15 phrases narcissists use to manipulate people around them

Narcissism is one of those terms that have entered pop culture as everyone’s favorite way to describe somebody vain or arrogant.

But true narcissism is a serious personality disorder that gives people a delusional sense of self-worth and results in them lacking empathy.

Narcissists are highly manipulative people who use every tool at their disposal to get what they want – usually validation from others.

And narcissists are usually very good at hiding their true nature – at least at first.

On the other hand, there are some phrases that can tip you off that you’re dealing with a narcissist.

Here’s a rundown:

1) “We are perfect for each other.”

When a narcissist starts a new relationship, they often engage in a behavior called love bombing.

This means they shower their target with compliments and praise. It also means narcissists have a tendency to jump headfirst into new relationships, often going for relationship milestones like moving in together earlier than other people would.

“We are perfect for each other” is a phrase you may hear at the start of a relationship with a narcissist when they’re still love-bombing you. But ultimately, everything a narcissist says or does is for their own gain.

Narcissists want you to fall for them, so they will pretend that it’s the two of you versus the world and that you are soul mates.

The bad news is, it’s just one of many ways they manipulate you to get you to do what they want.

2) “You’re overreacting!”

Narcissists are experts at making you question your own reality. They do this through a process called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a system of lies and mistruths designed to make the listener doubt themselves. It can take many different forms, and one of the first to show up can be recognized by this phrase.

A narcissist will tell you that you’re overreacting to their bad behavior, and will pretend that your reactions to the things they do are out of proportion. 

The goal is to get you to question yourself and believe whatever the narcissist says.

3) “All my exes were crazy.”

This statement is a red flag at the start of any relationship.

Here’s why:

Many people have horror stories of a particular ex-partner. They may even have two or three if they have been particularly unlucky in love.

But if somebody says that all their exes were crazy, it’s a sure sign that the real common denominator of problems in the relationship is them.

Narcissists refuse to accept responsibility for anything that happens. So they will blame the string of broken relationships behind them on everyone but themselves.

If a person says that all their ex-partners were crazy, it doesn’t mean they are narcissists. But it does mean they lack self-reflection and are quick to blame others.

And with a narcissist, it’s only a matter of time before they tell you…

4) “You’re crazy!”

As narcissistic gaslighting continues, a narcissist will try to convince you that you have issues with mental illness.

The end goal of the narcissist who tells you you’re crazy is to get you to doubt your own reactions and instead trust them. That means they can get away with manipulative and destructive behavior without you calling them out on it.

Think about it: if you can’t trust yourself and your sanity, how can you stand up to narcissistic manipulation?

5) “You made me get angry.”

phrases to erase from your vocab for healthier relationships 1 15 phrases narcissists use to manipulate people around them

This is a classic thing narcissists say, and it’s a bad sign in any relationship.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own emotions. Emotionally mature people know this and take responsibility for their emotional reactions.

But narcissists don’t accept responsibility for anything.

The narcissist will blame you for their bad behavior, whether it’s lying, cheating, or even verbal or physical abuse.

But remember: the only person’s actions you are responsible for is you.

6) “You’re jealous.”

To a narcissist, people are just a means to an end. A narcissist has no qualms about using other people for sex, affection, money, or anything else they need.

Narcissists cheat more readily than other people. But even if they are not cheating, they like to keep others on the back burner so they always have somewhere to turn for their next narcissistic supply. That means they often form inappropriate friendships with other people outside of your relationship.

By now, you’ve probably noticed a familiar pattern to narcissistic behavior. If so, you won’t be surprised to hear that narcissists often turn things around on you when confronted.

They will say that you are jealous, and that there’s nothing wrong with what they are doing.

You’ll also often hear…

7) “They are just a friend.”

A narcissist doesn’t have any true friends. Instead, they have people they think they can use to get what they want.

That’s why they often have inappropriate relationships with people they can use for more attention, money, sex, or whatever else they are after.

Confront a narcissist about these inappropriate relationships, and they will tell you, “They are just a friend.” But in fact, what they are is just another victim of the narcissist’s manipulation.

8) “You need to toughen up.”

This is another form of gaslighting.

Tell a narcissist that their behavior is upsetting you, and they may tell you something like, “You need to toughen up.”

It’s another way of blaming you for your reaction to their poor behavior.

9) “You’re selfish!”

No one is more selfish than a narcissist. But often, a narcissist will project their bad behavior onto you.

If you try to communicate to narcissists what you need from them and your relationship, there’s a good chance they will tell you you’re selfish.

But here’s the thing: really communicating your needs and desires in a relationship is anything but selfish. And if somebody tells you that it is, that’s a bad sign that they may be trying to manipulate you.

10) “You’ll never find someone like me.”

When a narcissist tells you something like this, the goal is to destroy your self-esteem and make you more easily manipulated.

As your relationship with the narcissist advances, the lovebombing will stop and will instead be replaced by cruel remarks and putdowns.

This remark is a classic from the narcissist playbook, as it plays on people’s insecurities and fears about being alone. 

It’s a way for narcissists to keep you in a relationship you shouldn’t be in by making you think you have no other option.

11) “No one will ever love you like I do.”

emotionally immature people sabotage their relationships 15 phrases narcissists use to manipulate people around them

This is another classic narcissist phrase to destroy your self-worth.

Simply put, this is the phrase of an abusive partner trying to get you to believe you can’t leave them because you’ll never find anything better.

The thing is, when you’re dealing with a narcissist, the opposite is true. This is a person who is incapable of really loving you. And almost any relationship – or no relationship at all – is better than being with someone like that.

12) “You’re lying!”

This phrase is another classic example of narcissistic projection.

Narcissists lie all the time. They lie to get what they want, to convince you that your perception of reality is wrong, and even just for fun.

At the same time, they will often accuse you of lying when you are not.

No wonder narcissistic abuse can be so damaging.

13) “It’s your fault.”

Narcissists are literally incapable of feeling guilt or shame. In the world of a narcissist, nothing is ever their fault.

But it must be somebody’s. So maybe it’s yours.

A narcissist will blame you for everything from your behavior to their reaction to your behavior to things that have nothing to do with you at all.

If your partner blames you for everything that’s wrong in their life, it’s a good sign you may be dealing with a narcissistic personality.

14) “I’m not trying to control you.”

This is one of the biggest lies a narcissist will tell you.

Almost everything a narcissist does is intended to help them control you. And when you call them out on their controlling behavior, they won’t hesitate to lie and use this phrase, or one like it.

And often, the controlling behavior of a narcissist leads them to say things like…

15) “I don’t want you spending time with them.”

One of the main ways narcissists try to control their partners is by dictating who you can and can’t spend time with.

Be very wary of anyone who tries to tell you which of your friends or family members you can see. This is a very common behavior among narcissists to prevent you from getting the emotional support you need to break free of their manipulative games.

Signs of a narcissist

Narcissists are experts at hiding their dark side, especially at the start of a relationship. However, certain behavior can tip you off to someone who may have a narcissistic side to their personality or even full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

These behaviors include:

  • impulsiveness
  • fixation with appearance
  • love bombing
  • lying
  • gaslighting
  • refusing to accept responsibility

The phrases in this list are warning signs of people with narcissistic traits. If you hear someone you’re in a relationship with use them, tread carefully, because you may be dealing with a narcissist.

Be careful out there!

Picture of Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions.

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