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7 Tricky Narcissist Mind Games That Work (Unless You Know)

Dec 31, 2022


Have you ever felt an immediate connection with someone you'd just met?

It could be because that person is genuine and you just have chemistry, or it could be because you just met a narcissist who is manipulating you.

In this post, we will discuss seven mind games that work. And then, I'll go over the most important part, which is how you can tell whether someone is genuine or manipulating you.

 Intermittent reinforcement.

Today we're going to talk about some really tricky mind games. These can be extremely dangerous because they interfere with how the brain is wired.

In reality, when someone is manipulating you, it is you who is being manipulated. They're tampering with your wiring, which is why it works. If you've been with a narcissist, don't beat yourself up about it, but you can bet you were manipulated.

And it's not your fault.

Let's get started with the first of the narcissist's mind tricks...

Intermittent reinforcement

We're going to start with intermittent reinforcement because it's the most dangerous and the most commonly used. Every narcissist will use intermittent reinforcement. Whether they do it knowingly or not, they use this tactic to gain control. So what is intermittent reinforcement? It's when you get:

  • Positive feedback then..

  • Negative feedback then..

  • Positive feedback or..

  • Approval then...

  • Love then...

  • Negative feedback then...

  • Anger, Jealousy, Rage or the Silent treatment

The order doesn't matter as much as the unpredictability. But I think you get the gist.

There was a study done with rats, The rats were rewarded in various ways by the researchers but it wasn't until they made the reward inconsistent that the rats' behavior became erratic. It was as if the rats became addicted to the reward, which did not happen when they received the reward regularly.

It didn't happen when they didn't receive the reward at all. They simply walked away when they didn't receive the reward. Because they got it all the time, we can imagine they felt secure knowing that it would be there when they needed it.

The intermittent nature is that we don't know when it will arrive, and we're always hoping for it. We're always looking for it. As a result, something akin to addiction is created.

You may think that this will be an easy one to spot. It's surprisingly tricky because it can happen very subtly at first.

But if you notice someone sending you mixed signals, that can be a significant red flag.

Let's say you just started dating and everything seems great, and maybe you're dating for a couple of months, and then all of a sudden they ghost you and come back, or they just start acting cold for no reason. Then they start acting nice again.

We like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this can get us into trouble. This can also be a very nice friend with whom you have a lot of fun. Then you notice they occasionally say something mean, or they make fun of you and embarrass you in front of a group of people.

It's like the Jekyll and Hyde effect.

That love-hate, push-pull is the hallmark of an abusive relationship.


Baiting is another mind game that narcissists enjoy. It usually goes down like this. If a narcissist knows they can say something that will trigger you, they will use it, and they will use it to their advantage.

If they can elicit an emotional response from you, that serves two purposes:

  •  It makes them feel powerful. It makes them feel like they have control over you because they can push your buttons and get you to act exactly how they want you to act at the moment. It's predictable.

  •  It makes you look bad. So if they can get an emotional reaction out of you, if they can get you to act erratic and maybe fly off the handle, you look like the bad guy. It looks like you're the one who's not in control of your emotions, and maybe you're the bully. In reality, it's the other person. But they know how to time it in front of an audience to make you look like you're the problem.

 Intellectual bullying

Intellectual bullying is the next mind trick that narcissists employ.

It's at this point that they'll bombard you with information in an attempt to throw you off guard.

This could be information about a subject or word salad (literally just words strung together). None of it makes sense in the context of what you're discussing.

And they usually make you feel inferior because you don't understand the nonsense. You're left puzzled as to what's going on.

You probably had a goal in mind when you're in this discussion.

I want answers, or I want you to admit that you did this thing I know you did, but all you get is a lot of talk and information thrown at you.

This is a mind trick to put you on the defensive because you're stuck where you're trying to make sense of what's going on, and it's not making sense.

There is SO much going on, that it becomes more challenging to hold an intelligent conversation.

This is a strategy you may encounter when shopping for a new vehicle. This is not something that all salespeople do, but it is something that many of them do. They dump a lot of information on you to throw you off guard. It gives them an advantage in the conversation and the negotiation.

If you notice that someone is doing this to you, and if you notice that you're feeling overwhelmed during the conversation, especially if there's no reason to be overwhelmed, one of the best things you can do is end the conversation.

We'll pick up where we left off later. Or, this is getting a little too complicated, let's leave it for now.

Now, if you're dealing with a narcissist and you don't have to pick it up later, just let it go and not deal with the person anymore, that's the best course of action. You have to deal with your boss or someone else and you need to have this conversation. Send the message message that this tactic will not work for you.


Breadcrumbing is a mind game used by narcissists, usually early in a relationship or later after a discard and probably before a hoover. In that in-between stage, they like to know you're on the hook. They'll give you just enough communication, just enough positive reinforcement to keep you interested and wondering if they'll return. Ultimately, it's to keep you thinking about them. I have a whole video on breadcrumbing, and it's really interesting stuff. 


Triangulation is another mind game that narcissists enjoy, and they'll use it in any type of relationship you have with this person.

They'll do it in a friendship, romantic relationship and a parent-child relationship. You'll even notice it if you have a narcissistic boss.

What they're doing here is pitting people against each other. A narcissist will act as if one person is their favorite and the other is trash.

This happens in a parent-child relationship when there is a golden child, the child who appears to be impervious to wrongdoing.

Then there's the child who may be used as a scapegoat or simply fails to meet his or her parents' expectations.

Sometimes narcissists will switch roles. The golden child is sometimes one child and sometimes the other, and this keeps the children striving for the narcissist's attention and approval.

Triangulation, unfortunately, works in every relationship. An ex is frequently placed on a pedestal in romantic relationships.

Triangulation can also be used in a smear campaign. So they're pitting people against each other, and in this case, the people who are pitted against each other feel as if they are worth more, as if they are on top of the world. They are untouchable.

If you know a narcissist, it's easier to be in that place than it is to be in the other.


Exaggeration is another mind game used by narcissists that, sadly, works. This is a common occurrence in gaslighting.

So, let's say you were irritated by the narcissist's behavior and raised it in a mature, calm manner. From their perspective, you approached them with disrespect and a bad attitude, and there was no way this conversation would go well because of how you behaved. It's a bit of a stretch.

You were dissatisfied with them, to be sure, but their account of events was inaccurate.

It's possible to call it a lie, but there's a kernel of truth somewhere. You are unhappy and would like to talk about it.

But they tend to exaggerate things like this, so you end up questioning yourself and your behavior instead of focusing on what you wanted to focus on in the first place.

Furthermore, the more you doubt yourself, the less you will trust yourself. If you don't trust yourself, you're more likely to accept their reality and that what they tell you is accurate.

This can negatively impact your self-esteem and sense of worth. Narcissists are also notorious for exaggerating their good deeds. They'll do it if they want you to like them or if they want to feel and appear more important to you.


Mirroring is dangerous because it is something we learn before we are born. This is known as limbic synchrony, and it is what babies do while in the womb.

Babies mirror the mother's heartbeat and body functions, and this is the first connection we form, and we continue to do so after birth for the rest of our lives.

And if you observed two people who had an intense connection, you would notice that they mirror each other naturally. They'll most likely have similar posture and body language. They may even have the same tone of voice or speak at the same rate or volume.

When we have a good connection with someone, this happens naturally. If you connect with someone, you'll notice that you'll start mirroring them, and they'll do the same—you kind of play off of each other, which reinforces your connection with that person.

Unfortunately, manipulative people are aware of this, and it is something that can be faked. A manipulative person will frequently imitate your body movements and tone of voice, as well as the speed and volume with which you speak. However, you will notice that a manipulative person is more likely to mirror your interests. It won't just be what's going on in the body language and tone of voice, but it'll be everything or almost everything, and it may feel too good to be true.

Here's the deal...

You may meet someone and have such an insane connection that you'll share all of the same interests, mirror each other, and vibe. So don't get too hung up on finding this one but if you notice a little awkwardness here, if you notice that they seem to be copying you almost deliberately, that is a major red flag.

These mind games offer a window into how the mind operates. But they become manipulation when someone attempts to use these things to control your behavior - because they know it will work.

Mirroring is an excellent example of this. You don't have to be wary of everyone you meet or suspect that someone is manipulating you simply because they're mirroring. In the absence of other red flags, the person may just genuinely be interested (and not even know they're mirroring.

So how can you know someone is playing mind games? It comes down to paying attention, looking for red flags, and relying on your intuition to guide you. These are not the only mind games employed by narcissists. I have another video, Narcissist's Favorite Manipulation Tactics where I discuss some of the more common and well-known manipulation tactics of the narcissist and kind of go through the ins and outs of all of that. If you're interested, give it a watch.

Repurposed by MUNCH

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