5 Ways to (Ethically) Manipulate a Narcissist

Hey, Psych2Goers! Welcome back to another installment of one of my favorite topics – narcissism! Narcissists are all about themselves all of the time, and a lot of them will do anything to get a little more attention. Sometimes, they’ll even manipulate the people around them to get what they want, but what happens when you turn the tables on THEM? Manipulation isn’t a positive thing, so it should never be a permanent solution for a narcissist. However, if there’s a one-time situation where the narcissist is unavoidable, ethical manipulation may help. With that said, let’s explore 5 ways to ETHICALLY manipulate a narcissist.

Side Note: This article is written for educational purposes. If you believe you have a narcissist in your life and need help working towards a permanent solution, please reach out to a trusted mental health professional.

#1: Compliment the narcissist sincerely.

A narcissist typically believes that they are special. The way they think and do things is second to none. So, if you inflate that superior feeling, it can help to keep them in a good mood for however long you’re around them. Now, the trick is to be sincere. Sure, play it up a smidge, but it can’t be totally fake. Dr. Grande, a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, explains in his video “10 Ways to Manipulate a Narcissist” that there are different types of narcissism. Compliments typically work on someone who presents as a Grandiose Narcissist. They typically will not catch on to what you’re doing.

#2: Remove any motives.

When someone does something for you, as a courtesy, you usually owe them a favor back. If you’re low on money, your friend might pick up the bill for lunch one day, but the next time you both grab coffee, you may pay as a thank you for before. This is a kind gesture between people, but a narcissist will take that good deed and use it against you to almost force you to do something for them. How do you combat this? Take motives off of the table for them. Let’s say you need someone to pet sit while you’re away. Don’t ask the narcissist. If they say yes, that gives them the open door to ask something of you. If it’s off the table, they have nothing to hold over your head.

#3: Keep your cool!

The narcissist loves attention. One way they can get their attention is by saying and doing things that are pretty out there. This could be wearing really loud clothes, saying something really rude, or making a scene in public all for attention. But what if you don’t give them that attention? Dr. Grande explains that keeping calm and taking that attention from them can help to curb their behavior, at least for that moment. So, if the narcissist is making you want you yell, cry, or storm off, remember: stay calm, nod, and say “Okay”. This can help to deescalate the narcissist and the situation. With any luck, they may leave due to frustration. We can only hope, right?  

#4: Be “on their side” when they’re upset.

When the narcissist is upset, it’s very possible that they may take it out on anyone who stands in their way (whether they deserve it or not). Whether you’re in a bad headspace or are just sick of the narcissist taking their frustrations out on you, you may not want to be their next target. So, what do you do since the invisible cloak from Harry Potter doesn’t exist? Get on their side. This is sort of like #1 where you need to be sincere to some degree. You don’t have to agree with the narcissist or their stance, but you can say things like “You have every right to be upset. I would be, too!” or “I’m sorry you have to go through that.” Instead of pointing out the ways where they may be to blame, getting on their side can help avoid more conflict.

#5: Ask them about their dreams, but don’t point out anything… odd.

In the DSM-IV, there are nine symptoms/behaviors that are required to be present in an individual in order to be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder. Two of these symptoms are a grandiose sense of self-importance and fantasies. Basically, they think they’re better than everyone else and daydream a lot, usually about how successful they are or will be. Sometimes, their goals and dreams may include some pretty disturbing ideas that may shock others. For example, a narcissist’s goal may be to become the new CEO of the company they work for. Awesome, right? Until they say they’ll accomplish that goal by getting the current CEO fired with a made-up scandal. Instead of pointing out how absolutely wrong this is and that they can move up the ladder the right way, you might simply state “Wow, that’s really interesting.” You’re not supporting this, but you’re also not pointing out the obvious.

It’s difficult to be around a narcissist let alone interact with one. Sometimes, a white lie or ethical manipulation is needed to ensure the best possible outcome. Sometimes, two wrongs don’t make a right. If you believe you have a narcissist in your life and need advice on how to handle your specific situation, please reach out to a trusted mental health professional. We hope this article helped give a little insight. As always, keep an eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content!

Have a wonderful day!

Need to know if someone in your life might be a narcissist? Check out 9 Signs Someone is a Narcissist

The references used in and to compose this article are listed below:

BrightSide. (2020, May 20). 9 psychological tricks to fight back against a manipulator. Bright Side – Inspiration. Creativity. Wonder. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://brightside.me/inspiration-psychology/9-psychological-tricks-to-fight-back-against-a-manipulator-797264/

Grande, T. (2020). 10 Ways to Manipulate a Narcissist | (Keeping the Peace with a Narcissist). YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQSg15sXdEQ.

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