6 Tactics Narcissists Use Against Their Victims (That You Need To Know)

The narcissists´ world is a complex one. The disorder they suffer from confuses the people around them as to what is going on. The conduct they develop is so particular that there is a specific vocabulary required in order to understand it.

Here are six terms from the “Narcissus language” so that you may better understand their behavior and describe it to others.

Word Salad

This phrase is used to describe a series of words that do not connect to each other within the context of a sentence or speech, and that don’t relate to the question or the conversation they came from.

Its origin comes from psychiatry, describing how people who suffer from schizophrenia sometimes talk. They try to make sentences and to express themselves, but the brain is unable to process and apply a proper syntax. Just clips of phrases that don’t make much sense.

Why do narcissists use it?

  • It seems as if they are answering the question – I speak, you speak – even if they do not know the answer. It ensures they get the final word. It’s hyper competitiveness; they can turn anything into a competition. It’s verbal ping pong, not two adults having a normal conversation.
  • It controls the victim’s state and generates confusion. Through their linguistic ambiguity, they induce uncertainty and helplessness in the victim so that they give up and are more open to suggestion. Most narcissists have a natural knowledge about how to use language to manipulate and get their victim to a state where he/she is “at their mercy” (It seems they all go to the same school to learn these things).
  • For blatant provocation of negative states, to trigger things in the victim, that he/she is a nasty, dishonest, immoral person,… they will provoke the victim to a point that he/she will burst out and have a fight.

Flying Monkeys

This term was coined from a scene in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” where the wicked witch sends over her flying monkeys to bother Dorothy.

Flying monkeys are those people used by the narcissist as tools in order to get what he/she wants. If, for example, the narc wants to start a smear campaign against the victim, he/she will manipulate the flying monkeys into doing the dirty work, such as spreading lies, bullying or harassing the victim.

There are two kinds of flying monkeys: the one who is too naïve and blindly believes the lies of the narcissist, and the cynical one who is planning to get some advantage out of the narcissist. Flying monkeys are usually family or friends of the narcissist.

Cognitive Dissonance

The psychologist Leon Festinger was first to describe the theory of cognitive dissonance. It means the perception of an incompatibility between two simultaneous thoughts that might impact negatively on attitudes or behaviors.

Victims suffer permanent tension in their brains for receiving two different and contradictory messages at the same time. On the one hand, the emotional side of the brain (previously intoxicated with an oxytocin overdose through love bombing) says that the narcissist is a good, lovable, worthwhile person. On the other, a series of facts lead the person to rationally conclude that the narcissist is lying, cheating, manipulating and humiliating them.

The usual consequences of cognitive dissonance are stress, anxiety, blame, anger, frustration and/or shame. Oftentimes, victims fall into self-deception in order to stop feeling that tension. The bigger the investment of time and feelings in the relationship (for instance, let’s say the victim is married to and has a child with the narcissist), the more prone the victim will be to self-deception in order to justify the behavior and stop the cognitive dissonance.

Basically, they will unconsciously generate new thoughts (lies to themselves) to compensate for, and override, the disturbing ones.

The Scapegoat And The Golden Boy

A narcissist doesn’t have children to show them unconditional love, as any normal father or mother would. The narcissist has children in order to get a new source of narcissistic supply.

Narcissists objectify their children, and do not see them as human beings, but as mere extensions of themselves. Children of a narcissistic parent do not get love, but tyranny disguised as approval or disapproval. In a family where there is a narcissistic father or mother, the children will play roles, which will be assigned by the narcissist: the golden boy and the scapegoat.

The golden boy is the favorite child of the narcissist, who will be a reflection of himself/herself. For the narcissistic parent, the golden boy is perfect, always does everything right, is flawless and does not make mistakes. The narcissist treats, pampers, and defends the golden child, regardless if he or she misbehaves. The golden child learns, starting when he/she is a toddler, to demand special treatment, to blame others for his/her mistakes, to manipulate and lie, knowing that they will not be punished by his/her narcissistic parent as long as he/she obeys and praises him/her.

The scapegoat is the child most hated by the narcissist; the black sheep of the family. The narcissist thinks that the scapegoat does everything wrong; a rude and ungrateful rebel. This kid, contrary to the golden child, is at fault for all the family problems. The narcissistic father or mother will criticize, humiliate, disapprove of, and blame the scapegoat, even when this child has done nothing wrong.

More essential narcissist reading (article continues below):


The term “hoovering” comes from that well-known brand of vacuum cleaner. It is a manipulation technique that the narcissist employs to win back his/her victim(s), hoovering them back into his/her life through emotional blackmailing.

If you ever get involved with a narcissist, be ready to understand and face this manipulation phase as part of your relationship. Hoovering can happen a few months after the narcissist has left you (or you have split up with them), or sometimes years can pass before they search for you and try to hoover you back.

These are some examples of hoovering (very creative, as you can see):

  • You receive a message saying they are worried about you: He/she wants to know how you are, how you feel, if you are depressed, sad, etc. He/she fakes worry for you to see if you fall again and go back to him/her.
  • He/she gets in touch as if nothing has happened: “How are you? What have you been doing?” He/she tells you stuff that has happened to him/her as if nothing had been going on between the two of you. He/she calls you or texts you on your birthday, at Christmas, or on other important dates.
  • Manipulation with third parties (i.e. children): “I know that you hate me, but tell your nephew that I cannot attend his birthday, but I love him very much.”
  • He/she has cancer, is suffering from a stroke, or wants to commit suicide. This is a classic of the narcissist. He/she tests how much you still care for them, to see if you run to help them. It is like a toddler having a tantrum, checking to see if screaming out loud leads to the attention they desire.
  • Messages that were supposed to be meant for another person: they send messages to you “by mistake,” as they were “allegedly” meant for someone else (a new partner, for instance) to provoke a response or cause jealousy.
  • Twin souls: they contact you to tell you that you are their twin soul, that you are meant for each other, that you will always be the love of his/her life, that you will never find someone like him/her, that what you had was pure love. Romeo looks like a jerk compared to them.


This is a pattern of emotional abuse used by the narcissist in which the victim is manipulated in order to make himself/herself doubt his/her own perception, judgement or memory. It is designed to make the victim feel anxious, confused, or even depressed.

The origin of the term comes from a 1940s British movie called “Gaslight” directed by Thorold Dickinson, based on the theatre piece Gas Light written by Patrick Hamilton (known as Angel Street in USA). In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to make her think that she is crazy in order to steal her hidden fortune.

He hides things such as pictures and jewels, while making her think that she is the responsible one, but has just forgotten about it. The term refers to the gaslight that the husband uses in the attic while he searches for the hidden treasure. The woman sees the lights, but the husband insists that she is imagining them.

Some examples of gaslighting by the narcissist are:

  • Pretending not to understand what the victim says or refusing to listen.
  • Denial of what he/she said, even just minutes before, then later blaming the victim for never listening to him/her.
  • Changing the subject saying that he/she doesn´t want to talk about that (even when they were talking about something else entirely).
  • Accusing the abused party of having an overactive imagination and of “living in the clouds.”
  • Accusing the other party of being jealous, possessive, demanding ,… when trying to turn the conversation around in order to conceal something he/she has done.
  • Grinding down the victim telling him/her that his/her opinions are ridiculous and childish.
  • Trying to isolate the victim by telling him/her that he/she believes more in what other people say than in what he/she says. He/she will fake feeling hurt and betrayed. Isolation is what the narcissist looks for so that the victim depends entirely only on him/her.
  • Denial of things that they actually said: “I never promised/said that.”

Learn more: Gaslighting: 22 Examples Of This Brutally Manipulative Mindf*ck

If you happen to notice these kinds of behavior in someone around you (at work, your partner, a friend, an acquaintance,…) better step back a little bit and take some time to analyze this person, not for what he/she says, but for what he/she does and how you feel around them.

Your wise body will warn you that you are in danger in the form of anxiety, restlessness, sleep deprivation, a void of sensation, tiredness, crying out of the blue,… If this person really is a narcissist, you are dealing with someone who is actively acting against you, and that will try by all means to convince you of the opposite.

Can you now recognize any of these six things in relationships (past or present) in your life? Has this article helped you to better understand the ways of the narcissist? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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About Author

Patricia Armesto Corral is a blogger specialized in narcissism and abusive relationships. Gestalt therapist to be, she already offers therapy to survivors of dysfunctional families, either personally where she lives in Barcelona, or online. When she is not writing, she likes walking in the nature, watching old movies, and taking care of her plants.