42 thoughts on “How to Translate Narcissist-Speak

  • April 26, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Just — BINGO! Very, very good.

  • April 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Yes… after “Theres something not quite right about you” or “Your really weird” or “Too crazy for me ” ..followed by a
    “Can I borrow you…” Can I use you”….and then you realise only a crazy person would indulge in such a non sequitur.
    Which, if inferred from your apparent demeanour , raised eyebrows, or verbal rebuttal from your lowly minion status results in “Your just a “f…king smartass” …

    • July 1, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Hi Sassy,
      You capture the One-two punch quite well. Thanks for sharing.

  • April 26, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    What I wonder about in regards to this list is whether a narcissist’s constructs/points are really that consistent. Of course everyone would use slightly different language, but its interesting to me, since I havent dealt long term with a narcissist, that they can be so similar on the basics of relationships as this and other authors describe. It seems more likely that the

  • April 26, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    (sorry about typo) – It seems more likely that the stories and angles in the shell game would be very much more diverse, but this is only a guess.

    • July 1, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Kevin,
      You raise a valid point. There are many kinds of narcissists, and narcissism exists on a continuum which can also vary from situation to situation. Thank you for your post.

      • July 13, 2019 at 11:44 pm

        I am amazed just how textbook my ex husband was (is) as a narcissist. It is like a disease. There may be some differences but it goes right down the line of symptoms.

  • April 26, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    With things like this written as absolute fact, is it any wonder we no longer trust anyone in our lives? Has no one ever apologized fir hurt feelings while standing by their point? I can’t ask someone to trust in me – my instincts, my beliefs? I love psychology, but this seems a bit extreme.

  • May 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I really respect and enjoy reading your articles. As a survivor of a narcissistic parent I can agree that you must read between the lines when dealing with them. What they say and what they mean are usually very different depending on how they want to see themselves. And, no matter what they say, they can always spin on a dime so that their meaning will change to suit them and make you look crazy. My mother will say things like “you never talk to me to tell me what’s going on in your life. You just talk at me.” What the hell does that mean? No matter the situation, she is never the fault. Her favorites are “I never said that,” “You took it the wrong way,” or her all-time best, “I’m sorry YOU took it that way. I really don’t know what to say to you or what you want from me.”

    • July 1, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Survivor,
      Your post captures quite well the way narcissists evade responsibility and cannot seem to genuinely apologize. Thank you,

    • August 19, 2018 at 12:42 am

      Raised by an alcoholic father and a religious zealot mother…what a dichotomy this was!! At age 8, I begged my mother to divorce him, she couldn’t. His respect for her and my only, younger brother, non-existent.
      He demanded responsibility out of me. First day of kindergarten, Mom was preparing to take me. He told her to sit down, she wasn’t going anywhere. Said she is capable and can do this her self!! He owned his own business, he had me walk 6 blocks to the bank, alone, to make his deposit.
      Looking back, my brother was a very sick baby, pernicious anemia. All I can remember was he was either crying or projectile vomiting. Me, I got shuttled
      everywhere, a lot. I think Mom had a breakdown of some sort, of course they did not say that to me.
      I am a very independent, self-relying individual and people bug me!!
      How do I convince myself that someone else can handle all this. I have done it myself for so long, thank you very much!!

    • July 13, 2019 at 11:46 pm

      I actually had my ex deny he left a battered woman. Another time, he said, Oh come on, when was the last time I hit you?

  • June 3, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Watch out for the ” mirror grab” …
    Theres like a general conversation which is about someone else, and which may include a bit of your compassion regarding their difficult situation,at which point the narc dramatically confesses to similar, but bigger of course.
    Successful “coup d’etat”…because as you’re already tipping your compassion out of the urn, they’re now soaking it all up because they’re right in front of you…and apparently in greater need of it, than…anyone else…of course.

  • June 9, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    My mother was a narcissist, oddly only with me. Everyone else saw her as normal. It was me she was trying to control. In her catalogue of “narcissist speak” she wouldn’t say “I’m sorry if you’re upset.” She would say “I’m not upsetting you.”

    • June 16, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Many others share your experience of a Jekyll/Hyde narcissistic parent. It sounds like she went even one step beyond, as with your example of not even offering a semi-apology but instead simply denying that she upset you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • June 25, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I am married to a narcissist who does indeed say these very things- and more. A lack of empathy and a lack of any sense of responsibility for his words and deeds is a hallmark of his behavior.

    My husband rarely offers any apology, but when he does, it is often stated as, “Sorry for the way things went”- as if the cosmos was responsible instead of him. He also demands apologies from me any time he decides that something I’ve said or done is critical of him- even if it’s clearly not.

    It’s fascinating (in a bad way) how he can be so hypocritical- always seeing where I am wrong, but never being wrong himself. He also says things that remind me of a young child: “You started it”, “I’m not a bully, you’re a bully”, “I hate you”, etc. He also seems to have no recall of many of the hurtful things he says in anger, yet he can supposedly recall, in minute detail, things I said or did 20 years ago or more.

    It is beyond challenging to deal with people like this. I rarely get to finish a sentence, and if I ask him to listen to something I want to share with him about my feelings, he throws up all kinds of conversational “rules”, and then accuses me of trying to control him when I ask him to just listen and let me say what I need to say. I know he does this to discourage me from even trying to speak, yet I am expected to sit and listen whenever he decides I need to be “straightened out”. I typically try to give him the benefit of the doubt (though he doesn’t deserve it) when he speaks, but if it devolves into abusiveness, I do not stick around anymore. Of course, he sees this as me being a control freak. His friends/coworkers have NO idea what he is really like- he saves these behaviors all for me, which proves he really does understand that the way he behaves at home is not acceptable, but he just doesn’t care.

    • July 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      Hi Claire,
      You eloquently capture many of the dilemmas of dealing with narcissists: the hypocrisy, inability to apologize, manipulation and control, double standards, and Jekyll-and-Hyde personae. It is good to read that you don’t tolerate his abusiveness. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • December 5, 2017 at 1:49 am

      I’m just finding out after 7 yrs of a relationship that I’m with a narcissist. I’ve been believing all these years that i was the worst partner ever and i jumped thru joops trying to please him in evefutjjng je askes of me but it waa meber good enough for him. I’ve cried many nights questioning myselsf and what i could’ve done better to make him happy. My question to you is why do you stay with him? Maybe there’s something that you can enlighten me with to see if its worth continuing to try the relationship.

    • July 20, 2018 at 10:06 am

      It’s as if you are describing my EXACT situation with m ex-BF. Every single thing you’re dealing with is a twin to my dilemma. It’s exhausting isn’t it? I get so frustrated.

      It’s a relief to know we are not alone or crazy.
      Thank you!

    • July 13, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      This is exactly what I experienced for 40 years.

  • August 25, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Your posts and articles hit right at home for me. I was good friends with a Narcissist and everyone excused her behavior including me as, “That’s just so-so and how she is”. Well I grew more and more unhappy being around this person over the course of the last few years being her friend and also began to get anxiety over the idea of spending time with her and going on trips( which we did together with our spouses). I tried talking to her a few times, and it did not work. She felt so entitled around us, and always assumed they could borrow or take whatever they wanted of ours. They would call and say we are coming by to pick-up whatever it was at the time they wanted. I begin to feel used and so unhappy until one day, I had enough. I exploded on her, (which I really regretted)but finally realized she’s not capable of being a true friend. It’s all about her 24/7. I could right books with the things she has done (some of which are highly inappropriate)all for attention. In our 9 yrs of “friendship”, I never once heard her apologize for anything! Her own husband would say, oh she is never wrong. I walked away from her finally and never looked backed. We have not spoke a word to each other in 17mos and I feel so much better! I can’t explain it but when I removed the toxin my life improved so much and I am happy again.

  • September 26, 2017 at 3:44 am

    Hello there. Recently and definitely done and really dusted relationship of 9 years. With a lady that made my previous parttner that has bi polar and borderline personality disorder seem quite normal kind loving sensible and yes pleasant. Im left now trying to get my head around the mess she has created caused. Now looking back and analyzing the relationship .. I was conned right from the start she was so wonderful kind considerate generous mature sensible. Great with my daughters. All the traits i was looking for in my future partner…Mmmm well the relationship grew rather rapidly to fast actually. I missed a lot of redflags. My lesson learnt never give anyone access to your personal finaces and affairs passwords or access to your phone or computer Secondly watch how these people treat there family especially siblings and parents. If they appear to be caring then observe there interactions closely. They will soon get sick of the caring act and dump them on the used abused stap heap. As that is what will happen to you or any other victims they fool. I could write a few books on my experience. If you feel they are narcissistic. Note very hard to spot early: Get the heel away fro them take a restraining order. Call the cops if needed. If you let them into your life they will stop at nothtill they have destroyed you your family friends and finances. Sorry i tried to keep it short.

    • September 26, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Greg, sorry to hear about your painful experience. Thank you for sharing your insights and tips on how to be aware and protect ones self from being taken advantage of by narcissists. Dan

  • October 7, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    It’s been 9 years since my divorce from my narcissistic, bipolar, s.a.d., borderline ex wife. I have a son with her. And I’m now happily remarried, have a fantastic daughter with my 2nd wife. Does life go on, yes. Does it get better… somewhat. But there’s no such thing as “no contact” when a child and child custody is involved. I dread every encounter, every email, every exchange. I fear the years abuse have caused me to become more selfish and act like a narcissist myself. I fear my self preservation mode can’t be turned off. Stuck… is the best way to describe my feelings for my life, and my sons.

  • October 29, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    What I would like to see next to these comments is how to reply to them. I was always left with my mouth gaping and unable to even think of how to react. I have learned that I can’t be emotional because that is what they are after but what comments could I give to something so absurd?

  • January 8, 2018 at 9:14 am

    No initiation of communication comes from my sister. We had a falling out …or rather a long period of time where in which things just got worse all the time. There was never any discussing it. Any attempts to discuss it just made things worse. I did call one Christmas. Sent Birthday cards and Christmas cards. She sent neither to me. While in a conversation with one of my sisters, it was made clear that she sent a Christmas card to everyone but me. Her past communications were all text with messages from someone else……no communication FROM her directly. Or I was on the phone with her daughter who was with her mom unbeknownst to me and she said…”do you want to talk to mom?’. No. I asked her to go to dinner the day of my moms burial. She said she had other plans after the burial. I follow her lead and back up more and more from her. This backing up has been going on for years. She plays this game to the DEATH and there is little left of the relationship at all. It took me a long while to wrap my head around what she is made of for real. (kinda dense on my part). Very much an awakening. Just wondering if this is common with Narcissists

  • January 24, 2018 at 11:39 am

    It is strangely reassuring to see that I am not alone in dealing with a narcissistic person in my life. I divorced my ex-husband/narcissist 15 years ago. Things were okay between him and I and him and our children for years. When my kids became teenagers (now 16 and 18), and they became more articulate with their father on their feelings and concerns about his behaviors, things got worse for them really fast. I have read that this can be a typical response of the narcissistic parent – as they have to maintain control and should not be questioned by the children on anything. We are at a point where the kids don’t want a relationship with him at all. My question is how can I help my kids to understand their father without feelings of guilt for him, and how they can come to the realization of who he is and how they might cope. Can you suggest any online resources or books for them?

    • January 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      Mama T,

      You can find books on narcissism that may help your teens on my website’s resources page at ControllingParents.com As they mature, many children find their way to hold a narcissistic parent in a healthy balance that includes 1) A realistic sense of their parent’s limitations and unhealthy patterns, 2) A commitment to sidestep or set boundaries against unhealthy narcissistic behavior and, 3) Compassion for the parent’s wounds as well as their own. As a healthier parent you can play a role by just being available for conversation and support when your teens need it.


  • February 17, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Very good article. I was starting to feel smothered by a co-worker and couldn’t put my finger on what was upsetting me. Then I assessed her behavior in light of these traits and realized I was in this “helping” dynamic with her for too long. When my responsibilities changed and I was no longer available for her, then she became demanding and mean. This is a middle age woman, not a 10 year old.

    Really great insights! Thank you!

    • February 17, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Hi Restbutton,

      I am glad to hear the article helped you with your smothering coworker. Thank you for posting your experiences.


  • March 11, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks for this info- for me you’ve nailed it with this translation glossary; this is the horrible truth of the matter which has been hard for me to admit. Both of my parents are narcissists and I have enabling siblings. The mind games do my head in and for a long time there I thought I was the crazy one because I kept speaking out about bad behaviour and continual denial, and I’ve been basically ignored. It really helps to have what I have thought for a long time, validated. I’m going to investigate your statement; “Freedom around narcissists comes from paying attention to the “man behind the curtain,” and from seeing that “the emperor has no clothes.”, a bit more.

  • May 15, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I often remind people on my Survivors group that with Narcs, they never left the playground. You are rubber, they are glue, what they say bounces off you and sticks to them. They tell you about your, what they feel about themselves:

    I hate you == I hate myself
    You’re ugly == I feel ugly
    You’re fat == I feel fat
    You’re stupid == I feel stupid
    You’re a liar == I lie all the time
    You’re a con == I’m conning you
    You’re greedy == I’m greedy
    You’re selfish == I’m selfish
    You’re a narc == I’m the narc!

    See how that works?

  • July 5, 2018 at 2:09 am

    I always thought something was wrong with me when my narcissistic mother would ignore me and not talk to me for days —this was when I was 11 years old. I would ask my dad why won’t mom talk to me. I must have done something to make her angry but never did know what it was . She did tell me later, when as I was an adult, that I changed when I became a teenager—I wasn’t the sweet, compliant little girl anymore. In other words, I think I started challenging her, and she did not like that. I am now in my 60’s and she is 92 years old. I’d like to say things have changed, but sadly no. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

    • July 6, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Kaycee,
      It does sound like your mother had problems with your independent spirit. And her punishment, of not speaking to you for days, fits the destructive narcissistic pattern. Thank you for your post and sharing your experience.

  • April 13, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Thank you for this article. Over the last couple years, I’m slowly figuring out that my husband is a narcissist. “You’re crazy” is his favorite, used whenever I say something he doesn’t like. I have a big question – are these narcissistic behaviors conscious? Are they purposely lying, misdirecting, trying to make people feel crazy? Or is it an automatic response?

    Thank you for any insight you can provide!

    • April 13, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Thank you for your comments. People often ask me, as you did, are the inconsiderate, manipulative and controlling behaviors of narcissists premeditated and personal? My sense is that narcissists operate largely on instinct. While sometimes narcissists do deliberately, with premeditation, target somebody, more often their manipulation, distortions and posturing are simply well-practiced behaviors. In that sense, it is not personal. They are responding to their hunger for attention and their terror of humiliation and will lash out,take advantage of others, or bend the truth to meet these needs. In the moment, they may not even be conscious they are lying. It is a means to an end.


  • August 8, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Really helpful post. I grew up with a narcissistic mother and a narcissistic brother, with limited contact with what they called ‘people from the outside’. They were far-right, survivalists, and Christian fundamentalists, so escaping from them was like escaping from a sect. On top of it I went to a religious school where I wasn’t taught useful skills like computing, and I never had driving lessons… I moved to the city, but I struggled to find work and accommodation, and was homeless (actually living on the street) on and off until I was 25. Every time I tried to get ‘help’, the social services contacted my mother… who pretended to be The Perfect Mother, while accusing me of being sexually promiscuous, a drug addict etc. I was a victim of incest for nearly 2 decades, but social services have a trouble reconciling that with Christian fundamentalism… As for me, corporal punishment (beatings, spanking, whipping) was a daily occurrence until I was an adult (I am in my mid 40s, and if I were to go back and live with my family, both the beatings and the incest would resume) and until I was 18 or so, I had difficulty differentiating between corporal punishment and sexual intercourse: basically, I thought it was just another way for my mother and my brother to punish me… and I blamed myself.
    As well as blaming me for everything, and refusing to admit she could ever make any mistakes, my mother taught my brother he was perfect too… and I was to blame for everything that went wrong… When I was 8 years old and he was 5 or 6, he sexually assaulted a little girl at kindergarten. I don’t know whether he used his fingers or his penis, but he inserted something in her vagina, and she was definitely not compliant. My mother managed to get my brother out of trouble with the school, by claiming it was just a game, the little girl must have started it etc. but at home it was a completely different story. What my brother had done to that girl was just reenacting what my mother was doing with me (with her fingers, obviously not with a penis) and had taught him to do with me. She referred to it by phrases such as ‘using Hedwig to relieve your needs’, ‘sullying Hedwig’, ‘teaching Hedwig what it’s like to do evil with a man’. My brother was an enthusiastic participant from the time he was maybe 4 or 5 and I was 6 or 7: my mother pinned me down to the bed so that I couldn’t fight him off, while screaming at me ‘You are filthy, you are only fit to spread your legs out, you will end up in prostitution etc.’ My brother often wanted to do it when she wasn’t around to help him, and as I was older, I would defend myself. My mother blamed ME for the fact he had sexually assaulted that little girl, she told me that it was my fault, and that if I had let him use me to ‘relieve his needs’, he wouldn’t have had to go elsewhere, and that when he had those urges, it was my duty to let him do whatever he wanted with me, because men couldn’t fight those urges. I was 8, I believed her. I blamed myself for the fact that my brother had gotten into trouble with the school (my mother moved us to a religious school, as they went on to try and make me tell them what was happening at home: they had noticed I was covered in bruises, I wasn’t allowed to do sports or learn to swim for religious reasons, I sometimes had vaginal bleeding and soiled my clothes, and I had cystitis non stop from the age of 8 to the age of 12. Of course I was too ashamed to talk, I denied everything, and I remember the gynaecological examination as an extremely humiliating experience), it never occurred to me to question that what he was doing to me, and what my mother was doing to me, every evening, was abnormal. It’s amazing that my brother sexually assaulted a little girl, and somehow my mother managed to spin it to me as ‘It’s your fault, look what you’ve done!’
    I went no contact with my family 2 decades ago, but I am pretty sure my brother is a manager or a director now (my mother had sent him to an engineering school after 18) and I doubt he treats his secretaries very well… It makes me absolutely sick, especially as social services always suspect I am the ‘naughty’ one (my mother and my brother go to church at least once a week, I am an atheist; they are well off; I do ‘nickel and dime’ type jobs).


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