9 clever phrases to put a covert narcissist back in their place

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Navigating conversations with a covert narcissist can be like walking through a minefield. These individuals are experts at manipulation, often hiding their true intentions behind a veil of charm.

Yet, there’s a real satisfaction in standing your ground. It’s about not letting them dictate the terms of your interaction, but calmly asserting your own perspective.

Having the right phrases at your disposal can be a game-changer. These are clever, succinct retorts that can help put a covert narcissist back in their place without resorting to their manipulative tactics.

Let’s get started.

1) “That’s interesting, can you elaborate?”

Dealing with a covert narcissist often means being on the receiving end of vague statements and passive-aggressive comments. These are designed to provoke a reaction or undermine your confidence.

But you have a secret weapon – curiosity.

The phrase “That’s interesting, can you elaborate?” puts the ball back in their court. It’s a polite, non-confrontational way of asking them to clarify their stance.

In essence, you’re asking them to own their statements. And it’s harder for them to maintain their facade when they’re pressed for details.

This isn’t about starting an argument. You’re simply encouraging them to provide more context for their statement. This way, you maintain control of the conversation without stooping to their level of manipulation.

2) “I understand your perspective, but I see it differently”

Covert narcissists have a knack for twisting situations to fit their narrative. It’s like they have a monopoly on ‘truth’. And let me tell you, it can be incredibly frustrating.

I had a colleague once who was a classic covert narcissist. Any project we worked on, he would somehow spin it in a way that his contribution was the most significant, and any mistakes were never his fault.

One day, after he had blamed me for a mistake he had made, I decided to calmly assert myself using the phrase, “I understand your perspective, but I see it differently.”

I went on to explain my viewpoint and made it clear that I wasn’t accepting the blame for his error. The result? He was taken aback, and for once, he didn’t have a quick comeback. He knew that I wasn’t going to be his scapegoat anymore.

This phrase acknowledges their viewpoint but also asserts your own. It’s a respectful way of standing your ground without giving in to their manipulation.

3) “I’m not comfortable with that”

Asserting personal boundaries is an important tool when dealing with a covert narcissist. They often rely on pushing these boundaries to manipulate and control situations.

The statement “I’m not comfortable with that” is a clear, non-aggressive way of establishing your boundary. It’s about expressing your feelings regarding a situation without blaming the other person.

This phrase allows you to maintain your dignity and mental health while dealing with a covert narcissist.

It’s a clear indicator that you’re not willing to compromise your comfort for their manipulation.

4) “Let’s focus on the issue at hand”

Covert narcissists are masters of deflection. When confronted with a situation they don’t like or a mistake they’ve made, they’ll often try to shift the focus elsewhere.

“Let’s focus on the issue at hand” is a powerful phrase that can help you to steer the conversation back to the topic that needs addressing.

By using this phrase, you’re setting clear boundaries for the discussion and not allowing it to be derailed by unrelated tangents.

More importantly, it sends a clear message that their attempts at diversion won’t work with you.

5) “I appreciate your feedback”

Covert narcissists often disguise their criticism or personal attacks as ‘feedback’ or ‘advice’. It’s a manipulative strategy that tries to undermine your confidence while maintaining their superiority.

Responding with “I appreciate your feedback” is a clever way of disarming them. This phrase acknowledges their comments without agreeing or internalizing them.

In essence, you’re showing appreciation for their input, but not necessarily accepting it as truth.

This puts you in control of how you interpret and respond to their comments, preventing them from using ‘feedback’ as a tool for manipulation.

6) “I value our relationship, but I don’t agree with you”

Maintaining a relationship with a covert narcissist can be challenging. They often use guilt and manipulation to control the dynamics, making it difficult to express a differing opinion.

“I value our relationship, but I don’t agree with you” is a heartfelt yet assertive response. It shows that you care about the relationship, but not at the expense of your own views.

This phrase can help to diffuse tension by emphasizing the importance of the relationship. At the same time, it asserts your right to have your own opinions and feelings.

It’s a gentle reminder that disagreement is a natural part of any relationship, and it doesn’t mean that you value them any less.

7) “It’s okay if we see things differently”

There’s this idea that we all must agree on everything to get along. But that’s not true. Differences of opinions, views, and even values can exist in any relationship.

I’ve often found myself in situations where I was afraid to express my true thoughts out of fear of causing conflict or being rejected. This fear was especially pronounced when dealing with a covert narcissist in my life.

“It’s okay if we see things differently” became my mantra. It not only affirmed my right to have my own viewpoint, but it also made it clear that our differences didn’t have to lead to conflict.

This phrase underlines the fact that it’s perfectly fine to have differing viewpoints, and it doesn’t lessen the value of the relationship or the individuals involved.

8) “Can we discuss this later?”

Sometimes, the best response to a covert narcissist’s manipulation is to disengage. Temporarily removing yourself from the situation can prevent further escalation and give you time to regroup.

“Can we discuss this later?” is a simple phrase that allows you to pause the conversation. It’s a respectful way of saying that you’re not in a position to engage in the discussion at that moment.

This can be particularly useful when the covert narcissist attempts to provoke you or initiate a conversation at an inconvenient time.

It gives you control over when and how the conversation will take place, reducing their ability to manipulate the situation.

9) “I am entitled to my feelings”

This is perhaps the most important thing you can communicate while dealing with a covert narcissist. They often use tactics to invalidate your feelings or make you question your own reality.

“I am entitled to my feelings” is a powerful affirmation. It asserts your right to feel and express your emotions, regardless of whether they understand or agree with them.

This phrase is a reminder, not just to them, but to yourself as well, that your feelings are valid and you have every right to express them.

It’s a crucial step towards reclaiming control and firmly placing the covert narcissist back in their place.

Final thoughts: It’s about empowerment

Navigating relationships with covert narcissists can be a daunting task. Their skilled manipulation and deflection tactics can leave you questioning your own sanity, a phenomenon known as gaslighting.

Yet, equipped with the right phrases, you can effectively assert yourself, maintain your boundaries, and even put them back in their place.

These phrases are not just retorts; they are affirmations of your self-worth and defense mechanisms against manipulation.

Remember, it’s not about winning an argument or gaining the upper hand. It’s about empowerment, standing your ground, and preserving your mental well-being.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

In the end, you have control over how you respond to a covert narcissist’s manipulation.

You possess the power to maintain your dignity and steer the course of the conversation.

So the next time you find yourself in a conversation with a covert narcissist, remember these phrases. They’re not just words, but tools for self-affirmation and empowerment.

They’re your shield in a battle that’s more about preserving your self-respect than scoring points.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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