Manipulate narcissist control

How Do Narcissists Control You?

Narcissists are self-absorbed. They often dominate conversations, manipulate their loved ones, and engage in deceptive behaviors for profit. You might try to steer clear of these disingenuous individuals, but you might also fall victim to their manipulation.

So, how do they accomplish this? How do narcissists control you? And how does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?

How Does a Narcissist Control you? 5 Manipulation Tactics

The best way to protect yourself from narcissistic behavior is to educate yourself — learn to identify their manipulation tactics, so you can steer clear or get out of their grasp. Here are 5 methods narcissists employ to control their targets:

1. They target codependents.

Narcissists often find success in controlling others because they target codependents. “Narcissists generally seek out those with codependency characteristics,” Relationship Expert Tom Gagliano explains. “The narcissist reinforces the codependent’s shortcomings where they are manipulated to believe everything is their fault or that they are responsible to fix any discomforts in the relationship. The partner becomes afraid of the narcissist to the point where they lose their sense of self by believing all of the narcissist’s distortions.”

2. They make you feel special.

These self-centered individuals also go out of their way to make others feel special—not because they genuinely value something about the individual but to manipulate them. “In their personal relationships, narcissists most often gain control over others by playing to a person’s (very understandable) desire to feel special and highly valued,” says Clinical Psychologist Forrest Talley. “The narcissist may say, for example, ‘Although I only just met you, it’s clear to me that you are exceptionally bright and capable. I have a very select group of people, much like yourself, that I like to keep in contact with… I want you to be part of that group. Just give me your phone number and I’ll add it to my secret black book.’ (Sound ridiculous? It is, but nevertheless, this is what one narcissist told me years ago… no, not a patient).”

3. They use shock, awe, and guilt.

Narcissists continue to gain control of the people in their lives by eliciting difficult emotions. “After going through a period of ‘grooming’ someone for a close relationship, the narcissist moves on to use shock, awe, and guilt to maintain control,” Talley explains. “The shock and awe come from the over-the-top, emotionally charged tantrums that erupt when the friend (spouse or lover) has done something that disappointed the narcissist. Most normal people find such dramatic reactions exhausting and strange, therefore, they begin to work hard to avoid a repeat performance.” 

4. They gaslight.

Narcissists are also commonly gaslighters as well, meaning that they are master manipulators. “Gaslighting is a tactic of narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths,” Christine Scott-Hudson, Licensed Psychotherapist, explains. “It is a manipulative behavior designed for self-gain, and even for sport. It is designed to weaken, trick, and destabilize the victim. Gaslighters will deny they said something or did something that you know they said or did. They move through the world dishonestly.”

5. They play hot and cold games.

Finally, narcissistic individuals are also known to play games. “One of the ways that narcissists try to control you is by playing manipulative hot and cold games,” says Adina Mahalli, Master Social Worker. “One week, they’ll flatter you to get you to do what they want, and the next week, they’ll use aggression. The negative moments are interspersed with positive ones so that you might not even realize that you’re being manipulated. The only way to defeat this is to be cautious of the flattery and positivity when it comes. Take every action with a grain of salt, and don’t let the love-bombing be a form of bribery towards you. Niceties shouldn’t be conditional.”

How Does a Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You?

As we mentioned before, if you’re aware of narcissistic behavior, you’re prepared to protect yourself from their manipulation. Others might fall victim to their behavior, then realize something isn’t right and wriggle free. In either case, the narcissist is going to be frustrated that they can’t control you and they’re most likely to react with anger — severe anger.

Many narcissists are self-absorbed as a result of their upbringing. It’s likely that the narcissists attempting to control you experienced control tactics themselves from their parents. Narcissistic parents dominate their kids’ lives, including their emotions. Not only does this model narcissistic behavior for their child, but it creates a yearning for control once they’re finally given a taste as they approach adulthood. Long story short, if they can’t control you or they lose control, they will feel threatened. And they’ll likely make threats of their own.

If you are threatened by a narcissist, verbally or physically, it’s time to set strict boundaries and end the relationship with the individual. Remember: Your health and well-being are on the line and that always takes priority.  

Narcissistic Personality Traits vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder

It’s important to recognize that there is a difference between narcissistic personality traits and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — especially due to the growing popularity of this topic in mainstream media.

Emily Simonian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks, explains: “In the mental health field, we use the diagnosis narcissistic personality disorder to clinically describe what most people think of as severe ‘narcissism,’ which includes narcissistic traits like a constant need for praise or admiration, having a sense of entitlement or a large sense of self-importance, in addition to others like patterns of having exploitative or manipulative relationships as well as a lack of empathy for others.”

To receive a diagnosis of NPD, one must meet specific criteria. “To have NPD, a person must have 5 of 9 traits listed for that diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, typically starting in early adulthood,” says Simonian. “And they will usually have trouble with their relationships across numerous facets of their lives — in friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, or at work.”

Additionally, it’s worth noting that people can have narcissistic traits without being narcissists. “Many people can have one or maybe even a few narcissistic traits, but that doesn’t mean they are a ‘narcissist,’” says Simonian.

8 Insidious Ways Narcissists Try to Control You

Source: Luboffke/Shutterstock

Narcissistic people use a range of covert and overt tactics to manipulate others.

As you read through the following list of eight devious tactics, you may wish to think of a narcissist in your life and identify if any of these tactics may have been used on you.


Narcissists have a habit of accusing others of doing what, in fact, the narcissist is doing. For example:

  • Narcissists who frequently lie will accuse you of being untrustworthy.
  • Unreliable narcissists will claim that you are undependable and have let them down.
  • Rageful narcissists will say that you’re the one who needs anger management.

Narcissists tend to be unaware of such hypocrisies. They accuse in an instant, then become convinced of their accusations. Projecting allows them to avoid responsibility for their dysfunctional behavior while putting others on the defensive.

Telling you your reality

Source: Northallertonman/Shutterstock

Many narcissists believe they have special insight into others and feel justified in naming others' reality. They may say things such as, "I know you better than you know yourself."

By labeling others' thoughts, feelings, and motivations, narcissists seek to gain an upper hand by making others doubt themselves.


Narcissists feel entitled to get what they want by any means necessary. As a result, they may endlessly badger others with demands, questions, and opinions.

They may pressure you to give immediate answers or make instant decisions. They repeat lies, as if doing so makes it true. They won’t listen to other viewpoints and may get furious at questions or dissent.

Narcissists often fail to recognize how much they offend others. If they do recognize it, they either don’t care or may even take delight in doing so. Narcissists have found that in many cases other people will become exhausted and give in. For them, that’s mission accomplished.


Narcissists may talk down to others or use a tone of voice that a parent might use with a child. They may treat others as possessing lesser intelligence or having fewer rights. Demeaning others makes narcissists feel superior.


Source: Ivelin Radkoff/Shutterstock

Narcissists systematically minimize anything that makes them look or feel bad. They make excuses for their bad behavior by blaming others. They may deny outright that they have done anything destructive. Narcissists know that minimizing and stonewalling is hard for others to fight.

Their minimizing reveals a double standard. When a narcissist insults or hurts another person, they hardly give it a second thought. But when a narcissist feels slighted, it can feel like the end of the world to them.

Going nuclear

Narcissists are generally not adept at containing their strongest impulses or feelings. They feel free to throw tantrums, call names, or make a scene. Their larger-than-life feelings and reactions make them feel powerful and discharge uncomfortable feelings or thoughts. Once again, it puts others on the defensive.


Narcissists carry enormous shame, though this shame is generally outside their awareness. As a result, they tend to discharge their unpleasant feelings on those around them.

They may question others’ legitimacy. They may chide others for a less-than-perfect performance or rub a failure in another’s face. They have a knack for knocking others down a peg. The result: They feel one-up. In addition, the recipients of their shaming may feel they have to defend or explain themselves, which often gives narcissists additional ammunition for more shaming.

Source: Studiostoks/Shutterstock


Narcissists love to be complimented and thus believe that others also eat up praise.

Sometimes they flatter as a way to induce you to respond in kind. They may try to stroke your ego to get something they want from you or to create dependency.

Or they may pour on false flattery to defuse any attempts by others to hold narcissists accountable for their negative behaviors.

Personality disorders are designed to hide or distract from an individual's greatest emotional and psychological vulnerabilities. Narcissists' most-dreaded experiences include feeling humiliated, inferior, or illegitimate.

These eight tactics are designed to protect narcissists from the experiences they fear by self-inflation, generally at others' expense. For example, narcissists tend to:

  • Play a win-lose game rather than seek win-win solutions
  • Seek superiority rather than equality
  • Value appearance more than substance
  • Convince others rather than be honest

When you deal with narcissists, observing from an arm’s length and knowing their true motivations may give you breathing room and lessen narcissists' negative influence on you.

Copyright © 2021 Dan Neuharth PhD MFT

A version of this post also appeared on

14 Manipulation and Control Techniques Narcissists Use


Man Among People Relationship Crisis

Narcissists distort reality by misinforming, oversimplifying, ridiculing and sowing doubts. Many of them are fluent in the classical techniques of mind manipulation. In order to resist this manipulation, it is important to think critically and recognize in time the methods by which they consciously or unconsciously distort reality. Family therapist Dan Newhart lists 14 of the most common manipulation and control tactics narcissists use.

1. Appeal to emotions

Narcissists try to get others to give in to emotions (fear, guilt) instead of thinking logically. By appealing to emotions, they try to pass off false statements as truth. Since they are generally inclined to throw tantrums and scandals, this turns out to be quite natural for them.


“How dare you argue with me! After everything I've done for you!"

2. Relying on "majority opinion"

They try to force others to comply because "everyone does it." Narcissists are well aware of the mob power phenomenon. For them, the number of “likes” on social networks and other indicators of popularity are incredibly important. A large number of subscribers, friends or followers helps them feel their own value. They use the power of groupthink and the pressure of the collective to their advantage, making it clear that anyone who goes against them risks being an outcast.


"By the way, all your friends agree with me."

3. Black and White Thinking

These people present the situation as if there are only two choices, view the world in terms of "yes" and "no". Subtleties and semitones are inaccessible to them. They operate on the principle of "Divide and Conquer".


"You are either with me or against me. "

4. Unsubstantiated claims

Narcissists believe that they do not need to prove their point of view, on the contrary, it is the opponents who will have to work hard to refute it. They also like to take credit for other people's accomplishments, but they don't want to take responsibility.


“I know for sure that I am right. This is true until proven otherwise.

5. Flattery and false compliments

Such people adore any compliments and are sure that others love them in the same way, and therefore they flatter them in order to convince them that they are right.


"I couldn't manipulate you anyway - you're too smart for that."

6. Distrust of the words of the interlocutor

Not understanding what the interlocutor is saying, narcissists often pretend that what is said is simply absurd and not worth discussing. In this way they try to brush aside well-founded objections.


“Do you really think other husbands are better than me? Do you think that other wives receive from their husbands even a small fraction of what I give you? You have no idea about the real world!”



Narcissists like to label people they don't like or ideas they don't agree with. In a word, they seem to humiliate the other and cross out everything he said. This gives them a sense of power.


“You always need something. You're just a loser."

8. False Compromises

They like to offer a "compromise" solution in situations in which one can do either right or wrong. “Compromise” then turns out to be just a lesser injustice.


“Okay, you won. I'll pay you back $50 of the $100 you borrowed, and we're even. It's better than nothing!"

9. Empty promises

Narcissists easily make promises without intending to keep them.


“Your turn will come. Promise".

10. Quotes taken out of context

These people often repeat what the interlocutor said, taking his words out of context and thus trying to discredit him and force him to justify himself.


"You always said that people should be responsible for themselves, so when the ambulance took you to the hospital, I thought you didn't need my help. "

11. Ridicule

With the help of ridicule, disparaging or sarcastic remarks, unkind humor, narcissists put others down, showing that they do not take them seriously.


“I've never heard anything stupider in my life. Do not embarrass yourself!"

12. Consequence Intimidation

Such people often try to present some minor problem as “the first step on a slippery slope” that will supposedly lead to catastrophic consequences in the future. This is done in order to divert the attention of the interlocutor from well-founded claims with the help of far-fetched threats.


“If I agree to help you, you will think that I am ready to do everything for you, and as a result, I will not live!”

13. Stigmatizing Opponents

Narcissists often label entire groups of people as inferior or dangerous to justify their discrimination or even destruction. The position “the end justifies the means” is natural for them, since they put most people below themselves.


“They are all bandits, drug dealers and rapists!”

14. Use of formulaic phrases

They love simple phrases that serve as a universal response to any criticism, threat or pressure.


“I am your last hope! You don't have anyone else!"

Learning to recognize the tricks that narcissists use is the first step to setting healthy boundaries that prevent you from being manipulated.

Text: Nikolai Protsenko Photo Source: Getty Images

New on the site

“An adult son lives at our expense, he spends all his money on girls. How can I help him grow up?

How to measure the soul, trauma and stress: all about evidence-based psychotherapy

How not to become addicted to a smartphone: set reasonable limits for yourself

How to clean up your house: 5 simple rules - get rid of unnecessary things

“I want to be loved by a guy whom I myself do not like. What is the reason?"

“Twisting to survive with a child, and the husband does not even try to earn money for the family”

“A week-long sex marathon saved my marriage”: a personal story - try it with a partner analytics

90,000 unpredictable rules of the game: why do the daffodils love to control everything


Crisis of Relations and Women Projectics How

ELECTIONAL Rules 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 9000 Otherwise, we would have immediately realized how absurd and impracticable their demands are. However, they always punish for violations: for example, they scold, ignore, push away, cause guilt.

As a result, the loved one tries to “guess” the rules in advance so as not to upset the loved one. He begins to "walk on tiptoe" in communication with him, smoothing out all the sharp corners. This behavior can lead to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Total control

For example, a partner is unhappy that you dress too defiantly or, on the contrary, too modestly. He scolds you for sweatpants or flip flops or anything else, like wearing blue clothes.

The narcissist may even control your diet, for example by asking accusingly, "Why are you eating this?" He may not like the way you walk, talk, allocate time. He wants to control your entire life to the smallest detail.

Eternal change

“I have heard many stories about the different rules that narcissists set for loved ones. Do not go without shoes, do not wipe your wet hands on your pants. Don't text, just call. Don't eat sugar, eat a piece of cake. You should never be the first to visit. Never be late. Always arrive five minutes early. Never take a credit card, only a debit card. Always take only a credit card,” says psychotherapist Shari Stynes.

Oddly enough, narcissists are predictable in their waywardness and fickleness. In the behavior of each of them, certain patterns are repeated. One of these patterns is the unpredictability of rules that change all the time.

Causes of the lust for power

1. Arrogance

Narcissists consider themselves superior to others and are sure that they know better than you, “how to”. That is why they believe that they have the right to set some rules for others. Only a very narcissistic person thinks that everyone around him should obey his arbitrary demands.

2. Self-affirmation

The narcissist seeks to portray the victim (partner, child, colleague) as a "bad" person. From his point of view, he becomes "bad" by breaking his rules. He needs to feel like a victim and show that he has every right to punish you.

How to deal with a narcissist

“If someone close to you is a narcissist and you are desperately trying to please him so as not to provoke a conflict, I can only give one piece of advice: stop. Set your own rules and follow them. Let this person arrange scandals, fall into a rage, try to manipulate you. It's his business. Take back control of your own life and don't give in to manipulation attempts," Shari Stynes ​​sums up.

Joseph Burgo "Beware the Narcissist! How to deal with these narcissistic types

Egocentrics, all thoughts of which are focused only on themselves - that's what narcissists are. What to do if such a person turned out to be your relative, boss, friend or partner? The author of the book talks about the rules of behavior with narcissists of any type: moralists, avengers, provocateurs and many others.

Learn more