When you hear of the term ‘word salad’, you may think that it is a bunch of edible scrabble pieces literally thrown into a salad. As cute as that sounds, a word salad is anything but cute.
What is Word Salad?
Originally, the term “word salad” was applied to people who were suffering from psychological and/or neurological conditions. For example, when someone who was diagnosed with schizophrenia uses a string of unrelated words, psychologists call it “schizophasia.” Other examples of word salad include:
- Clanging, in which the affected person speaks in rhyming and other patterned ways, but without making any sense.
- Graphorrhea, in which the affected person writes or types in an incoherent way.
- Logorrhea, in which the affected person talks excessively and compulsively but without making a lot of sense.
- Receptive aphasia, where the affected person seems to know what they’re talking about and speaks in a rather normal-sounding way, but they don’t actually understand what they’re saying. This is often seen in stroke victims.
What is narcissistic word salad?
According to Elinor Greenburg, Ph.D., the term “narcissistic word salad” is just plain wrong. As Greenburg writes in a Psychology Today article, “Instead of referring to an involuntary verbal sign of a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, it is being used as a slang term for a type of narcissistic speech that is purposefully confusing.”
In other words, when people in the narcissistic abuse recovery community use the term “word salad,” they’re talking about a common manipulation tactic used by malignant narcissists, or toxic people, which in this case can include both people with diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder and those with narcissistic tendencies.
Narcissists will throw out a bunch of words that don’t make sense if they are feeling threatened. They do this to purposely confuse you and it is a gaslighting tactic. In other words, word salad is a narcissistic manipulation tactic that manifests as a confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases meant to confuse you.
What are some examples of word salad scenarios?
Examples of word salad scenarios will happen when narcissists throw random words into their speech to throw you off. Word salad can include things that sound logical, but are actually pure nonsense – or they might include things that are completely random words all thrown together, such as the following.
- are stairs run go over there
- run fan making lunch window menu
- files cry swimming green sky
Do those make sense to you? No. But when a narcissist throws a bunch of words together that are nothing but gibberish, it is time to stop engaging with them. Sometimes word salads are not just random words thrown together. They are words that they throw at you that have nothing to do with a conversation you are trying to have with them.
What are the signs a narcissist is using ‘word salad’ on you?
Here are 5 signs for you if a narcissist is throwing you a word salad.
1. Narcissists Talk In Circles
After having a normal conversation with a narcissist and making an agreement on something, you will find that there was no agreement at all. They will go back to discussing the issue again in a matter of minutes in words that do not make sense. That is their way of keeping the argument alive and the more you engage in it, the more word salads as a result of them not honoring their agreement will be thrown at you. And let’s not forget the narcissist’s filibuster – the part where they talk and talk and talk, repeatedly making the same points over and over again. They just won’t shut up!
2. Narcissists Make Excuses and Believe Their Own Lies
Narcissists never own up to their actions and there is no denying that at all. When you confront them about something they did, they will make excuses. And their excuses will result in them throwing word salads at you just in order to confuse you and throw you. They want you to think you are the one who is ‘crazy’ for accusing them of doing the very thing they are making excuses for. And they definitely seem to believe their own lies. Talk about infuriating.
3. Narcissists Drain You On Purpose
When you are trying to have a normal conversation with a narcissist that they find threatening in some way, they will throw a word salad at you. And they do it to drain you and if they see you are drained from having to engage in a nonsense conversation, then they would have attained their goal. It is best to walk away if this is the direction that the conversation is going before you are completely drained from it. It’s like they’re emotional vampires!
4. You Have to Teach Narcissists to Understand Basic Emotions
If you are finding yourself having to teach a narcissist about empathy and why it is important to be kind as you would with kids in preschool, then this will drain you. They will catch on and they will throw word salads at you in order to throw you and for you to stop talking about feelings. This threatens them. The psychology of a narcissist can be very confusing, but it’s worthwhile to take the time to understand so that you can deal with them effectively.
5. Narcissists Accuse You Of Doing Things That They Are Guilty Of
Narcissists might know that they have done a lot of wrongs and do a lot of wrong deep down – but they will never own up to it. They keep this knowledge so hidden – even from themselves – that they almost don’t even understand that it’s there. And then they will accuse you of doing things that they do that just simply don’t make sense. They will throw these accusations at you out of the blue. Projection, anyone?
When narcissists throw word salads at you, then you will just want to end the conversations there and walk away. It is a manipulation tactic. Here are some helpful videos on word salad and other narcissistic abuse and manipulation tactics.
Other Conversation Manipulation Tactics Narcissists Use
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.