Before we dive in, let me make it perfectly clear that:
- I am not a psychologist or therapist (this is already in the T&C of the website and applies to all posts)
- This advice may or may not work depending on your specific situation and its many different factors
- Although powerful, reverse psychology isn’t usually the best strategy to deal with a narcissist
The third and last point is the one you really have to internalize. Narcissists are insidious and toxic, so your main goal should always be to detach from them.
In case the word detach isn’t clear enough: do your best to cut them out of your life, ignore them, pretend they do not exist, do not give them a single second of your time/attention.
Reverse psychology as well as other psychological tricks or strategies can be useful in everyday life, and may even help you influence those around you.
The issue with narcissists is that unfortunately, they are usually very good at manipulative tactics themselves. So in general, you don’t want to play games with them because they’ll beat you at those games.
That being said, there may be circumstances where you have to physically deal with a narcissist and cannot avoid them in any way.
In this case, you have to keep calm and use your mind. Fighting against a narcissist will almost never be the solution and usually results in a massive loss of energy on your part.
Reverse psychology on the other hand can help, and this article will show you how and why. Keep reading…
Reverse psychology in a nutshell
- If you want someone to do something and use reverse psychology, you tell them not to do it
- If you want someone to not do something and use reverse psychology, you tell them to do it
That is, in a nutshell, what reverse psychology is. It is based on the fact that people don’t generally like being told what to do or not do.
In other words, people usually react negatively to orders and sometimes even advice. Such a negative reaction can then trigger them to do the exact opposite.
Therefore, paradoxically, telling someone to do the opposite of what you’d like them to do, especially if in a categorical manner, can be better than what common sense would suggest (“just tell them”).
You have to be good at this, though — people are not stupid. Not even children. If anything, children can actually be better at sensing falsity and manipulation.
How the narcissist’s mind works
Narcissists either lack empathy or consciously choose not to empathize with anyone as a way to be less vulnerable.
The narcissist believes that they are some kind of special person who has every right in the world to take advantage of others, even by means of manipulation and/or abuse.
And as mentioned, they are usually pretty good at it. They are also good at sensing whether you can be manipulated or not (e.g. those who struggle with self-imposed guilt are more likely to give in).
The narcissist will beat you at their own game, which is why you should never fight against them or even argue with them, but rather find a way to detach emotionally and then physically.
Common narcissistic traits
- Obsessive need for attention, even if negative
- Superiority complex, grandiosity, arrogance
- Conscious/unconscious lack of empathy/compassion
- Exploitative, abusive, manipulative behavior
- Falsity and pretending to be someone they are not
Common narcissist tactics
- Love bombing. Showering you with compliments, gifts, and attention. The goal is to get you hooked.
- Idealization. They will tell you you’re the best, but only so they can then hold you to the highest of the highest standards.
- Gaslighting. That is, making you question your own sanity and/or perception of reality.
- Silent treatment. They will ignore you, either as a punishment or to show that they are always in control.
- Playing victim. If anything else fails, then they will try and take advantage of your good nature by begging you.
- Lies, lies, lies. The narcissist will lie once and see how you react; if you accept the game, then they will lie indefinitely.
- Conditional love. “I love you, but only if… you are worthy of attention, but only if… I will not treat you with respect unless…”
How to use reverse psychology on narcissists
As we’ve seen, reverse psychology doesn’t always work, and it’s even more unlikely to work with someone who is manipulative like a narcissist.
However, you can still give it a try, particularly if you’re in the type of situation where you can’t really cut the narcissist out.
Now, the first thing you have to clear on with reverse psychology is your intention — what do you want to accomplish, what is your goal?
You can then act in a way that makes your desired result seem appealing, or even the only option, because the alternative that’s suggested triggers a negative reaction.
- If you are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, and you want it to end, and you know that if you ask for attention they usually ignore you, then you could act like you are desperate for attention
- If you want a narcissist to leave you alone, you could try to badger them, ask them the same questions over and over, or express interest in a way that’s almost comical, until they spontaneously go away
- If a narcissist expects you to have a negative reaction, e.g. when criticizing you harshly, have the opposite reaction — agree with everything, say that they are right about everything; this will throw them off guard
The best strategy isn’t reverse psychology…
But rather a “strategy” in which you detach emotionally, mentally, and physically and accept that the narcissist no longer belongs to your life.
I’ve said it twice already, but it really needs to be stressed — no narcissistic relationship will ever be a healthy relationship. Whether it’s at work, or in your personal life.
Narcissists are extremely selfish and, worst of all, they don’t really change. They may pretend they do, but only to keep you.
Any unnecessary interaction with an abusive narcissist will drain you. Your time is too precious for that. Your mental health is too important for that.
Live your own life, not the narcissist’s.