9 phrases narcissists use to avoid accountability and shift blame

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Narcissists have a knack for dodging responsibility and passing the buck.

This comes down to a deep-rooted avoidance of accountability. Narcissists often use clever language to sidestep blame and make it appear like it’s never their fault.

And if you’re savvy, you’ll recognize the phrases they commonly use to pull this off.

Below, I’ll share nine classic phrases narcissists use to dodge accountability and shift blame.

1) It’s not my fault…

When a situation goes awry, the last thing a narcissist wants is to be held accountable. They have an uncanny ability to deflect responsibility and turn the tables in an instant.

Enter the phrase, “It’s not my fault…”.

This phrase is their go-to defense mechanism. It allows them to dodge blame and shift it onto someone or something else. The goal is to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing and maintain their flawless self-image.

The crux is, they often use this phrase irrespective of their actual involvement in the mishap. It’s a classic move to evade accountability and push the focus away from their actions.

2) You’re just overreacting…

We’ve all been there – trying to discuss an issue, only to be dismissed as being ‘too sensitive’ or ‘overreacting’.

In my own experience, I recall a time when a narcissistic friend was always late. I decided to address it. I explained how it made me feel disrespected and asked if she could try to be more punctual.

Her response? “You’re just overreacting. Everyone is late sometimes.”

This phrase was her way of avoiding accountability for her consistent tardiness. Rather than acknowledging the issue and making an effort to change, she attempted to shift the blame onto me for supposedly overreacting.

3) I never said that…

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic narcissists use to control others by making them question reality. And one of the key phrases often used in gaslighting is, “I never said that…”

This phrase is designed to make you doubt your memory and perception. The narcissist denies saying something that you clearly remember, creating confusion and self-doubt.

Here’s something you might not know: the term ‘gaslighting’ originates from a 1938 play (and later a film) called ‘Gas Light’, in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she’s going insane by dimming their gas-powered lights and then denying that the light changed when his wife points it out.

4) That’s your interpretation…

Narcissists have a special way of twisting their words so that anything negative can be easily shrugged off.

When they say something hurtful or problematic, and you call them out on it, their defense often comes in the form of “That’s your interpretation…”

This phrase effectively shifts the blame from what they’ve said or done onto your perception of it. It’s a crafty way of saying that the issue isn’t with their behavior but with your understanding or sensitivity.

5) You’re always finding fault…

When faced with criticism or confronted about their actions, narcissists often resort to the phrase, “You’re always finding fault…”

This phrase is a classic deflection tactic. Instead of addressing their behavior and taking responsibility for their actions, they turn the tables and make you the problem.

In reality, it’s not about you being overly critical; it’s about them avoiding accountability. They use this phrase to play the victim and escape blame, all while making you feel guilty for calling attention to their misbehavior.

6) I did it for you…

One of the more subtle ways narcissists dodge accountability is by claiming their actions were actually for your benefit.

They’ll say things like, “I did it for you…”, turning their wrongdoings into selfless acts. It’s a manipulative tactic designed to make you question whether their actions were indeed wrong.

The truth is, it’s just another way for them to sidestep responsibility. By framing their actions as being for your sake, they not only deflect blame but also position themselves as the ‘good guy’.

7) Nobody’s perfect…

We all make mistakes, and it’s true that nobody’s perfect. However, when a narcissist says, “Nobody’s perfect…”, they’re not acknowledging their flaws but using the phrase as a shield against criticism.

I recall a time when I had a co-worker who would often miss deadlines. When confronted about it, he would simply shrug and say, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

This wasn’t an admission of his shortcomings or an attempt to improve. Instead, it was a way to dismiss his consistent failure to meet deadlines as something everyone does, normalizing his behavior and refusing to take responsibility for it.

8) You’re too sensitive…

This phrase is a favorite amongst narcissists as it’s a clear attempt to undermine your feelings and experiences.

When you express hurt or disappointment over the narcissist’s actions, their response often is, “You’re too sensitive…”

By saying this, they effectively shift the blame onto you. They’re suggesting that the issue isn’t their behavior, but your reaction to it. They make you feel like you’re overreacting or being overly emotional.

9) I was just joking…

This phrase is perhaps one of the most insidious ones used by narcissists. They say or do something hurtful, and when confronted, they hide behind the veil of humor with, “I was just joking…”

It’s a cunning way to deliver a blow and then retreat, leaving you questioning whether you’re too sensitive or lacking a sense of humor.

The reality is, that it’s their way of avoiding accountability for their hurtful words or actions. And it’s crucial to recognize this for what it is – a manipulative tactic to shift blame and dodge responsibility.

Final thoughts: It’s about awareness

When it comes to dealing with narcissists, recognizing the phrases they use to dodge accountability and shift blame is a critical first step in dealing with them effectively.

This could possibly explain why they avoid accountability – to protect their inflated self-esteem from any potential harm.

Awareness is the key. It equips us to handle these situations better, stand up for ourselves, and maintain our mental well-being in the face of such manipulative behavior.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

If a woman uses these 9 phrases in a conversation, she hasn’t grown up emotionally

9 things a high-level manipulator will do when you call them out