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How To Shut Down Narcissist Manipulation For Good

shut down narcissist manipulation

When you want to shut down a narcissist, you need to act tactfully and must remain two steps ahead of the narcissist at all times. You need to have a proper strategy for dealing with their narcissist manipulation and must be proactive instead of being reactive.

When dealing with a narcissist, if you ever become emotionally invested then you will step right into their trap. They will suck you into the narcissistic black hole that will leave you feeling hurt, humiliated, confused, and doubting yourself.

In this post, I’m going to be talking about narcissist manipulation in relationships and in the workplace. I’ll also tell you how to shut down a narcissist and disentangle yourself from them. More importantly, how to stop attracting them in the first place.

When we talk about narcissists there are many traits they have in common.

1. They can be extremely charming and charismatic.

2. They’re very self-obsessed.

3. They are compulsive liars.

4. They don’t take responsibility for their actions.

5. They can be parasitic fearless and intimidating.

6. They are arch emotional manipulators and they lack empathy or any remorse or feelings of guilt.

7. They can be callous, impulsive, vindictive and aggressive.

8. When you look at the differences between them and others, we talk a lot about a narcissist’s lack of empathy.

9. They do have a form of empathy.

Related: Micromanipulation: How Narcissists Use This As A Method of Control

Cognitive Empathy & Emotional Empathy

“A narcissist paints a picture of themselves as being the victim or innocent in all aspects. They will be offended by the truth. But what is done in the dark will come to light. Time has a way of showing people’s true colors.” – Karla Grimes

There are two types of empathy: Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy.

When we’re born we don’t have any of the neurons connected with these in our brains. If you are what’s known as an Empath, by the age of around four years old you’ll have a whole bundle of them.

Empath Definition: what is it?

Empaths grow up to not only have Cognitive Empathy – which is the basic, instinctive emotions like lust, anger, fear, or sexual impulses. But they also have Emotional Empathy – which allows you to translate those base emotions to more appropriate feelings.

For example, base sexual impulses can become a deeper form of love, anger can be tempered. The rational, adult feelings and side of our brain can override those basic instincts. We often think that narcissists don’t have any empathy, but I want to clarify this further.

Narcissists have Cognitive Empathy. But they lack Emotional Empathy.

They may know they are different from other people. They can see that other people feel feelings, for example when they see a tragic event on TV.


If an Empath is watching, they will feel the victim’s or other person’s pain. A narcissist can see Empaths can relate to others’ feelings as their own.

The difference is they can’t. So they have to mimic it. They are brilliant at observing and reading people almost instantaneously. They are way better at it than us Empaths. If you’re sad they can’t feel what that feels like to feel your sadness. But they can observe you and then mirror it back to you. They act as though they feel those feelings but they don’t.

When you first meet a narcissist they are absolutely charming. They’re the best thing you’ve ever met in your life. They think as you do, act as you do, speak as you do. They like the same things that you do because they study you.


They observe you and they mirror you. They basically reflect you back to yourself. Who you are and your ideal, dream person they have deciphered you want them to be. Essentially they are reflecting your own fantasy back to you.

They put on a mask and that mask is a reflection, a mirror of you. Your desires, your needs. That’s why we are convinced we’ve found The One. Our perfect partner. You are swept off your feet.

“Nobody can be kinder than the narcissist while you react to life on his terms.” – Elizabeth Bowen

Related: 5 Emotional Manipulation Tactics Covert Narcissists Use To Trap You In A Relationship

Narcissists At Work

This doesn’t just apply to relationships. It could be someone you interview for a job at your work. They’re brilliant in interviews because of how quickly they can read people. They tell you exactly what you want to hear.

Toxic Workplace

Narcissist bosses are a nightmare to work with. You’ll spot one by all those around them.

A harmonious workplace is one in which a boss fosters a community and you all lift each other and the company up as a whole.

A narcissist boss will do the opposite and be at the center of a toxic workplace. They’ll play favorites and then rotate to different favorites, who are the best thing since sliced bread, whilst the others in their eyes are losers. They’ll pit one person against the other. For example, they’ll tell you that Henry thinks this about you or Mary thinks you’re that. So, you start distrusting your colleagues, unsure of what they might say to the boss.

You all live in fear and keep your head down. You don’t want to get noticed because the other thing your boss may do is a public tearing down of you. This is where they ridicule you or make an example of you in front of all your colleagues. As I said working for a narcissistic boss and in a toxic workplace is a nightmare.

They’re also rubbish at strategy as they live moment to moment. Whatever their latest grand idea is, that will be the plan and you’ll all have to scramble around trying to make it work before they pivot to their latest of-the-moment idea. If they themselves have a boss above them they manage up brilliantly.

They’re charming and give off the impression that all the people working under them are useless and if not for them saving the day it would be a disaster. The best thing to do if you’re unhappy in this toxic work environment is to leave the company.

However, there is one caveat to that.

Narcissist Smear Campaign

“The narcissist devours people, consumes their output, and casts the empty, writhing shells aside.” – Sam Vaknin

You need to be careful because narcissists and psychopathic type people can be very vindictive and vengeful. They can turn on you and smear your reputation. They may even take a legal stance against you in an effort to win at all costs, which is their ultimate aim.

Be careful as you disentangle yourself not to get them offside. Plan your exit. Be the perfect employee. Keep your head down. Try to engage with them as little as possible and if you have to always stick to facts. Don’t have any emotion in anything you do or say. If you’re given instructions by them, always confirm it in writing.

If they ask you to do X and Y by this date, then email them to confirm that this is what they have asked you to do: X or Y by this date. Keep written records of everything in case you might need it later. If you’re going off to have job interviews do not get caught by them. Do not let them know you’re looking elsewhere and be the perfect, polite, respectful employee.

Flatter them even because they’re self-obsessed and fall easily for flattery. Keep your enemy close. When you leave if you can make it as though it’s their idea, you’re doing them a favor. You’re not inflicting a wound to their ego.

Related: The Bully Narcissist At Work: A Toolbox For Coping

Narcissist Relationship Patterns

“Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give your everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it.” – Bree Bonchay

Let’s look at narcissistic manipulation with intimate partners and narcissist relationship patterns.

  • The same thing applies when you first meet them.
  • They’re charming.
  • They love bomb you and sweep you off your feet.
  • They mirror back to you.
  • What they are doing is studying you, observing you.
  • They’re masters of manipulation and we make it really easy for them with our social media.
  • They see what type of friends we like, what makes us happy.
  • They can quickly read how they should act around us and what mask they should wear for you.

Want to know more about narcissist manipulation? Check this video out below!

Narcissist Manipulation

Fantasy bond

They essentially know how to make you fall in love with their version of you. It’s why it feels so right. In fact, they have probably targeted you like a tiger stalking its prey. Narcissists target people they detect they can manipulate because the ultimate game of a narcissist is to have total control over you. So they feel superior and better about themselves.

You are a possession to them and they believe they are entitled to control you.

Narcissist manipulation
Narcissist manipulation

Coercive control

“Arguing with a narcissist is like getting arrested. Everything you saw can and will be used against you” – Unknown

They test your boundaries and how much they can manipulate you from the minute you meet them, using manipulative tactics like love bombing and mirroring. They’ll test the waters to see whether you’ll tolerate a bit of coercive control. For example, they’ll tell you they don’t like what you’re wearing and see if you change what you’re wearing for them. Or that they don’t like you doing X or Y to see if you change your behavior when they demand it.

They’ll test and see if you are someone they can manipulate. If your boundaries just keep getting pushed down, they know you’re a safe bet. You can be a good narcissistic supply for them. Whether this is for the status you give them, wealth, a place to live, sex, or whatever it is they need.

Related: Manipulation Of The Charming Narcissist

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

They keep this mask and charm offensive up for as long as they feel they need to. For example, if you are still questioning their behavior and unsure. But once they know they have reeled you in and entangled you enough the mask will slip. The relationship will have moved very fast. They may have moved into your place because let’s face it, it’s usually them moving into yours.

Early on they’ll start to tell you they’ve hit hard times.

Can I borrow some money?

Only for now, of course, they’ll pay you back.

Can I move into your apartment?

Can I marry you?

You don’t love me if you don’t trust me enough to have a joint bank account!

The relationship accelerates rapidly. That is all part of the entanglement from which it becomes harder for you to leave them. Once they’ve got total control and they feel safe and secure the mask comes off.

Remember, they don’t have Emotional Empathy. They have to act as though they have these feelings. So, everything for them is a game. It’s acting. It’s a mask. You can’t keep this mask up for very long. It’s difficult. Especially as they usually have one mask for you and a different one for others. They can’t remember the stories and lies they’ve told either.

Soon enough, you’ll see the real them. The fantasy man or woman will have largely disappeared, except for when they have to bring them out again to stop you from leaving.

Narcissists can’t control their impulses. They will go into a narcissistic rage if they feel like they’re losing power over you. In their mind, you and any children you both have are their possessions. They have the right to control you in any way they want. If you don’t behave, say you question their behavior, and try to set boundaries in place – they will go into a narcissistic rage.

If you say: I’m going to leave you.

The fear they will feel – that they are losing control – will make them extremely angry. They can’t control their basic impulses as we can. There will be two responses: they’ll either discard you. If they think they are absolutely going to lose control over you, they will dump you before you leave them. Or, they’ll abuse you.

Use more of those narcissist manipulative tactics to dominate you.

Narcissist manipulation
Narcissist manipulation

Narcissistic Abuse

Emotional abuse can then descend into physical abuse. Ultimately, they may even kill you. What happens to two women every week.

Narcissists give us these hard-luck stories, those ‘poor Me’ stories to test who of us will try to rescue them, save them. Give them money, allow them to move in, fall pregnant to them, marry them, or whatever else they want from us. They know we can feel their pain.

We think poor thing. That’s awful what they’ve been through. We believe the fantasy, see the first mask they wore, the actor has conned us. The role they created was just a mirror of us. That was our fantasy and we keep that fantasy in our head even long after they’ve shown us who they really are.

The bottom line is you’re never going to get that fantasy. They can’t change even if they wanted to because they don’t know how to feel. They have no Cognitive Empathy. They can see other people have those feelings but they can’t feel them themselves. They won’t change because they believe they’re superior to us.

Guess what?

They feel superior because they know they can so easily manipulate all of us that do feel like we do. We are the ones who’ll feel responsible for them, sorry for them, and guilty if we leave them, even after their abuse. Abuse will only get worse.

Plan to leave, but plan to leave safely. Do not tell them: I am leaving you. You could trigger narcissistic rage. As I said, two women get killed every week and that is usually when in the process of leaving or shortly after doing so.

I need to point out here that men are victims too.

Related: 15 Phrases A Narcissist Uses To Compel You To Stay With Them

How To Shut Down A Narcissist?

This applies whether you:

  • Have a child or children with a narcissistic ex.
  • Have a narcissist colleague or boss in a job that you feel unwilling or unable to leave right now. (Although your long-term goal should be to find work in a different company or department).
  • Have narcissist parents or family members who you will have to see occasionally at family events.

Narcissist supply

  • Become a grey rock.
  • Cut off their narcissist supply.
  • So boring to them they get bored with you.

Whilst planning your safe exit, be sure to stay neutral. Try to observe their behavior and see it for what it is. Narcissist manipulation. Charm them, flatter their ego and make them believe you are being compliant with them.

But secretly take notes with times and dates or any unacceptable behavior. Keep a record because you may need this later, as they could start a legal battle, particularly over children. Set up your own bank account, squirrel money away. Find a new place or a shelter that you can escape to. Line up a job if you don’t have one already.

Get help and support. Pack a bag in case you have to leave sooner than expected and please do so if any abuse escalates, especially into physical violence. Store this and any important documents like passports, birth certificates, etc. with a trusted family member or friend that they do not know the address of. Plan to leave safely because they are vengeful and vindictive.

How to shut down a narcissist

“Withhold admiration from a narcissist and be disliked. Give it and be treated with indifference.” – Mason Cooley

Do not let them know that you have one upon them. But plan to get away from them without them finding out. Then if you have to engage with them, disengage as much as you possibly can. If you don’t have children with them or business together, then go cold turkey and cut all contact.

Block them on phones and social media. If you have to deal with them then only deal with them through a third party or on the very factual least-amount-of-words-possible basis. If there are children involved then use another person as the neutral go-between – a lawyer or trusted family member or friend. If you can’t then don’t engage in any emotional discussion.

Always stick to the facts. I will meet you at this place at this time. I will expect you to return our child this time. Don’t engage in any emotion, whether it’s dealing with a narcissist at work or in a relationship. They will try to press your buttons to make you react emotionally. Because that tells them they still have control.

They will also use whatever you say back at you as a weapon to hurt you. For example, telling other people you’re the crazy one. Try to keep as far away and disengaged from them as you can.

They want to engage you, even negatively, as any engagement means you are still acting as supply to them. The most effective way to disarm a narcissist is to stay detached and disengage with them. Go no contact if possible. Narcissistic people want your attention. They want you to look at them. Then want you to hear them out. They want you to react.

Related: A Mid Range Narcissist’s Manipulation Tactic: “But I can change”

As long as you give them attention, whether it’s loving or negative, they will be happy. Starve them of your attention and emotional reaction and watch how easily they fizzle out. Going no contact with a narcissist transfers the power into your hands as they will quickly shut down with zero attention from you.

Go grey rock. Disengage.

Written by Vivian McGrath
Originally appeared on Vivian McGrath
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Narcissist Manipulation: How to shut down a narcissist.
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Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Exec Producer making documentaries for US/UK and Australian television networks. She’s a survivor of domestic violence, motivational speaker and empowerment coach. It’s her mission to help women recover from abusive relationships, fall back in love with themselves and never settle for anything less than they deserve again! Watch her free Masterclass here: Author posts

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