10 phrases narcissists use to maintain the upper hand in relationships

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Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. Yes, some of them aren’t the smartest, but even they know how to manipulate others to achieve their goals.  

For that reason, I’ve done some research and found there are typical phrases narcissists use to maintain the upper hand in relationships. 

Here’s what they are:

1) “You’re too sensitive, just relax”

This is one of the main weapons in the arsenal of narcissists. They always try to negate other people’s feelings and concerns by claiming you’re too sensitive.  

By saying this, they pressure others to suppress their feelings and conform to the narcissist’s emotional standards (which are very flawed, of course).

Ironically, when you turn the tables on them and tell them they’re too sensitive, they throw a fit and melt quicker than a snowflake. 

They’ll also claim this:

2) “I’m the victim here”

Playing the victim card shifts the focus away from their actions and onto their supposed suffering. This makes it somewhat difficult for you to address their harmful behaviors.

It’s also an excellent way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. 

This behavior comes up in many situations, such as personal relationships, workplaces, or even in broader social and political contexts. 

Indeed, politicians love playing the victim when someone accuses them of doing something (very) wrong. They’re also the quintessential narcissists, aren’t they?

To counter the victim card, shift the conversation from general claims to specific behaviors or actions that you need to address.

Use phrases like, “I’m interested in hearing your side of the story” or “Tell me more about how you’re feeling.”

The more they talk, the easier it should be to pick their claims apart. 

3) “I’m only trying to help you”

And when they’re not playing the victim, they’re playing the hero. This goes hand-in-hand with their inflated sense of self-importance

They believe they’re superior to others and deserve special treatment or recognition.

Narcissists use this as a guise for their controlling behavior. They invade your personal space or make decisions for you, all under the pretense of helping, while actually serving their interests.

For example, your narcissistic partner insists on managing all the finances, claiming that they’re better at handling money and want to protect you from financial stress. 

However, their real intention is actually to keep control over your financial independence. Something that’s very dangerous. 

Assert your boundaries by letting the person know what you’re comfortable with: “I understand you want to help, but I’d like to handle this on my own.”

4) “You should be grateful for what I do for you”

This is another thing narcissists say that plants a sense of obligation and guilt in you. I find this tactic powerful because you feel pressured to repay the narcissist for their actions, even if you didn’t ask for their help or support.

They say this when they actually did something helpful, but they, of course, want you to bend over backward and hail them as your savior. 

Interestingly, they also use this phrase when they didn’t do anything helpful for you, but they think they did.  

You need to acknowledge that this statement is a manipulation tactic. Understand that it’s an attempt to control and guilt-trip you.

Reflect on whether the relationship is healthy and whether the manipulation is a recurring pattern. 

And lastly, consider whether the relationship is worth maintaining.

5) “You’re lucky to have me”

Grandstanding is something narcissists love doing more than anything else. They‘re so full of themselves and believe people around them should count themselves lucky to have them.

“You’re lucky to have me” serves to boost their ego and creates a power imbalance. They make you feel dependent on them, which reinforces their control over the relationship, giving them an upper hand.

Avoid responding with sarcasm or humor, as it can escalate the situation. Try to maintain a respectful and serious tone in your response.

Counter with a confident argument of your own worth and contributions. For instance, “I believe we both bring unique qualities to this relationship, and I value what I bring as well.”

6) “You’re always so negative”

With this statement, narcissists manipulate your attitude and emotions. In time, you even start censoring yourself and seeking the narcissist’s approval to avoid them labeling you as negative.

Negativity arises from stress, frustration, or concern for a certain situation. Living or working with a narcissist is certainly stressful. 

But even though you are negative sometimes (you have good reasons for it), mention times when you gave a positive response, supported their ideas, or expressed optimism.

If the accusation is unfounded or used to manipulate you, maintain your boundaries. Politely but firmly explain that you have a right to express your thoughts and feelings and that constructive criticism is a healthy part of any relationship.

7) “I know what’s best for you”

Narcissists think they’re always right and that they know everything. That’s why it comes as no surprise that they’d say, “I know what’s best for you.”

But this phrase is dangerous and toxic because it disempowers you by implying you lack the ability to make sound decisions. 

At the same time, it positions the narcissist as the authority figure in your life, dictating what’s right for you.

Respond firmly but respectfully. Assert your independence and the right to make your own decisions. 

Say something like, “I appreciate your concerns, but I believe it’s important for me to make my own choices.”

8) “You’re making a big deal out of nothing”

Narcissists use this to minimize your concerns and issues. And by accusing you of overreacting, they undermine your emotional responses.

Over time, you might even start to dismiss your own feelings and needs, prioritizing the narcissist’s perspective instead.

This results in self-doubt and a reluctance to express your feelings in the future.

In the face of such a dismissive comment, you need to remain calm and composed. Reacting with anger or defensiveness can escalate the situation.

Express your emotions by using “I” statements such as, “I feel hurt when you say that because this matter is important to me.”

Ultimately, reflect on the overall dynamics of the relationship. If dismissive behavior is a recurring pattern, you need to evaluate whether the relationship is healthy and supportive.

9) “I never said that”

Gaslighting is a common tactic where narcissists deny saying or doing hurtful things, causing you to doubt your own memory and perception.

If possible, provide evidence that supports your claim. This could be emails, text messages, or witnesses who were present when they made the statement. 

Having concrete proof can be persuasive.

Focus on finding a solution or compromise that addresses the issue at hand. Avoid dwelling solely on the disagreement about what was said and who said it.

Let’s see what else narcissists have in store. 

10) “You’re just being paranoid”

Labeling your concerns as paranoia makes you question your own judgment and instincts. It’s a manipulative way to maintain control or dismiss your legitimate worries.

That’s why you need to recognize when they use this tactic and trust your instincts if you genuinely have concerns. Otherwise, over time, you might even believe you’re being paranoid. 

It’s incredibly important you don’t let it come to that. 

First and foremost, trust your own judgment. If you have genuine concerns or feel uncomfortable about a situation, acknowledge your feelings and instincts.

Talk to friends, family members, or colleagues whom you trust about your concerns. They can give you valuable perspective and help you determine if your worries are justified.

When you’re discussing your concerns with the person who dismisses you, use decisive communication. 

Express your feelings and thoughts clearly and calmly without becoming defensive or aggressive.

Make it clear you expect they take your concerns seriously and that you won’t tolerate them invalidating and dismissing you. 

Final thoughts

Dealing with a narcissist is emotionally draining and requires significant effort to maintain boundaries and protect your balance and satisfaction.

Recognizing that narcissists use phrases like these to maintain the upper hand in the relationship is paramount. 

When all else fails, you may need to distance yourself or seek professional help to manage the effects of their harmful behavior.

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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