19 thoughts on “12 Classic Propaganda Techniques Narcissists Use to Manipulate You

  • September 9, 2017 at 7:37 am

    You nailed it. I have experienced most if not all of these tactics with a narcissistic husband. He if course would deny it or justify it.

    • September 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Gone Girl,

      Yes, denial of responsibility even when it is obvious is a hallmark of many narcissists. Thanks for your post.


  • September 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I kick extroverted narcissists to the curb quickly. It has been very easy to rid myself of narcissists like these because of being someone who cares about himself as a human being and isnt afraid to fight for his rights. Ive generally learned over the years when to push them out with force and when to go 100% gray rock.

    Not all narcissists are created equal. Some are not nearly as verbally open, blatantly self absorbed and/or foolish when they speak or act.

    The covert types are the worst in my opinion. The others are much easier to spot relatively early on.

    This has been my personal experience anyway.

    The worst I encountered has been the covert/somewhat intelligent version. The extroverted/in your face types wont even make it to my home let alone through the front door.

    • September 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Hi Joe,

      Thank you for sharing with the community your experiences of what has been helpful for you in dealing with narcissists.


  • September 11, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Hadn’t thought in these terms before, but looking back with the knowledge of hindsight ,this strikes a chill.
    I guess, my rather open personality doesn’t see things like this, for one I find it hard enough to own myself without the need to have a control issue about other people.
    Thank you for the insight and knowledge with which I can call on as a reference to dealing with these asshats.

  • September 16, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I found your list really helpful. Most of it aligns with my experience, which was with the more “covert” narcissistic type, so all of this was often below the surface. The covert’s core message, instead of “I’m great and don’t you dare suggest otherwise” seems to be “I could be what other people define as great but why should I?” (implying: I’ve been there done that, or it’s not worth doing.) It’s a different kind of defensive superiority. There were fewer “Glittering Generalities”, and more dismissal / denigration of others’ interests or concerns. Every one of the items on your list is recognizable; they were just expressed with less energy and less directly than in the case of the stereotypical narcissist.

    It’s hard to talk about narcissists without making it sound like they are consciously plotting and planning to act in ways that are deliberately intended to “coerce, diminish and take advantage of others”. It’s true that narcissists are always poised to react in ways that have these effects, and that sometimes it’s deliberate and entirely justified in the narcissist’s mind. But for the narcissist (in contrast to the person with antisocial personality disorder) I think it’s also true that both the automatic response and the justification come from emotional antennae being constantly tuned to, and scanning for, threat / persecution / criticism / helplessness / obstruction — the least hint of which is unbearable to the narcissist and therefore must be responded to in the ways you describe. I think it’s about unconscious need and fragility driving automatic response and justifying conscious action.

    Knowing what drives it doesn’t change the need to protect yourself, though, ideally by removing yourself from the person’s orbit or by minimizing contact. But it can make it easier to deal with narcissists who can’t be avoided for now. It helps to know — to really understand — that it’s not about you. This can make it easier to recognize and tolerate the feelings of confusion and wrongness and guilt triggered when the narcissist responds to threats or pursues goals in ways that help the narcissist feel safer and stronger and vindicated and right.

    Another realization that helped me: the narcissist may claim to accept that others have different feelings and opinions, and they think it’s true that they accept this, but they don’t really get it. In a fundamental way, other people are almost not real to them. When a narcissist says “you’re not listening”, they seem to mean “you haven’t agreed with me yet, so it’s obvious that you don’t yet understand or you’re incapable of understanding or you have some motive for choosing to deny what I’m telling you.” The idea that someone could understand and still have a different wish or perspective is just not accessible when the narcissist feels unsafe, which is virtually all the time.

    I can add some techniques. One is radical subject-changing, when the narcissist begins to feel boxed in by the other’s points, and says something like “LOOK. All I know is . . .” followed by a statement of global grievance indirectly or not at all related to what was being discussed. Another is never apologizing because it’s unbearable to feel wrong. When the narcissist begins to see a glimmer of merit in what the other is saying (which does happen, because narcissistic oblivion varies by context and by individual), the only bearable way of backing down is to accuse, e.g. “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” or “How the hell was I supposed to know XYZ?” A third is lip-service, e.g. saying “Of course you have the right to do thus-and-such” accompanied by an embedded message that it is contemptible to exercise that right.

    At several points you said that the narcissist is convinced of whatever he or she feels to be true in that moment. Yes, and a contradictory thing may feel equally true in a different context, without creating awareness of any dissonance that needs resolving. Logic and facts can fuel the narcissist’s anxiety and defensive rage. I think that, much of the time, all the other can usefully do is to say “I don’t see it that way” and self-protect.

    A book I’ve found helpful is “Stop caretaking the borderline or narcissist: how to end the drama and get on with life” by Margalis Fjelstad.

    None of the above is a comment on propaganda, which you could argue is the use of narcissistic behaviors for public purposes, precisely and deliberately because these behaviors are such an effective barrier to authentic dialogue.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    • September 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Corydalis,
      Thank you for a thought-provoking post as well. Your observations are right on.

  • September 17, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Thank YOU Dan!

    Concerning the subconcious aspect of narcissists having been raised by a group of them in a highly dysfunctional and very poor Italian American family I can honestly say yes! The vast majority of their behavior seems instinctual a survival mechanism. This was my experience.

    Ive also met those who were more aware as well. They understood what they were doing quite often. Ive dealt with both.

    Every once in a great while a moment of clarity, or so it seems, would hit one of them and the look in their eyes was astonishing. I cant really describe it. It was generally short lived and quickly replaced with the fractured, wounded ego that ran the vast majority of their lives.

    They truly are miserable people inside. Do not doubt this. Deep down life is a struggle for them. Fear, anxiety, terror of losing control rules their lives constantly.

    Some are worse than others. However they ALL are capable of dragging you down in some form or another if you allow them (and that ultimately is the question are you going to allow them to drag you down?)

    Some seem to have no choice and I feel sincerely sad for those trapped in this relationship dynamic. However I implore you to ask yourself “Am I really trapped?” and to look at the situation from ALL angles. There just may be a way out do not give up.

    As melodramatic as this post sounds only those who’ve experienced it firsthand know how truly damaging and emotionally detrimental being trapped with a diagnosable narcissist(s) can be. They WILL gladly and happily attempt to ruin your life. Not kidding. No joking. Your suicide would be a joy to some of them! and certainly your deep emotional pain, failure and sadness on a continued basis is a pleasure to the vast majority of them.

    Anything to keep you “beneath” them. To keep you down. Anything to be the so called leader in their fractured world.

    This is a serious issue and again those who have lived it ,those who have suffered through it, know how serious it truly is. We can only assume what it’s like to walk in others shoes. In this case as a victim I want to help those who are currently being victimized.

    My narcissists were there from the day I was born. There arent words to describe all the forms of abuse employed. Others have come over the years and Ive passionately pushed them out.

    I will passionately continue to write on this website. Sharing the experiences in hopes that it will somehow help others.

    The point of this long winded post being narcissists are dangerous in more ways than one and you are worth something as a human being. Run for your life literally. Or they will attempt to make certain your life is theres in ways any functional or even somewhat functional human being couldnt possibly understand or even imagine.

    True blue diagnosable narcissists are no joking matter. They are nothing like the highly narcissistic people many encounter and label as a narcissist. They are truly emotionally ill and once you encounter one you’ll know and remember it.

    The only way this epidemic can be fought is with knowledge. We must teach our children from an early age and discourage this illness as best as we can.

    • September 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Joe,

      Thank you for your insightful post as well as sharing your personal experiences, which have added a great deal to your expertise and passion for this topic.

      You are right, narcissism exists on a spectrum and there is a wide variation among narcissists in their awareness of what they’re doing. Your point about there seeming to be these rare but clear moments when some narcissists emerge from their fugue and recognize perhaps in some small way the truth about themselves and their behavior is something I have observed as well. But as you say it’s very short-lived. Especially among those with narcissistic personality disorder, it is eerie how quickly they snap back into their iron-clad defenses and would deny to their deaths whatever truth they had glimpsed just moments ago. It can be unnerving and inspire false hope in those of us around narcissists.

      Your point is well taken that with all narcissists there are costs to being around them and that narcissists desire to win at your expense and keep you beneath then. Thanks for your contribution,


      • September 22, 2017 at 12:31 pm

        Dan its a form of validation to read what youve written and Im very appreciative. To read that youve also experienced some of these things in your practice is good to know. Im sorry that youve had to endure them as well.

        I do believe those who were born and raised by narcissists those who were literally trapped with them during their developmental/formative years have a unique perspective into the condition.

        It is a serious mental illness thats all too often disturbing, frightening and soul destroying to endure in your ‘elders’ as a child.

        As stated before words cannot express all the forms of abuse employed by these people, both consciously and subconciously, concerning their children.

        Some literally pushing their children to suicide or murder.

        The things my narcissists did and said to me as a child, adolescent and full grown adult without any form of remorse, empathy or even so much as a simple apology (according to them “apologies are for the weak”) are truly disturbing.

        Insidious is a good word and probably an understatement.

        To say I never imagined myself murdering one of them and secretly disposing of the body would be a lie.

        In fact that is one of the TRULY insidious aspects of this relationship dynamic. The victims so often being pushed to the breaking point.

        Imagine how many today sit in jail or prison. Decent human beings who were severely abused while the narcissist manipulated everyone around them. If you have been the victim these types of narcissists you can easily imagine what Im speaking about.

        This is just ONE of the reasons I often speak about how dangerous this condition can be.

        Am I aware that these are human beings who also deserve some form of empathy? Absolutely. However that should be left to the professionals in my humble opinion and Im certainly not here to support the abusers. That happens all too often to the victims of these people.

        The vast majority of empathy offered them by the victim is somehow used against the victim more often than not.

        I did not intend to beat a dead horse here and apologize for doing so. I intend to somehow help others trapped in this madness. Thank you for acknowledging/validating what Ive written on more than one ocassion Dan.

        Youre correct there is a passion that has developed from this experience. It’s a passion that states: I have a purpose on this planet that goes beyond simply being an object to be controlled, manipulated and abused by an emotionally disturbed family.

        We are survivors on this website. Im proud of us! and not afraid to share these insights/stories in sincere hopes of helping others.

        I desire to see these statements inspire others to continue exploring this website further. To continue arming themselves with knowledge and hopefully breaking the chains of abuse.

        Your work is literally saving lives Dan. Ive said it before and will continue to thank you for it.

      • September 22, 2017 at 1:38 pm

        Dear Joe,
        You make many important points. There is often a mismatch between a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and their children, not the least of which, as you point out, is the empathy many children have for their narcissistic parent despite the absence of empathy coming back. Part of healing is to acknowledge the mismatch one may have grown up with, acknowledge the legacy that may have come with that, and find ways to heal the past, embrace the present, and empower ones self for the future.
        Thank you for your post.

      • April 15, 2019 at 11:08 am

        Unfortunately, this ’empathy’ that children of narcissists feel for their narcissistic parent is a sign of the huge damage they have been subjected to.

        This behaviour is that which the Scottish psychoanalyst Ronald Fairbairn referred to as the ‘moral defense’ where children, having been abused by a parent, will prefer to retain the parent in their minds as ‘good’ while the child considers him or herself to be ‘bad’. This helps the child to maintain a feeling of control over the situation in circumstances where the child is dependent on the parent for his/her survival. The child thinks ‘If I stop being bad, then my parent will stop abusing me’ – it helps the child to feel like they have some control in a situation where, devastatingly, they have none. It is preferable for the child to feel that they are ‘bad’ because to think that their parent is bad would be too unsafe.

      • April 15, 2019 at 11:41 am

        You make important points. Many, many children of narcissists do, as you say referencing Fairbairn, internalize shame and blame as a way of feeling control rather than feeling like a back-seat passenger in an out-of-control car driven by a driver who gives little thought to the child’s well being. That being said, we do have to honor whatever coping mechanisms we used as children to emotionally survive. Once in adulthood, we have the opportunity to reclaim our sense of self, our childhood innocence, and to let go of the internalized shame.
        Thank you for your perceptive comments.
        Dan Neuharth, PhD MFT

      • March 30, 2018 at 7:41 pm


        Thank you Dan, for your most helpful and insightful articles. What you write often closely mirrors my experiences.

        I’m replying to to Joe and Cordalis as well, because what they write really makes sense to me in terms of my experiences.

        Briefly, I was married for nearly forty years, to someone I now recognise as having narcissistic traits from day 1 of our marriage. Being completely unfamiliar with the practical realities of narcissism (and limited access to internet information that long ago), I handled periodic episodes of verbal and psychological abuse as anger issues due to my spouse’s harsh upbringing. I did lose my temper and we used to have awful rows, but I stayed in my marriage until he ‘dumped’ me in a most spectacular manner, tried to steal large sums of money from our joint funds with the active connivance of the ‘other woman’ and blamed the demise of the marriage entirely on me! Needless to say, the last few years have been rather difficult…

        Two questions: Firstly, had he been as appalling in his conduct during earlier years, I would just not have stayed in this marriage. So although I now understand I should have been far more assertive and conscious of my boundaries during our marriage, the sharp deterioration in his behaviour does not seem to ‘fit’ with narcissism. In your experience, have you found that narcissism can be really exacerbated due to excessive alcohol and pain medication consumption?
        Secondly, there are clear indications his father was narcissistic, harsh and controlling towards his spouse and children. Joe, despite your upbringing, you are not narcissistic. What helped you most not to be like your parents in their behaviour. Any insights as to why my spouse now seems to mirror his father’s behaviour some ways but not others – e.g. his father did not ever leave his mother. How does one try to ensure one’s children don’t follow in their parent’s footsteps?

      • March 30, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        Hi Portia,
        Thank you for your questions. Actually, unhealthy narcissism can often become worse over time. Illness, aging, substance abuse and other factors can exacerbate unhealthy narcissistic behaviors and tendencies. While some mental disorders tend to lessen with age, in my experience this is many times not the case with people with narcissistic personality disorder.
        As far as having a narcissistic parent, just as most people who were physically abused as children do not become physically abusive parents (though of course some do), being raised by a narcissist in and of itself does not mean someone is likely to become a narcissist.

  • February 22, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Wow – read this list and recognized my sister.
    …and Donald Trump.

    A least I can do something about one of them. Thank you for sharing your insight in this article and others, Dan.

  • March 25, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Three years ago, I realised that I had not existed in reality starting at age 5. I thought that I was practising Christianity, but I was a narcissistic sociopath in reality. It is too late in life to un-do the damage and harm to myself and others, as one cannot go back in time. CORRECT IN PART ! that a sociopath is driven to achieve goals and knowledge. In my case I thought was researching for the good of society in a highly competitive research environment with other sociopaths: not for personnel gain. When you are surrounded with narcissistic sociopaths at various levels, you do not realize your mental disorder. I never knew that a narcissistic sociopath existed and hence I have never denied as being one until now. I made friends easily, defended and enjoyed the company of minorities, and took great care for pets. WRONG I do feel empathy for my family and others. I was very willing to share resources and knowledge and wanted to research in teams.
    I do love my daughter very much and often wonder why my fellow colleagues valued obtaining a PhD and their research over the birth of their children. The birth of my daughter was the most important thing in my life and consider her a gift from God. My marriage should have been the second most important thing in my life. I was surprised at the number of women who had problems such as domain controlling parents, sexual assaults, abusive parents, trauma, and the list goes on. I did not recognize or understand the implications of the trauma in the childhood years of my wife. I accepted that my wife had issues and was supportive of her desire for counselling. It is when she would do something dangerous that I scream at her. For example, giving the peace sign to a gang of bikers on an isolated road. Those type of bikers are always bad news, as they think nothing about murdering you and the police when there is opportunity. She would not hesitate to enter a road that was posted no trespassing and even with a guard present: like a military base. My wife would also scream at me and others. Expressed my concerns with an Anglican Minister in training who said that I should not throw stones. His focus was on marriage as part of his training requirements. Since her family had troubles with her and nearly destroyed some of their marriages, I thought the problem was her attitudes to life and did not realize she was also a narcissistic sociopath. My wife was never happy for long and worried she had not got her rightful share of goods in life. She was very good at gaslighting. Belittled many of my daughter’s friends. One of her sisters, the one who has a Ph.D. in pharmacy, stated she was bipolar. I would often pray for her to find happiness. She often wished me dead and also her family. To make things worse, I am in the middle of a divorce after 25 years of marriage to a wife that decided not to work and bought a house without a job. She cannot hold a job.
    Caught in the middle of the two battling narcissistic sociopaths was a very loving daughter. My daughter has obtained a BA in Political Science with Honours in 3 and half years. She had all “A” s with one B+ which included a year of courses in French. French is a second language to her. She took the highest GPA for her Department She is currently studying for a Masters in Political Science in Paris. The problem is that she way over her head financially. If I had been thinking normally, I would be in a position to assist her. One role of a father is to love and support his children: the most previous gift that one can receive. My family should have been able to celebrate my daughter’s achievement. She thinks her parents are not proud of her. I will not be able to support my daughter and wife after learning the reasons for my actions. I do not know what to do, as it will ruin them. I will never see my daughter again and she will never see me again (this tears my soul apart). She was not a procession but as a being/soul that I love very much and cherished. My parents provided me with a very loving supporting childhood (my father refused to die in 1967 from an unknown lung disease in order to raise his sons), and hence my disorder was not cause by environmental factors but by genetic factors. I now do not blame my wife, it was me who has emotionally and financially destroy my family and home. The house should have been bulldozed instead of buying because of the state it was in. (not a good environment for raising a family). Only the land has value which will be required for bills. I should have realized Dad’s recommendation to the purchase of the house was a bad decision. At that time, his PTSD from combat in WW II was surfacing. Dad was in an elite unit that was known as the First Special Service Force. It was comprised of Americans and Canadians. From reading posts on the units Facebook site, many of the Force men never came back the same. This unit was the forerunner of the Green Berets and Navy Seals. Thus, I have ruined the family name and the efforts of my father who gave up his youth for our freedom.
    The realization that I was not in reality came three years ago after blowing up (swearing, criminal offence) at my former place of work. I view my whole life starting from grade one as a disaster and waste of a life. I was given many opportunities, friendship, assistance, love, good health, and resources over my life, but did not realize them a such at the time, provided. I never felt deprived of attention from family members, friends, and organizations such as Cadets and school. To obtain the short- term goals, I would take risks that were not logical, leg (prison time is coming) as one can not steal and defraud, trustworthy, respectful, ethical, professional, and benefitable to achieve the goal(s). Even if I do not go to prison, there is nothing to support my family and hence they are doomed. I feel that I am on death row and I have also put my family and friends on death row. It is one thing to end your life without knowing about your actions until it is too late, it is another thing to destroy another individual or organization.
    Regardless which direction or action I take I will hurt and destroy someone. I am horrified what will happen to my wife, daughter, relations, and friends. Although I have lost everything and never will be able to recovered, I am more concerned about the impacts my actions to others; especially their future. I now realize how I could have assisted many others rather my delusions. I enjoy helping and empowering individuals; often without pay. I am now like the walking dead; a non-functional parasite to society even when the law catches up to me. I have made a mess of everything that can not be reversed. I am too weak to walk any great distance, as there is no future for me and others. I should be assisting with the people where I am currently staying. It keeps going through my mind that you cannot go back in time and seems to be too bizarre and inhuman to be real. What have I done to my family? I just want to correct the wrongs and disappear from everyone’s memory: it is not going to happen. Donald Trump, Roger Stone, and Associates have better odds at success.
    WRONG !, as a narcissistic sociopath, I have the desire to change once I had discovered the reasons for my past actions after reading articles (self diagnosis is possible) such as yours. It is too late at age 60. I am horrified that my friends who are in the applied mental services did not notice my personally. I now realize one of them was also a narcissistic sociopath. Yes, I am terrified for me and others. -life., I will be Hell on earth and the after-life. The reason why I sent you this message was not to obtain sympathy, but to further your research, encourage more though, promote further discussions, and advise you to inform people of their mental disorder. It may save their lives and those around them. I would have rather have preferred discussions with you than ending my life in prison (it will kill me), destroying lives, and not being there in the future for others when needed.

  • September 27, 2019 at 4:57 am

    your words could as well be the words of my spouse

    Because he provides me with everything I need and goes the extra mile to show others how giving he is he thinks its very okay to go the extreme way if he is unhappy with me
    If i dont agree with him or disappove or react contrary to his expectations he shouts and accuses me of doing so, insults, belittles and walks menacingly and commands me like a toddler And he questions my audacity to voice my opinions or speak my mind
    And he exagerates al small issues to big stuff that you discuss until you are totally worn out and can no longer decode nothing , making you surrender for peace sake

    This time though I have refused to go down and divorce is in the air because of a silly arguement

    He threatens divorce every time I disagree and refuse to apologize

    Might i say even when i am ready to apologize because the apology is going to go through analysis as well I dont offer it,
    Refuse to offer and you are damned offer it and you still are damned

    It is totally exhausting , sometimes you look for evidence that this person actually loved you and you can not even see it in their actions and words you question your own reality because he goes to extremes to express himself


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