Narcissists have a large collection of phrases that they skillfully use to get what they want. If you're on the lookout for these phrases, you'll have a better chance of defending yourself.
Have you ever finished a conversation with a customer, boss, partner, employee, or family member, and realized that they somehow got you to agree to something you didn't want to do? Or persuaded you to take the blame for something that wasn't your fault? It may be that the other person is a narcissist, and thus a master manipulator. He or she may have used carefully crafted phrases to lead you where you didn't want to go.
You'll be better protected if you know what some of these phrases are, and what they really mean, according to Dan Neuharth, a family therapist and narcissism expert. In a new blog post at Psychology Today, Neuharth decodes 13 sentences commonly used by narcissists, with handy translations of what they really mean. Here are some of the best.
1. You're too sensitive (or too demanding).
Or maybe the narcissist will tell you that you're taking things too seriously or you should grow a thicker skin. These are all ways to make it seem that any problems or needs you have are your problems and not the narcissist's, Neuharth explains.
If you're upset or offended, the narcissist may say something like, "I didn't mean it that way." It's subtle, but the other person is trying to shift the focus away from you and your experience and onto himself or herself. Because of course the narcissist has the only viewpoint that matters. So remember: If something offended or upset you, how you feel is at least as important as what the other person intended.
2. I've heard this a million times before.
If you're raising a complaint or concern that the narcissist has heard before, that doesn't mean it's not legitimate. In fact, if many other people have raised the same issue, it's probably more valid, not less. But the statement seems to imply that since the narcissist has heard this concern or criticism before, he or she has already thoroughly considered it and taken it into account. Neuharth says what the phrase really means is: "I probably won't listen this time either."
3. I've never been more certain.
Extreme certainty and self-confidence help narcissists persuade others to their point of view. This can be a very powerful tool in business. For example, Steve Jobs, a probable narcissist, was extraordinarily good at getting people to follow his lead and work on his ideas.
But just because someone is very, very sure of something doesn't mean they're right. Steve Jobs might have been sure about the iPhone, but a few years earlier he was just as certain that throwing all the resources of his company NeXT into building a perfectly cube-shaped computer with a $6,500 price tag was a good idea.
Behind the narcissist's apparent certainty and confidence there's a dynamic you should be aware of. "The more certain I act, the less likely you are to question me," Neuharth writes in his translation of the phrase. "Being questioned feels undermining to me so I will find ways to undermine you."
4. You can trust me.
I don't know about you, but for me, this type of statement always raises a red flag because in my experience, people who are genuinely trustworthy don't feel compelled to tell you that they are. If you know them, they'll figure you know it already. If you don't, they'll expect to demonstrate their trustworthiness, not tell you about it.
Here's how Neuharth decodes this phrase: "You'd be unwise to trust me but if I can get you to believe this, I can keep using you. Plus, it makes me feel good to say it about myself."
Is everyone who ever uses the above phrases automatically a narcissist? Of course not. But when you hear these sentences, or any of the others in Neuharth's post, it's wise to stop, do a gut check, and ask yourself what's really be going on. If the other person is a narcissist, you probably won't be able to convince them of your point of view. But at least you can stop yourself from being manipulated into doing or saying something you might regret later on.