Narcissists love to have everyone in their life focused solely on them, and they will strive to make sure that no one wants to focus on you. They have no compunction about using manipulative tactics to turn people against you. You have to be careful about how you go about stopping them or else you’ll be the one who looks bad.
The first thing you need to understand is that the truth will come out, so you can’t fight this by sinking to the narcissist’s level. It’s better to be who you are and allow your character to speak for itself. The most you should do is shrug and say something like, “Oh, that’s just his narcissism.”
It won’t be an easy task to resist defending yourself, but if you understand why the narcissist is doing this and the tactics they use to isolate you, you’ll see why it’s best to resist bad-mouthing them. Let’s take a closer look at why they do this and why you should avoid playing their game.
Why Do Narcissists Try to Turn People Against You?
If you’re the partner of a narcissist, they will seek to control you in every way possible. Part of doing that is isolating you from friends and family. The narcissist at your workplace will try to isolate you from your coworkers as they also seek to play people against each other.
If you’re the good friend of a narcissist, they will also want to isolate you so they don’t have to compete with anyone else for your attention. Attention is at the root of why the narcissist engages in this kind of behavior.
They don’t want other people to steal your focus away from them. They also don’t want other people to find out the truth about something they have done or said that is hurtful or wrong. The more you are able to talk to other people — whether we’re talking about family members, coworkers, or other friends — the more likely it is that you will discover what the narcissist fears is the ugly truth about them.
What Kind of Tactics Will the Narcissist Use to Do This?
Narcissists regularly use a number of different manipulation tactics to turn people against one another. Among these are the following favorites:
- Triangulation: This is a fan favorite for narcissists. This involves telling one person one thing and another person something entirely different. They usually couch their information as some kind of secret to prevent you from telling other people what they said. They might say something like, “You didn’t hear it from me, but…” or “Don’t tell your mother I said this because I’ll deny it, but she…”
This tactic can be very divisive and disruptive. They are effectively able to spread misinformation that pits you against other family members, friends, or coworkers. It can easily result in arguments and hurt feelings.
Your narcissistic wife may, for example, tell the kids, “I would let you do that, but your father will never agree.” Even if you do end up allowing the kids to do whatever she was talking about, the seed of how unreasonable you are has effectively been planted.
The same is true of triangulation between coworkers or friends. The narcissist plants the seed about you, and they don’t have to do much to make sure it grows into resentment and division.
- Gaslighting: This is another favorite tactic. If you confront the narcissist with something they said or did, their response will be to act as though it never happened or you misinterpreted the situation. They will try to make you doubt your own interpretation of reality.
You may know very well exactly what happened, but they will make it seem like you are either hypersensitive or have it all wrong. This tactic is part of why it’s so hard to do anything confrontational when the narcissist is playing their games.
- Outright Lying: Narcissists are not above just lying — about anything. They will lie to shift the blame, they will lie to make you look like the bad guy, and they will lie to get their way. It can be helpful to have proof of whatever you’re confronting them with, but don’t think that will make them confess.
They will always seek to shift the blame. If your narcissistic husband is having an affair, for example, and you catch him, he may offer a quasi-apology, but he will find a way to shift the blame onto you or his mistress. If a project at work fell through, your narcissistic coworker will find a way to blame you or someone else on the team.
In fact, the lying narcissist is often the first to speak up to deflect attention from their own actions or missteps. While narcissists may feel a deep-seated sense of shame about themselves, they have no shame when it comes to lying.
Should I Talk to the People They’re Trying to Turn Against Me?
This might seem like a reasonable approach, but the reality is there’s little you can say that will undo what the narcissist has done. If you try to defend yourself by doing this, the narcissist will double down.
They may even set you up to look like exactly what they’ve been telling people you are. For example, they may bait you into exploding at them so they can look knowingly at the other people around.
What’s more, trying to tell everyone not to listen to the narcissist just makes you look like maybe you are guilty of something. You can’t win this war of words and subterfuge against a narcissistic foe. So what can you do?
What Can I Do to Stop the Narcissist?
As retired psychologist Edward Tierney rightly points out, “Eventually the penny will drop with everyone and they will come to you with apologies…” He’s right, there’s really very little you can do to fight against this except to wait until they see the truth about the narcissist.
That may mean you have to socialize with other friends or just keep doing good work at your job until your colleagues learn the truth. Remember that a narcissist can be very charming but not forever. They will eventually be unable to keep up the appearance that they are wonderful and you are bad, particularly if you don’t try to beat them at their own game.
The best course of action is to not play the game. Don’t talk bad about them or belabor anything they have done to you, just say, “We have some disagreements, but everyone has a right to their own opinion.”
If the narcissist is a spouse and they’re trying to turn your children against you, just keep being a good, loving parent. If your children ask about it, you can say something like, “Well, your father and I disagree on some things, but we both love you very much,” or “I always try to protect you, and if you feel confused about anything your father says or does, you can always talk to me about it. I will try to explain why your father does some of the things he does.”
By speaking with respect in any situation about the narcissist in question, you avoid sinking to their level. Eventually, people will know the truth.
You should be prepared for the narcissist in your life to try and isolate you from family, friends, or colleagues. They want all of your attention, and they don’t want you to have anyone to talk to about how they behave. You should make it clear to them what your boundaries are and what the consequences will be for any violations, but talking to the people they’re trying to manipulate will likely do little good.
Just keep being the person you are, and eventually, the truth will come out. Narcissists can’t go for too long in any relationship before they show their true colors.
Understanding a little more about how narcissists think can help you gain valuable insight into why they act the way they do. You’ll want to watch this post about what narcissists hate and fear the most to better anticipate their actions.
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