And so in this article we will explore some typical techniques a narcissist uses in conflicts and similar social situations.
1. Arguing in bad faith
When in disagreement, a common person tries to understand the other party, listen to them, be honest, and make sure they understand where others are coming from. Sure, sometimes people can slip and become too upset or too anxious. But generally that’s the unwritten guideline.
Narcissists on the other hand argue in what is sometimes referred to as bad faith. It means that they don’t even care about, or try to understand, the other person. Or even worse, they are dedicated to deliberately misunderstanding and mischaracterizing others, often to the point of absurdity.
They are willingly dishonest, deceptive, and morally corrupt. Often while at the same time quick to accuse others of being dishonest, deceptive, and morally corrupt (more on that in #5).
2. Fallacies, nonsense, word salad
Narcissists are often ill-equipped to have mature discussions or resolve conflicts yet in their mind they are experts at it. As a result, they often use some terms, arguments, or techniques that they’ve heard about yet don’t really understand, all while thinking that they are being rational, reasonable, or correct. Sometimes to the degree that they become extremely upset or even aggressive that you are being irrational, unreasonable, uneducated, and unwilling or unable to have a mature conversation.
Meanwhile in reality, what they’re saying is simply an incoherent rant or an amalgamation of logical and argumentation fallacies, misrepresentation of you, factual errors, emotional language, or pure nonsense (as in something that literally makes no sense). In more extreme cases it is called word salad, as in a mix of words that are just thrown together with no coherence or structure.
3. Provoking, bullying, intimidating
Since a narcissist’s goal is to dominate and be perceived as right at all costs, they often use aggression. This category involves the more overtly aggressive tactics commonly used by narcissists.
Such methods include provoking, bullying, and intimidating, where the narcissist picks on you, calls you names, yells, acts overly emotional, deliberately tries to hurt you, blatantly lies, threatens, or even physically aggresses against you.
Not only that, then they spin it around by presenting it as if by reacting to it or by ignoring them you are the one who’s unreasonable, too emotional, and aggressive against them.
4. Lying, denying, changing definitions
Here, in order to “win,” the narcissist uses more covert tactics.
Sometimes they lie about what happened, what you or they did and didn’t do, or even about what’s real and factually true. Often to the degree of pure denial and delusion. An attempt to confuse the other person and make them doubt their experiences or reality by lying about it is called gaslighting.
Another method that falls in this category is redefining to suit their narrative. For that purpose, they are keen on using euphemistic language or redefining commonly used words to fit their narrative when it clearly doesn’t. Again, the goal is to justify that what they are doing is good and what they are saying is right, even when it clearly isn’t.
Sometimes it means reframing or minimizing their toxic behavior to confuse you. For instance, “I didn’t yell at you, I was just passionate.” Or, “This is not abusive or manipulative, I’m just being assertive and honest.”
5. Deflecting, attacking, projecting
A painfully common tactic used by narcissists is deflect and attack.
Here, the goal is to shift attention from what the narcissist is saying and doing to what you are saying and doing, where they never have to take responsibility for their toxic behavior or address anything you’re saying.
If you bring something up that you don’t like or find to be untrue and problematic, instead of addressing it or taking responsibility for it, they will quickly deflect and go into attack mode. This means they will use their toxic tactics to quickly shift attention from themselves and bring up something that you may or may not have said or done. Often to the degree where they try to always keep you on the defense by accusing you of all sorts of stuff, some of which includes the things they are actually doing themselves (narcissistic projection).
And if you make a mistake of actually trying to address it, you will get distracted from the initial issue and soon become overwhelmed by all the stuff that now you are expected to address and clarify. And do so to a person who doesn’t care about understanding you and is dedicated to mischaracterizing you in order to dominate and “win an argument.”