How to tell if the person you’re texting is using diversion tactics to silence you
Here are the tactics psychopaths use in relationships
It can be hard to imagine how anyone ends up in an abusive relationship, but in reality, it’s hard to see the warning signs. It’s something that creeps up slowly, as abusive people often lure you in by overcompensating before they begin to manipulate.
In relationships, psychopaths, malignant narcissists and those with antisocial traits use certain behaviours to control, belittle and manipulate people they’re with. Even in the early stages, they can use diversion tactics to silence people and get what they want. These tactics are well known by psychologists, but have come to light recently in an article by narcissism expert Shahida Arabi. Obviously, most of the people you date aren’t actually narcissists, psychopaths or toxic, but they may use these tactics on a smaller scale.
Love-bombing and devaluation: They’ll start off really intense and then go cold
Toxic people lure you with adoration then pull you down once you’re hooked.
Love bombing is the term used for the initial phase. It’s a technique used by cults to recruit new members, where they shower you with praise and put you on a pedestal to make you feel like the most special person in the world. They’ll tell you how perfect you are, how they’ve “never felt like this before” probably stop you mid sex to say how beautiful you look and they’ll text you all the time. Obviously this isn’t to say just because a guy is being nice that he’s a narcissist, but keep a close eye out for if things start to change. Once they’ve got you hooked, they’ll start to devalue you. This can happen through gaslighting (which we’ll come to), random comments putting you down, withdrawing contact, or blaming you for their issues (projection.) They might trivialise your accomplishments, mock you for saying something stupid or belittle your goals.
This means they’ll put others down too, like people they’ve been with before
Narcissistic abusers will often devalue their exes to new partners, so watch out for that too. The likelihood is that they idolised them at some point too, and they might talk about you like this to the next one. Consider whether their remarks are reasonable, or reflect their selfish desire to “change them for the better”.
Gaslighting: They’ll say stuff like ‘are you crazy?’ or flat out deny things
To gaslight is to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. ” They make you feel like you are crazy or that you don’t have a grip on reality, by emphatically telling you that things you did or said happened in a way you didn’t intend or didn’t remember. This can also take the form of flat denials that they’ve done or said anything wrong that will make you doubt your own sanity and ability to recall events. Examples could include “are you crazy?”
The scary thing about gaslighting is it can make you doubt yourself and question if you’re the crazy one. If you’re worried your being gaslighted, it can help to go over the scenario with a friend or even write it down. Reiterating the experience, and grounding yourself in your own reality can help to counteract it.
Projection: They’ll make out everything is your fault
Projection is the act of placing unacceptable feelings or unacceptable wants or desires onto another person. To some extent, we’re all guilty of projection, but according to Narcissistic Personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi, the projections of a narcissist are often psychologically abusive. Rather than admitting their bad traits, they’ll blame them on you. For example, if they’re a liar they’ll accuse you of being one, if they’ve been sleeping around they’ll be jealous and accuse you.
If you hadn’t been so difficult, I wouldn’t have said all those things you’re upset about. If you weren’t such a horrible person, I wouldn’t have to fight with you all the time. They may even use language that shifts their emotions and reactions onto you (“you make me so angry” “It wouldn’t be like this if you weren’t -“). They’ll always be playing a game of winning or losing between you, ultimately shifting the blames of their problems as your responsibility.
Preemptive defence: They’ll really emphasise how ‘nice’ and ‘honest’ they are, ‘you should trust me’
Alarm bells should go off when someone keeps telling you how much of a nice guy they are, or that you should trust them. Genuinely honest people don’t have to verbalise how nice they are, they prove it through their actions. Toxic people, on the other hand, will put on a mask at the beginning of relationships and overstate their ability to be honest, loyal and kind.
Nonsensical conversations: Arguments with them will leave you frustrated and really confused
In an argument with a narcissist, you’ll be constantly mind-fucked. They’ll go in circles and chat shit (in such a confident manner) to the point where you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began. They’ll use things like gaslighting, projection or just really confusing words to confuse you and make you feel you’re in the wrong.
The main way to deal with this is to not feed their supply – they live for the drama. At the end of the day, they’re having their own little monologue and arguing with themselves, not you, so don’t rise to it.
Changing the subject to evade accountability: Saying things like ‘that’s rich coming from you’
Accuse them of something, they’ll digress from the actual topic to something entirely different. If you tell them you’re upset from something they’ve done, they’ll shift the blame by bringing up something minor you did months ago. It’ll become a chance for them to get angry at you, rolling it off with phrases like “you can talk”, “that’s rich coming from you” or “but remember that time when-“.
Or they keep changing the subject back to themselves
Unless they’re in the firing line, a narcissist will always want to be the topic of conversation. If you’re saying something that’s boring them, or talking about yourself for too long – they’ll quickly bring the conversation back to themselves. That horrible thing your friend did to you? They’ll tell you how something even worse happened to them. As well as bringing the attention back to them, it also makes you and your experiences seem inferior.
Cruel comments disguised as jokes: They’ll follow massive pars with ‘Haha just kidding x’
Basically this just another way for them to subtly put you down. They might say something really uncalled for, and excuse themselves with something like “lol just joking”. For a lot of people teasing is a way of flirting, but if it’s out of the blue or something that genuinely upsets you then don’t let them brush it off as a joke.
Covert and overt threats: ‘If you do that I’ll never talk to you again’
Toxic personalities feel like they’re the best thing in the universe, and should be the centre of yours. If they think they’re losing grip of you, they’re likely to use threats to try and pull you back. It’s because they have a huge sense of entitlement, and will make unrealistic demands and punish you for not reaching them.
To stop you from having your own identity, and thus being less dependent on them, they’ll try and instil fear. They’ll come out with ultimatums to stop you doing things, like “If you do that, I’ll never speak to you again.”
Triangulation: They’ll bring in another person to validate their own behaviour
Toxic and manipulative people like to bring a third person who supposedly agrees with their behaviour. They’ll probably do it with the intention of making you question yourself – if this other person thinks it’s ok, it must be right? The third person probably has no idea of the full extent, and see’s it all as light-hearted.
Blanket statements and generalisations: They’ll dismiss legitimate opinions
A blanket statement is a vague and noncommittal statement asserting a premise without providing evidence. Usually, they’re used to make a grand point about how right the person making the statement might be.
If you call them out on their behaviour, they might make blanket generalisations about your sensitivity “you’re never happy are you”, or “god you’re always so sensitive!” rather than addressing the real issue.
Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity
Malignant narcissists will turn your different emotions, experiences or feelings into personality flaws or evidence of you being irrational.
If you tell them you’re upset with how they’ve been treating you, they’ll get defensive. They might respond with something like “why do you always make out I’m this awful person” or “oh, so now you’re perfect are you?!”
Name-calling: Dismissing legitimate opinions with things like ‘idiot’ ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’
For a narcissist, they are always right. Trying to suggest otherwise can lead to narcissistic injury which then results in narcissistic rage. When they can’t think of a more cunning way to manipulate your feelings, they might resort to calling you a name they know will hurt you. It’ll probably be hugely exaggerated, and can also happen when you say a well-researched belief that intimidates them or doesn’t correlate with their own. Instead of responding to your argument, they’ll shut you down by targeting you as a person.
Smear campaigns: They’ll chat shit about you to other people or tell you they don’t like your friends
To smear campaign is to try and discredit someone by making false accusations. If they can’t control the way you see yourself – they may try to control the way others see you. In the long run, this is a control thing. They ruin your reputation to make sure you have nobody else to fall back on, and are entirely dependent on them.
They may gossip about you behind your back, or even in front of your face by creating stories that make you the aggressor and them the victim.
Sometimes, toxic people even pit two people against each other. They might spread rumours about you to your friends, or even try and persuade you that they’re not very good friends to you. The hard thing is, you often won’t know what’s being said
Not every case is as extreme, but watch out if they start depicting you in a bad light to their friends or your own.
Find out more about abusive relationships on Refuge.