10 phrases narcissists use to play the victim

Ever wonder why some people seem to turn every conversation into a sob story where they’re the victim? You’re not alone.

When dealing with a narcissist, you’ll often find that they have a knack for making themselves the center of attention, even when they’re the ones causing the issues.

Why do they do this?

It’s a manipulation tactic. Playing the victim allows them to divert attention away from their own behavior and put the spotlight on themselves.

It’s a way to gain sympathy, avoid accountability, and control the narrative.

And let’s be real, it’s damaging—not just to you, but to the relationship as a whole.

In this article, we’ll break down 10 phrases narcissists commonly use to play the victim.

Knowing these phrases can help you spot the manipulation and protect yourself from emotional harm.

1. “I Can’t Believe You’re Accusing Me of That!”

Picture this: You finally muster the courage to talk about something that’s been bothering you.

Maybe they forgot your birthday or made a snide comment that didn’t sit well.

You’re ready for a mature conversation, but before you even get to your point, they cut you off with, “I can’t believe you’re accusing me of that!”

Suddenly, the spotlight shifts. It’s no longer about your feelings or the issue at hand; it’s about how you’ve wronged them by even suggesting they could make a mistake.

You find yourself backpedaling, apologizing, and wondering if you were wrong to bring it up in the first place.

Sound familiar?

That’s a classic move from the narcissist’s playbook, designed to make you the villain and them the misunderstood hero.

2. “You’re Just Too Sensitive!”

Ah, the classic deflection tactic. Let’s say you call them out on a hurtful comment they made. Instead of owning up to it, they flip the script and say, “You’re just too sensitive!”

Now, the focus is on your emotional state, not their behavior.

It’s like they’re giving you a double whammy—first, they hurt your feelings, and then they make you feel silly for having those feelings in the first place.

If you’ve ever heard this line and felt like you were the one who needed to toughen up, take a step back. It’s not you; it’s them trying to dodge responsibility.

3. “Everyone Else Thinks You’re Wrong, Too.”

This one’s a gut punch because it brings in the imaginary—or sometimes real—court of public opinion.

The narcissist isn’t just content with making you feel small; they want you to believe that the whole world is against you, too.

It’s a dirty move. They’re not just deflecting blame; they’re isolating you, making you question your own judgment and even your friendships.

You start to wonder, “Is it really just me? Am I the crazy one here?”

Spoiler alert: You’re not. This is a manipulation tactic, plain and simple. They’re trying to break down your self-esteem so that you’re easier to control.

4. “I’m Doing This for Your Own Good.”

Shouldn’t someone who’s looking out for your best interests be a good thing? That’s what makes this phrase so sneaky.

The narcissist uses it as a cover to justify their actions, no matter how hurtful or controlling they may be.

You might hear this line when they’re giving you unsolicited advice, criticizing your choices, or even invading your privacy.

And because they’ve framed it as something that’s “for your own good,” you start to doubt your own instincts. Maybe they’re right? Maybe you do need their guidance?

Don’t fall for it. This is a power play, disguised as concern. They’re not trying to help you; they’re trying to control you while making themselves look like the benevolent hero.

5. “If You Really Loved Me, You’d Understand.”

Ah, the emotional blackmail card. You’ve probably heard this one in a relationship or friendship where the narcissist tries to guilt you into agreeing with them.

It’s like they’re saying, “Prove your love for me by letting me have my way.”

Remember that time you wanted to spend the weekend with your family, but they insisted you should be with them instead?

And when you tried to explain, they hit you with this line. Suddenly, you’re questioning your own love and commitment, all because you wanted some family time.

This phrase is a trap. Love isn’t about blindly agreeing or sacrificing your needs for someone else’s ego.

It’s a two-way street, and this phrase is their way of making it a one-way dead-end, with them at the wheel.

6. “You’re Overthinking This.”

Ah, the gaslighter’s favorite phrase. When a narcissist tells you that you’re overthinking things, what they’re really saying is, “Stop questioning me.”

It’s a way to dismiss your concerns and make you doubt your own judgment.

Overthinking can lead to decision paralysis, but it’s also a natural response when you’re dealing with inconsistent or confusing behavior.

Your brain is trying to solve a puzzle, and the narcissist knows this.

By telling you that you’re overthinking, they’re exploiting a psychological tendency to make you second-guess yourself.

So the next time someone tells you that you’re “overthinking,” remember that it might just be your brain doing its job—trying to protect you from a potentially toxic situation.

7. “I Was Just Joking! Can’t You Take a Joke?”

This one’s a classic. The narcissist says something hurtful or offensive and then hides behind the shield of humor.

When you react, they act like you’re the one with the problem, not them. “It was just a joke,” they say, as if that absolves them of any wrongdoing.

The truth is, humor is often used as a disguise for deeper, more harmful intentions.

If someone’s “jokes” consistently make you feel bad about yourself, it’s not a joke; it’s a tactic to belittle you while avoiding accountability.

So don’t let them off the hook so easily. A joke that hurts isn’t a joke; it’s a red flag.

8. “You’re Making a Big Deal Out of Nothing.”

This one stings because it’s a blatant dismissal of your feelings and concerns.

You bring up something that’s bothering you—maybe they’ve been ignoring you, or they said something that really hurt—and they just shrug it off like it’s nothing.

If it’s a big deal to you, then it should be a big deal in the relationship, period.

By minimizing your concerns, they’re essentially saying that your feelings don’t matter. That’s not just rude; it’s emotionally damaging.

This phrase is a clear sign that they’re not interested in your emotional well-being; they’re interested in maintaining their own comfort, even if it comes at your expense.

9. “Why Are You Always So Negative?”

Ah, the blame game. Instead of addressing the issue you’ve brought up, the narcissist accuses you of being negative. It’s as if by pointing out a problem, you’re the one creating it.

This tactic is designed to divert attention away from their actions and put the focus on your supposed “negativity.”

The irony here is that by labeling you as “negative,” they’re the ones spreading negativity.

They’re not interested in solving problems or improving the relationship; they’re interested in keeping the status quo, where they’re free to act as they please without being held accountable.

10. “I Never Said That. You’re Imagining Things.”

Ever been so sure about something they said, only for them to deny it later? It’s like you’re living in two different realities.

You start to question your memory, wondering if maybe you did imagine it. But deep down, you know you didn’t.

I’ve been there, and let me tell you, it’s not your memory that’s faulty—it’s their honesty.

This is a form of gaslighting, a manipulative tactic used to make you doubt your own perceptions and memories.

They’re rewriting history to suit their narrative, and it’s a major red flag.

If you find yourself double-checking texts or replaying conversations in your head just to make sure you’re not “imagining things,” take it as a sign. Trust your gut; it’s usually right.


If you’ve heard these lines more times than you can count, know that it’s not you; it’s them.

These phrases are tools in their manipulation toolkit, designed to make you question yourself so they can maintain control.

Remember, a healthy relationship is built on mutual respect, open communication, and accountability.

If you’re dealing with someone who consistently uses these phrases, it might be time to reevaluate that relationship.

Trust your instincts; you know yourself better than anyone else.

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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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