Baiting is when a narcissist uses their victim’s vulnerabilities and insecurities against them to manipulate them into engaging in a negative confrontation. A narcissist’s lack of empathy allows them to cross boundaries that make baiting extremely degrading and cruel. Victims of narcissistic abuse often experience baiting on a daily basis. It is a powerful form of manipulation, however, it can be neutralized if you understand why narcissists bait you.  

Narcissists use baiting to get you to engage in a negative confrontation that allows them to victimize themselves, portray you in a negative light, or make you emotionally unstable so that they can invalidate, devalue, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

This article is going to help you understand the reason that narcissists bait you. As we mentioned powerful form of manipulation but much like many other narcissistic behavior patterns, it can be neutralized with knowledge. It is worth mentioning that in some instances, narcissists bait you because they have a sadistic personality.

So, we’ve created a short video down below about narcissists with sadistic personalities so that you can grasp a comprehensive understanding of the different reasons that narcissists bait you.

A Short Video About Sadistic Personality Traits and Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissists Bait You to Because They Want You to Respond in a Way That Allows Them to Victimize Themselves

A narcissist will bait you into a negative confrontation because they want you to respond in a way that allows them to victimize themselves. This is a very common tactic that narcissists use to invalidate the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their victims.

It is very common to see narcissists try to use this technique when their victim has set firm boundaries that limit the amount of narcissistic supply, also known as validation, admiration, and reassurance, that they have access to. 

A simple example of this would be if a victim of narcissistic abuse set a firm boundary in the form of the gray rock method. The gray rock method is when a victim of narcissistic abuse will refuse to have any significant conversations with the narcissist in their life. 

When the narcissist uses their vulnerabilities and insecurities to bait them into a negative confrontation, the victim will not try to defend or explain themselves. If the victim has really good news about something in their life, they will not share the news with the narcissist. In the presence of the narcissist, the victim will remain very neutral, like a boring gray rock. 

This takes away a lot of narcissistic supply from the relationship because the narcissist can’t manipulate someone who won’t engage with them in a significant manner. Without a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance, the narcissist’s sense of inadequacy, fear of abandonment, and beliefs that they’re unloveable and unwanted will be triggered.

When triggered it is very common for narcissists to try to bait their victim into a negative confrontation that allows them to victimize themselves. It often works so well because it can be really destabilizing for victims of narcissistic abuse to see the narcissist, someone who usually has so much power and control over them, in such a “vulnerable” position. 

ten things that a narcissist will say to victimize themselves

Narcissists Will Bait You Into a Confrontation That Allows Them to Portray You In a Negative Light

A narcissist will bait you into a confrontation that allows them to portray you in a negative light so that they can invalidate your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. The most common way that they’ll do this is by using your vulnerabilities and insecurities to get you to have a very angry outburst. 

Once they’ve been able to manipulate you into an angry outburst, they have everything that they need to portray you in a negative light. They are going to call you abusive, crazy, and irrational. They’ve also been known to go as far as to project their narcissistic traits onto you by calling you narcissistic and twisting your behavior in such a convincing manner that you might pause and question if they are right. 

Narcissists Will Use Baiting to Make You Appear to Be Emotionally Unstable

A narcissist will use baiting to make you appear to be emotionally unstable because they want to project their emotional instability onto you. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take aspects of our own identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto others.

A simple example of this would be a wife who has cheated on her husband and feels really bad about it and accuses her husband of cheating instead of acknowledging her mistake. 

Projection is like an emotional safety net for a narcissist. The reason being that narcissists don’t have the emotional intelligence that enables them to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage aspects of our identity that we find unacceptable.

It is believed that the emotional inadequacy that narcissists possess originates from an upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. 

This level of neglect means that the child never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.

We strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with our article How Are Narcissists Made to grasp a comprehensive understanding of this upbringing, but what is important to know for this article is that this upbringing left the narcissist with a ton of negative emotions about themselves. 

The reason being that because they weren’t able to develop a realistic sense of self from the relationship that they had with their primary caregivers, they were forced to search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurances that they lacked. 

A simple example of this would be a child of unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers developing a sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that he/she got from their external environment for being really popular amongst their peers. 

a narcissist getting validation from being popular

What this does is overtime it teaches the child that their true identity isn’t good enough to be loved or wanted by others. Which leads to them developing a deeply rooted hatred for themselves. But because of their unhealthy/abusive upbringing, they are too emotionally inadequate and immature to manage these negative emotions. 

To protect their emotional stability, they suppress them with the false sense of self that they constructed from the validation, admiration, and reassurance, also referred to as narcissistic supply, they get from their external environment. It is for this reason that narcissists need a constant flow of narcissistic supply. 

Their negative emotions are constantly eating away at their false sense of self so they are constantly needing to patch it up with validation, admiration, and reassurance. In other words, the false sense of self that narcissists have constructed out of narcissistic supply to suppress their negative emotions  is the only thing protecting the narcissists from having their emotional stability destroyed by their negative emotions.

Unfortunately, the negative emotions that narcissists have are incredibly powerful and make their false sense of self extremely weak. When a narcissist experiences even the slightest contradiction to their sense of self, it destroys the psychological box that narcissists had their suppressed negative emotions in and compromises their emotional stability. 

This is why projection is like an emotional safety net for a narcissist. It allows them to take their negative emotions, aspects of their identity that they find unacceptable, and place them onto others so they can avoid acknowledging them.

Narcissists use projection on a “smaller” scale that looks like them saying hurtful things that they really feel about themselves. But they also use it on a much larger scale that explains one of the reasons that narcissists bait you to make you appear to be emotionally unstable. 

When a narcissist says invalidating, degrading, devaluing, and humiliating things to bait you into a confrontation that makes you appear emotionally unstable, they are trying to project their emotional instability onto you. You see, by making you look unstable, they are able to point their finger at you and say to themselves, “They’re the unstable, inadequate, and weak ones, not me!” 

It is one of the most destructive products of their emotional inadequacy and immaturity but narcissists often bait you to make you look emotionally unstable so that they can “forget” about their own emotional instability.

A Narcissist Will Bait You to Prevent  You From Expressing Your Thoughts, Feelings, Emotions, and Needs

It is very common for narcissists to use baiting to prevent you expressing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. They often use this when you are clearly “winning” an argument or trying to set a healthy boundary with them. 

For example, if you were in an argument with a narcissist and started to list out all of the things that they’ve done wrong to you and other people in their life, it is very likely that they will bait you to prevent you from continuing to express yourself. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they know you are telling the truth and they are in the wrong.

What is happening is by listing off all of the bad things that they’ve done, you are contradicting their false sense of self and triggering all of their suppressed negative emotions. This is likely to cause them to explode into a narcissistic rage, clam up into a silent treatment, or begin to bait you by weaponizing your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you.

“I find it funny that you are pressing me so hard on this. It is no wonder that your mother walked out on you and your father died alone. You and your entire family are worthless so you have to project all of your failure onto me. I pity you honestly. I just would have thought that you’d be more respectful to the only person who loves you enough to put up with your sh*it. You have nobody but me. Nobody has ever loved you enough to stay. You better start treating me with respect or I am going to walk out on you just like the rest of your family did.”

In our article Should You Argue With a Narcissist we explain this a lot more thoroughly but you should always avoid arguments with a narcissist. If you do find yourself in one, you need to remain cool, calm, and collected because they are very good at getting a negative reaction out of you that invalidates your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse healing form baiting

Take the quote from above for an example, if the narcissist were to say this in the midst of an argument, you have two choices. The first choice that you have is to remain cool, calm, and collected. This will allow you to make a good decision about your next step and how to keep yourself emotionally and physically safe. The second option is to get really angry and get into a screaming match with the narcissist. 

This is exactly what they wanted to happen the moment they baited you because there is no way that you come out of that confrontation on top. They love to argue because it gives them a chance to prove their superiority over others by “winning”. If you say something that hurts their sense of self, they will victimize themselves and paint you out to be the bad guy. If you get really angry, they will start recording you so that they have “proof” that they are the victim.

Arguing with a narcissist is never, ever, a good idea. When a narcissist baits you to invalidate your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, your number one priority is to remain cool, calm, and collected. For help doing this, we highly recommend that you read our articles How to Use the Gray Rock Method on a Narcissist, How Do Narcissists React to the Gray Rock Method, and Does the Gray Rock Method Work.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

A narcissist will bait you to get you to engage in a negative confrontation. This confrontation will allow them to victimize themselves, portray you in a negative light, and/or to make you emotionally unstable so that they can invalidate, devalue, devalue, and degrade your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.


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:

Lowen, Alexander. Narcissism: Denial of the true self. Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Czarna, Anna Z., Marcin Zajenkowski, and Michael Dufner. “How does it feel to be a narcissist? Narcissism and emotions.” Handbook of trait narcissism. Springer, Cham, 2018. 255-263.