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Toxic Arguing Techniques Used by Narcissists

Toxic Arguing Techniques Used by Narcissists

Toxic Arguing Techniques Used by Narcissists

Narcissists engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. People with strong narcissistic tendencies are unwilling or unable to resolve conflicts or participate in discussion in a healthy, mature manner. But this is not to say that anyone without the capacity to participate in a logical argument has a deep character flaw plaguing them. Nevertheless, normal people want the best out of arguments. Unfortunately that is not the case with narcissists, who focus on winning, dominating, and attaining their own selfish goals, even if that comes at everyone else’s expense with diversionary tactics. Below, we have highlighted some typical toxic arguing techniques used by narcissists.


 Gaslighting is a slow form of brainwashing that makes a victim question their reality. The term ‘gaslight’ originated from London in 1880 from the movie gaslight. Gaslight tells the story of a man who pushes his new wife to doubt her own sanity through a series of manipulative tactics. Among these cruel and subtle torments, he gradually dims their home’s gas-fueled lights while vehemently denying doing so, causing his wife to question her own perception of reality. Gaslighting is when someone in power uses manipulation to make another person doubt his or her own judgment, or even sanity. The concept first gained traction as a construct in the psychological literature during the 1960s, and it pervades domestic and professional spaces to this day. For some who have experienced it, the feeling can be worse than physical abuse. When a narcissist gaslight you, you may be prone to gas lighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end. In order to resist gaslighting, it is important to ground yourself in your own reality, sometimes journaling things down as they happened, or telling a friend can help counter the gaslighting effect. 

Arguing in Bad Faith

Common people during an argument make an attempt to understand the other party, listen to them, be honest, and make sure they understand where others are coming from. Maybe this does not happen all the time because emotions sometimes do come in between during arguments. On the other hand, narcissists argue with bad faith meaning that they do not even care about, or try to understand, the other person. Even worse, they deliberately misunderstand and mischaracterize others, throwing in false accusations, deception, false accusations, and so forth just to ensure the argument goes their way.


One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. When projection occurs, psychological conflict caused by undesired impulses is coped with by projecting these same impulses to someone else. In this process, there is no conscious awareness that the impulses in question have their origin in one’s self nor that by projecting them individuals are coping with acute anxiety resulting from psychological conflict. An example is sexual attraction for someone other than the current partner being removed from consciousness, and being erroneously attributed to the partner, thus stimulating persistent jealousy without objective basis.

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Nitpicking and Moving the Goal Posts

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often do not want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists employ a logical fallacy known as, moving the goalposts, in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you have provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you. For example, if you have a successful career, a narcissist will then start to pick on why you are not a multi-millionaire yet. By raising the expectations higher and higher each time, highly manipulative and toxic people are able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness. By pointing out one thing you did wrong and developing a hyper focus on it, narcissists get to divert from your strengths and pull you into obsessing over any flaws.


Triangulation happens when one or both of the people involved in the conflict try to pull a third person into the dynamic, often with the goal of: deflecting some of the tension, creating another conflict to take the spotlight off the original issue, or reinforcing their sense of superiority.  It also leaves you questioning yourself for example, if Joy did agree with John, then that means you must be wrong? The truth is, narcissists love to report back falsehoods about others say about you, when in fact, they are the ones smearing you.

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