35 Things Narcissists Say When Gaslighting You (And What They Really Mean)

Written by Angela Atkinson

Narcissists have a way of communicating that can be very deceptive. If you’re looking for advice on how to decode the language of narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, and other toxic people, you’re not alone. Despite what many people believe, there are far more people who might qualify as malignant narcissists than you might expect.

And, as you may be aware, malignant narcissists, people with narcissistic traits, and those who are (or would be) diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are well-known to have major issues with communication, especially when it comes to the people who are closest to them. One of the simplest ways you can identify a narcissist in your life, or figure out whether your relationship is toxic, is by learning how to spot the signs of malignant narcissism in the people around you.

One of the most common manipulation tactics narcissists use is called gaslighting, a pervasive and highly-effective tactic meant to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity and even your perception of the world around you. Today, we’re covering common phrases used by narcissistic abusers in gaslighting (and what they actually mean when used).

Why are narcissists all so similar? 

So often, people wonder if there’s some kind of narcissist playbook. Why? Because narcissists are all so similar, across the board. This makes it easy to predict what they’ll do next, if you educate yourself on their specific traits and disorder. In fact, whether the narcissist in your life is a spouse, partner, parent or another relative, friend, or even a coworker, there are certain kinds of phrasing they’ll use, and in many cases, they will use nearly identical word-for-word statements. Surprisingly, this is true regardless of a person’s race, culture, religion, nationality, and financial status. Malignant narcissism does not discriminate – it can affect anyone in any circumstance, from the jobless drug addict to the wealthiest person on the planet and everyone in between.

Translating from ‘Narcissist’ to English

Narcissists have a way of not really meaning what they say, and of not saying what they really mean, don’t they? It can feel like they’re speaking a totally different language sometimes. That’s why I’ve put together a series of videos that offer a variety of narcissist-to-English translations to help you identify and understand the toxic people in your life. Here’s the latest video in that series.

Things Narcissists Say in Gaslighting (And What They REALLY Mean)

“You’re angry? I don’t need to deal with this nonsense right now. I will leave you alone until YOU get back to your senses and come back to me later.”

  • Translation: I know I’m the reason you’re angry about MY antics. I don’t care, I will never care, and don’t expect me to apologize for MY behavior because I am blameless and perfect, and you need me anyway….”

“I’m sick of you accusing me of cheating. It’s getting old!”

  • Translation: I don’t get why you won’t just get over it. Clearly, I’m cheating. We both know this. But I am over actually hearing about it, and I’m tired of having to pretend I’m not doing it. Additionally, I will never take responsibility for it and I’ll go ahead and expect you to tolerate whatever I throw your way. And if you don’t, I’m totally going to act like the victim in this whole deal.”

“I WANT TO BE ALONE!”

  • Translation: “I want to spend time with someone else and you’re in my way!”

“I’ve done nothing wrong.”

  • Translation: “I’ve done ALL the things you pointed out, and probably a whole bunch more you don’t know about. But I think anything I do is okay because I’m the one who did it, and I don’t do things that are wrong. Also? Why do you keep calling me out on things I actually did? I don’t like that!”

“You have an anger problem!”

  • Translation: “I’m going to provoke and poke at you until you can’t take it anymore, when you finally blow up at me for continuously disregarding your boundaries, I’ll just say you’re an angry crazy person so I can play the victim instead of accepting any actual responsibility for my behavior.”

“I thought you were the last person I was going to be with.”

  • Translation: “I totally underestimated you and thought I could be with you while also doing whatever I want with whomever I want while you patiently wait for me (and on me) and keep my house in order.”

“You are too sensitive! You need to have thicker skin.” Or “Can’t you take a joke?”

  • Translation: “I don’t understand why you don’t just accept my cruel and unfair criticism as fact. What is wrong with you?”

“You’re going to have to work so hard to get my attention again.”

  • Translation: “You’ve caused narcissistic injury by somehow exposing one of my many flaws, and you’re going to pay for it by begging for my oh-so-precious attention while I blatantly ignore you and treat you like dirt on the bottom of my shoe. And while you’re at it, I’m going to make you feel like you’re the one who needs to apologize even though I’m the one who did something wrong.”

“You’re crazy.” or “It’s all in your head.” or “You need help.” or “You’re delusional”

  • Translation: “What you said is absolutely right. You totally hit the nail right on the head…but I don’t know how you figured me out and I dont want to admit that you’re right, so I’m going to make sure you feel crazy and look crazy. This way you’ll be more focused on what’s not really wrong with you instead of what’s actually wrong with ME.”

“You are always saying the same thing.”

  • Translation: “Why do you keep telling the truth over and over again? I hate when you call me out like that.”

“Everything is all about you!” or “You’re so selfish.”

  • Translation: “How DARE you try to make ANYTHING about you? Don’t you know it’s all about…ME?”

“I can’t have just a little time alone, so I have to be telling you every 5 minutes I love you?”

  • Translation: “You’ve somehow interrupted something I was doing or hiding from you, and now you’re asking me for validation? What am I, an actual human? You’d think you would know by now that I’m the only one who matters in this relationship!”

“Everyone says…” or “Everyone agrees that you’re…”

  • Translation: “I’m pretending that some imaginary group of people are silently agreeing with me about everything I say about you, because not only do I hope you’ll feel humiliated to think all of these so-called people are talking about you, but it’ll help me prove my point. Plus, as an added bonus, telling you that everyone thinks bad things about you will further isolate you and that means I’ll be in more control.”

“You’re a nice guy.” or “You’re such a sweetheart.”

  • Translation: “Because of your sweet, empathic nature, I can get you to do anything I want you to do by manipulating your emotions.”

“OMG! You’re so boring! Can we please talk about something interesting?”

  • Translation: “How dare you talk about anything YOU care about that isn’t me? You’re not saying enough things about me. I don’t like talking about things that aren’t all about me, or at least me-focused. Did I mention that I’d like to talk about things related to me?”

“I don’t think your glasses are working properly.”

  • Translation: “You saw what I was doing, and you understood it correctly, but since I will not be accepting any responsibility for it at all, I’ll just gaslight you real quick so you’ll doubt yourself and your own perception of the world by claiming that something is wrong with your glasses.”

“You treat me like a child!”

  • Translation: “Even though I require you to take care of me, do everything for me and otherwise act like you’re my parent, I need to pretend you’re trying to control me when you ask me where I’m going or where I’ve been or anything else I don’t want to tell you. But you better not stop doing all these other things for me, or I’ll further abuse and manipulate you.”

“I never said that! You made it up!”

  • Translation: “I totally said that, but I’m not really happy that you’re reminding me of it. So, I’ll just pretend you’re insane so you’ll start doubting yourself again. I always like to watch you squirm and feel confused. Keeps you busy so I can keep doing whatever I want.”

“I prayed to meet you,” or “I manifested you,” or “You’re my soulmate!”

  • Translation: “I am going to make you believe that our connection is divinely inspired so that you’ll feel like leaving would be doing something against God or the Universe or whatever you happen to believe in.”

“I’m sorry I seem to have done things to make you not trust me!”

  • Translation: “I’m sorry you’re calling me out on the things I’ve actually done, but I will not be acknowledging the very specific actions I have actually committed against you or our relationship. I mean, yeah, I totally DID those things, but I’m not capable of taking responsibility for them, so my fake apology will have to suffice. And don’t question me on this one. Accept it, or I’ll rage on you like always.”

“Everything that happens going forward is on you,” or “The ball’s in your court now.”

  • Translation: “I guess we can be together as long as I can be a horrible human being and you can continue to pretend that I’m perfect. Otherwise, you’re on your own, toots. At least until I need another shot of supply from you. Ok?”

“You just don’t listen!”

  • Translation: “I don’t like when you don’t go along with whatever I want or whatever I say. You’ve got a lot of nerve to say the truth as opposed to my twisted version of it – so I’m going to focus on diverting attention from what’s actually true by focusing on your hearing.”

“Why do you always insist on arguing with me about everything?”

  • Translation: “Why are you so obsessed with the truth? Despite the fact that I make up facts to back up my lies, we both know I am superior and it’s all my way or no way.”

“Can’t you see that I love you?”

  • Translation: “Why do you keep making me take responsibility for things I’ve done to you? Isn’t the fact that I use the words I love you enough to make you shut up and pretend everything is okay?”

“Why can’t you love me for who I am?” or “That’s just who I am – I won’t change for anyone!”

  • Translation: “I want to do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and treat you however I want – but I don’t want you to notice or stop acting like I’m the best thing in your life. And if you do ask me to stop doing something you don’t like or to compromise or bend in any way, shape, or form, I will make you so miserable you’ll be begging me for mercy.”

“Why can’t you be like everyone else?”

  • Translation: “Why can’t you just shut up and do whatever I want in any given moment? Why can’t you read my mind and accept whatever I say, think or feel as fact?”

“If you cant see that there’s a problem with this relationship, then there really is a problem!”

  • Translation: “Oh look! We’ve just entered the devalue phase and you’re a little shocked at how mean I’ve suddenly become? Clearly, this is all my fault, but you know I’ll never take responsibility – therefore, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and start making you question everything – including, and especially yourself and your own inability to perceive the non-existent issues I’ve just made up to confuse you. Boom!”

“Weird, your tears don’t phase me, even though I’m a total empath.”

  • Translation: “I don’t care that I hurt you. I’m a liar, not an empath. Got ya!”

“I didn’t mean to cheat on you, it just happened.”

  • Translation: “I refuse to accept responsibility for cheating on you because I am not interested in your emotions and I don’t care how you feel.”

“I’m the most honest person you’ll ever meet,” or “I never lie.”

  • Translation: “I’m the biggest effing liar on the planet, but I have an image to uphold to seem innocent, and likable. Plus, I’m really good at lying to MYSELF and I tend to believe my own lies when it’s convenient for me.”

“So, you’re making this about you…?”

  • Translation: “I really don’t care how you’re feeling, because everything is always about me, even when it’s really about you. And the idea that you would think otherwise really peeves me right off.”

“I just want things to be good between us”.

  • Translation: “If you don’t behave the way I want and accept all my lies and crappy behavior, then you’re making things not good between us, so it will be your fault that I will have to be mean to you and/or leave again”.

Any of this sound familiar to you? Could you be in a toxic relationship with an abusive, malignant narcissist? If so, the following resources might be helpful for you.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Resources

Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

Related Articles and Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

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