Manipulating a narcissist has a lot of parallels with the Grimm Brothers’ Beauty and the Beast.
Belle becomes trapped with an unimaginable creature and uses her wits while remaining true to herself.
A narcissistic relationship is similar; only the prince turns into the beast, there is no happily ever after, and the locked castle could be your own home.
Narcissistic victims are also prone to Stockholm syndrome due to the trauma bonding that happens.
You can break those bonds without breaking your belief system.
What Is The Best Way to Outsmart a Narcissist?
Before you can know how to get a narcissist to do what you want, you have to understand the complexities of narcissism.
People diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have an inflated ego and superior sense of self-importance. They thrive off the narcissistic supply they get from people who can’t see through their masks.
Whether you’re trapped at a dinner party right next to a narcissist or stuck in a two-year relationship with one, the best way to manipulate is to keep the supply flowing.
- Providing supply keeps you in their good graces.
- Understand the supply runs out quickly and will require more fuel from you.
- Never try to turn the attention toward you.
Why Would You Need to Manipulate a Narcissist?
You need to learn how to manipulate a narcissist for the same reason you can’t try to drown a fish—you are dealing with a different kind of creature who isn’t vulnerable to standard manipulation tactics.
Narcissists believe they are gods among mortals and have mastered their art of manipulation.
Narcissists see people as tools to support their grandiosity. They cannot feel emotions and have no guilt trigger.
If you threaten their ego (which happens to be very fragile), you could suffer the consequences in some negative ways.
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Reputation attacks
- Turning family and friends against you
- Stealing from you
- Emotionally wrecking you for years to come
There’s a fine line between manipulating a narcissist and fighting fire with fire. Your goal of narcissistic manipulation is to come out of it as unscathed as possible.
You are not trying to hurt them. You are trying to save yourself.
How to Manipulate a Narcissist: 13 Tactics That Won’t Compromise Your Integrity
By the time you start searching for the escape hatch, you’ve likely done several things wrong along the way.
Since you can experience emotions and guilt, stooping to their level will always leave a bad taste in your mouth. You can handle the situation with grace, and you can be in control.
1. Get Your Head (and Heart) Straight
You aren’t so much trying to manipulate as you are trying to control the outcome. Let go of any belief you can change or fix them.
The ingrained behavior is so challenging that even trained psychiatrists spend up to a decade trying to treat the disorder (since it can’t be cured). Yet, therapy requires honesty and vulnerability – two things a narcissist rarely offers.
Own up to the fact you will not be the one to cure narcissistic personality disorder, even though you are still a fabulous human being.
2. Get Boundaries Set Ahead of Time
Narcissists know how to push all of your buttons, so part of your game plan should be establishing boundaries. This is more for yourself than the narcissist.
Like a boxer preparing for eight rounds, be ready to take passive-aggressive hits without reacting while listening to the narcissist’s delusions of grandeur. If you feel your emotional walls slipping, mentally envision them going right back up.
3. Get Familiar with the Exit Strategies
In any interaction with a narcissist, there will be a time you need a break. If you don’t plan ahead of time, the narcissistic could assume you’re leaving for someone or something better, and there IS nothing better than them, RIGHT?
Strategies can include, “I see you finished your drink; I’ll go get another for both of us.” You are making an escape while still making them a perceived priority.
At home, you could say, “I know how much you liked that Moulton chocolate cake at the dinner the other night, and I have a recipe I’m going to make for you.” Bonus if they like a dessert or dish that takes a long time to make so that you can get some space.
NOTE: Be prepared for them to critique the dish and don’t react. Just accept feedback.
4. Get Real with Compliments
You rarely feel the need to tell a narcissist how great they are since they already know, but you also should celebrate the positive things they do.
Positive reinforcement and celebration of successes can build a greater sense of self while showing that you support their careers or hobbies.
Everyone is good at something, and you should earnestly support anyone – even a narcissist – when they do something well.
5. Get Ready to Listen
We’re superb at this already, whether it’s listening to our drama queen friend or our cynical sister. When the narcissist is frustrated, just be a sounding board for them.
Don’t cross your arms, roll your eyes, or indicate outrage. Instead of offering solutions, just offer support.
- “You have every right to feel the way you do.”
- “You must feel really angry about that.”
- “You should not have to be this upset about colleagues when you work so hard.”
- “Your mother is always so hard on you.”
6. Get Rid of “Ifs” and “Buts”
Normal people want to hear solutions and constructive criticism. Narcissists aren’t normal. If you point out any flaw, misspeak, or poor behavior, you aren’t giving them supply. This can trigger outrage or irritation.
Resist the temptation to tell them, “if they only stopped yelling,” or “but you always get that way when you drink,” or they will notice you’re pointing out they did something wrong. In their mind, it’s always the other person to blame.
7. Get Your Heart Rate Steady
Use breathing techniques to keep your heart rate from increasing when a narcissist comes at you. Even the best suppliers will never be enough, so the narcissist will do whatever it takes to get you mad, upset, or embarrassed.
The secret about supply is that any type of supply is good. They don’t just want attention – they want to know they control your emotions.
If you keep a flat emotional affect to anything they say, they might get mad enough to leave (for a short time or for good) since they need another supply.
More Related Articles
8. Get Protective of Deep Conversations
Narcissists feign interest in people and mirror the other person’s behavior to create a connection. When we feel like we’re jibing with someone, we’re more prone to share family details, secrets, and past traumas.
A narcissist will inevitably use this against you, so keep your deep conversations conservative.
You don’t have to lie about a great upbringing if you experienced challenges, but you don’t need to share the time you ran away and the police found you at the park.
9. Get Rid of Diagnoses Discussions
In a world filled with personality acronyms and Googled health issues, it’s tempting to say, “Hey, do you realize you have seven of the nine narcissistic personality disorder traits?”
As much as your doctor is a health expert and doesn’t need to be told your opinion on the diagnoses, a narcissist doesn’t need to be told anything is wrong. They are above mere mortal human standards, remember?
When you call a narcissist out, you are trying to shatter their facade. That will prompt narcissistic rage, gaslighting, and silent treatments. You can only use the information to strategize secretly.
10. Get Rid of Expectations
If you pay for one meal, don’t expect them to pay for the next one. If you get them a fancy coffee every day, don’t assume they even know your favorite brew.
Stay true to your kind nature, but just do it from a generous space that makes you feel good without expecting generosity back. If you let go of the expectation, you’re also pre-releasing guilt, anger, and disappointment that is sure to follow.
11. Get Help Privately
Dealing with a narcissist is a delicate balance; only a trained therapist can help. If you talk negatively about the narcissist to friends or family, it will likely get back to them.
Loved ones can also offer guidance to deal with a normal person and might not understand the complexities of a narcissist.
Private therapy sessions can help you cope and maneuver your way out of the relationship without the typical emotional shrapnel.
12. Create a Visualization of the Narcissist
Some of the most infamous narcissists in history are Hitler, Ted Bundy, and Bernie Madoff. Narcissism is a hop, skip, and jump to a sociopath.
When they hurt us, we can see a monster getting more mangled and disfigured before our eyes.
Train yourself to see the monster as it really is – a weak, spineless, emotionless creature who will never truly experience love or intimacy. Create a vision of a pathetic creature, weak and gasping for air.
Since you’ve got those strong boundaries (see #2), you’ll avoid feeling bad for them while being better able to offer their much-needed sympathy and support.
13. Get Them Where They are Already Going
Narcissists have a three-step cycle.
- Idealization: They build up a fantasy of who they are and who is around them. This includes love bombing the supply target (you).
- Devalue: They slowly break down the person’s self-esteem, isolate them, and make them dependent on the narcissist.
- Discard: When the supply runs out, or the gig is up, a narcissist will get rid of a person, either in a blaze of glory or by disappearing off the face of the earth.
Since you know the discard is coming, lean into it. You must be careful without prompting aggression or outrage. Agree with them when they say you aren’t a good fit for them. Don’t seek closure. Let them go.
At this point, you might be asking, “Am I enabling a narcissist by doing these things?” and that’s a valid question.
Remember, you are using these maneuvers to disengage safely from narcissistic rage or the narcissist altogether. You are not making a long-term solution to keep them in your life.
If the narcissist is a parent, child, or colleague you can’t avoid, you are learning tactics to save your sanity and good name. In this case, you can definitely hate the player (the narcissistic) but still play the game.