Narc Speak: A Language All Their Own
From the book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery
Written by Randi G. Fine
In interacting with narcissists you may notice that their methods of communication are peculiar.
Narcissists talk at people, not to them. They go on and on about what is happening in their lives, though to truly know them is to not believe any of it. If you try to share what is important to you with a narcissist he will diminish the importance of it and steer the conversation right back to him.
If it ever appears that they care about what you are saying, I can assure you they do not. They will allow you to elaborate, only to scrutinize your words for future ammunition.
Narcissists never truly listen, because in their grandiose opinion of themselves, what others have to say is largely a waste of their time, unless it includes words of adoration and admiration. Other than that, the only thing that matters to narcissists is what they have to say. While we talk, they cleverly formulate their responses and the tone of their delivery. All responses are strategically geared to fend off attacks, avoid the truth, and evade accountability.
One form of “Narc Speak” is the frequent use of “always” and “never” statements. Narcissists use these condemning, gross exaggerations of partial truths to defend their position by deflecting or projecting blame back onto their victims.
Without saying it directly, the narcissist insinuates that the victim is selfish, thoughtless, inadequate, or inept. These are statements designed to induce sympathy or obligation. For example: “You always think you are right,” “You never loved me,” “You always forget to…” “You never do what you say.”
Narc Speak is ambiguous and non-committal. They never say what they mean or mean what they say and can never be held accountable. Harsh criticisms are heavily cloaked in consideration and concern. Words are meant to manipulate and disorient us.
Many wonder if there is a “narcissistic speak manual” and if all narcissists have read it. It is uncanny how similar the phrases they all use are. My mother has used these phrases for years, and I hear them over and over from the people I counsel. It never fails to amaze me.
These expressions must always be interpreted because what narcissists say and what they mean are very different. Not only are the phrases meant to clue us in, but the inflections and tones are as well. The better you know your narcissist the more easily you can interpret what he says. His phrases are lost on strangers or those who have yet to catch on to his pathology.
Following are some common examples:
- When narcissists say, “I love you,” it means one of three things: they have heard those words used by others and it seems to be an endearing way of manipulating you into loving them; they feel you are pulling away and want to suck you back in; or they want you to say you love them back.
- When narcissists say, “I never said that,” it means that they are either trying to manipulate you, throw you off balance and make you feel crazy, or that you caught them in a lie and they don’t want to admit that they said what they said. They play the role of the perpetual innocent.
- When narcissists say, “I only want you to be happy,” it means “I only want me to be happy. If that means you remain miserable, so be it.”
- When narcissists say, “You are too sensitive” it means that you won’t tip toe on egg shells around them like they want you to, or you won’t let them assault and abuse you the way they want to.
- When narcissists say, “You never do anything for me” it means that whatever you have done for them in the past doesn’t count. What have you done for them today?
- When narcissists say, “You aren’t remembering correctly,” it means that they like their version of the story better than yours because their version portrays them in a better light.
- When narcissists say, “You have no respect for me” it means they are angry because you have boundaries and won’t let them abuse you.
- When narcissists say, “Think about what you are doing to your family/children/parents, etc.” it means “I want you to feel very guilty about what you are doing to me.”
- When narcissists say, “Look how much I have sacrificed for you” it means “I own you and I want you to feel guilty.”
- When narcissists say, “Why do you always bring up the past,” it means that they can bring up your past anytime they want to, but you have no right to call them on anything they ever did.
- When narcissists say, “Forgive me or I apologize if I did anything wrong,” it means “How dare you accuse me of doing anything wrong. I never do anything wrong and will never offer you a genuine apology, though I will make it sound as if I am apologizing to get you off my back.”
- When narcissists say, “What do you want from me?” it means “How dare you ask me to give any part of myself to you. I could care less about your experience, feelings, and pain.”
- When narcissists say, “What about the things you put me through?” it means that they are deflecting the focus by dredging up the past and reminding you of the all “perceived” things you did to them. They are saying that you were far worse to them than they were to you. If anything they should be confronting you about what you did to them.
- When narcissists say, “I’m only trying to help,” it means “I have an agenda that is self-serving.”
- When narcissists say, “You’ve never cared about me,” it means you have given them nothing today.
- When narcissists say, “So and so’s children are so wonderful to their mother,” it means “I can abuse you all I want, but I want you to worship me.”
- When narcissists say, “My ex was too controlling,” it means “I was too controlling and my ex finally got tired of being pushed around.”
- When narcissists say, “No one will love you as much as I do,” it means that they fear losing their supply and believe that they can manipulate you back into continuing to give your all.
If you have ever wondered why your energy feels drained after conversing with a narcissist, now you know. Constantly having to read between the lines of what he says is exhausting.
If you have to talk to the narcissist in your life, keep the conversation short and the subject matter neutral. Avoid frustration by ignoring his manipulative statements. You will never win a verbal battle with him so don’t even try.