Discover the 20 narcissist hoovering examples and control tactics they use to reclaim power and lure you back into their toxic relationship web.
Narcissists use hoovering techniques in the last stage of the narcissistic relationship cycle to reel you back into their lives.
The moment they see you distancing yourself, they start making false promises, fabricating crises, and playing on your empathy.
It all looks and feels as if the narcissist is helplessly in love with you, making it difficult to suspect them of being manipulative.
So, whenever you try to set boundaries, find a support network, or plan to leave them, they begin to hoover out of insecurity and fear of losing you – their narcissistic supply.
20 Narcissist Hoovering Examples: Unveiling Their Control Tactics
You can deal with a narcissist’s hoovering tactics more confidently once you recognize they are trying to regain their control over you.
Here are the twenty common narcissist hoovering examples and controlling tactics:
1. Making Subtle Contacts
Subtle contacts are one way that narcissists try to regain control over their previous partners. These contacts may initially appear harmless, but they have a hidden agenda.
One example of subtle contact is when a narcissist sends a message that seems innocent, such as “I miss you and am thinking of you,” or one of your stupid but sweet memories from your relationship.
These messages can make you feel nostalgic or spark hope of a reunion, but remember that the narcissist’s goal is to regain control and power over you.
Another technique is ghosting and then contacting you out of the blue.
This means they disappear from your life for some time and then suddenly reappear with a seemingly innocent message or inquiry. The shock of their reappearance might lead you to reconsider their motives and give them another chance.
Narcissists may also use social media as a subtle contact method, known as “social media stalking” these days.
They might “like” your posts, leave seemingly supportive comments, or even share your content to make it appear as if they still care about you and your life.
Keep in mind, though, their ultimate motive is to regain power over you.
To block these subtle contacts, maintain clear boundaries and build a strong support system.
Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who understand your past relationship with the narcissist and can provide a reality check when you’re feeling vulnerable.
2. Flattering and Complimenting You
Narcissists use flattery and compliments as a “love-bombing” technique to draw you back into their world.
They will praise your appearance, skills, or accomplishments, making you feel special and coveted.
When receiving praise from a narcissist, remind yourself to not be swayed by them.
Do not get swept up in the flattery, however genuine or pleasant they may seem. Instead, stay grounded and avoid falling into their trap.
Here are a few examples of how a narcissist may use compliments and flattery to control you:
- Telling you’re the best: They may say things like “You’re the only one who understands me” or “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
- Comparing you to their ex: They might tell you how much better you are compared to their previous partners, making you feel like you need to maintain a certain level of superiority.
- Focusing on your strengths: The narcissist will emphasize your unique qualities and skills, creating a sense of dependency and reinforcing the idea that you need them to succeed.
Be aware of these tactics and don’t let them manipulate your emotions. Keep your guard up and maintain a healthy distance from those who use flattery and compliments to control you.
“The best way to cope with manipulative flattery is to recognize it for what it is – an attempt to control you.”
3. Recalling Happy Memories & Deep Experiences
Recalling happy memories serves as one of the narcissist’s hoovering tactics.
They may reminisce about shared experiences to remind you of your intimate connection, making it difficult for you to resist their charm.
Be careful, a narcissist may try to bond with you through emotionally charged conversations.
This could include discussing your past, recalling your happiest moments, or even revisiting some of your inside jokes. By doing so, they are trying to establish an emotional connection to draw you in deeper.
Interestingly, research shows that recalling happy memories can reduce symptoms of depression and have a positive impact on mental health when dealing with chronic stress.
Together, our data suggest that activating positive memories artificially is sufficient to suppress depression-like behaviours.– Ramirez, Liu & Tonegawa, 2015
Narcissists recognize the power of positive memories and use them to manipulate you into getting back with them.
To thwart this tactic, set clear boundaries and maintain offline and online distance from the narcissist. Instead, focus on rebuilding your own confidence and personal growth.
Do all it takes to prevent a narcissist from exploiting your memories and emotions.
Here are a few actionable steps to help you counteract these controlling tactics:
- Identify the happy memories being used as manipulation, and remind yourself that these memories don’t outweigh their negative behaviors.
- Reframe your perspective on the bond shared with the narcissist, acknowledge the control they held, and work towards detachment.
- Invest in personal development and self-care to strengthen your sense of self and maintain emotional independence.
From time to time, remind yourself that a handful of happy moments do not make it worthwhile to give them control over you.
4. Staging Accidental Encounters
Narcissists often stage “accidental” encounters to make you feel like “the world is a small place” and “destiny keeps bringing you together.”
They may randomly bump into you to create emotional turmoil in you if they still have a presence in your life.
Beware, the narcissists might “casually” run into you at the grocery store, your favorite coffee shop, or even at your workplace. These encounters will often feel serendipitous, but you can bet they planned it to reintroduce themselves into your life.
During such encounters, a narcissist may use a variety of tactics to manipulate your emotions. Some examples include:
- Feigning concern: They might seem concerned about your well-being, asking your friends about your health. The manipulative nature of these “caring” gestures makes you question if you were right to break up with them.
- Displaying false remorse: Narcissists may feign regret for their past actions, often posting their remorse on social media, to lure you back into their sphere of influence.
- Creating a sense of nostalgia: They will find ways to reminisce about your shared past, so they can make you feel drawn to them once again.
Do not allow the narcissist to create an emotional storm in you or distort your perception of reality.
After all, these “accidental” encounters are part of a calculated plan to reassert control over you.
Stay vigilant and resist their covert attempts at manipulation.
Don’t let yourself breach the boundaries you set up with them at the time of breaking up, and avoid falling back into the narcissistic toxic relationship.
5. Pledging A Brighter Future Together
One controlling tactic that narcissists use is pledging a brighter future together.
They make grand promises of a perfect life ahead to manipulate you into staying with them.
They can promise marriage, having children, giving you financial security, going on holidays, or any other idealistic plans that are normal for people in true love.
But they are often too good to be true. They know your vulnerabilities and use them as leverage.
If they know your dream has always been to travel the world, they might say: “Someday, we’ll explore every corner of the globe together!”
Such promises may lower your defenses and allow them to take control of the relationship. Once you get back, you will always be pining to go on that world tour with them, which they’ll keep using to justify their abusive behavior.
When you’re hopeful about the future, they know you’re less likely to confront them or leave.
Here are some signs that a narcissist is using future promises as a tactic:
- Their promises are vague or unrealistic
- They often make grand statements like “You are my destiny!” or “We’ll be happy forever”!
- They back out of commitments or downplay their promises once you’ve given in to their demands
In the case of narcissistic hoovering, remember that their words are just words. Pay attention to their actions, not just their words.
“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when … the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast.”― Karen Marie Moning
If you suspect someone is using this tactic on you, ask yourself:
Has this person ever followed through on their promises? Can they be different this time?
And protect yourself from falling into the trap of false hope and manipulation.
6. Reaching Out On Special Dates
Narcissists often use special dates as a tactic to regain control and hoover their victims back into their lives.
Your birthday, anniversaries, or other significant occasions become an opportunity for them to re-establish contact and manipulate your emotions.
On these days, they might send you a seemingly innocent text or call wishing you well, reminiscing about previous celebrations, or mentioning shared memories.
This can trigger a flood of emotions and make you doubt whether cutting off the relationship was the right choice, leading you to potentially fall back into their toxic pattern.
Another aspect to consider is how they reach out on holidays, like Christmas or Thanksgiving.
They may try to invite themselves to your gathering or try to connect via social media. They may even bring you sentimental gifts or use grand gestures to soften your stand against them.
These are the moments when you get the impression that they’ve changed. Alas, this is most probably a manipulative tactic, not a genuine display of care or affection.
Stay watchful during these special dates and do not entertain their outreach to you:
- If the narcissist does reach out, resist the urge to respond or engage with their attempts.
- Remind yourself of the reasons why you ended the relationship and what they could do again.
- Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who can help you stay strong and grounded.
By keeping your distance and staying aware of their tactics, you can prevent the narcissist from hoovering you back into future misery that may be too difficult to escape.
7. Pretending To Need Help or Advice
The narcissist may pretend they need your help or advice.
This tactic is designed to make you feel obligated to engage with them, as your genuine desire to help others can be exploited. Narcissists may use this approach to regain your attention and draw you back into their lives.
For instance, they might ask for guidance on a personal issue or project they are working on, knowing that you have expertise in that area. By doing so, they lure you into their sphere of influence by appealing to your sense of compassion and willingness to assist.
[Honest admission: A narcissist friend I broke up with is presently trying this tactic — they are messaging me to ask for my medical advice.]
To help you recognize this controlling tactic, consider some examples:
- Your narcissistic ex-partner asks you for advice on a work matter or financial issue, knowing you have expertise in that field.
- A narcissistic parent requests your help with a life decision or family issue, despite having other people they could consult for assistance.
- Your former friend, a known narcissist, feigns being in crisis to elicit sympathy and care from you, thus planting the seeds for future manipulation.
Never lower your guard around a narcissist.
If you suspect they are using this control tactic, either run fast and far from them, or keep the interaction strictly transactional (never letting it get emotional).
Narcissists may use your shared hobbies or interests to reconnect with you as a hoovering technique.
They may try to reignite your passion for a mutual hobby and trick you to to rekindle the connection and draw you back into their orbit.
For example, if you both enjoyed playing tennis during your relationship, the narcissist might suddenly invite you for a game, making it seem like a harmless and enjoyable way to spend time together.
Once the narcissist creates doubt and uncertainty in you about your decision to leave them, it is much easier to hoover you back into the relationship.
When you notice this happening, it’s essential to recognize that the narcissist isn’t genuinely interested in the shared activity or rebuilding a healthy connection. In reality, they are attempting to reestablish their influence over you.
Never forget that successful hoovering will restart the narcissistic abuse cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard.
- Be aware of unexpected invitations to partake in shared hobbies or interests.
- Recognize that the narcissist’s intentions may be manipulative, not genuinely interested in reconnecting.
- Maintain firm boundaries and avoid engaging in activities that could reignite the toxic relationship.
Remember, the more you are aware of the tactics a narcissist might use to reconnect with you, the better you can stop yourself from setting foot in their trap.
9. Requesting A Farewell Conversation
Narcissists may attempt to maintain control by requesting a farewell conversation, perhaps over a farewell dinner or even a breakup party.
They might use this chance to guilt-trip you into thinking that you’re making the wrong decision about ending the relationship.
For example, they could say things like, “I don’t understand where things went wrong, and I think we owe it to ourselves to talk about it.”
In the same conversation, they might gain your sympathy by emphasizing how much they’ve been hurting since the breakup.
They will remind you of all the troubles they went through for you, and all the sacrifices they made without you knowing.
They will talk of the many times when they “fought the world” to support you.
All this aims to make you doubt your decision to move on.
Recognize this for what it is – attempts to keep you emotionally invested and under their control.
If you’re considering engaging in a farewell conversation, be prepared to encounter manipulation and be firm in maintaining your boundaries.
When dealing with a narcissist, it’s essential to prioritize your well-being and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Stay alert to their controlling tactics and focus on your healing journey.
10. Sending Gifts or Surprise Deliveries
Narcissists try to hoover their victims by surprising them with gifts or unannounced deliveries.
This may seem like a kind gesture, but the intention behind it is all too dark.
The narcissist may send an unexpected gift to remind you of their presence and prompt you to reach out to them.
This allows them to gain your attention and gratitude, making it more challenging for you to maintain distance.
- Gifts can be: Flowers, chocolates, presents linked to your personal interests, or items to remind you of special moments shared.
- Surprise visits: Showing up at your doorstep unannounced, potentially putting you in an awkward situation if you don’t want to engage with them.
On receiving such gifts or deliveries, it is crucial to stay firm in your boundaries and avoid falling back into the narcissist’s control. Remember, their aim is to manipulate your emotions and make you feel dependent on them.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Remind yourself of that quote to maintain your self-worth and prevent falling prey to hoovering tactics.
To keep your defenses strong, keep these actionable points in mind:
- Be mindful of their intentions when receiving unexpected gifts or deliveries.
- Ignore their attempts to provoke reactions or emotions through their gestures.
- Maintain your boundaries and don’t let the narcissist manipulate your feelings of guilt or gratitude.
The world feels good as long as you feel good. So, prioritize your mental well-being above your (narcissistic) relationships.
11. Invoking Religious or Cultural Traditions
Narcissists may use religious or cultural traditions to manipulate you, taking advantage of your beliefs and values.
These might include using guilt for trespassing cultural norms, invoking a sense of moral duty, or twisting sacred texts to their advantage.
A narcissist might shame you for not honoring your family, as it is valued in some cultures.
They may claim that your actions are in direct opposition to your spiritual beliefs, making you question your own values and loyalties.
This can cause internal conflict, leading you to rethink your decisions based on the narcissist’s desires rather than your own.
Using religious texts, they may selectively quote passages that support their perspective or ignore those that contradict it. They may use these texts to justify mistreatment, control, or even abuse, all in the name of following religious doctrines or cultural practices.
Actions you can take to combat this tactic include:
- Identify and acknowledge the manipulation at play.
- Seek support from knowledgeable religious or cultural leaders who can provide accurate interpretations and guidance.
- Remind yourself of your values and empower yourself to make decisions aligned with them.
“Narcissists are masters of illusion who trick, con, deceive, and manipulate their victims.”
Stay alert of their manipulative use of religious and cultural tactics in hoovering you back into their grasp.
12. Publicly Displaying Remorse or Change
The narcissist can use a public stage to show their remorse or that they have changed for the better.
They might make a big show of apologizing, admitting their mistakes, and promising to change their behavior, all in front of an audience.
They are simply trying to mount public pressure on you to manipulate your emotions and make you feel obligated to forgive them or give them another chance.
However, be cautious, as their public remorse may not be genuine. Probably, it is just another tactic to lure you back into a miserable cycle of manipulation and control.
A narcissist might dramatically express their regret for hurting you in front of your friends or family. They may say things like, “I’m so sorry for the way I treated you. I want to make it right.”
This public display aims to win the sympathy of others as they paint themselves in a positive light.
When faced with such a situation, do not trust your instincts but remind yourself of their past patterns of behavior.
If confused, seek support from friends or a therapist who can offer objectivity and help you see if you are being manipulated.
Some actionable steps to protect yourself in these situations include:
- Setting boundaries and enforcing them consistently.
- Ignoring their public apologies and focusing on their actions instead.
- Building a support network to help you recognize signs of manipulation.
- Taking time to care for yourself and prioritize your well-being.
13. Posing As A Changed Person on Social Media
Narcissists might use social media to portray themselves as changed individuals, attempting to pull you back into their lives.
One common tactic is sharing content about personal growth, change, and self-awareness.
This could be anything from sharing quotes about change to posting personal anecdotes on their journey of self-improvement.
Do not fall for their carefully crafted social media posts. Avoid being misled, as these posts may not reflect the genuine change.
Keep in mind that true personal growth is a complex process that takes time, effort, and consistency.
But narcissists can easily put up a façade of growth and change to regain your attention and trust.
They might share a quote like, “Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness,” followed by a heartfelt caption detailing their journey toward self-improvement.
You may try to determine the sincerity of their change, and start observing their offline behavior and interactions from then on, but chances are, most of what they “show” will be a well-crafted ruse.
To protect yourself from these controlling tactics, maintain a healthy distance from their online presence and focus on your well-being instead.
Stay in tune with your gut feelings and consult trusted friends or therapists if needed.
Remember, actions speak louder than some random inspirational words on social media.
14. Downplaying Their Past Mistakes & Mistreatment
Narcissists have a tendency to downplay their past mistakes and mistreatment of others.
They might dismiss your concerns or refuse to admit their missteps. This can leave you feeling confused and invalidated.
One controlling tactic narcissists use is making peace with past mistakes by justifying their actions or blaming others. For example:
- “I didn’t mean to hurt you; you’re just too sensitive.”
- “It wasn’t that big of a deal; you’re overreacting.”
This kind of behavior makes it difficult for those around them to trust their own judgment and feelings. It can create a confusing dynamic where the victim questions their own reality.
Another example of a narcissist downplaying their past mistakes is by underestimating the effects of their actions:
- “I was just joking; you need to lighten up.”
- “I don’t remember it that way; you must be mistaken.”
Narcissists might also use regret as a manipulation tool, expressing remorse for their behavior but never actually changing or taking responsibility for their actions. This can create a false sense of hope that they will improve, only to be disappointed when the patterns continue.
Be aware of these tactics, and trust your instincts when confronting a narcissist about their past behavior. Remember to stand your ground and validate your own experiences.
15. Enlisting A Third Party’s Help
One deceitful tactic a narcissist uses is enlisting the assistance of a third party, often a mutual acquaintance or family member, to manipulate you.
This involves spreading lies or twisting the truth to turn people against you, eventually causing you to doubt your own reality.
A narcissist may involve a sibling or friend, feeding them misleading information in order to discredit you. This creates an adverse alliance that can leave you feeling isolated and questioning your own judgment.
Spreading gossip is a prevalent hoovering tactic.
Using relevant research references can help you counteract this manipulation:
- Share your side of the story with the third party to clear up any misunderstandings.
- Keep a record of your interactions with the narcissist, including any instances of false accusations.
- Distance yourself from individuals who believe or perpetuate the narcissist’s lies.
Narcissistic manipulation becomes even more harmful when it enlists the help of others. Remain watchful of such tactics and respond with clarity and truth to protect your mental health.
While at this, remember that narcissists can send in their “flying monkeys” to broadcast their remorse and their wish to take them back into your life.
16. Retaining Your Personal Items
Another controlling tactic narcissists use involves retaining your personal items.
Holding onto your belongings can create a sense of dependency in you, and make it difficult for you to distance yourself from the relationship. Here are some ways narcissists may do this:
- Refusing to return borrowed items, such as clothes or books, even after multiple requests.
- Deliberately leaving their possessions at your home to maintain a physical presence.
- Claiming they lost or misplaced your belongings to avoid returning them.
Hoovering is ultimately a calculating scheme to ‘suck’ you back into their life, and not returning your personal items is another of their effective tool way to do so.
To counteract these tactics, consider the following actionable points:
- Keep an inventory of your belongings. Make a list of items you’ve lent to the narcissist or that they have left at your place.
- Communicate clearly and firmly your expectation that your items be returned, being specific about which items you want back.
- Set a deadline for the return of your belongings and be prepared to follow through with legal action if necessary.
Remember, narcissists often hoover a person to get them to resume contact.
Do not give them that chance. Keep your boundaries up and intact, and avoid their lure to be pulled back into the relationship.
17. Involving Children or Mutual Friends
This is the vilest part of the breakup with a narcissist. Narcissists frequently use children or mutual friends to maintain control over their victims.
They may deliberately involve them in arguments or leverage their feelings to manipulate you.
A narcissist may try to persuade your child to take their side in disputes, creating a divide in your relationship with your child.
This can trigger guilt and weaken your resolve, allowing the narcissist to maintain control over your emotional well-being.
Another trick a narcissist may use on you is by contacting mutual friends and sharing misrepresented stories or false allegations.
This tactic aims to isolate you from your support network, making you more susceptible to the narcissist’s control tactics.
Here are some clear signs of this tactic:
- Children are being used as messengers to relay emotionally charged messages.
- Attempts to manipulate your relationship with your child by playing the victim.
- Bad-mouthing you to mutual friends causes a rift in your friendships.
- Attempts to draw mutual friends into arguments, forcing them to take sides.
“Manipulation is an art, and narcissists are skilled in deceiving others.”– Shannon Thomas, LCSW and author
Recognize these tactics and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Stay vigilant and evaluate information critically, especially if it comes from a narcissist.
Keep your relationships with your children and friends strong and open, ensuring that communication lines are unobstructed.
18. Undermining Your Self-Esteem
Narcissists have a knack for undermining your self-esteem in order to maintain control over you.
They tend to deploy various tactics aimed at manipulating your emotions and destabilizing your sense of self-worth.
One common tactic is to criticize you constantly, whether it’s about your appearance or your abilities. They might disguise this criticism as “honest advice” or “constructive feedback”, but in reality, they are aiming to chip away at your confidence.
Another way they might undermine your self-esteem is by comparing you to others, focusing on your weaknesses, and highlighting areas where you fall short. This can make you feel inferior and more dependent on their approval, which is always just out of reach.
Narcissists may often use a technique called “gaslighting” to distort your perception of reality.
They do this by flatly denying events or downplaying their own behavior, ultimately making you question your own memory or sanity. This tactic erodes your trust in your judgment and leaves you vulnerable to their manipulation.
“You are not the issue, it’s them. So do not take their behaviors personally. Do not try to fix them.”
As a means to regain control, remember to protect your self-esteem by seeking support from healthy relationships with people who understand your situation.
In your interactions, stay alert for these tactics aimed at undermining your self-esteem.
Recognizing them for what they are will make it easier to resist the narcissist’s pull and maintain your emotional balance.
19. Expressing Intimidating Threats
Intimidating threats are common tactics used by narcissists to maintain control over their victims.
These threats can come in various forms, and knowing this can help you protect yourself from breaking down mentally and emotionally.
A classic example of an intimidating threat is the narcissist making statements suggesting they will hurt you in a way that no one finds out, because they know you too well.
In fact, they can damage your finances, your reputation, and your image, both online and offline.
Many ex-narcissists can threaten to post your intimate pictures if you leave them or don’t comply with their wishes.
Threats like this can force you to give in to their unjust and cruel demands, out of fear for your and your family’s safety.
Another cruel tactic they use is to threaten the well-being of those close to you, your loved ones, friends, family, or even pets.
By holding someone or something else hostage, narcissists can use this leverage to manipulate you into doing what they want.
Narcissists often use subtle intimidation, like combat hoovering, to provoke emotional responses and gain power.
To handle these threats, recognize patterns and maintain firm boundaries.
Focus on your mental and emotional well-being, understanding that you can’t control the narcissist but can protect yourself and minimize their impact.
20. Threatening Self-Punishment or Self-Harm
One manipulative tactic narcissists use is threatening self-punishment or self-harm.
They might say they will hurt themselves if you don’t comply with their wishes or if you try to leave the relationship.
In my clinical experience, suicide threats have been used by at least three narcissistic clients to get back with their ex-partners. They were brought in for sudden abnormal behaviors like alcoholism, substance abuse, and violence toward their families.
These self-harm threats can be extremely sensitive issues and must be referred to expert centers (and legal authorities).
One main aim of these threats is to place the responsibility for the narcissist’s well-being on the victim. As a result, the victim might feel trapped and unable to decide their own best interest.
Consider the following examples of this hoovering technique:
- “If you leave me, I’ll have nothing to live for, and I’ll harm myself.”
- “I can’t stand the thought of losing you. If you don’t come back, I won’t be able to handle it.”
- “There’s no reason for me to live without you. I’ll end my life if you don’t return.”
When faced with these threats, it’s crucial to remember that you are not responsible for another person’s actions, especially when being manipulated by a narcissist. Here are some actionable points to handle threatening self-harm:
- Recognize the manipulation for what it is, and maintain your boundaries.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help if you believe the threats are genuine.
- Do not engage further or give in to their demands to avoid reinforcing the behavior.
It’s normal to feel concerned about someone’s well-being, but it’s essential to prioritize your own safety and mental health.
You cannot save or fix anyone, especially when manipulation is involved.
Stay strong and maintain your boundaries while alerting the legal and health authorities and offering support from a safe distance.
Finally, here are three take-home messages:
- Narcissists can manipulate anyone to hoover you back.
- Blocking their manipulative behaviors can help you have a healthier and happier life.
- Stay informed, enforce your boundaries, and remember that knowledge is power when dealing with narcissistic hoovering.
• • •
Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy, an experienced medical doctor and psychology writer focusing on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy. His expertise and empathetic approach have helped many who have faced mental abuse to find happiness and well-being in their lives.