Baiting is one of the most powerful manipulation tactics that narcissists use to control others. If you didn’t know already, there are six different types of baiting and they all occur when a narcissist says or does something manipulative to provoke a negative response.

Generally speaking, baiting can look like a narcissist being passive-aggressive, exploiting your insecurities, making false accusations about you, being antagonistic and condescending, or even insulting someone that you care deeply about.

In this article we are going to walk you through the different types of narcissistic baiting so you can grasp a better understanding of what it looks like. We have also invited Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos, a PhD Level Clinician and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, to speak about the reason that narcissists use baiting (see below).

Dr. Karen Kuemerle-Pinillos, a PhD Level Clinician and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Explains Why Narcissists Bait Others

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A Narcissist Being Passive-Aggressive

When we refer to a narcissist’s behavior as passive-aggressive, it means a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. It is very common for a narcissist to use passive-aggressive behavior to bait you.

Example of a Narcissist Being Passive-Aggressive to Bait Someone

Justin has been using the Gray Rock Method on his narcissistic parents for almost two months. Instead of getting sucked into these huge arguments with them, he is much more reserved and does a really good job at not engaging in meaningful interactions with them. 

His parents are furious because their manipulation tactics aren’t working anymore. There aren’t any arguments, yelling matches, physical altercations, slamming doors, nothing. Justin’s sudden shift in behavior (the Gray Rock Method) has a calming effect on the entire household and the narcissistic parents don’t like it at all. 

One day Justin’s father decides to use baiting to manipulate Justin into engaging in a meaningful interaction with him (i.e. an argument) by making passive-aggressive comments about Justin’s girlfriend.

A narcissist making a passive aggressive comment about someone to bait them

A Narcissist Exploiting Your Insecurities

Insecurity is a feeling of inadequacy (not being good enough) and uncertainty. Your insecurities can produce a tremendous amount of anxiety about your goals, relationships, and ability to handle certain situations. It is very common for narcissists to exploit your insecurities to bait you.

Example of a Narcissist Exploiting Someone’s Insecurities to Bait Them

At ABC Company there is a narcissistic boss named Jane that is extremely abusive. One day during a private meeting, Jane exploits the insecurities of an employee that she doesn’t like simply because she is bored and wants more narcissistic supply.

A narcissist attempting to bait her employee

Jane’s employee starts crying and runs out of the office into the bathroom. This gives Jane the narcissistic supply that she wanted because seeing her employee so upset makes her feel better about herself.

Our articles “Why Do Narcissists Insult You?” and Why Do Narcissists Hurt the Ones That They Love? has helpful information about this but narcissists get supply from invalidating, devaluing, and degrading others because it helps them regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have suppressed within themselves.

A Narcissist Making False Accusations About You

A false accusation is a claim or allegation of wrongdoing that is untrue and/or otherwise unsupported by facts. If you have a narcissist in your life, you should be prepared for them to attempt to bait you by making false accusations about you.

Example of a Narcissist Making False Accusations to Bait Someone

Jackie is back home from college for the holidays and gets an invitation to a party from a narcissistic friend that she hasn’t seen in a while. Even though Jackie knows how toxic her old friend is, she goes to the party anyway.

At the party, Jackie’s crush shows up and he is excited to see her. He pushes past everyone and gives Jackie a big hug. This triggers Jackie’s narcissistic friend because it means that she is no longer the center of attention.

The toxic friend decides to bait Jackie by spreading demeaning rumors about her that aren’t true.

A narcissistic woman using baiting to manipulate people at a party.

Once Jackie figures out what her friend did, she gets furious and throws her drink in the friend’s face. This is exactly what Jackie’s narcissistic friend wanted to happen because it gives her an opportunity to victimize herself in front of everyone.

A Narcissist Being Condescending

When you say someone is condescending, it means that they are showing their disapproval by behaving in a way which shows that they think they are superior to others. It is very common for narcissists to be condescending when they are baiting you.

Example of a Narcissist Being Condescending to Bait Someone

Ryan is at a friend’s wedding with his three month old daughter and narcissistic wife. During the dinner service, Ryan realizes that his daughter needs to be changed but he doesn’t know where the diaper-bag is because his wife put it down somewhere at the start of the wedding. 

Ryan quietly asks his wife where the diaper-bag is but she ignores him. Ryan again asks where the diaper-bag is but is ignored. Ryan’s wife starts to have a conversation with one of her friends so he asks one last time for the diaper-bag but is met with the following (image below):

A narcissistic woman being arrogant.

A Narcissist Being Antagonistic

Antagonistic means showing or feeling active opposition or hostility towards someone or something. Narcissists are very, very, antagonistic when they are baiting others.

Example of a Narcissist Being Antagonistic to Bait Someone

Phil has a narcissistic boss that he has been dealing with for five years! One day Phil and his narcissistic boss have to travel four hours by car to go to a conference for the company.

As soon as they get on the road, Phil’s boss begins to be antagonistic by invalidating, devaluing, and degrading Phil. Phil’s boss just keeps pushing, and pushing, and pushing until Phil finally snaps and says (image below): 

A man asking his narcissistic boss to leave him alone.

This is exactly what Phil’s boss wanted to happen because it gives him an opportunity to gain power and control over Phil. The narcissistic boss says (image below)

A narcissistic boss punishing his employee for attempting to set a boundary

This rage goes on for the remainder of the trip and ends with Phil apologizing to his boss and begging to keep his job. Again, this is exactly what the narcissistic boss wanted to happen because of the power and control that it gives him.

A Narcissist Insulting Your Loved Ones  

When a narcissist can’t bait you directly, it is common for them to target the people that you care about instead.

Example of a Narcissist Insulting Your Loved Ones to Bait You

It is Olivia’s narcissistic mother’s birthday and Olivia is bringing her three children to her mom’s house to celebrate. Olivia hasn’t been able to acknowledge that her mother is a narcissist yet, but over the years she has learned that it is best not to engage in meaningful interactions with her narcissistic mother.

She is essentially using the Gray Rock Method without realizing what she is doing.

When Olivia arrives at the house, the abuse/manipulation starts right away. Olivia’s mom is constantly undermining her with the children, telling the children that Olivia doesn’t know how to be a good mother, constantly attempting to turn the children against Olivia, etc.

On this particular day, Olivia can’t handle her mother’s abuse and she snaps at her (image below):

A upset mother trying to stop a narcissist from manipulating her kids.

This is exactly what Olivia’s mother wanted to happen because Olivia has engaged in a meaningful interaction with her. The narcissistic mother responds with a condescending form of baiting by saying the following in a really soft voice (image below):

A narcissistic grandmother using baiting to manipulate her daughter.

In this example, Olivia’s narcissistic mother is making passive aggressive comments to her grandchildren that are directed at Olivia to bait her into a meaningful interaction. In this way, she is targeting the people that Olivia cares about.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Generally speaking, narcissistic baiting looks like a narcissist being passive-aggressive, exploiting your insecurities, making false accusations about you, being antagonistic and condescending, or even insulting someone that you care deeply about.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Solomon, Marion F. “Narcissistic vulnerability in marriage.” Journal of Couples Therapy 1.3-4 (1991): 25-38.

Buss, David M. “Manipulation in close relationships: Five personality factors in interactional context.” Journal of personality 60.2 (1992): 477-499.