Narcissists are dangerous to those around them. They have inflated egos, lack empathy, and know how to manipulate people and get what they want. It can be hard to know if you’re actually being manipulated by a narcissist though.
The tactics they use may be hard to detect, and they often break down your self-esteem and self-trust to the point where you can’t trust your own instincts or judgement.
The manipulation often starts slowly, like cold water heating up to a boil. You may not even start to question if the water is getting hot until it’s too late and you’re starting to simmer.
Narcissists thrive on control and they manipulate relationships to ensure they have and maintain control the whole time. Despite having a personality disorder, they are extremely good at what they do and even the most diligent people can fall victim.
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of being manipulated so you can hopefully spot it early on and avoid long-term turmoil. Here are 6 subtle signs a narcissist is manipulating you:
1. They’re overly aggressive.
They may use physical aggression to express their anger. It could start at small and subtle, like a gentle shove, a soft hit, or a small kick. They may even do something as simple as hold your wrist while you’re trying to walk away, and refuse to let you go.
They may direct their physical aggression to the house, pet, or environment. They might shatter a plate, punch the wall, or kick the dog.
If things have gone on for long, the physical aggression may escalate and leave you fearful. Even if they never truly “hurt” you, they can use your fear to control you.
2. They put you down.
While they may act like they support you and want to lift you up, they’ll slowly start to incorporate negative comments that put you down.
If you got a promotion at work, they may say something like, “Oh, with how long you’ve been at the company I thought you’d be above that already.” Or, if you worked hard to lose 10lbs, they may say, “Wow, how much do you have to lose until it’s noticeable?”
The comments may be subtle and not downright negative, but they’ll slowly diminish your self-worth.
Nothing you do is “right” or worth celebrating in their eyes.
3. They pin others against you.
If you’re having an argument or even slight disagreement about details in a story or something miniscule, they’ll convince someone else that they’re right and use that person to gain up on you, especially in public settings.
When out with friends, they’ll make sure everyone is on “their” side, always justifying their behavior and making you the “bad” guy.
4. They pinpoint your insecurities.
They know your insecurities and they use them against you, but in subtle ways.
If you’re insecure about your stomach fat and ask, “Does this dress make me look fat?” They might reply, “No, it hides your belly pretty well.” This reply is targeting your insecurity, but they can innocently play it off as answering your question.
They give a lot of backhanded compliments that dig at your insecurities and constantly bring you back to them.
5. They focus all conversations on themselves.
If you try to talk about something with them, they always turn the conversation back on themself.
If you’re seeking advice, an opinion, or just want to share a story, they cut you off with their story or thoughts, without listening to what you have to say.
In the beginning, they may do this less frequently or obviously, but if you’re not feeling heard or seen, it may be happening subtly.
6. They always play victim and everything is your fault.
They can’t do anything wrong, and even when they do something wrong, it’s your fault.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and you go through their phone and see they’re cheating on you, if you call them out, they’ll blame it on you for not trusting them and for going through their phone.
If your mom is a narcissist and is not giving you enough space and you ask for space, she’ll say it’s your fault for pushing her away.
They are expert victim-blamers and it’s psychologically draining and extremely confusing to be the victim.
Breaking free from manipulation.
If you think you’re being manipulated by a narcissist, it’s important to seek support from others, or even seek out professional help. It’s ok to cut off a relationship with someone who’s manipulating you, but you have to remember that narcissism is a real personality disorder and they won’t take it lightly and will try to fill you with immense guilt.
Lean into your other relationships and seek out the help of a professional if you feel it’s necessary. Life is too short to allow people to steal your joy any longer.
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Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives