What you need to know about narcissists — and the types of manipulation they use

This article was updated on August 9, 2021. 

Everyone knows a narcissist. Maybe it’s the know-it-all friend who interjects themselves into every and any conversation just to have a word — and usually the last word — even if they aren’t necessarily qualified to have certain opinions. Maybe it’s a friend of a family member, or maybe, it’s even you.

The Mayo Clinic describes narcissistic personality disorder as a mental condition when someone has an “inflated sense of their own importance” by way of the need to receive excessive attention, having troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic behavior isn’t limited to that bunch — other signs include an obsession with success and power or manipulating others in order to get what you want.

A study argues how narcissism can drive people to become self-proclaimed experts by two key functions: narcissistic grandiosity and narcissistic vulnerability.

The study, published in the journal Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, aimed to examine both types of narcissism and how they drive each types. Narcissistic grandiosity involves self-enhancement strategies that involve arrogance and conceit, while the narcissistic vulnerability is a bit different in terms of someone purposely doing something that harms or effects when the ego is threatened.

The study had nearly 300 recently hospitalized adults fill out questionnaires to measure levels of narcissism and other things. What researchers discovered grandiose narcissistic-types have interpersonal problems that run on vindictiveness. In contrast, those with narcissistic vulnerability have an internal struggle with more doubt and self-questioning. In summary, those with grandiosity only didn’t have a poorer function but higher personal satisfaction and fewer interpersonal issues.

The techniques of a narcissist

Feel like you’re a victim of a narcissist? One therapist made a glossary of terms to help you know the slang terms and how they’re used in our society. Gestalt therapy trainer Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., penned a story on Psychology Today because she wanted to clarify how some of these terms can be misused.

1. Gaslighting – when someone refuses to admit they’ve done wrong even when they have been caught. They will try to convince the other person otherwise.

2. Flying monkeys – Narcissists enlist “friends” to help talk badly about someone the narcissist doesn’t like. The narcissist will make lies that will make the other person look bad in order to look like the victim.

3. Going “Gray Rock” – When interacting with a narcissist, your manner is “boring, unemotional, and neutral.”

4. Love Bombing – Narcissists courtship tactics. Think of it as positive attention in ways so the narcissist gets what they want, but once they are satisfied, the ‘love-bombing’ will stop.

5. Hoovering – Essentially, a way of manipulation by way of actions of words like when trying to get an ex back in a relationship. Saying the things that need to be said in order to regain their attraction.