10 things narcissists do to make themselves the center of attention

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.

The narcissist is well-known for his or her toxic behaviors and attitudes.

But what’s less well understood are the specific tactics that narcissists use to get their way. 

Like a magician who hides what one hand is doing by distracting you with the other hand, narcissists are masters at manipulating your perception. 

Here’s how to spot the tricks a narcissist will use to always make themselves the center of attention. 

Here’s the best part: 

Once you start noticing these tricks and calling them out, the narcissist will deflate like a popped balloon. 

1) They play the victim

The first tactic the narcissist tries is playing the victim

They focus on all the ways in which they believe they’re being unfairly treated by you, by life or by anyone and anything. 

This is where you can expect to hear a litany of complaints and bitter comments. 

The narcissist is insecure and fearful. 

They often truly believe they have been uniquely victimized more than anybody else, which is part of why it’s easy to fall for this.

The reality, however, is they’re almost always trying to manipulate you further in some way by eliciting sympathy.

2) They make you doubt your judgments 

The narcissist is a master gaslighter

He or she will make you doubt your judgments and even your most basic perceptions. 

In romantic relationships this can reach the extreme point where a narcissist is blaming you for what they are doing. 

“I’m raising my voice because you never listen!” they shout. 

You know it’s not true and there’s no need for their yelling, but when a narcissist repeats things like this too many times some people get taken in by it. 

This brings up the next point…

3) They point out a real mistake you made

The narcissist is also fond of pointing out ways you may have misstepped. 

These may be real. 

You might have been short-tempered, said you’d do something you didn’t do and so on. 

They will repeat and repeat this until you agree that it’s them who deserves the attention, respect and urgency right now. 

They want you to doubt yourself and accept whatever they say as gospel.

They want all the attention and every discussion and important event to center around them and only them. 

This is their goal. 

4) They talk about past trauma and guilt you 

We all have past trauma, at least everybody I know does!

But the narcissist will use past trauma to try to make you feel guilty and pay all your attention to them. 

Even if past trauma has absolutely nothing to do with you, they will dangle it like a threat:

“My ex was an addict. It destroyed me trying to help her.”

Now you’re supposed to feel guilty and make them the center of attention…

5) They bring up a new urgent demand

When they’re in a pinch the narcissist will do the equivalent of pointing and shouting “look!”

This is when they will interrupt whatever is going on with an urgent new demand. 

This may go as far as:

  • Pretending to feel sick
  • Freaking out over something small
  • Picking a fight with you 
  • Inventing a new urgent thing that needs to be done

The narcissist eventually tends to lose the respect of almost everyone because he or she cries wolf so many times that people stop believing a thing they say.

6) They manipulate intersectionality arguments

Intersectionality is a progressive cultural theory that considers all forms of oppression to share similar aspects or “intersect.”

In this way, those who are exploited economically, face racism, sexism, sexual violence or other forms of oppression all share common experiences of disempowerment and lack of respect. 

The narcissist is unfortunately very drawn to such ideas because it allows him or her to hide under the mantle of what sometimes is genuine oppression of other people. 

Say you want to do something they don’t want to do or are asking the narcissist to help you out in a way they don’t want:

They will simply play whatever aspect of their supposedly oppressed identity they can that makes you feel guilty for asking.

Then they will shift the interaction in whichever direction they prefer instead.

7) They tell a big story about why they’re right

The narcissist is usually a great storyteller. 

He or she can weave fiction and truth like a true master of the loom.

However, instead of weaving threads, they are weaving together fiction and truth in such a tangled web that it would be impossible to untangle even if they wanted to. 

Narcissists often have real trauma and insecurity in the past that is making them behave the way they do, but the problem is that even if you’re in love with a narcissist, it’s still up to them…

You can’t save somebody from themselves, only point them in the right direction…

8) They self-sabotage in order to get your sympathy

Believe it or not, a narcissist can and will sabotage themselves to get your sympathy and attention. 

If you don’t pay enough attention to them, they will try something dramatic and see what you (or others) do in response. 

  • Dramatic breakdowns on social media
  • Reckless drug and alcohol abuse
  • Breaking up relationships and picking fights to escalate a crisis

The thing that makes this so tricky is that it can be very hard to separate from somebody who’s truly going through these things and isn’t doing them to get attention. 

If you know somebody has narcissistic tendencies and is self-sabotaging, call them out on it or call in a wellness check. 

Their wellbeing shouldn’t be keeping you up at night. 

9) They give you the silent treatment and ignore you

If you stop giving a narcissist attention their last resort will be to give you the silent treatment

This is them withdrawing, but still leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth. 

If you’re not secure in yourself you’ll feel pulled back in the cycle. 

You may pity them, or think of the ways in which the narcissist wasn’t really that bad. 

Maybe it’s true, but are you sure you won’t regret bringing them back into your life?

If you do decide to truly move on, that’s when the narcissist comes to the end of the line.

Which brings me to the last point… 

10) They seek somebody else who will give them attention if you don’t

The final point here is crucial, because it ties everything together. 

The narcissist feeds on attention and validation

They have what amounts to an addiction and a shaky sense of self that requires the energy and worship of others to function and thrive. 

That thriving is still only temporary, anyway and just feeds the addiction…

If or when you stop giving them the attention (negative or positive!) that they crave, the narcissist will turn to other people and sources and begin leaving you alone more and more.

Sometimes a narcissist sinks so low that they realize they need to change their ways…

But that’s their life, not yours.

Now that you know more about the tactics that narcissists use, it becomes easier to avoid them. 

As soon as you see it happening, beware and slow down. 

Let this person know that you’re aware of what they’re doing. Let them know you have boundaries and you have your own life. 

You won’t fall for it. Not this time. 

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.

With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.

 

If someone displays these 8 traits, they’re really exhausting to be around

People with true confidence think in these 10 unique ways