How Narcissists Get So Good at Manipulation

This is an excerpt from http://narc-attack.blogspot.com/ – which has writings from Kathy Krajco about the online book “What Makes Narcissists Tick” (available in its entirety here on EscapeAbuse). Kathy is very good at summarizing and clarifying the modus operandi of malignant narcissists. Why do I include so much information on EscapeAbuse about narcissists/sociopaths? Because many or most abusers ARE narcissists/sociopaths and it behooves us victims/targets to be aware of their behavior and the reasons behind it so that we can better protect ourselves from these people!

But before we even get to the subject of narcissists and manipulation, let’s look at the difference between a “narcissist” and a “malignant narcissist”.

Kathy writes:

Narcissism is self love. Usually the term bears the negative connotation of excessive self love, due to inflated self esteem. This can happen when fame or fortune goes to person’s head. Yet even excessive narcissism, as unlikable as it may be, isn’t what we’re talking about here. It isn’t malignant. It isn’t a personality disorder. It isn’t even a character disorder. It’s just a personality trait.

The topic here is malignant narcissism. It is an all consuming need for something, something everyone needs. But the narcissist must have it all, which means that he or she must take it all away and keep it all away from you.

Malignant narcissism is a perverse pathology ranging along a spectrum from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to psychopathy. All psychopaths are narcissists, but there is as yet some doubt whether all narcissists are psychopaths. Most psychopaths never commit a violent crime, or any crime, and the difference between psychopathy and malignant narcissism is hazy at best and may be non-existent.

Underneath, these people are very different from you and I. They pass for normal but don’t think the way normal human beings do. They aren’t acting on normal human premises. So, the normal “rules” of human interaction don’t apply in interactions with a narcissist.

For example, if he becomes angry at something you said, you naturally think that he took it the wrong way and will be appeased by conciliatory words and expressions from you. But he goes ballistic at you for trying to appease him. What’s going on here?

That’s what What Makes Narcissists Tick is here to explain. Being a writer, I feel that I should use my ability to describe and explain narcissism in a way that is clear and meaningful to the average person. For, 1-to-3 people in every 20 you meet is a malignant narcissist.

NOW, on to the subject of how MALIGNANT narcissists get so good at manipulation. Kathy asserts that it is probably that “practice makes perfect”, and these narcissists have been practicing manipulation for SO long (since childhood), that they have simply gotten very skilled at it. Here’s part of what Kathy writes about that. (See the LINK for her entire entry.)

Are these narcissists just brilliant, with astronomical IQs? Well, the more intelligent they are, the more dangerous they are, of course. But, no, they aren’t all intelligent. They don’t have to be.

It’s just a simple matter of “practice makes perfect.”

You too would be that good a manipulator if you practiced manipulating people 24-7-365 for a lifetime.

When we interact with others, we are usually trying to communicate. Only rarely are we trying to make an impression instead. Narcissists and psychopaths are always trying to make an impression. They are never trying to communicate. In fact, they block attempts to communicate.

Remember when you were a teenager and met that cool guy or gal? In that situation, we are so busy trying to make a good impression that we do embarrassing things. We are so busy trying to SOUND clever that we say the stupidest things. Our mouths get ahead of our brains.

While we are putting on this star-studded performance, we aren’t listening to him or her. We are interested only in the KIND of thing they say and the tone of voice they say it in. Their gestures and body language – we don’t miss a beat. We aren’t interested in their face, only the expression on it. Why? Because we are studying their continuing reaction to our actions: Ah! a smile! Oh-oh, a frown! OK – there – I got the smile back again. Oh good, s/he stepped closer to me.

See what I’m getting at? When we are operating in this mode, everything we say and do is for effect. We observe the effects and tune our behavior to win the kind of reaction we want. In other words, we are PLAYING that person for the reaction we want. We are trying to manipulate him or her. We are manipulating that smile from him or her. If one thing we say or do doesn’t win it, we just try something else and keep trying things till we hit upon what impresses that person as something to smile at. Hence, if we blow it and get a frown instead, in our haste to transform it to a smile we can contradict ourselves in two seconds flat.

We are not being ourselves when we do this. We are quite literally being someone else. We are putting on an act. Our true character doesn’t come through, because we are acting out the part of an idealized version of ourselves, an impressive idealized version of ourselves, a purely fictitious character. All because our aim isn’t to communicate – it’s simply to make an impression.

Now imagine if you were in this mode all the time with everyone your whole life. That’s a lot of practice. Through sheer trial and error, you will become an expert at what produces a smile in another person, or a frown or a look of fear or dejection or shame or anger or whatever you want. You will become an expert at what makes them get mad at some third party you are talking about. You will become an expert at what pushes people’s buttons to do a whole list of things you want in various situations. You will be an expert at controlling people this way.

That’s what narcissists are psychopaths are – experts, because they are in this mode all the time with everyone their whole life. Is it even possible for them to cut it out? I doubt it. They don’t even know what normal human interaction is. They are always just trying to make an impression. They are never trying to communicate. They block communication. They don’t want you to know them. The real them, that is. It’s their deepest, darkest secret.