10 manipulative tricks narcissists use to control their victims

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is emotionally draining. You’re drawn to your partner but at the same time you’re confused by their actions and you’re questioning yourself. 

Simply put, a narcissist is an extremely self-centered person who exploits others to get what they want.

Narcissists tend to think very highly of themselves, they have an overwhelming need for power and control, and they enjoy being seen as “the perfect person”.

They are usually also very likable and charming.

The truth is, beneath their arrogant exterior, narcissists are emotionally wounded people who may manipulate others to get the constant validation they crave.  

A romantic relationship with a narcissist can wreak havoc on your mental health.

So why do we fall for them?

Psychologists say narcissists are master manipulators who are very skilled at using a variety of tricks to charm people into trusting them, leading you into a whirlwind of emotional abuse. 

I did some research and found these 10 manipulative tricks that narcissists use to control their victims.

 Let’s jump in.

1) Intentional mirroring

The first trick a narcissist could use is intentional mirroring. This is when someone mimics you to create a false sense of connection.

Let me explain.

When you’re talking to someone and that person nods, smiles, or frowns, you will likely do the same. This subconscious mirroring is a natural part of human interaction.

Narcissists use mirroring consciously to win you over. 

Intentional mirroring may look like:

  • They have the same interests, hobbies, and opinions as you
  • They agree with everything you say

2) Love bombing

Here’s the thing, intentional mirroring works because it can make you feel like you have so much in common with the narcissist. Trapping you into trusting them or even believing that they are your perfect match.

What’s likely to follow is a period of love bombing. This is when they make you feel intoxicatingly good. 

They may shower you excessively with gifts, attention, and frequent text messages. 

This makes you feel more obliged to comply with their wishes. 

3) Excessive flattery 

While we’re on the love bombing topic…

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re being love-bombed is to listen to how they compliment you.

If you’re hearing things like “You’re so much better than my ex” or “You’ve changed my life” … Raise your antennas.

Excessive praise is a seductive tool that narcissists use to maintain power and control.

This is probably why you may not notice when they manipulate you into spending all your time with them…

4) Isolating you from those who care

We all know this feeling. When your relationship is new, all you want to do is spend time with your boo.

This may seem cute at first but be careful. Isolation is a dangerous tactic that narcissists use to shut out friends and family who may notice their toxic ways.

Isolation can be such a subtle and gradual process that you may not even see how your partner is controlling you.  

This brings me to my next point.

5) Guilt tripping

Picture this: You manage to fight the urge to spend yet another weekend with your partner and agree to have lunch with your friend who hasn’t seen you in forever.

You text your partner to let them know and they respond with:

“I thought we were going to spend time together.”

You ask your friend for a rain check because you don’t want to disappoint your partner.

Guilt tripping is one of the oldest manipulation tricks in the book.

6) Giving you the silent treatment

Now, let’s say you ignore the guilt trip and decide to go and have lunch with your friend anyway. Your partner is not going to be happy, and they may punish you with the silent treatment, withdrawing from you completely. 

You are left confused. Just the other day you were the center of their world, now they won’t even look at you.

You desperately want to fix things and you are willing to do anything and everything. The narcissist is back in control.

7) Playing the victim

When they finally decide to talk to you again, they may blame you for “messing things up”.

Narcissists tend to have a strong sense of entitlement so they may feel that they are inherently deserving of all your time.

They may genuinely believe that you did something wrong by going out with your friend.

They may even get you to believe that too by playing the victim.  

The manipulation doesn’t end there. 

8) Inducing jealousy 

Narcissistic partners need to be reassured – constantly.  Going out with your friend may have made them feel rejected and insecure about their position in your life.

That’s why they may purposefully do things to make you feel jealous, to regain a sense of power. 

Remember, narcissists tend to have low self-esteem, so seeing you act insecure because you’re afraid of losing them, boosts their ego and gives them the validation they need.  

9) Denying your reality

Now, let’s say you confront your partner about them doing things to make you jealous.

They may call you crazy and irrational. In other words, gaslight you.

This is a manipulative tactic to make you doubt yourself and question your sanity.

Gaslighting may also sound like:

  • “You’re overreacting”
  • “You need help”

This shifts the focus from the narcissist’s actions to your credibility.

But what if the evidence of their bad behavior is clear for both of you to see?

Then, they may blame you for it.

10) Blame shifting

Here’s an example: You’ve caught them flirting with someone else or cheating.

There’s no denying it.

They may shift the blame onto you by saying something like:

“I cheated because you’re never around to spend time with me.”  

The focus then moves from their bad behavior to you not spending enough time with him. 

Once they realize that blame shifting works on you, they will do it repeatedly, destroying your mental health in the process.

In conclusion…

It can be hard to see manipulation for what it is. Especially when you believe you’ve met your perfect match who is so likable and charming. You may even start doubting yourself and think that maybe you are the problem.

Remember, this confusion may be part of the manipulation.

Trust your instincts, if you feel like something is not right in your relationship and you notice some of these tricks at play, you may be under the control of a narcissist.

Picture of Nandipha Whitney Ncube

Nandipha Whitney Ncube

Nandipha is a South African writer based in Dubai. She spent a decade working as a journalist. Longing for stronger relationships and deeper connections, she has dedicated herself to a journey of self-discovery, seeking experiences that bring her closer to living an authentic life. She enjoys writing about what she’s learned. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, spending time with her family, or exploring the dynamic city of Dubai.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.