7 phrases narcissists use to gaslight and confuse their victims

If you’ve ever been friends or have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you’ll know that they tend to think themselves better than everyone else.

Their lack of empathy and inflated ego causes them to take advantage of people whom they manipulate into trusting them. 

They’re able to gaslight their victims into staying with them, causing them to question their reality and eventually, causing their mental health to deteriorate.

If you think you’re in a similar situation, this article will explore 7 common phrases narcissists use to maintain control.

1) “You’re crazy”

This is a classic one.

Narcissists often say this in response to an accusation, when they’re clearly in the wrong. Rather than take accountability for the hurt they have caused or a mistake they have made, they’d rather make the other person sound like they’re making things up.

Usually, the other person may be manipulated into thinking that they’re the one at fault, and start to doubt what actually happened. They may even end up apologizing and accepting that they’re the ones blowing the situation out of proportion.

It’s an aggressive way to paint their victim in a negative light and question their ability to think rationally.

This isn’t exclusive to people in relationships, it could also come from someone you trust and admire, like your family members, or even colleagues and bosses in the workplace.

2) “You’re lucky to have me around”

Narcissists thrive on control. They use this phrase to convince you that you’re unable to do better without them, or with someone else. When you have second thoughts about staying in the relationship, they will gaslight you into thinking that you need them.

And this reinforces their control over your thoughts and decisions – even the way you perceive yourself. They emphasize their superiority in the relationship.

This could cause you to doubt your self-worth and abilities, and you may find yourself leaning or depending more on them. If this goes on long enough, you may lose yourself in the relationship and fully accept that you’re better with them.

Even when the people around you start warning you about that person, you may find yourself defending them and justifying their behavior. 

3) “I never did that”

The common tactic of a narcissist in a confrontation is to deny, deny, and deny.

And they’ll do it so convincingly – even when there’s proof to the contrary – that you’ll start to doubt yourself

They’ll look at the evidence or proof and justify their behavior, making it look like they either didn’t mean to do it or that you’re the one trying to find fault with them.

They not only deny what they did, they end up making you look like the bad guy for accusing them of something they didn’t do.

Naturally, you’ll start to feel guilty for assuming the worst of them (and this is what they want!) and start doubting what actually happened. Instead of them apologizing for what they did, you may be the one apologizing at the end of the conversation.

And if this keeps happening, they’ll just keep getting bolder in hurting you.

Instead of confronting them, you’ll think twice before bringing it up. You’ll immediately put the blame on yourself for whatever happened. 

4) “You must be imagining things”

Have you ever confronted them (your narcissistic partner, friend, or family member) with the intention of receiving an explanation or apology for their negative behavior – only to leave the conversation convinced that you imagined the whole thing?

They love playing mind games. They get a kick out of manipulating you.

Undermining the other person’s memory is a common tactic gaslighters use, and because they do it so convincingly and confidently, they’ll end up looking like the innocent party.

Because of this, they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. They can just continue with their behavior since they know they can get out of it.

You’ll end up feeling guilt, and shame but unable to address these as in this relationship or friendship, your feelings are never validated.

5) “I’m doing this for your own good”

This usually comes after you tell them that what they did made you uncomfortable, or that you simply didn’t like what they did.

Rather than addressing your discomfort, narcissists will have you convinced that what they did was to your benefit.

They use this to justify their controlling behavior and make you question your own judgment.

They may even apologize for making you feel that way but will convince you that they had to do what they did. This could sound like:

  • ‘I’m doing this because I love you’;
  • ‘You know that I will never hurt you on purpose’;
  • ‘I’m sorry that you feel this way, but this is for your own good’.

These may sound like things that you want to hear – and they know it.

Unfortunately, they don’t mean it.

It’s just a way for them to escape the consequences of their wrongdoing.

By minimizing your thoughts and feelings, they assert their beliefs onto you. You’ll start to question your beliefs, and values and may even think that what you held on to all these years, was wrong.

6) “You’re so ungrateful”

This is another classic gaslighting phrase. It manipulates you into thinking that you should be thankful for their presence – no matter what they did to you.

You may start putting them on a pedestal and believe that they can do no wrong. 

When others point out the (at times, obvious) signs that this relationship or friendship isn’t good for you, you’ll disagree and side with your partner, or friend.

You may even identify behaviors that are outright wrong, hurtful, and disappointing. But because of the hold they have on you, you’ll question your judgment. 

7) “You’re being sensitive”

I’ll end this list with one of the most toxic phrases narcissists use.

They use this to downplay your concerns, invalidate your feelings, and again, make you appear like the bad guy.

As you question yourself, you may find yourself agreeing that you’re the sensitive one. That you’re the one who’s unable to take a joke, or the one that’s overreacting.

You may start telling yourself that you need to ‘toughen up’, that they didn’t mean what they said or did.

But this will only embolden them to inflict more hurt on you. 

Conclusion

If you found some or all of these phrases familiar, or that you’ve also experienced this in your current relationships with friends, family members, or partners, it’s likely that you’ve been putting up with a narcissist.

You may have suspected it but pushed the thought away because they have successfully manipulated you this whole time.

If you’ve confronted them and given them multiple chances to change, but they continue with their hurtful behavior, consider seeking help. 

Remember that whatever happened isn’t your fault.

The first step you need to take is the biggest one: to recognize that staying with them will only hurt you more.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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