5 Manipulative Tactics Used by Narcissistic Abusers


1. Self-Promoting

The narcissistic abuser is a serial self-promoter, taking every opportunity to mention their successes, positive characteristics, favorable associations, and future goals. They volunteer information about themselves even if that information isn’t relevant to the conversation.

They might seek out positions of power thinking it will provide the food they need to satisfy their hunger for legitimacy and meaning. They begin to see people as objects to be manipulated, shaped, and molded to fit their own self-serving agenda.

A key attribute of this kind of self-promotion is deception. You’ll discover that their claims are increasingly grandiose and not always truthful.

2. Charming

Narcissistic abusers might use charm to ingratiate themselves to others. Flattery, favors, and alliances are used to coerce others into liking and trusting the charmer. Flattery focuses your attention on your real, fabricated, or exaggerated positive characteristics—and distracts from the true desires or agendas behind the compliment.

A common type of flattery is exemplification in which the other person claims you are exemplary in some way: “the best,” “the brightest,” “the hardest working,” and so on. That might be true, but for the narcissistic abuser, these words are thrown around like bait hoping unsuspecting people will be endeared to them by such language.

Favors—such as gifts or offers of help—when used by abusers, can put you in a position where you feel indebted and obligated to the other person. Sometimes this help goes beyond what is necessary and is overly intrusive. The narcissistic abuser might later insist that you comply with their demands on the basis of past favors they’ve done for you.

The abuser creates and exploits alliances between you and the abuser. They might seek out areas of agreement or shared experiences as a way of binding themselves to you for the sake of control.

Part of what’s so disorienting and disillusioning about abuse is the realization that the niceness you once enjoyed and appreciated was actually a deception intended to harm you.

One way to think about these first two tactics is that the first tactic uses deception to promote the abuser whereas the second tactic uses deception to promote you. Both are designed to draw a targeted person into a trap.

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