to mourn the loss of three people, only amplifying, and adding to their grief. First, they must mourn the loss of the person they loved, who never really existed. Second, they must mourn the loss of the person they believed their narcissist had the potential to be. Third, they must mourn the loss of their identity, that had been eclipsed under the crushing weight of the imbalance, and inequity of their relationship.

THE LENSES OF AWARENESS

Terms they had never heard of before –like love-bombing, future faking, false-self, idealization, devaluation, projection, gaslighting, smear campaign, flying monkeys, cognitive dissonance, and triangulation— become part of the survivor’s regular vocabulary. Sadly, they become more adept at explaining the definitions of these terms than most mental health professionals, because they are not just terms learned through memorization, but rather words learned through painful, real-life experiences.

Their new-found vocabulary becomes powerfully liberating, as they finally offer a palpable term to explain the insanity that once was their reality, but that they were previously at a loss for words to describe. They grow so knowledgeable about the subject of narcissism, and traits of NPD; they deserve to earn honorary doctorate degrees in the subject.

The crazy-making conversations of the past start to make more sense through the new lenses of awareness. Survivors begin to finally be able to put the finger on, and pinpoint the emotional abuse they suffered, but failed to perceive was abuse at the time. The layers of blame, guilt, doubt, confusion, and uncertainty of their reality that had tormented them start to erode, as they recognize that the layers were deliberately, and deceptively, deposited onto them by their narcissist. This is the pivotal point, where recovery from narcissistic abuse begins.Without awareness, and education about narcissistic abuse, the chances that a survivor will end up in another abusive relationship are infinitely higher.

Emotional abuse is as devastating as any other kind of abuse. It’s intentional and malicious exploitation, and manipulation of the heart, soul, spirit, mind, and often the wallet of another human-being, cloaked in counterfeit expressions of love and concern.

 

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Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator, and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.

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Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved.

17 thoughts on “The 8 Most Common Narc-Sadistic Conversation Control Tactics

  1. Yes very true. That is why I find it best not to communicate with her at all. Although this is very hard with 3 children. But I find it essential for my sanity.

  2. I recall trying to talk and reach out regarding behaviour around me, but it seemed that the stories the others had told and the things they showed to the world were far likely to be believed and I got even more confused.

    it took a long time to realise that given the family I had grown up in and that for long still was part of my life mad eme prone to attract more people with similar traits and behaviour, making it for professionals hard to believe so many people in one person s life could really act as such, for sure I was making it up because did they not (add anything you like that sounds really nice and good and well intended)

    it wasn t til two years ago they themselves for once said in one split second – I was really hard on you – your sister always got a yes, never a no BUT …. – I had no clue you were indeed home alone after I…. –

    for a split second I felt maybe if they could see this truth I saw for so long just for that split second they would love me for real and change and and and

    but they did not. that split second was all they could give, a split second of recognition in a life time of lies,

    and then they continued to lie as they would remain who they had become

    it did give me the validation I needed for one to know I was not exaggerating, faking or a big problem that had to be taken care of.

    I can still hear their invalidating voices, and the stories they would tell others and that would come back to me in heavy reprimands to set me straight even tho it were lies and even if the lies were set straight it all had been just well somehing whatever was I stil dwelling on that, come on!

    it broke my heart.

    it broke my mind.

    It broke my soul.

  3. Every single thing you wrote is the truth – and it is mind boggling to me, that every search or blog I google, says the same thing and they DO fit my relationship to a “t'” . I found this information out 3 moths ago, a year and a half too late. Oh how I wish I knew this when I was going through it. I am over 100 days NC. I decided to stop counting once I hit 100 days. I am much stronger now that I do have the knowledge, but am now angry at myself as I saw is this and let it continue over and over, BUT I had no idea he was the sick one. And the sad or sick part is I think of him constantly, but the good part is it’s less and less of what I lost or the “good” now it’s more about how totally pathetic he is. This is will not break me, I’ve been down this road before, it never destroyed me as much as it did for almost 2 years, but I know enough, it’s time to bounce back, trust God completely, and forget about him and focus on all the good that is me. I did nothing wrong but fall in love with a person who lied to me – he has to live with that, and the hundreds of other woman he has and is doing that too.

    1. You said it perfect. I was with my man for going on 6 years and things just got worse and worse and I’m finally away. I’m 2 weeks out now. So hopefully I have enough strength. It’s amazing to see other people have went through the same crap and I’m not the only one out there.

  4. This article is “spot-on” in describing the experience with a Narcissist. Not only do they have a way of distorting your reality and causing you feel like you’re losing your sanity, THEY play the victim and somehow you become the abuser in the relationship.

  5. Thank you! This article succinctly describes my story from beginning to end. I am a survivor. I am a conqueror! It. Is. Done. Thank you!

  6. All so true in my marriage. I use to be so outgoing, bubbly, always having a smile on face until He took it all away from me. I felt everything is my fault, am going nuts, my marriage is falling apart because of me. Then realized it is him with illness out of control. Having 2 children I do what makes me happy when he is not around, dont engage in conversation and keep peace in family.

  7. I was on a roller coaster with my N for close to two years. I too am part of the Google search crowd, and am somewhat comforted while simultaneously disgusted that this is far more common in relationships. I spent so long trying to hold him together that I lost myself. It was not until he broke things off, again as he would do this to upset and punish me periodically, that I finally said no more. I am going through the detox period, learning how to detach from the cycles and free myself from this trap. I find it so challenging because I did love him, so very much. The problem was, I loved him more than myself, I allowed negativity and abuse to become my new state of ‘normal.’ Now, while each day is unique in how I feel, there is a common trend of overall relief. I have found an incredible therapist and have finally broken my silence by allowing my loved ones to know what happened. My N had me convinced that I should not talk to anyone about what was happening, which isolated me and only made the suffering worse. I have learned that the right people in my life will stand by me and do so genuinely and lovingly. While it may be one of the most difficult things you ever go through, believe that you will get through it and remember to be gentle with yourself.

  8. My mother and father both do all these things. I always wondered until about a year ago why they behaved this way. Then I discovered the subject of narcissism on accident. Do you think a lot of narcissist developed this behavior through relationships? Do you think that’s how they learned to use this type of abuse on their own children? It seems to me they cultivate narc tactics when dating and then use it on their innocent children.

    I’ve noticed that I self sabotage in order to draw myself into situations where I may have to ask my narc parents for help. I’ve stopped it but I catch myself being triggered to do it.

  9. It’s been 5 1/2 years of this back and fourth garbage. At least 6 times I can remember that he walked away from me and my children for what seemed to always be my fault! This has completely shattered me multiple times and yet I just couldn’t face it. The people in our lives “mostly thru me” All saw it. Over and over again! He didn’t have many people that we would engage with on a social level, but he shure had plenty “mostly women” that he would talk to, text with, and even drink or dine with. But hey, it was acceptable because it was him. I was the crazy one. I was the problematic one, I was the one with all the issues. YEAH RIGHT! Everyone loved him. The funny, smart, sweet, do anything for anyone guy. But behind closed doors when he would what I call “have one of his episodes” no matter big or small, there was always someone getting hurt. Verbally he was abuseive mostly to me when he would have one of his episodes. This was normally after he left. But on occasion I was able to beg him to stay and please with him to accept an apology from me most times I wasn’t even sure what I did. But hey, if it made him stay and
    Kept the peace in my home then I would apologize. It’s a never ending vicious cycle. You become the liar as to not make him upset, you become the one that feels like you must be the cause of all things wrong/bad. Even for just having a difference of opinion. I am realizing all of this more clearly this time and although it hurts that he’s gone, because unlike most of what I read, he was very attentive to my needs. Cooked, cleaned, shopped, always aimed to please first sexually, fix anything I needed , took the kids to sports, even helped coach, bought me a beautiful engagement ring and was just wonderful a lot of times. But it was almost as if I could see it coming this time. As if he was plotting the right time to leave verses dealing with an issues at home. He changed jobs multiple times, changed cars multiple times, and gofforbid if someone just didn’t like him. He couldn’t stand it. Would become depressed, would sleep for days and binge eat. He would then pick himself back up, get on the horse and start all over again. I could go on and on for days with all the things he’s done, times he left, things he’s said, and people who believe him to be one face when he’s actually multiple. Even his Best Friends! He says Nash stuff about their wives and then hugs that same friends wife as if he’s just the best guy in the world.
    Thank you for posting as this is going to be a very long ride for me..

  10. Really great article, Thankyou. Mine was a covert NPD, and I had no idea what I was dealing with. All of these were used, but interrupting was the most common one – especially after we separated. Just talked over the top of me every time. It was impossible to finish a sentence, or sustain a coherent train of thought!

  11. Every time I read an article on narcissist abuse, the traits they possess, and what they do to their targets, I think I’ve found the “best article I’ve ever read!” Well, this just surpassed them all as it speaks so clearly to the specifics of each and every diabolical situation a target faces as they try to reason with a narc.. As I read through your article, my mind kept screaming, “Oh my gosh, YES!” as I related to practically everything you wrote about. This article is so validating and it’s something we targets need to hear from someone else who “gets it” as so many do not. Although I now have a much better understanding about this personality disorder, I still find it absolutely mind boggling that this is such an unspoken topic to discuss among those who know the narc. It’s as if the narc is untouchable and can do whatever they want and it’s okay to look the other way, deny, and feel sorry for them, but if you mention their abuse, you are somehow the big problem. You’re hateful and bitter and causing conflict. It’s something I still cannot wrap my head around. That is why I blog as well. To heal and to speak about the injustice, and try to help others through my own personal experience. I feel for those who live with their narc and cannot go no contact. Mine didn’t live under my roof but still did a great deal of damage to the peace of our family, my marriage, as well as all of our emotional well-being. With each day, I am learning to move forward trying to forget the betrayal, the hateful vindictiveness, the no accountability, the smears, the verbal abuse, and the explosive rages we were subjected to as well as the family that protects the narc and sickeningly enables her behavior. I have to train my mind to understand this disorder and keep telling myself it was never about me and forgive myself for allowing myself to be treated like a doormat for so long as I complied (was the “supply”) for so long….until I finally learned what was happening. The moment we no longer supplied her needs, we were of no use to her and the punishment began. Thank you for sharing your insight!

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