Getting a narcissist to tell the truth can be like pulling teeth. They have become so immersed in the world of their carefully constructed false image that they lie routinely to protect it. They will almost always use distraction techniques to keep you from seeking the truth, and they will almost never tell you the truth directly.
As Julie Hall, the author of The Narcissist in Your Life, writes, “People with NPD live in an alternative-facts universe of their own making. This is a world in which they are bigger, better, more deserving, above reproach, and inoculated against accountability.”
To get the truth out of a narcissist, these 7 effective techniques can help:
- Start with What You Know is True
- Present the Narcissist with Evidence
- Be Honest Yourself
- Pay Attention to Their Agenda
- Distinguish Their Words from Their Actions
- Don’t Let Half-Truths Distract You
- Be Wary of False Apologies
If you’re trying to get the truth out of a narcissist, you’ll need to know the details about how to use these techniques to get them to come clean. Before we get into that, however, let’s look at why narcissists lie.
Why Do Narcissists Lie?
Narcissists need the other people in their lives to provide them with a constant flow of adoration and admiration, something called narcissistic supply. Without this supply of self-esteem-boosting adoration, the narcissist is at risk of having to look inward, and that’s something they are terrified to do.
Because of their childhood experiences, narcissists have constructed a false self that they use to interact with the world. They have buried their true self deep inside because they harbor a profound sense of self-loathing for it. This is because their childhood circumstances were such that they were never able to fully develop their own ego.
Their false self is what they use to try and fulfill the functions of a healthy ego, but it’s not a complete identity, and therefore, they use it to extract what they need from other people to feel good about themselves. They have created a grandiose vision of themselves that is represented by this false self, but they need you to support that vision by complimenting them and continuously supporting them.
To get you to do that, they often use manipulation tactics including lying. In fact, lying has become like second nature to them. They are terrified of showing their true face and becoming vulnerable. That’s why they lie, so what can you do to get the truth?
1. Start with What You Know is True
One effective way to begin is to start by asking the narcissist in your life a question that you already know the answer to and see if they lie. If they do lie to you, then you can confront them with what you know to be true. That may help to keep them more truthful as you go forward so that they won’t get caught in more lies.
When you catch them outright in a lie, it can make them feel vulnerable, and because that is such an uncomfortable feeling for them, they will want to avoid it going forward.
2. Present the Narcissist with Evidence
If you know the narcissist in your life is lying and you have evidence, show it to them. Once confronted with evidence, they will likely tell you the truth about that, but they may still lie to justify the initial lie. This is usually rather obvious, however, and it’s something you can quickly discard.
Once they know you know the truth, they will often break down and tell the truth, but you should be aware that you are likely not getting the entire truth. You may have to keep digging to get more honesty out of them.
3. Be Honest Yourself
The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to get the truth out of a narcissist is to lie to them or hide anything for your own purposes. If they catch you lying, that will only give them the justification they need to keep lying. By sticking to the truth yourself, you can get more honesty from them.
4. Pay Attention to Their Agenda
If a narcissist is flattering you or praising you for something, though it might very well be true, it usually indicates they have another agenda. They are often trying to get you to do something for them. For example, they might tell you how great the meal you made is and that they want you to make it more often.
You may indeed be a great cook, but this is a tactic the narcissist uses to encourage you to keep striving to make them happy. They can also gaslight you to cause you to question what you know to be real. The next time you make that meal, for example, they might tell you they’ve never had it before or that they don’t like it. The truth is they just want to keep you guessing.
5. Distinguish Their Words from Their Actions
If you pay attention to the actions of a narcissist, you can often get at the truth they’re trying to tell you. For example, if they tell you they’re running late and that you should start the meeting without them, but then they never show up. That tells you that they really didn’t care about the meeting and they were hoping they would miss it all along.
They also use their narcissistic rage as a distraction tool to keep you from seeing their true intentions. If you look at their actions, however, you can discern the truth about what they are trying to do. If, for example, they are yelling at you because you asked them about where they were, that rage is trying to misdirect you from finding out the truth about where they had gone and what they were doing. That means it’s time to dig deeper.
6. Don’t Let Half-Truths Distract You
Narcissists will frequently tell part of the truth to attempt to satisfy you so they won’t have to tell the whole truth. They are hoping you will accept that partial truth and move on from that topic.
For example, if you suspect your narcissistic spouse is cheating on you and you ask them about it, they may say they need to work late at the office. It may be true that they were at the office, but if they’re having an affair with a coworker, they’re not working.
Half-truths are designed to make it appear as though they have answered the question, but often there are bigger lies inside those small truths. If you catch them in one of those bigger lies, they will also often emphasize the partial truth to insist they weren’t lying.
7. Be Wary of False Apologies
Narcissists will often provide you with a false apology as a way to throw you off track, and that way, they can avoid taking full responsibility for something they’ve done. For example, they might say, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to protect you,” or “I’m sorry that affected you so much.”
These apologies aren’t authentic. They are designed to get you to see them in a better light and avoid telling you the whole truth. Make sure to follow up on these kinds of apologies to make sure you get the real answers to your questions.
It’s difficult for a narcissist to tell the truth, even to themselves. They have constructed an entire lie that represents their own self-image, so it’s not surprising that they are willing to lie to their loved ones. If you’re in the difficult spot of navigating their half-truths, false apologies, and manipulative techniques, these tactics can help you get to the truth that is often revealed by their actions and see through their deception.
If you’re interested to learn more about the various ways you can get a narcissist to stop trying to manipulate you, the “Narcissistic Rejection Guide” can help. It will help you learn to say no and push back against their abusive tactics. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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