20 Demeaning Tactics Narcissists Use to Control You

Many people in this world can be hard to handle, and narcissistic people would probably be one of the toughest. After all, when you’re stuck in a relationship with a selfish, narcissistic person, you’ve probably experienced false flattery, gaslighting, or even love-bombing. These are among the many tactics that narcissists use to demean and control their victims. So, to help you escape your toxic relationships, we’ve compiled the most common techniques narcissists use on their victims!

False Flattery or Manipulative Flattery

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Though flattery can sometimes be mistaken as a compliment, it’s actually something considered harmful. Yuval Eylon and David Heyd published an article under the International Phenomenological Society. They note that flattery is actually an act that uses “excessive commendatory language” to describe another person to get a favorable response from them. Simply put, flattery is a selfish act that narcissistic people use to get what they want from their victims.

Charm Offensive

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The charm offensive is a term closely associated with flattery. However, in this case, instead of complimenting others to get what they want, a person using the charm offensive tries to make themselves extra friendly and pleasant so that other people will like them and do what they want.

Criticism and Insults

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Psychology Today explains that narcissistic people typically criticize and insult others simply because they want to feel better about themselves. This usually happens when they feel threatened by another person in some way, even though the victim is doing nothing. Narcissistic people can also do this whenever they feel their flaws and shortcomings are being exposed. When this happens, they insult others so that their victims’ flaws will show—not theirs.


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Blame-shifting is a common practice for narcissistic people. It is defined as the redirection of one’s responsibility for one’s actions and mistakes onto another person—even if that person is entirely innocent. Narcissistic people do this destructive act of deception to shake off their accountability and destroy others’ trust in their victims.


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Gaslighting is one of the many tactics that narcissistic people take on when they start to feel insecure about everything that’s going on, especially if their victims are excelling at something more than they are. When a narcissist gaslights you, they are subtly—or obviously—lying and manipulating your perception of reality. They make you question your actions, motives, and intentions and make you think your actions were wrong or selfish.


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Narcissists want all the attention on them. So, the moment they feel like you’re taking their spotlight, they try to isolate you and make you out to be the bad guy. An article from Narcissistic Abuse Healing with Maria McMahon on LinkedIn goes, “Narcissists rarely have their own solid family unit, and they don’t tend to have lifelong friends, so they don’t like seeing you having those and they will do whatever it takes to sever those relationships.”

Playing the Victim Card

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If someone is a narcissist, then the odds are they want all the attention on them. But the moment things go sour, and someone needs to be accountable, they shift the accountability to others and try to play the victim instead. Psych Central explains that narcissists would most likely start playing the victim game if they think they’ll gain something from making you feel guilty. As narcissists, they also might not be able to accept the fact that they made a mistake, thus making themselves out to be the victim instead.


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As the word “triangulation” presents, a narcissist brings in a third party or a third person into a relationship so they can remain in control. However, this is entirely different from the concept of a love triangle that we see in movies. Whether in a romantic relationship, a friendship, or any other setting, a narcissist will become the primary communicator between the other two individuals. However, they will manipulate the story to control what is happening and still target their victim.

Emotional Manipulation

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Emotional manipulation is blackmail in and of itself. In this situation, a narcissist will take hold of one’s emotions and feelings so they can make them do what they want. They will hit a person’s weak spots and take advantage of them so their victim will bend to their will.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

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Because narcissists have a grandiose sense of self, they don’t want to show their true colors. Therefore, they sometimes use passive-aggressive behavior to demean and control their victims. Healthline notes, “People with covert narcissism often use passive-aggressive behavior to convey frustration or make themselves look superior.”

Smear Campaigns

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Smear campaigns go hand in hand with playing the victim. When this happens, a narcissist deliberately tries to tarnish one’s reputation just to keep their sense of superiority and their facade intact. Smear campaigns can also take place once a victim ends their relationship with a narcissist. Narcissist Abuse Support explains that this is usually done to preserve their image, retain control, fuel their ego, and seek retribution.

Fault Finding

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Since narcissists don’t want their flaws to be exposed, they instead try to find fault in their victims. Psychology Today explains, “People who have narcissistic personality disorder cannot tolerate the idea that they might be to blame, so they accuse someone else instead.” Unfortunately, narcissistic people don’t understand how deeply their actions can affect other people.

Inducing Jealousy

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When you’re in a relationship, you may have gone through times when your partner has tried to make you jealous. Though this can be considered normal at times, it’s best to be cautious, as inducing jealousy can be a sign of narcissism. An article published on ResearchGate states, “Grandiose narcissists induce jealousy as a means to acquire power and control, but vulnerable narcissists induce jealousy as a means to acquire power and control, exact revenge on the partner, test and strengthen the relationship, seek security, and compensate for low self-esteem.”


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As ironic as it sounds, narcissists carry a lot of shame with them. In a way, the fear of the things they are ashamed of getting exposed is the reason they became a narcissist in the first place. Unfortunately, because they fear their shortcomings being revealed, they resort to projecting their shame onto those around them.


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Love-bombing is a manipulative tactic used by many narcissistic and abusive people. According to Banner Health, narcissistic people will try to pour all their love and attention into a person so they can gain their trust. Then, they’ll suddenly tear their victims down, replacing their love and affection with emotional abuse.


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Name-calling is an act done by a narcissistic person to assert dominance and power over their victims. When you name-call someone, you use derogatory, dehumanizing, and maybe even profane language to describe another person. Name-calling is done to hurt others, and for narcissistic people, it’s another way for them to remain at the top of the food chain.


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Narcissists often threaten their victims. These threats may be made covertly or overtly, but one thing remains true: it’s a form of emotional abuse designed to manipulate a person. When a narcissist is constantly threatening their victim, they get to alter their perception of reality. They make them fear the future, and they hold onto their fears so they can be controlled.

Divide and Conquer

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This is a strategy narcissists use to isolate their victims. They do all they can to make others turn away from their victims, even if it means lying or tarnishing another’s reputation. The worst part is, more often than not, a narcissist’s claims against their victim are untrue and unfounded.

Peer Pressure

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Narcissists can resort to peer pressure to influence their victims. Because they crave power, they often play on the weaknesses of those who fear missing out. They target their soft spots regarding being ostracized or being in the wrong so they can make their victims act a certain way.


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Projection is similar to blame-shifting or shaming. Simply Psychology defines it as a narcissist’s defense mechanism that often plays out when a narcissist wants to avoid acknowledging their flaws. Therefore, they project their mistakes, shortcomings, and weaknesses onto others to protect their image and avoid exposure.

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.