5 Toxic Arguing Techniques Narcissists Use (2023)

Do you find yourself caught in arguments with someone who uses narcissistic tactics? It helps to know what they might say and how to respond effectively.

Arguing with someone who has narcissistic traits can leave you feeling hurt and confused.

People on the narcissism spectrum — from those with narcissistic traits to those with diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — may have an intense desire to win arguments, as it helps keep their ego intact.

At times, it may seem as though they’ll accomplish this by any means necessary. As a result, there are many things people with narcissistic traits say in an argument to gain the upper hand.

Talking to someone with narcissism can be a challenge. This article looks at some narcissistic argument techniques, why people use them, and ways to protect yourself.

Researchers have found that those who live with NPD have limited self-awareness and a reduced ability to attune to others, which may explain why they don’t see their behaviors in the same light as you do.

If you confront a narcissist about something hurtful, they may downplay what occurred or minimize the events that took place.

This could sound like:

  • “Relax, this isn’t a big deal.”
  • “I did that before and you didn’t care.”
  • “I didn’t think you would be upset over something so petty.”

It can also sound like using softer language to make a behavior seem less hurtful. For example, stealing may become “borrowing your money without asking.”

2. Shifting the blame onto you

(Video) Top 5 TOXIC ARGUMENT STRATEGIES That Narcissists Use

Research shows that those who live with narcissism often carry an innate sense of victimhood, which is why they might shift the blame over to you, someone else, or another external factor they have little control over.

Shifting blame and defensiveness can sound like:

  • “It’s not my fault, it’s because of you/money/stress/work.”
  • “If you wouldn’t have done this, I wouldn’t have done that.”
  • “You knew what you were getting into; this is just the way that I am.”

If you can’t spot what’s happening when someone plays the victim card, you may find yourself feeling bad and apologizing for a perceived slight.

Studies suggest that those with narcissism aren’t as prone to guilt as others, which can make it difficult for them to take accountability for their actions.

As a result, they may outright deny that they said or did something hurtful, a strategy called gaslighting, even in the face of proof. This can leave you doubting your own sense of reality.

This can sound like:

  • “I never said that.”
  • “That never happened.”
  • “Your evidence doesn’t prove anything.”

Gaslighting isn’t always outright or overt. It can also take the form of diversionary tactics that confuse the other person or make it very difficult to address the issue at hand.

4. Ridiculing you

(Video) Don't ARGUE Or FIGHT With A Narcissist… DO THIS INSTEAD | Dr Ramani

Those who live with narcissism may find it difficult to hold positive and negative feelings for someone at the same time. As a result, things may get heated in an argument. You may experience insults, put-downs, and even mocking behaviors, like laughing as you express hurt.

Some examples include:

  • “That’s stupid.”
  • “You’re so crazy.”
  • “There’s something wrong with you.”

When faced with indisputable proof (like receipts, photos, e-mails), someone with narcissistic traits may redirect attention back onto you as a distraction.

Deflection can include:

  • Indirect or non-answers: bringing unrelated details into the mix.
  • Prior arguments: bringing up old issues, particularly your prior “offenses.”
  • Guilt-tripping: “After everything I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?”
  • Projection: accusing you of exactly what they are doing.

If you’re caught in an argument, there are ways to stay empowered.

It can help to approach the person outside of an argument, or when you’re not feeling emotionally aroused. This means you can think more clearly and find it easier to use the strategies discussed below.

Try to focus on the facts

With a limited capacity for empathy, a narcissist may not be able to truly understand how you feel. Instead, focus on the logical facts — the objective truth, rather than your subjective truth.

This sounds like:

(Video) 10 Tactics to Put a Narcissist in Their Place

  • “In my e-mail, I listed the deadline as 5 p.m.”
  • “In therapy, we agreed that kissing is cheating.”
  • “On the lease, it says that no smoking is allowed.”

Focus on ’I’ statements

Phrasing your points in the form of “I” statements can help you get through to the person. For instance, you could say, “I feel as though you are not considering my needs in this,” instead of saying, “you are being selfish.”

Try to stay calm

You may find it helpful to consider the “grey rock” approach.

That is, try to become so boring that the other person doesn’t find it appealing to try and incite a reaction out of you, because you’ll give them nothing. If possible, maintain a neutral face, peaceful attitude, and limited emotional reactions (called a flat affect), especially in the face of anger.

You can also try:

  • taking deep breaths
  • pausing between sentences
  • excusing yourself for a few minutes

Try to stay focused

If possible, do not allow yourself to get derailed by manipulation tactics. Try to concentrate on one subject at a time. If it helps, write down your talking points for easy reference.

Try to assert your boundaries with confidence

In order to hold your ground, set healthy boundaries and maintain direct eye contact.

This can sound like:

  • “You just made the statement that I am crazy. I will not stand for you saying that again.”
  • “If you continue to yell at me, I will leave.”
  • “I need a 15-minute break, then we can resume this discussion.”

Try to release your expectations

Common ground may not be an achievable goal. Instead, try to show up for yourself. Look after yourself and don’t worry about their side — that’s on them.

And though you may possess empathy in spades, you may find it helpful to stop trying to understand the narcissist’s behaviors. Instead, focus on your own healing work and recharge with some self-care after an argument.

Consider imposing a time limit

If the argument is going nowhere and making you feel bad, try to end the interaction peacefully. For example, you might say, “I have an appointment at 2:00. I have to get going in 10 minutes.”

If you’re in danger, leave ASAP

In some cases, a relationship with a person who has NPD can turn toxic, abusive, or dangerous. If someone starts making threats against you in any way, it’s best to leave the argument as soon as possible.

Some threats may include:

  • calling the police on you
  • taking legal action against you
  • filing complaints with human resources or higher-ups
  • physical threats toward you, loved ones, or your pets

This article can help you form an exit plan to leave someone with NPD for good.

Narcissism is a complex pattern of behavior.

It can impact two-way communication, as you may be coming to the argument seeking to understand, while they may be trying to secure their own livelihood or “win.”

It can help to stay focused, set healthy boundaries, and know when to walk away.

You may also find it helpful to learn more about the topic of narcissism. Some helpful books include:

Find help for domestic abuse

If you think you may be experiencing domestic abuse, support is available:

  • You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for free, confidential, 24/7 care and support.
  • You can contact loveisrespect.org by calling 866-331-9474 or texting LOVEIS to 22522 for support if you think you could be in an abusive relationship.

You can also visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a domestic violence prevention advocacy group with a list of resources for relationship abuse help.

(Video) Narcissist's Favorite Argument Techniques


What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›

Common Narcissist Characteristics
  • Inflated Ego.
  • Lack of Empathy.
  • Need for Attention.
  • Repressed Insecurities.
  • Few Boundaries.

What are things narcissists say in an argument? ›

It's not my fault, it's because of you/money/stress/work.” “If you wouldn't have done this, I wouldn't have done that.” “You knew what you were getting into; this is just the way that I am.”

What are some common phrases used by covert narcissists? ›

25 common phrases used by a covert narcissist
  • It is not a big deal.
  • It is your fault.
  • I was just joking.
  • Don't get upset over nothing.
  • You are imagining things.
  • Don't be so sensitive.
  • Why so defensive all the time.
  • I didn't say that.
Dec 9, 2021

What are typical narcissistic responses? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.

What is the one question to identify a narcissist? ›

And that single question is this: “To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist. (Note: The word 'narcissist' means egotistical, self-focused and vain.)”

What are the red flags of a narcissist? ›

Here are some narcissism red flags to look out for: Lacking empathy. They seem unable or unwilling to have empathy for others, and they appear to have no desire for emotional intimacy. Unrealistic sense of entitlement.

What do narcissists say during gaslighting? ›

They may try to make you feel like you're overreacting or being too sensitive by saying things like, “You're being paranoid,” or “You're imagining things.” They might also try to control what you do and who you see by trying to isolate you from your friends and family.

What are weird habits of narcissists? ›

Not listening to you, blaming you for their mistakes, and holding grudges against you are some weird things narcissists do. Being with such a person may affect your physical and mental health.

How do narcissists respond to conflict? ›

Insults, aggresion, threats, shouting lie, gaslighting and sometimes violence. The intention is to degrade, humiliate, hurt and undermine you and they are common narcissistic argument tactics; The silent treatment.

What is the most narcissistic thing to say? ›

"You're a bad person." "Nobody else will ever love you." "I'm the best you'll ever have." "Have fun being alone for the rest of your life."

How do covert narcissists argue? ›

Dominates the conversation: Covert narcissists may become aggressive and start to provoke or intimidate you in order to be proven right or have you back down. Lying and denial: Since they will try to win the argument at any cost, they may lie about what happened and deny facts to confuse you, similar to gaslighting.

What is a narcopath? ›

Narcopath, also known as a narcissist sociopath, is a person suffering from a mental health condition wherein they reflect sadistic, evil, and manipulative tendencies.

How does a narcissist have a conversation? ›

A narcissist communicator allows little or no space for others. They dominate and hoard conversation time by focusing primarily on what they want to talk about (holding court), while paying little or no interest to other people's thoughts, feelings, and priorities.

What words not to say to a narcissist? ›

8 Things You Should Never Say to a Narcissist
  • Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
  • Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
  • Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
  • Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
  • Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
  • Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
Dec 15, 2017

What is the no smiling test for narcissism? ›

Look at the narcissist, smile, and say no.

When the narcissist asks for something from you or wants you to do something, smile and say NO! Then sit back and see how they react to your boundaries.

How can you tell a secret narcissist? ›

Covert narcissists
  1. Superficial charm.
  2. Attention-seeking.
  3. Lack of reliability.
  4. Manipulation.
  5. The propensity to break peoples' boundaries.
  6. Inflated sense of self-importance and self-centered.
  7. An exaggerated sense of self.
Sep 9, 2021

What are questions a narcissist can't answer? ›

What makes you so different from anyone else?” It was referring to how infallible and superior narcissists see themselves. They cannot answer why they are so wonderful and perfect; they are special, and that's all you need to know about them.

How do you know a narcissist is toxic? ›

The toxic narcissist

So, if you happen to have a friend who constantly demands all of your time and attention—and doesn't respond well when you don't meet those demands—you may be dealing with a toxic narcissist.

How do you tell if you are a victim of a narcissist? ›

You know you're suffering from narcissistic abuse victim syndrome if you have the following symptoms:
  1. Always Walking On Egg Shells. ...
  2. Sense of Mistrust. ...
  3. Self-Isolation. ...
  4. Loss of Self Worth. ...
  5. Feeling Lonely. ...
  6. Freezing Up. ...
  7. Trouble Making Decisions. ...
  8. Feeling Like You've Done Something Wrong.
Dec 23, 2020

How do gaslighters apologize? ›

A gaslighter will often make you beg for their forgiveness and apologize profusely for any 'wrong' you committed, even if it's something they did,” Stern says. Sometimes you may not even know what you're apologizing for, other than they're upset and it's your responsibility to calm them down.

What is narcissistic triangulation? ›

Triangulation is when a toxic or manipulative person, often a person with strong narcissistic traits, brings a third person into their relationship in order to remain in control. There will be limited or no communication between the two triangulated individuals except through the manipulator.

How do narcissists treat dogs? ›

They tease your pet.

The narcissist offers your pet a treat and then takes it back. The narcissist gets a payoff from seeing people and pets suffer under their control. By teasing your pet, the narcissist is also pushing your pet into snapping at them as a way to tell the narcissist to stop.

What is a narcissistic collapse? ›

Narcissistic collapse is an intense emotional reaction experienced by a narcissistic person when they sense a setback. It can lead to withdrawal or vindictive behaviors. The signs of narcissistic collapse may vary from person to person.

What are the 7 strange behaviors of covert narcissists? ›

If you feel constantly agitated because you think you are being wronged, not given enough attention, or slighted in any way, you may be a covert narcissist.
  • 7 Characteristics Of A Covert Narcissist. ...
  • Quiet Smugness/Superiority. ...
  • Self-Absorption. ...
  • Lack Of Empathy. ...
  • Passive-Aggressiveness. ...
  • Highly Sensitive.

Do narcissists enjoy arguing? ›

Narcissists love a good brawl; it helps feed their narcissistic supply. And they always fight dirty. So for your own sanity, try to avoid getting into an argument with one if you can. If it's not possible, remember to stay calm and factual.

What is the correct way to outsmart a narcissist? ›

How to Outsmart a Narcissist
  1. Separate yourself to cut off their narcissistic supply.
  2. Take time to heal.
  3. Take responsibility for your part in a conflict.
  4. React with empathy and respect.
  5. Act unresponsive around them.
  6. Disengage from their conversations.
  7. Set and enforce clear boundaries.

How do narcissists respond to anger? ›

In general, the narcissist's reaction to anger is extremely unreasonable, and they will never feel any type of regret or need to apologize for their outburst. When a narcissist expresses anger, it's almost never justified.

What are narcissistic words easy? ›

Overview. Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.

How does a narcissist behaves after a breakup? ›

People with high levels of narcissistic admiration experienced less anxiety and sadness after a breakup and maintained positive perceptions of their exes. They were also more likely to initiate a breakup and attribute it to their lack of interest in their ex.

How does a narcissist apologize? ›

In narcissists' efforts to avoid blame, they often combine several fake apologies at once, such as, “I am sorry if I said anything to offend you, but I have strong opinions. Maybe you're too sensitive,” or, “I guess I should tell you I am sorry. But you know I would never deliberately hurt you.

What are the manipulation tactics of covert narcissist? ›

Covert Manipulative Tactics
  • Lying. Habitual liars sometimes lie when it's unnecessary. ...
  • Denial. This isn't denial that's unconscious, like not realizing you've being abused, have an addiction, or are avoiding facing difficult truths. ...
  • Avoidance. ...
  • Blame, Guilt, and Shame. ...
  • Intimidation. ...
  • Playing the Victim.
Jun 29, 2019

What techniques do covert narcissists use? ›

Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do
  • Hoovering. ...
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Love Bombing. ...
  • Guilt-Tripping. ...
  • Triangulation.
Dec 14, 2022

What is worse than a narcissist? ›

Sociopaths are more dangerous than narcissists. People with antisocial personality disorder are more likely to be engaged in an abusive or controlling relationship. They're also more likely to be involved in illegal activities or financial fraud schemes. If dating someone like this, you're in trouble.

What is gray rocking? ›

Gray rocking, or the grey rock method, is a tactic some people use when dealing with abusive or manipulative behavior. It involves becoming as uninteresting and unengaged as possible so that the other person loses interest. Some people anecdotally report that it reduces conflict and abuse.

What is the highest level of narcissism? ›

Malignant narcissism is considered by many to be the most severe type. 2 That's why it helps to recognize when you have someone with this condition in your life and what to expect from interactions with them.

What are narcissists good at? ›

Empathy for others and recognition of their needs. Authentic self-concept. Self-respect and self-love. Courage to abide criticism from others while maintaining positive self-regard.

What do narcissists want from you? ›

Narcissists require loyalty. That being said, the loyalty is only one way. Many narcissists demand loyalty from their partners, while hypocritically betraying the relationship themselves; sometimes by even cheating on their partners, with no remorse.

How a narcissist will treat you? ›

Narcissists also gaslight or practice master manipulation, weakening and destabilizing their victims; finally, they utilize positive and negative emotions or moments to trick others. When a narcissist can't control you, they'll likely feel threatened, react with anger, and they might even start threatening you.

What tone of voice does a narcissist use? ›

Narcissists use the volume and tone of their voice to subconsciously establish dominance. They do this through two extremes. One way is to increase the volume by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is equally effective through complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond.

When a narcissist texts you? ›

So, narcissist texting habits revolve around them as the central topic. Narcissists need your love and attention to make them feel important. Without this, they either get angry or charming to bring you back. So, relationship texts from a narcissist may often flip between being overtly amorous to nonexistent.

What turns a narcissist off? ›

When you don't depend on anyone to make money and you use your abundance to take care of yourself and not predators, you will always have the ability to control your own future. This is power, and pathologically envious narcissists are often turned off by it because it means they cannot easily control a victim.

How do you shut down a narcissist in an argument? ›

Here are the steps you should take:
  1. Don't argue about 'right' and 'wrong' ...
  2. Instead, try to empathise with their feelings. ...
  3. Use 'we' language. ...
  4. Don't expect an apology. ...
  5. Ask about a topic that interests them. ...
  6. Don't take the bait yourself. ...
  7. Remember to put yourself first.
Feb 11, 2018

How do you stay strong against a narcissist? ›

  1. Educate yourself about NPD. ...
  2. Build your self-esteem. ...
  3. Speak up for yourself. ...
  4. Set clear boundaries. ...
  5. Practice skills to keep calm. ...
  6. Find a support system. ...
  7. Insist on immediate action, not promises. ...
  8. Understand that a narcissistic person may need professional help.

What are the biggest signs of a narcissist? ›

Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements. Make achievements and talents seem bigger than they are. Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate. Believe they are superior to others and can only spend time with or be understood by equally special people.

What are the obvious signs of a narcissist? ›

Signs of Narcissism
  • Sense of Entitlement. A common sign of people with narcissism is the belief that they are superior to others and deserve special treatment. ...
  • Manipulative Behavior. Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. ...
  • Need for Admiration. ...
  • Lack of Empathy.
Dec 18, 2022

What are the four subtle signs of a narcissist? ›

Common narcissistic traits include having a strong sense of self-importance, experiencing fantasies about fame or glory, exaggerating self abilities, craving admiration, exploiting others, and lacking empathy.

What does a narcissist look like physically? ›

Thus, narcissists may pay special attention to their appearance, leading to observable manifestations such as matching, fashionable clothes, and a tidy, organized appearance. Another characteristic of narcissists that might affect their physical appearance is their desire to be the center of attention.

What does a narcissist value most? ›

They demand respect, and give none in return.

For a narcissist, their needs must always be put first, and they will never reciprocate those feelings for anyone else. The world revolves around them, and everyone who happens to be part of that world should go along with it.

What zodiac is narcissist? ›

Aries is the most inherently narcissistic sign. They are hyper-focused on survival and will do anything they can to sustain themselves. "In a way, Aries uses narcissism as a protection mechanism," says Marquardt.

What is the fastest way to spot a narcissist? ›

They think highly of themselves (inflative sense of self-importance), exaggerate achievements, and expect to be recognized as superior. They fantasize about their own success, power, brilliance, beauty or perfect love. They believe they are special and can only be understood by other special people (or institutions).

What are the 4 stages of narcissism? ›

There are four distinct phases that these types of relationships typically go through: idealization, devaluation, discard, and hoover. And at times, it may feel like you are on a not-so-merry-go-round going round-and-round through these phases many times over.


1. 9 Things That Narcissists Say In An Argument (And How To Argue Effectively)
(Inner Toxic Relief)
2. 5 Ways to Improve a Narcissistic Relationship
3. The insanity of arguing with a narcissist
(Melanie Tonia Evans)
4. 7 Irrational Ways Narcissists Argue with You
(Angie Atkinson)
5. The 5 Favorite Argument Techniques Evil People Use That You Should Be Aware Of
(Empaths Refuge)
6. 5 Subtle Manipulation Tactics Narcissists Use For Control
(Common Ego)
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