The techniques designed to protect victims of narcissistic abuse from the narcissist in their lives can be really difficult to successfully use the first few times they’re attempted. The reason being that narcissists are incredibly good at manipulating their way through firm boundaries like the no contact method and the gray rock method. That said, learning how to manipulate a narcissist in a healthy way can be a really good, but also temporary, alternative for victims who are struggling to maintain firm boundaries with the narcissist in their lives.

There are two very effective techniques one could use to manipulate a narcissist. First, using admiration to become a sufficient source of narcissistic supply. Second, reassuring the narcissist’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to manipulate them into valuing the victim’s support more than they do the gratification of abuse.

With that being said, victims of narcissistic abuse should not manipulate the narcissist in their lives to get revenge because that will backfire on them every single time. Manipulating a narcissist is all about temporarily protecting the narcissist fragile ego to reduce the level of abuse the victim experiences until they’re able to set and maintain firm boundaries with the narcissist. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse practicing self-love

The Importance of Narcissistic Supply to a Narcissist

Everything that a narcissist does is designed to accumulate as much narcissistic supply as humanly possible. This supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from others. The well-being of a narcissist is heavily reliant on their ability to find a sufficient source of narcissistic supply. 

The irony in all of this is that narcissistic supply is a narcissist’s most valuable asset and their biggest weakness! They spend every waking hour chasing narcissistic supply. So, with the right approach, victims of narcissistic abuse can use their abusers’ dependence on narcissistic supply to their advantage by manipulating them through strategically placed moments of admiration. 

How to Use Narcissistic Supply to Manipulate a Narcissist

It is really important that victims of narcissistic abuse attempting to manipulate the narcissist in their lives with admiration ensure that they don’t put themselves down in the process. For example, a form of admiration that victim’s shouldn’t use is, “I can’t do (BLANK) but I know you’re amazing at it so can you give me some pointers?”

The obvious reason being that narcissistic abuse decimates the victim’s self-esteem so adding onto the negativity would be counterproductive but another very important reason is that narcissists need admiration to come from a “worthy” audience. 

Meaning that from a narcissist’s perspective, admiration needs to come from someone who is “important” but not more “important” than themselves. A good way to ensure that the narcissist feels like the most important person in the situation is to be amazed with their feedback to subtly reassure them of their greatness. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse using narcissistic supply to manipulate the narcissist in his life
A victim of narcissistic abuse showering her abuser with narcissistic supply

Both of these scenarios were fantastic examples of how victims of narcissistic abuse can use admiration to manipulate the narcissist in their lives. They clearly put themselves in a position of importance from the narcissist’s perspective. In the first image this is done by informing the narcissist that the other supervisor tasked them with the project and in the second image this is done by informing the narcissist of their success with their business. 

Then they avoid triggering narcissistic injury by subtly downplaying their own success by asking for the narcissist’s help which makes them feel more important. It’s really important to ensure that the narcissist sees the victim’s importance while simultaneously feeling more important if manipulation through admiration is going to work. 

There are many different ways that victims of narcissistic abuse can manipulate their abuser through admiration. For example, one could compare the narcissist in their lives to a celebrity. But the two most important aspects of manipulating a narcissist through admiration are to use it wisely and be sincere. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse comparing the narcissist in his life to a celebrity

Admiration must be used wisely because of how powerful narcissists can feel from receiving a lot of admiration. It’s the equivalent to how Popeye the Sailor Man gets stronger when he eats a can of spinach. So, victims of narcissistic abuse shouldn’t go overboard with the admiration, it must be used in moderate proportions. 

Narcissists, especially covert narcissists, are extremely sensitive to feedback. We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our articles What Happens When You Hurt a Narcissist’s Ego and How Do Narcissists React to Criticism then provided insightful examples in our article 15 of the Best Examples of Narcissistic Rage but the fragility of a narcissist’s ego originates from their unhealthy/abusive upbringing and when injured, they fly into a narcissistic rage. 

If a narcissist were to sense that the admiration wasn’t sincere, the likelihood of them going into a narcissistic rage would be incredibly high. It’s not a safe environment to be in which is why it is so important to appear sincere when using this technique. 

With all of that being said, by no means is sincerity when admiring a narcissist easy. In fact, some people may find that the mere thought of it makes them sick to their stomach. If so, using this technique through instant messaging instead of a face to face interaction is a very reliable and effective alternative. 

Understanding a Narcissist’s Vulnerabilities and Insecurities

The extent a narcissist will go to protect their falsified identity is really important to understand. We spoke about this much more thoroughly in our article How Are Narcissists Made but the unhealthy/abusive upbringing that they experienced has left them with a deeply rooted hatred for themselves. 

Again, there’s a lot more information about this in the article above but long story short, a narcissist grew up with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who were incapable of accurately mirroring the narcissist’s emotions. Because of this, narcissists are left with a ton of emotional inadequacies and unable to develop a realistic sense of self. 

So, they search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance they couldn’t get from their primary caregivers. In their childhood, this often manifests in the form of focusing on things that get the attention of the primary caregiver. 

A successful child of a narcissist

In adulthood this search of their external environment manifests in the form of their falsified identity. An upbringing plagued with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers has left the narcissist feeling as if their true identity isn’t good enough and with a fear of abandonment/rejection. To ensure that they don’t suffer the same neglect, they build their falsified identity off of their perception of what society values most. 

Unfortunately, their emotional immaturity makes them incapable of looking past society’s superficial exterior when building their falsified identity which causes them to gravitate towards very superficial, trivial, and materialistic aspects of life.

A narcissist building a falsified identity

As you can imagine, this level of emotional superficiality and uncertainty creates someone with an extremely fragile ego and a truckload of vulnerabilities and insecurities. When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their falsified identity, it serves a reminder of the lie they’re living and triggers all of their deeply rooted vulnerabilities and insecurities. This is a narcissist’s worst nightmare and causes a destabilizing amount of discomfort. 

How to Use a Narcissist’s Vulnerabilities and Insecurities to Manipulate Them

With all of that being said, the combination of the fragility of a narcissist’s ego, their vulnerabilities, and insecurities gives victims of narcissistic abuse a really good opportunity to manipulate the narcissist in their lives by acting as a form of reassurance. 

If one were to play into the narcissist’s vulnerabilities and insecurities by essentially coddling their emotions, they could place themselves in a position where the narcissist believes that the victim’s “support” is much more valuable than the gratification the narcissist would get from abusing them. 

A narcissist getting supported by others

6 Phrases You Can Use to Manipulate Core Characteristics of a Narcissist

  • Grandiosity:
    • I can’t believe that your boss doesn’t see how amazing your work is! 
  • Need For Dominance Over Others:
    • You were so powerful out there! They couldn’t stop you!
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • Oh don’t worry about it, people just can’t take a joke these days.
  • Sense of Superiority:
    • The only reason that (blank) is acting like that is because he/she is jealous of you. He/she knows that without you it would all fall apart.
  • Obsession With Appearance:
    • I can tell that you’ve been working out, you look fantastic! 
  • Desire to Appear Virtuous:
    • What you did for (blank) was amazing, you are truly the most inspiring person I’ve known.

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

Using manipulation to reduce the level of abuse one may experience in a narcissistic relationship is not for everyone and it is not guaranteed to work. If one does decide to use this technique, they have to remember two things. 

First, manipulation is not a technique that should be used to exact revenge on the narcissist. We explained this in our article Why Is Arguing With a Narcissist a Horrible Idea but narcissists are built for winning fights. Surviving narcissistic abuse is an intellectual process, it is not about exacting revenge.  

Second, victims of narcissistic abuse who use manipulation to avoid severe levels of abuse must commit to the sincerity aspect of it all. As ironic as it may sound because narcissists are some of the most superficial people on the planet, they’re really good at spotting superficiality, especially when it comes to their fragile egos.

When done properly, manipulating a narcissist can temporarily protect victims of narcissistic abuse and give them time to put themselves in a position from which they can set and maintain firm boundaries with their abuser. 

We strongly recommend that victims of narcissistic abuse who are contemplating whether or not they should temporarily use manipulation seek out the guidance of a qualified medical professional before doing so. 


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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References

Green, Ava, and Kathy Charles. “Voicing the victims of narcissistic partners: A qualitative analysis of responses to narcissistic injury and Self-Esteem regulation.” Sage open 9.2 (2019): 2158244019846693.

DISCLAIMER

THIS INFORMATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL CARE. 

IF YOU’RE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ARE SUFFERING DOMESTIC ABUSE, PLEASE CONTACT THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1.800.799.7233 OR YOU CAN VISIT THEIR WEBSITE FOR MORE HELPFUL CONTACT METHODS.

WE URGE YOU TO ENSURE YOU’RE IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE TO REACH OUT FOR HELP. FOR THOSE WHO CURRENTLY RESIDE IN THE UNITED STATES, VISIT NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE’S LOCAL RESOURCES TO FIND HELP IN YOUR AREA.

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