15 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.

      • 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.


Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply to Dan Neuharth, PhD MFT Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *