20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use to Silence You by Shahida Arabi via Thought Catalog


“The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.” Read the rest of the article here.

(1) Gaslighting

(2) Projection

(3) Nonsensical Conversations from Hell

(4) Blanket Statements and Generalizations

(5) Deliberate Misrepresentation

(6) Nitpicking and Moving Goal Posts

(7) Changing the Subject to Escape Accountability

(8) Covert and Overt Threats

(9) Name-Calling

(10) Destructive Conditioning

(11) Smear Campaigns and Stalking

(12) Lovebombing and Devaluation

(13) Preemptive Defense

(14) Triangulation

(15) Bait and Feign Innocence

(16) Boundary Testing and Hoovering

(17) Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes

(18) Condescending Sarcasm and Patronizing Tone

(19) Shaming

(20) Control

Copyright © 2016 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author. This includes adaptations in all forms of media.

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9 thoughts on “20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You

    1. Hi Shannon, each page has about 2-3 signs. There are 7 pages. You can click through the article from the beginning and go through all the pages if you’d like, the organization is just to make it more clear which signs are on which page.

  1. Your bold brash compassionate sharing of knowledge about the dynamics in a narcissistic relationship and how to take action that promotes a focus on healthy proactive self-care has changed my life in a positively explosive way. Thank you 🙂

    1. You are spot on with your comments. She is definitely helping me get through a contentious divorce from a narcissist. I am grateful to everyone who has shared their positive thoughts. I do not feel so alone anymore.

  2. Thank you, Shahida, for an excellent article! I work with crime victims in a District Attorney’s office and would love to be able to provide those who have been abused by their partners with this information. Too many of them blame themselves for the abuse and have never had the dynamics of the crime explained to them, partly because our caseload limits the time I can spend with each victim. I understand that your article is copyrighted and wanted to know if it would be possible to get your permission to provide it to some of the victims we serve, and if so, how do I go about that? Thank you.

  3. While I have developed an immense amount of respect for Ms. Arabi over the years, there is one aspect of this article that deeply troubles me: the stalking/harassment/smear campaign behavior.

    I shall begin by confirming that I have neither demonstrated any sort of “out of character” behavior in my past relationships, nor felt compelled to investigate any of my former partners. With the exception of my recent “ex,” I regard my former significant others are normally functioning, good people.

    But admittedly, after having experienced repeated Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde//deliberate abusive behavior from my most recent ex, who I believe is a smooth talking cerebral/covert Narcissist, I began to “investigate.” (I am an INTJ personality type, so it is part of my stubborn nature to probe and problem-solve, even if the solution is seemingly unreachable). And of course, my emotions were a huge part of this equation. Obviously, when someone we have admired, trusted and loved transforms from a seemingly classy, refined and respectful individual to a mean-spirited, tactless and abusive antagonist overnight, it is almost impossible to mentally digest. Not to mention the emotional whiplashes that come with it.

    So when this happened to me, I wanted to better understand it. Fully. I mean, this person spent years (online), portraying himself as a caring, overly attentive hero, protector, best friend and supporter (apparent lovebombing), but then began insulting and criticizing me beyond comprehensible levels. He even accused me of lying for making statements for which I offered evidence, but instead of wanting to see it, he just continued on his path of insulting me and insisting that I was stupid, retarded, inefficient and loose. This was SO opposite of the person he portrayed himself as on Facebook, which is where we initially met. Yes, there were red flags. Others had warned me that he was a troublemaker, and that he had attempted to break up marriages on Facebook, but when I discussed this with him, he assured me that they were lying, and insisted that they were simply attempting to create friction. I also witnessed his incessant arguing and name calling on FB (he was literally banned from a couple of groups because of his name calling), but again, he told me, “Don’t worry, I would never do that to you because you are special to me.” Unfortunately, as logical as I would like to think I am, I wasn’t smart enough to recognize that I would be next. Even when my instincts were knocking years ago, he still talked me into staying in the relationship (I realize now that this was part of his plan to keep me in the game until he could be the one calling the shots- if anyone was going to break up, it was going to be him, and not I). So again, when the mask slipped and his behavior became even more confusing, I wanted to understand why this was happening. So instead of walking away as I should have done, I repeatedly returned to the “scene of the Yes, I showed up at his place unannounced. I also phoned him a lot (usually as a follow-up to the prior conversation, in which he made false accusations and expressed horrible insults AGAIN). On every single occasion when I approached him or arrived to his place to ask him to explain his “off” behavior, the insults/gaslighting and sexual abuse worsened. He would say to me, “Either bend over and give me what I want or you can leave.” He would toss me around and fondle me, while telling me to give him a bl—–.” Again, instead of walking away, I continued to confront him and wanted answers. NONE of this made any sense to me, even when it was obvious that he was NOT AT ALL what I thought he was. With every interaction, my determination to understand progressed. The result? Unfortunately, in my search for the truth and through my endless attempts to hold him accountable for his actions, I was the one who appeared as the stalker and harasser. I also told him repeatedly that I would expose him. As someone who has always tried to do the right thing and take a moralistic approach (which I understand includes taking responsibility for my own behaviors), I made it clear to him that I would uncover his otherwise flawless reputation, and warn people about his abusive nature- not for retaliatory reasons, but because I was/remain genuinely concerned for others well-being and hope they won’t experience the same nightmare that I did, as the result of his “normal” act. (Wolf in sheep’s clothing). This man has literally falsified his entire existence to lure me in, but has turned out to be a well-rehearsed, abusive con artist. How many others are there? I don’t know the answer to this question, but do know that this will occur again. And again. Interestingly, to this day, I do not know the name of any of his exes, while he knows every single name of mine (according to him, all of his nameless ex-girlfriends are “crazy.” So in my mind, this is just more evidence that he is clearly hiding something. Not to mention that he has already told another woman who texted him about his private area (as I was cooking for him) that I was ‘stalking” her family, after simply looking at her FB profile (reasonably so, since she appeared out of nowhere and began texting him during my presence at his apartment). I am not sure if this is triangulation, but it’s obvious that he was attempting to portray me as “crazy” to her and her family. I mean, after all, she is a married woman who was texting my ‘then’ boyfriend about his private parts, while I was cooking dinner for us. How am I the crazy one for looking at her profile to see who in the heck she was? This is only one example of how this man twisted the scenario to portray himself as the victim.
    Up until recently when I could no longer stand the God-awful empty and angry (repulsed) feeling I felt after having confronted him or addressing these repeated issues (this man holds five degrees and is currently working on his PhD in Biomedical Engineering, so is highly skilled at twisting the so-called facts to suit his “victim” narrative), he continued to “press buttons” and do hurtful things to antagonize me, but not once took responsibility or apologized. This created a horrible cycle of confrontations and abusive behavior from both ends, though the difference is that I have openly admitted my own behavior to counselors, while he a). has not agreed to consult with a therapist and b) has refused to apologize for anything at all. He has continued to call me the crazy one, has insisted that I am delusional (despite the fact that I have a mountain of evidence to substantiate his abusive/antagonistic behaviors). The worst part of this is that he has continued to hide behind the “stop harassing/stalking me” victim role. On the surface, his claims could easily qualify as legitimate. But while I recognize that my behavior was inappropriate, and that I should have walked way permanently, I am 100% certain that it was mostly reactionary, or resulted from the fact that I was trying to gain closure by getting to the bottom of his behaviors and fully understanding them). Most importantly on this topic, it was never once my intention to harm or harass him.
    So when reading these articles that emphasize stalking and harassment as a key characteristic of Narcissists, etc., I immediately wonder if I am alone in this. Am I the only one who has “investigated” the crazy behaviors and other potentially harmful aspects of his behavior, in my own search for the truth and capabilities of this person? Or am I the oddball here? I fully understand that the key is the stay away from the narcissist and go “no contact,” but this is one of those situations where it is easier to say than do, especially when the narc repeatedly denies, distorts and outright lies about his/her actions in every single interaction conversation (he used other ploys, but to avoid another tangent here, I won’t elaborate). But overall, this is why closure is impossible. The narcissist continues with their cycle of accusations and hurtful insults but then cry “stalking and harassment” when the victim reacts and attempts to hold him/her accountable.

    I am not sure how it could be articulated, but wish there could be some sort of article that explains/emphasizes the actual realities of “stalking/harassment” behaviors demonstrated by both, the narcissist and the victim, as they are similar on the surface, but for very different reasons. (The only articles I’ve found that even comes close explaining this topic are the ones that emphasize “reactive abuse.”).

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