How To Manipulate A Narcissist: 10 Covert Ways To Exploit

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

You can defeat any narcissist and outperform them in their game of manipulation. But it is not so easy, because of a special reason:

Narcissists have a specific kind of empathy that allows them to read your mind while also remaining detached from your suffering. It elevates them to the level of a master manipulator.

They can convince you that they are helpless without you. And when they win you over, they extract the cost through your devotion to their godlike being.

Studies show that narcissists can manipulate others to elevate their status (Narcissism, Shame, Happiness, Sam Vaknin, 2019). You cannot even imagine the twisted ways narcissists treat their mothers, brothers, and sisters.

They also trauma-bond you in stages, over months and years. They train you to serve their wishes promptly, comply with their demands unquestioningly, and keep returning to them after breakups.

They must be stopped at their own game. But how can you manipulate a narcissist?

How To Manipulate A Narcissist

Here are 10 highly effective, covert ways to manipulate a narcissist:

1. Project A Formidable Appearance.

This is perhaps the simplest way: make the narcissist fear you by looking formidable.

They usually do not try to manipulate someone who appears to be a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact, tough person. Narcissists fear consequences.

First, they are afraid of the shame you may cause them (like giving the narcissist a public physical beating) if they ever find out about their manipulative actions.

A tough person can make them miserable in the public sphere, as well as ruin their reputation in their work and personal circles. They are always frightened of being ashamed.

Second, most narcissists assume and are almost certain that it would take them a very long time to get a tough person under their charm.

They typically search for naive and gullible people, so they don’t have to keep up their act for long.

Third, they assume that your daunting appearance comes with a birdbrain. So you wouldn’t believe what the narcissist tells you unless you have discussed them with others. So, they are scared that others might spill the beans about your true character.

  • Manipulation = psychological influence that makes you do what the manipulator desires.
  • Manipulators = people who misuse your trusting nature to convince you to do things for their benefit first.

Many people manipulate you throughout the day, mostly the marketers (online and offline) who lure you into buying their products and courses.

You often cannot tell when they are manipulating you — because they convince you that you are buying/doing it for your own benefit, and they will hardly gain anything from it.

2. Exhaust Them In Their Act.

This strategy is about how to psychologically mess with a narcissist.

When the narcissist is manipulating you, they are putting up an act, or a series of acts.

Make them do it so long and so often that they get tired of acting who they are not, and slip up.

Suppose they tell you how bad their family treats them and how they are left crying into the night so many times a week. Ask them to repeat their sob stories every time they are with you.

Make them feel fed up, putting on a long, crybaby face while whining out their stories.

If they tell you how beautiful you are, make them go on to a sickening degree. Like, “What else do you find good about me?”

Keep that “What else?” going on until they get bored and leave or snap at you—when you can walk off.

Suppose they propose to take you to dinner. Ask them to book 5 dinners on 5 days, while going there to order food and eating not a bite more than you should.

Make them let you choose the restaurant. Ask them if you can ask your friend to come with you. If they say No, then you can walk off, asking them not to bother you anymore.

Let the “What else?”, “Tell me again, you say it so well!”, and “Give me another one!” go ad nauseam.

3. Compare Them To More Capable People.

Narcissists have fragile self-esteem.

The grandiose ones have high self-esteem, while the covert narcissists have low self-esteem. But it is unstable and easily broken in both types of narcissists.

Most of all, their self-worth and self-esteem get sabotaged when they get compared to more powerful, capable, wealthy, or accomplished people.

Do exactly that — compare them to more capable and accomplished people.

Whenever they boast of a particular grandiose aspect of themselves, tell them of a person you know who is more accomplished in that field.

If they claim that they just donated $1,000 to charity, tell them you know someone who donates $100,000 every year.

If they claim they are good at making people laugh, prod them to tell you joke after joke to make you laugh. And give out a boring little laugh after each joke — like, “That wasn’t so funny, try again.

There’s another related tactic called triangulation, where you introduce a third person in your two-way relationship.

This third person doesn’t have to have a physical presence; they can be a rich person both of you know well, a successful friend of theirs, or even an imaginary ex of yours.

4. Stay In Your Group.

A narcissist is unlikely to target you when you are in a group. They will always try to isolate you from your homies first.

Do not leave your group, or you will be too vulnerable to handle the entire toolkit of their manipulative tricks.

Whenever you notice they are trying to isolate you, tell them that you must take your friend along since they are your soul cousin.

If they manage to meet you outside your group, you can bet that they will praise you and then fill you up with “false facts” about how someone in your group speaks badly of you.

That is one of their strategies to alienate their victims from their support groups.

The best response is to tell them that you are going to call that person and inform them how horrible they are, as the narcissist says.

If the narcissist sticks to their position, then they may be honest about your friend gossiping behind your back. But if they back off from their claims, then you’ll know what their true intentions were.

However, you can go alone with the narcissist in at least two situations:

  1. when you will be in a public place the whole time, and
  2. when you are confident that you can keep yourself safe.

5. Stroke Their Ego.

This strategy is about how to make a narcissist respect you.

Narcissists know that they are unlovable and rather despicable. So, they respect you when you regard them as if they were your king.

They love it when you keep their egos puffed up with:

  • always seeking their advice,
  • always obeying their instructions,
  • apologizing when they feel you said or did something stupid, and
  • showing guilt anytime you stray from the standards they set for you (and they do keep changing those).

As a result, one of their many characteristics is to split their image into a good and a bad, then deny the bad image while inflating the good one to a level of grandiosity.

Narcissists have a strong need for social validation, which indicates they are concerned about what others think of them. They also have a strong desire to make a good first impression when meeting new people.

They also refuse to listen to criticism or accept responsibility or blame.

However, they often shy away from confrontations when they feel they can be attacked into defeat or humiliation.

So, they love hearing how great and accomplished they are, as it strokes their ego into an inflated ego.

Tell them, “You did amazing! Only you could have done it!”

As they smile and gloat, tell next, “Can I catch up with you later, as I have to do something urgently?”

Narcissists are strong with weak people and weak with strong people.

6. Make Them Feel Essential.

This is the basic rule of becoming a narcissist manipulator: Keep reminding them how important they are to you.

Narcissists are people who will often remind you, “What will happen to you without me?”

Play their game, and ask them, “You’re so indispensable to me. Only you understand me so well. What shall I do without your help?”

It will make them deliriously happy and swimming in the belief that they have already influenced you with their charms.

They hate people disagreeing with their ideas and opinions. To feed the narcissist’s ego, agree with all they say, sometimes even when you know they are wrong.

It will keep them in the safe belief that you value them, so you could get them to do a few things for you.

However, always remember to get the narcissist to agree first that the things they would do for you will not require you to reciprocate the favor.

Like, “Will you do that without expecting anything in return from me?”

Narcs crave agreeableness

7. Keep Their Fears Alive.

Narcissists are often driven by fear.

One of their greatest fears is being publicly humiliated. If they ever had a public shaming incident in their life, they will almost certainly have never recovered from it.

So, if you want to manipulate them to do something, get them to say it in public.

Narcissists are insecure, and they deal with that insecurity by overvaluing themselves.

Mary Kowalchyka & Helena Palmieria, 2021

Once they have agreed to something, narcissists rarely back down. They fear being shamed for making false promises, since they always wish to keep their public image spotless.

If they hesitate or delay, you can use their words against them.

“Hey, you said you can take any day off for me. Take tomorrow off and help me finish this work.”

They will be irritated as hell, but they will do it out of fear of being exposed as a liar.

8. Threaten To Withdraw Support.

Here’s how to manipulate a narcissist to get what you want: Drop hints that you may stop supporting them.

Narcissists often find comfort in other people doing things for them. So, they build parts of their lives around them.

If someone has been helpful to the narcissist, they will go overboard trying to extract more from them by playing on their generosity.

Like, if you gave them a gift on their birthday, they would keep expecting it forever.

To take advantage of this behavior, you may tell them, “If you don’t do it, you are not going to get your birthday gift.”

By the way, is that how narcissistic parents manipulate their children into getting good grades?

You can leave a narcissist, even if you have no money, and be free.

9. Do Not Give In To Them Easily.

If they want you to tattoo their name on your body, then you can be half-sure that they will always play the puppeteer and move your strings.

Don’t allow that.

If you really want a relationship with them (which you ideally should not), make them agree to your conditions.

Right at the start, get them to promise that they will never cross these 7 relationship boundaries. Get their consent in writing, such as an email, and forward copies to common family and friends.

Do not commit to anything in a rush that they want you to. Always say, “I need time for this. Let me mull it over.”

And if they force you, tell them, “I’m not sure if I can continue with you.”

10. Stay Patient And Keep Reading Them.

This is about beating a narcissist at their own game by learning about their true nature. This is also how to manipulate a vulnerable narcissist.

Study their mannerisms, quirks, behaviors, outbursts, threats, expectations, and everything else about them.

Narcissists know the art of manipulation too well. Moreover, they keep perfecting it.

How do they do it? They will closely observe you to:

  • keep a mental note of your expressions when you emote certain feelings,
  • note down the things that interest you or trouble you,
  • what your fears and vulnerabilities are, and
  • how you react to others.

You do the same thing. Keep observing and noting their behavior, especially when they try to use gaslighting to deny your version of events.

For example, narcissists are excellent at reactive abuse — a manipulation tactic used to trigger the victim to lash out in self-defense, then use this to prove that the narcissist is the one being abused.

Never lose your patience and snap at them. Instead, move away, and engage your energies in something worth your time.

If you lose your patience, they will trigger you and then blame you for misbehaving. Instead, keep reading their intentions and unearthing what they actually want from you.

You will most likely need help from other victims’ narratives to unmask a narcissist.

Now, the most crucial takeaway from this entire article:

  • Manipulating a narcissist may be ineffective, counter-intuitive, and sometimes harmful if the narcissist discovers it.
  • So, you have two options — one, don’t bother if they find out; two, stay safe (like keeping a supportive person around) when you outmaneuver them.


  1. Is it ethical to manipulate a narcissist?

    The ethical nature of manipulating a narcissist is debatable. It is acceptable to use righteous ways, like praising them genuinely to feed their ego.

    Consider the harm if you let them always get their way — they will steamroll your self-esteem and self-worth, making you into their slave.

    Some may feel it is wrong to manipulate anyone, even narcissists. In any case, it is always advisable to set healthy boundaries with narcissists and seek a professional opinion.

  2. What is the best way to outsmart a narcissist?

    There is no one best way to outsmart a narcissist, but here are some suggestions:
    1. Cut them out of your life once and for all.
    2. Focus on having a good time without thinking of them.
    3. Set strict boundaries and block their intrusions into your life.

  3. How to make a narcissist realize they are wrong?

    Narcissists are usually very confident in their own abilities and skills. They think they know everything and don’t like to be challenged.

    To make a narcissist realize they are wrong:
    1. Use the “Yes, but” technique to refute their claims.
    2. Address their feelings first, then address the facts.
    3. Use humor or sarcasm to engage them in the dialog.

  4. How to manipulate a covert narcissist?

    The 4 best ways to manipulate a covert narcissist are:

    1. Don’t take the bait. Covert narcissists often use emotional manipulation to make you feel guilty. They can also play the victim to get what they want. Don’t take the bait; instead, remind yourself that this is their typical behavior. Your feeling bad or sacrificing yourself for them won’t fix them. So, stop trying to please them.

    2. Gray rock them. The gray rock method is a way of dealing with a covert narcissist by becoming emotionally unavailable. This means not engaging with them, not reacting to their provocations, and not giving them any attention. Make yourself as boring and mind-numbing as possible, so they lose interest in you.

    3. Walk away. If you are in a relationship with a covert narcissist, it may be necessary to walk away from them. This may be hard because they train you to be available for them, and you feel bad for leaving them because of the trauma-bonding addiction. However, it may be the only way to protect yourself from their abuse.

    4. Get them intimidated. If a covert narcissist is making your life difficult, get help from a friend or family member to warn/threaten/frighten them. Inform your local law enforcement agency, and tell the narcissist about it. They will likely leave once they feel threatened, as they fear consequences (unlike sociopaths, who don’t).

  5. How to manipulate a female narcissist?

    Actually, “manipulate” is a wrong term to get someone to change their behavior, even if used in a well-intentioned context. Rather ask:
    How to get a female narcissist to behave better?
    1. Set relationship boundaries. Narcissists like to intrude on people’s personal space, so set strict limits on your time, attention, and location. Tell them what you shall do if they violate your boundaries.
    2. Be assertive. Narcissists try to control everyone around them, so be assertive and stand up for yourself despite their blame-games and criticism. Make clear that your needs and wants matter. Learn how to summon the courage ‌to say No to them.
    3. Don’t take their slights personally. Narcissists often say and do hurtful things, but you have to remind yourself every time that it is not about you, but rather an output of their very nature. They are actually projecting their own flaws and insecurities onto you.
    4. Seek legal help. If you are afraid that a female narcissist may lodge a sexual harassment case against you, seek legal help. Have legal options to stop the threats and stay safe. Install CC cameras at your house.

Final Words

Here’s a firsthand account of narcissist manipulation:

My narcissistic friend always tries to get free medical advice from me. But they always ask me first what I did last week and how I feel about some upcoming events.

Now, as I tell them about my last week, they don’t even hear me beyond two sentences. They simply use my half-second break to interject their issues and ask for my professional counsel.

Well, I give them my advice for free, and then study their behavior for understanding narcissism.

The best exercise is walking:

√ Please share it with someone if you found this helpful.

√ Also Read: 7 things that turn on a female narcissist

Our Story!


When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.