There are many different manipulation tactics that narcissists use to maintain power and control over you. However, in a survey conducted among 500 survivors of narcissistic abuse, we found that baiting is one of the most common tactics that narcissists use.
Baiting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when a narcissist says or does something manipulative such as exploiting your insecurities, being passive-aggressive, or even abusing your loved ones, to get you to engage in a negative interaction with them.
This article is going to teach you about the reason that narcissists use baiting, the different types of baiting that narcissists use, how you should respond when you are baited, and how you can prevent yourself from being baited.
Why Do Narcissists Bait You?
As a general rule, there are three reasons that a narcissist would bait you into engaging in a negative interaction with them.
The first reason is because they want to portray you in a negative light.
The second reason is because they want more narcissistic supply.
The third reason is because they want to invalidate you.
Now, before we get into these three reasons that a narcissist would bait you, it is important that you understand where a narcissist’s urge to bait you comes from.
Here’s a short video from Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos, a PhD Level Clinician and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), that explains the origin of this urge.
Baiting Is All About Power and Control by Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos
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They Want to Portray You In a Negative Light
When a narcissist portrays someone in a negative light it means that they portray them in a way that makes them look bad.
Generally speaking, narcissists attempt to portray you in a negative light to create flying monkeys, or at the very least, narcissist enablers.
Narcissists do this because they want to isolate, silence, and control you.
Now, if you didn’t know already, a flying monkey is someone a narcissist manipulates into helping them abuse others.
A narcissist enabler is someone who accidentally gaslights those being abused by a narcissist simply because they don’t understand narcissistic abuse.
So, how can a narcissist create a flying monkey or narcissist enabler by portraying you in a negative light?
Imagine that you’ve just broken up with the narcissist in your life and are meeting them in a public place so you can get some of your stuff back.
You don’t know this yet, but the narcissist is recording the entire interaction with their cell phone.
They hand you a box of your stuff but you notice that the necklace your mother gave you is missing.
You ask them where it is and they respond with, “Oh that stupid thing? I burned it you f*cking loser.”
This makes you very angry and you respond with, “You are such a narcissist. I am going to make sure that everyone knows how much of a piece of sh*t you are. I should’ve known that you would destroy my necklace, you psycho.”
Much to your surprise, they pull your mother’s necklace out of their pocket and say:
You take the necklace and walk away.
Later that day, you call one of your friends to tell them what happened.
But instead of supporting you, they say “I don’t want to get in the middle of this but I saw the video of you verbally attacking (the narcissist’s name) and I think that you need to take a long look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers.”
What has happened is the narcissist edited the video that they took of you and used it to turn your friend against you by portraying you in a negative light.
Portraying you in a negative light is one of the many ways that narcissists turn people against you. Our article “How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys?“ has more information about this that you may find helpful.
They Want You to Give Them More Narcissistic Supply
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists receive from their surrounding environment.
Narcissists use narcissistic supply to construct a positive self-perception and to suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Now, the biggest sources of narcissistic supply that narcissists have access to are the people that they abuse.
In fact, narcissists expect and demand that the people that they abuse provide them with a consistent flow of narcissistic supply at all times.
This is an impossible task.
You see, after months, years, or even decades of being abused and manipulated, it is common for those experiencing narcissistic abuse to mentally and/or physically check out of the relationship.
This can be a conscious decision, such as someone deciding to restrain themselves from engaging in meaningful interactions with the narcissist.
Or it can be unintentional, such as a person who is experiencing so much psychological tension because of the abuse that they just mentally and/or physically check out of the relationship.
Either way, narcissists don’t like this because when the person that they are abusing mentally and/or physically checks out of the relationship, they are no longer a reliable source of narcissistic supply.
When this happens, it is very common for narcissists to use different manipulation tactics to try to get more narcissistic supply.
One of the most common ones that they use is baiting.
This is because eliciting a negative response out of you gives the narcissist many different opportunities to get narcissistic supply.
They could take your negative response to go get narcissistic supply from others (e.g. “I can’t believe that you have to deal with that. You are such an amazing person for supporting (your name) even though they are so rude.“)
Or they could take your negative response and victimize themselves with it to get you to apologize, feel guilty, and/or try to make it up to them.
When a narcissist uses baiting to get narcissistic supply it is important to continue to restrain yourself from engaging in meaningful interactions with them.
This is because giving them the narcissistic supply that they are searching for will only encourage them to continue to abuse and manipulate you.
They Want to Invalidate Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Emotions
It is very common for a narcissist to use baiting to invalidate your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
For example, imagine that you confronted the narcissist in your life because they said something very hurtful about your family.
Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they say something hurtful again.
This makes you angry and you start shouting at them.
This is exactly what the narcissist wanted to happen.
You see, the narcissist baited you into having a negative interaction with them so they could use your response to invalidate your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
So, instead of this conversation being about the narcissist saying hurtful things to you, it is now about how you shouted at them (image below).
Over time, these types of interactions can gaslight you into feeling like you don’t have a right to express your thoughts, feelings, or emotions.
How Do Narcissists Bait You?
In this section of the article we are going to take a closer look at the different ways that narcissists bait you.
To do this, we’ve conducted a survey among 500 survivors of narcissistic abuse to determine the most common ways that the narcissist in their lives baited them.
Here’s what we found.
They Lash Out At You
When a narcissist lashes out at someone it means that they suddenly attack them, either physically or verbally, in an angry way.
It is common for narcissists to lash out at the people that they abuse to bait them when they aren’t getting enough narcissistic supply.
This type of baiting is called Uncomfortable Baiting.
Imagine that you’ve been using the Gray Rock Method on your narcissistic parents for a few months.
This makes your narcissistic parents extremely uncomfortable and angry because they aren’t getting the narcissistic supply that you use to provide them.
Because of this, one of your narcissistic parents tries to elicit a negative response out of you by destroying your favorite shoes.
This would be considered Uncomfortable Baiting because your narcissistic parent is lashing out at you because you aren’t giving them enough narcissistic supply.
They Degrade and Devalue You
One of the trickiest parts about having a narcissist in your life is that you are often the only one who knows just how abusive they really are.
Everyone else only sees their public persona which is often charming, charismatic, confident, articulate, and relatively pleasant.
When a narcissist says and/or does something that contradicts their public persona, it is common for them to “redeem” themselves by degrading and devaluing you.
This is called Redeeming Baiting.
The reason that narcissists do this is because when their public persona gets contradicted, it triggers many of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
By devaluing and/or degrading you, it helps them protect their emotional stability by projecting these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions onto you.
It is almost as if it allows them to figuratively point their finger at you and think to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, you are,” and truly believe it.
Imagine that you are at a dinner party with your narcissistic partner.
They are telling one of their grandiose stories but one of the other guests calls them out on their lies.
This embarrasses your narcissistic partner and contradicts their public persona.
When you get home, they turn to you and say, “You really need to get back to the gym. I mean the only reason I even told that story was to take everyone’s attention away from how fat you looked in that ridiculous outfit.”
This would be considered Redeeming Baiting.
Your narcissistic partner is devaluing and degrading you because they contradicted their own public persona at the dinner party by lying.
They want you to have a negative response to their baiting so they can use your response to devalue and degrade you even more and/or get narcissistic supply.
Our article “Why Do Narcissists Use Projection?“ will help you understand the reason narcissists use projection so much.
Our article “How Are Narcissists Made?“ has helpful information about the origin of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissists have.
They Exploit Your Insecurities and Vulnerabilities
When a narcissist exploits your insecurities and vulnerabilities to bait you, it is called Betrayal Baiting.
This type of baiting is almost always used by a narcissist when they are trying to maintain power and control over you.
Imagine that you are having an argument with the narcissist in your life because you caught them in a lie.
When they start to realize that you aren’t backing down, they exploit your insecurities and vulnerabilities to elicit a negative response out of you.
They say, “I see why your dad left your family. If I had to be around someone as dumb as you I would leave too!”
They said this because they want you to pull your attention away from the lie that they told.
If you allowed this to happen by engaging in a negative interaction with them, you would be giving them power and control over you.
Well, imagine that you responded to this by screaming at them.
They could use your negative response to discredit the things that you say by saying something like, “I am not going to be called a liar by a screaming toddler.”
Betrayal Baiting is so toxic.
When you are being baited, it is really important to restrain yourself from engaging in meaningful interaction with the narcissist in your life no matter what they say.
They Do Things That Are Passive-Aggressive
When a narcissist indirectly expresses negative feelings instead of openly addressing them, they are being passive-aggressive.
It is very common for narcissists to use passive-aggression to bait you, especially when it comes to Public Baiting.
Public Baiting occurs when a narcissist says or does something manipulative in front of other people to elicit a negative response out of you.
The goal of Public Baiting is to portray you in a negative light to others so that the narcissist can victimize themselves.
For example, imagine that you and the narcissist in your life are out having dinner with a group of your friends.
In this scenario, the narcissist knows that you are insecure about your weight but your friends do not.
So, the narcissist starts making passive-aggressive comments about what you’re eating (image below).
This is Public Baiting.
The narcissist is using passive-aggressive comments to bait you into a negative interaction.
If you have a negative response to this, they will use it to portray you in a negative light and victimize themselves.
They Do Things That Are Condescending
When a narcissist has or shows an attitude of patronizing superiority, they are being condescending.
When they try to bait you into a negative interaction by being condescending, it is called Condescending Baiting.
The goal of Condescending Baiting is to get you to have a negative response that validates the narcissist’s attitude of patronizing superiority.
Imagine that you and your children are at your narcissistic parent’s house for a visit.
The second you arrive, your narcissistic parent starts to be incredibly condescending, they are undermining your parenting, and they are even telling your children that they were a way better parent than you.
You snap and say,“You need to stop being so evil. It is exhausting and disgusting. You have been a horrible parent my entire life!”
This is Condescending Baiting.
Your narcissistic parent baited you into a negative interaction that allowed them to validate their attitude of patronizing superiority (image below).
How to Stop Being Baited By a Narcissist
The only way that you can stop a narcissist from baiting you is by restraining yourself from engaging in meaningful interactions with them.
In this section of the article we are going to guide you through three very effective techniques that you can use to do this: the Gray Rock Method, the Firewall Method, and the No Contact Method.
The Gray Rock Method
The Gray Rock Method is a form of communication that you can use to protect yourself from abuse and manipulation.
To use the Gray Rock Method you have to restrain yourself from engaging in meaningful interactions with the narcissist in your life.
The term “meaningful interactions” refers to any interaction that gives the narcissist access to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or needs.
For example, imagine the narcissist said, “I heard from (blank) that the college that you wanted to go to rejected your application. Why didn’t you tell me?”
This would be considered a meaningful interaction.
If you didn’t use the Gray Rock Method to respond to this, you would be giving the narcissist access to your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
To use the Gray Rock Method in this situation, you could say something along the lines of, “Mhmm. I can’t talk about this right now.” And then walk away.
If you would like a complete guide to the Gray Rock Method, our article “What Is the Gray Rock Method?“ has all of the information that you are looking for.
The Firewall Method
In narcissistic environments, the term “firewall” refers to a defense system that you can build to protect yourself from abuse and manipulation.
In a computer, a firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
To build a firewall that protects you from abuse and manipulation, you need to create your own defense system and construct a defined set of rules that it abides by.
The Firewall Method is a very sophisticated technique that you can use when dealing with a narcissist.
Now, the purpose of a firewall in a computer is to provide protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding the network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic.
When this gets translated into the language of narcissistic environments, the narcissists are the cyber attackers.
The malicious and unnecessary network traffic that they are hurling at you are their abusive tendencies and manipulation tactics.
And your health, both mental and physical, is the network that your firewall is protecting.
Building a solid firewall puts you in a position from which you can protect yourself from past, present, and future abusers.
Here’s Your Free Guide:
If you would like a step-by-step guide to building a strong firewall for yourself, please click here to download our free guide!
The No Contact Method
The No Contact Method is a strategy that you can use to protect yourself from abuse and manipulation.
In order to use the No Contact Method, you must end all physical and psychological forms of contact that you have with the abusive/manipulative people in your life.
No Contact Method is an extremely effective way to deal with abuse and manipulation.
The No Contact Method can be an incredibly difficult technique to use and our article “Why Is It So Hard to Go No Contact With a Narcissist?“ explains why.
Using the No Contact Method can trigger many painful emotions for you. Our article“How to Deal With the Emotions of Going No Contact With a Narcissist“ will teach you how to manage them properly.
How to Respond to Narcissistic Baiting?
Let’s imagine that you aren’t able to restrain yourself from engaging in a meaningful interaction with the narcissist in your life and you end up getting baited.
The first thing that you are going to want to do is to not get sucked into the negative interaction even further.
Pause, take a deep breath, and go back to restraining yourself from engaging in a meaningful interaction with them.
When this interaction is finished, you are going to want to find ways to validate yourself.
Self-validation is the act of accepting our own internal experience, including our thoughts and feelings.
Here’s a short video from a licensed psychologist named Dr. Khadijah Cyril where she speaks about self-validation in response to narcissistic baiting.
How to Validate Yourself After Being Baited by Dr. Khadijah Cyril
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What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Baiting is a powerful manipulation tactic that narcissists use to maintain power and control over you.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a health care provider for guidance specific to your case.
Howard, Vickie. “Recognising narcissistic abuse and the implications for mental health nursing practice.” Issues in mental health nursing (2019).
Levin, Lana. “Understanding narcissistic abuse.” Mental Health Matters 8.3 (2021): 32-33.