15 Subtle Ways to Manipulate a Narcissist in Your Life

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How to manipulate a narcissist?

It’s a bold question and a bold approach to dealing with such a person. Manipulation is how they trap, control, and use you. You won’t even know you’re being controlled until it’s too late.

No wonder the thought of manipulating a narcissist triggers a rush of sensations. Excitement, fear, and anxiety. Excitement over a chance to turn the tables on the narcissist in your life. Fear of getting caught in the act can lead to nervousness and doubt about whether this is the right approach.

Keep in mind that this isn’t revenge. It’s about protecting yourself from the damaging effects of exposure to narcissistic manipulation.

As it turns out, there are subtle ways to do so without them realizing what is happening. Best of all, you don’t have to use their emotionally harmful strategies.

Wait! It’s too late to back out. Your crash course begins now with the first 15 discreet tactics to manipulate the manipulator, outsmart them, and take back control.

Let’s begin by looking at what makes someone a narcissist and why they manipulate others. Then, finally, how to beat them at their own game.

What Is a Narcissist?

“Narcissist” is the term used to describe someone who exhibits traits and behaviors related to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

According to the American Psychological Association, NPD is a personality disorder and mental health condition. People with NPD display behaviors that could be emotionally harmful to their romantic partners and others close to them.

The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) identified NINE traits, characteristics, and behaviors related to NPD. They include a high sense of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and limited empathy.

Narcissistic people also show a strong tendency to manipulate and exploit others without feeling guilt or remorse.

Narcissists use mind-game tactics to emotionally manipulate their targets. Manipulate means to try and influence or control a person or situation through dishonest or unethical means.

Unfortunately, long-term emotional manipulation or abuse has devastating effects on those targeted. Exposure to narcissistic abuse will eventually undermine your ability to think and make sound decisions for yourself.

According to VeryWellMind, some victims are left feeling confused, anxious, isolated, or depressed. Others experience lowered self-esteem, post-traumatic stress, and difficulty trusting.

Why Do Narcissists Manipulate Others?

Narcissists employ emotional manipulation strategies or behaviors, such as gaslighting, primarily to gain power and control. Gaining control creates an imbalance of power and makes it easy for them to get what they want.

They’ll study your personality and emotions to determine what tactics affect your mental state. Later on, they’ll do things to distort your reality and create self-doubt and confusion. You may start sensing a disconnect between what they tell you and what you know is real.

Influencing your emotional state is all part of a plan to extract the benefits from the relationship. The benefit could be anything from money, sex, or attention to social status. I agree, it’s calculating and that’s why knowing how to manipulate a narcissist will empower you to handle them.

Narcissists usually target and manipulate people that are empathetic and trusting. They resort to this practice because they are incapable of saying how they feel or asking for what they need.

Their manipulative tendencies also get activated whenever a narcissist wants to achieve the following:

  • Hide their true intentionFor example, love-bombing you to make you believe they are a loving person.
  • Escape responsibility for wrongdoings
  • Avoid conflict
  • Create doubt and confusion in your mind
  • To feel worthy as they often struggle with low self-esteem
  • To boost their fragile egos

Things Narcissists Do to Manipulate You

Spotting a narcissist gets easier once you know their traits and signs someone is a narcissist.

They tend to act the same and use similar phrases to manipulate their targets. Gaslighting is one of the most common methods used to control your thoughts and emotions.

It is emotionally abusive and often has long-term effects on the person getting gaslighted. Narcissistic gaslighters usually say and do things to distort your reality and make you powerless and helpless. Some will call you crazy to make you doubt your mental stability. 

They may also do the following:

  • Criticize you
  • Withhold information
  • Shift blame to you for their wrongdoings
  • Minimize your feelings and your experience
  • Change details of events to make you question your memory and reality
  • Lie, deny, project, guilt-trip you, or deflect from the topic of discussion
  • Avoid communication using tactics such as stonewalling or the silent treatment

15 Subtle Approach to Ethically Manipulate the Narcissist in Your Life

Now for the main event–ways to manipulate the manipulator. Sounds like revenge, but it’s more like getting your way by giving them theirs. If you think it involves unethical tactics a narcissist uses, think again. I won’t encourage you to stoop to their level.

Outsmarting the narcissist in your personal or professional life isn’t easy, especially if you try to do so using covert or insidious means.

For example, arguing back or threatening them. Taking an antagonistic approach can cause them to behave worse. How about trying the following sophisticated ways to charm, disarm, and flip the script on them?

#1. Give Them Compliments

Narcissistic individuals have an insatiable need for attention and praise. This makes them highly sensitive to criticism and judgment. Instead, shower them with the right amount of compliments and kind words at the right time.

For example, saying “Nobody can wear that outfit better than you.” Tell them “I’m proud of you,” if they accomplish something or did a good deed.

Flooding them with praise, especially when they do something good, means they won’t have to fish for compliments. Offering admiration will also make them feel good. It will satiate their constant need to feel worthy and make them more willing to satisfy your needs.

#2. Validate Them

As powerful as they pretend to be, they have fragile egos. Vulnerable narcissists, in particular, suffer from low self-esteem and don’t feel good enough.

Those feelings cause them to constantly seek the attention of others to feel seen and accepted. They search for attention, validation, and approval because they are incapable of validating themselves.

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Shower them with the right amount of compliments and kind words at the right time.

You could use this need to your advantage by validating them. For example, saying, “I can understand why you’re upset. It’s perfectly okay to feel this way given the situation.” It doesn’t mean you’re agreeing.

However, you’re doing something more powerful than that. You’re acknowledging their emotions as valid and stroking their ego at the same time.

#3. Agree with Them

People with narcissistic personalities are known for being arrogant, argumentative, and highly defensive. I understand how frustrating it is as I have dealt with my fair share of narcissists, from the grandiose to the vulnerable, undercover narc. I eventually discovered agreeing with them is an effective trick to tame the beast.

Otherwise, you’ll feel like you are butting your head against a concrete wall. Once they hold an opinion, they do NOT budge! Of course, you don’t really agree or plan to follow through. Use the strategy to avoid an argument. Agreeing makes them feel knowledgeable and powerful. To you, you’ve effectively shut them up.

#4. Exhaust their Attempts to Love-bomb You

I honestly think of this as a clever way to psychologically mess with a narcissist. Love-bombing you is one of their manipulation tactics.

However, they only do so until they’ve earned your trust and affection. After that, the narcissist’s ‘mask’ slips off. That’s when they’ll start showing their ugly side.

Manipulate them by prolonging the love-bombing phase. Every time they say you’re their soulmate, ask them why they think so. Also, repeatedly ask them what they like about you. After they reply, ask, What else?” They’ll eventually feel fed up and exhausted and leave you alone.

#5. Keep Countering Them

Don’t argue, counter. This tactic is different but can be more effective at taming the antagonistic or oppositional narcissist.

The dictionary definition of countering is to speak or act in an opposing way. Mind you, narcissists use countering in a manipulative way to distort your reality. This creates an imbalance of power between you two.

On the other hand, you’re using countering to frustrate their efforts to emotionally abuse you. If they tell you you’re crazy, ask “Tell me something I haven’t heard?” Or, you can agree and say jokingly, “Yes, I’m as crazy as they come.” Opposing them this way will make them realize they can’t emotionally manipulate you.

#6. Play on their Fears

What do narcissists fear the most? Public shame and humiliation. 

They are incapable of feeling guilt and remorse, but getting shamed publicly is something they dread. The fear is typically greater for narcissists who hold public office or have a reputation to protect. They do everything possible to maintain a clean public image.

Play on their fear of shame, but do not threaten to expose them. You could say something like, “What if someone finds out you’re treating me like this?” Uh, uh! They’ll automatically become fearful that people will see their true character and start playing nice.

Trust me, they cannot withstand social media exposure and getting attacked online by emotionally abusive trolls.

#7. Reward Only Good Behavior

Once you realize you’re dealing with a narcissistic spouse or friend, it can no longer be business as usual. You’re not going to continue to please them as they continue to exploit you. Flip the script and let them work for the perks.

Don’t threaten to take away the benefits or they’ll get triggered and misbehave, e.g., give you the silent treatment or engage in revenge cheating.

Deciding when to be nice to them puts you back in control. Remember, the narcissist wants something from you. You can choose if and when to give it to them. By using this tactic, you’ll build a more balanced relationship where there is even give and take. You’ll also stop feeling powerless and helpless towards the narcissist.

#8. Only Tell Them What They Need to Know

A narcissist enters your life with a plan to benefit as much as they can from the relationship. Honestly, they really don’t care about your feelings. After all, they lack empathy or the ability to connect with people on an emotional level.

They will try to extract information about your life and later use it to emotionally manipulate or even blackmail you. Drip information to them, and only reveal the basic details that are enough to keep the interaction surface-level.

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If the narcissist wants to start a business, go back to school, or change their career, let them have their way.

Withholding private details is your way to manipulate the situation and minimize emotional abuse.

#9. Tell Them to Do Whatever They Want

Reverse psychology is one of the effective tips on how to manipulate a narcissist. Reverse psychology means going along with something by agreeing to the opposite of how you truly feel.

In this case, you’re telling them to behave however they please. This often causes the narcissist to behave or give in to you.

You’re essentially telling them to take control. They love to dominate and control others. They love it when you compete and push back, as it provides attention or fuel for their fragile egos. By not putting up a fight, you become boring in their eyes. They may give up and start looking elsewhere for attention.

#10. Ask Them What They Think

Asking someone who treats you like a means to an end for their opinion can be tough. You may find it far more difficult if you are an independent thinker, such as an alpha or sigma female. You’re used to making decisions for yourself and trusting your own judgment.

Manipulating a narcissist this way calls for you to step out of your comfort zone. Get into the habit of running things by them. Ask them if they think you’re making the right decision or what you should do instead. You may have already decided. However, asking for their advice makes them feel superior, knowledgeable, and important.

#11. Support Their Choices

If the narcissist wants to start a business, go back to school, or change their career, let them have their way. You may not like some of the choices, especially those that can adversely affect your relationship.

For example, changing careers may require them to travel, which may mean you have to take on more responsibilities at home.

Your concerns are valid, but narcissists are stubborn and won’t listen to your views. Still, share your concerns but end by saying “If this makes you happy, then you have my support.” They’ll think about it in their quiet time and may change their mind after realizing you aren’t upset about their choice.

#12. Agree When They Criticize Others

I once told a narcissist he shouldn’t criticize and judge homeless people because he doesn’t know their story. Big mistake. It turned into an argument. Narcissists feel attacked when you correct them and will ‘fight’ back.

It may seem counter-productive to agree with their harsh criticism of others, especially if you’re an empath. Trust me, you are subtly manipulating them by taking the path of least resistance.

You’re also providing validation when you agree. There’s no need to join in and criticize those getting bashed. You could simply say, ‘Okay” or “I get what you’re saying.”

#13. Let Them Take Over the Conversation

Have you recognized how difficult it is to get a word in when conversing with a narcissist? Either that or they interrupt you to talk about themselves.

I have a friend who does this to me every single time we talk. Narcissists lack self-awareness and don’t usually notice their poor communication skills.

For dear life, don’t call them out for hijacking and dominating the dialogue. Let them have the floor. Eventually, they’ll realize you’re not participating and may ask if you’re okay. By playing offense, you subtly manipulated them and placed them on defense.

#14. Make Them Feel Like You Need Them

Without you, the narcissist will be left feeling empty and worthless. If it’s someone you can tolerate despite their narcissistic ways or can’t cut out of your life, then play the game of making them feel indispensable.

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It may seem counter-productive to agree with their harsh criticism of others, especially if you’re an empath.

Some narcissists get validation and feel superior when they’re able to provide for you. In this case, keep asking them to do things for you. You could even tell them, “No one else makes me feel the way you do” or “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Using this manipulation approach could make them keep doing right by you.

#15. Make Them Think They’re Winning

Narcissists are aggressive, whether it’s open or passive-aggression. They really can’t change the trait and neither can you. In addition to being know-it-alls, they are competitive.

They will go out of their way to win arguments, competitions, you name it. They want you to push back as drama and toxic situations serve as fuel for them. Don’t.

Level the playing field and avoid conflict by simply going with the flow. Not getting opposition or competition from you will make them feel like they’re in charge.

But while they think they’re winning, or that you’re weak, they’re actually losing in the process. They’re losing you in the relationship the more they try to dominate and control you or silence you.

Is Manipulating a Narcissist Worth It?

The answer depends on your unique situation. For example, the type of narcissist you’re dealing with and the nature of the relationship between the two of you. Harmful narcissistic behavior usually affects you if the individual is someone close, like a family member, friend, boss, or co-worker.

That said, countering their manipulation with tactics of your own might be worth it if you’re done taking BS from this person or you can’t cut them off.

Two good positive things can happen. One is a change in behavior. Winning them over by stoking their ego can cause them to be nicer to you. It might help improve your relationship. The other upside is making them stop messing with you and leave. Getting a narcissist to leave you can be difficult, so these counter-manipulation tactics may be the most effective way to push them away.

Final Thoughts on How to Manipulate a Narcissist

Narcissists are very predictable. That makes it easy to apply these offensive strategies to minimize the harmful effects of dealing with them. 

They need narcissistic fuels, and many of the tips involve going along with their behavior and satisfying their narcissistic needs. Remember to only do so when it’s reasonable and safe.

Be warned, though, manipulating a narcissist isn’t for the faint at heart. Some people actually think it’s unethical. Your view and ultimately your decision to try these tactics will depend on your beliefs.

Alternatively, you can set strict boundaries or cut them out of your life by going No Contact. You can also seek the help of a certified mental health expert.

Since you’ve enjoyed reading this article, I’m recommending 17 Ways to Make a Narcissist Really Fear You.

And if you're looking for more articles about dealing with narcissists, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

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