Narcissistic Baiting & How to Respond (2023)

Narcissistic baiting refers to a tactic used by narcissistic individuals to “bait” or provoke an emotional reaction from others.

A narcissist will deliberately employ manipulative strategies to elicit emotional responses, typically negative ones, from their target in order to satisfy their narcissistic needs.

Narcissists crave attention and admiration, known as narcissistic supply. They use baiting to elicit emotional reactions and garner attention from their targets, providing the narcissist with the validation they seek.

Additionally, narcissists may use baiting to divert attention away from their own flaws, mistakes, or negative behaviors. Baiting can be used as a deflection tactic, shifting the focus onto the emotional reactions of others rather than addressing their own issues.

Witnessing the emotional turmoil or distress caused by their actions reinforces their belief in their own superiority and power over others. It feeds their inflated sense of self-worth and validates their need for control.

It’s important to note that not all narcissists engage in baiting behavior in the same way or to the same extent. Some examples of “baiting” behaviors include:

Table of Contents

Creating Fear and Panic

Fear is a very powerful emotion. When we feel scared, our rational mind is “switched off” as we become focused on dealing with the threat.

By eliciting fear in you, narcissists can gain control of your emotions. They can exploit your fears and insecurities by playing on your emotions. They may use guilt, shame, or fear of abandonment to manipulate you into doing what they want.

For example, if you feel insecure about the way you look, they might say something like, “With the way you look, you’ll never find someone else. Who else would want you besides me?”

Narcissists may also use direct or veiled threats to instill fear in their targets. They might say things like, “I’ll tell your family what you’re really like” or “I’ll call your boss and tell them you’re looking for a new job.”

They might even threaten physical harm, social consequences, or emotional abuse to coerce compliance or control. They will use anything they can to create fear and panic to get their desperately desired attention.

Narcissistic Baiting & How to Respond (1)

How to Respond

If you find yourself dealing with a narcissistic individual who is using fear or any other manipulative tactics, it’s important to respond in a way that prioritizes your well-being and protects yourself from harm.

While most of the time a narcissist’s threats are just empty words, you should not count on this.

If they are threatening to hurt you, destroy your things, or sabotage your relationships, you should take them seriously and act accordingly.

Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide support and guidance. Having a support network can offer validation, perspective, and assistance in dealing with the challenges posed by the narcissistic individual.

Keep a record of any abusive or manipulative incidents, including dates, times, and specific details. This documentation can be useful if you need evidence in legal or professional contexts or for your own validation. If their behavior poses a significant threat to your well-being, you should seek legal intervention.

Limit your emotional investment in interactions with the narcissist. Try to detach yourself emotionally and remain calm in their presence. This can help reduce the impact of their manipulative tactics.

The best way to deal with a narcissist is to not engage with them at all.

Focus on self-care activities that promote your well-being and confidence, such as exercise, hobbies, mindfulness, and spending time with supportive people. Taking care of yourself can help build resilience and protect your mental and emotional health.

Smear Campaign

A smear campaign is a purposeful, calculated manipulative tactic often employed by narcissists to damage your reputation, credibility, or social standing. A narcissist will spread secrets, lies, and rumors about you with the intention of tarnishing your image and undermining your relationships.

The purpose of a smear campaign is to discredit and undermine the target, often to gain power, control, or revenge.

If you find yourself the victim of a smear campaign, it’s important to maintain your integrity, gather evidence to counter false claims, and seek support from trusted individuals. Try to avoid shouting at the narcissist or engaging in a public confrontation with them as this will just escalate the situation and feed right into what the narcissist wants: attention and power.

How to Respond Instead

Responding to a smear campaign can be challenging as engaging in retaliatory behavior will be your initial reaction. However, this reaction will only play into the narcissist’s hands.

It’s important to maintain composure and avoid reacting impulsively. Do not contact the instigator and refrain from engaging in mudslinging.

If you have to interact, it is important to stay professional, calm, and apathetic, so the narcissist does not get the satisfaction of seeing you react.

Stay true to your values and principles throughout the process. Your priority should be to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Focus on your own well-being and concentrate on building and maintaining a positive reputation and presence.

Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues who can provide support and act as witnesses to your character and integrity.

Making False Accusations/ Blame

When a narcissist feels like they are losing control or like they are in the mood to stir up drama and create chaos, they might exaggerate conflicts, fabricate situations, or make false accusations.

For example, they may say, “I know you are cheating on me” or “I saw you stealing a pen from Jason’s desk.” They might blame you for breaking the TV or letting the cat outside unattended.

They want to provoke guilt, confusion, and emotional distress in you.

If you deny, defend, or justify yourself, you will be giving them exactly what they want: a reaction.

How to Respond Instead

Narcissists thrive on power struggles and emotional reactions. Avoid getting into heated arguments or trying to defend yourself excessively.

You might feel the need to engage in defensive behavior, but if you know what they are saying is not true, then calmly and factually tell them their statement is false and move on.

If necessary, you can keep a record of any false accusations or instances of manipulation. Note dates, times, and specific details of the incidents. This documentation can serve as evidence and can help you maintain a clear timeline of events if needed.

Awakening Your Curiosity

Humans are curious beings by nature. If someone tells us they have an alluring piece of information or heard an interesting rumor, we usually have a strong desire to know what it is.

A narcissistic individual might use this strategy to get your attention. They might say, “Give me a call, I have to tell you something” or “I heard juicy gossip about you.”

Naturally, you will want to know and feel tempted to take the bait. They might ask for something in return for the information or give vague responses until you beg for more details. They do this to create confusion, frustration, or insecurity in their target.

How to Respond

Not every bait is worth engaging with. Evaluate whether it’s necessary or beneficial to respond. Contemplate whether knowing this information is worth engaging with a manipulator.

As noted earlier, the best way to deal with a narcissist is to respond to them as little as possible. Ignoring their bait can help starve a narcissist of the attention they seek. Take a deep breath, pause, and control your curiosity to avoid giving them the satisfaction that they have control over you.


Hoovering is a manipulation tactic used by narcissists to maintain control and reestablish contact with a former intimate partner or victim. It often involves extravagant confessions of love, romantic gestures, fake remorse, and empty promises of change.

A narcissist will use baiting to keep their narcissistic supply in place. In the case of hoovering, their intention is not just to provoke you, but also to have you back in their life.

Narcissists use hoovering to exert power and garner an emotional reaction in their victims. They may express remorse, apologize profusely, promise change, and show excessive affection. They may seem so genuine that you want to believe every word.

Your feelings of love might come rushing back, and you may wonder whether you can give them another chance.

Hoovering can be very difficult to resist because the narcissist may distort the reality of the past relationship or use guilt to make you feel responsible for the relationship’s failure.

How to Respond

You might still have feelings for your ex-partner and find it difficult to let go. In order to maintain clarity and not fall back into their manipulative web, you must recognize their intentions and tactics.

Reaffirm and maintain the boundaries you have set. Remember why you established those boundaries in the first place and the negative impact the narcissistic relationship had on your well-being.

Resist the temptation to give in as the abuse will only resume once they have you back under their control. You will end up back in a situation that you fought so hard to leave. Do not engage, avoid contact, and remind yourself that you do not owe them anything.

Playing the Victim/ Guilt-tripping

Inducing guilt and playing the victim is a common strategy used by narcissists. A narcissist will exaggerate or fabricate situations to manipulate emotions, gain sympathy, and deflect responsibility for their own actions.

Narcissists are skilled at painting a convincing picture of their suffering and luring you into their web of conflict and drama.They might tell you how difficult their life is or how everyone is always against them. They might claim that others have mistreated them or that they are constantly misunderstood or unappreciated.

They make others feel responsible for their negative emotions or situations, playing on their empathy and desire to help or fix things. They may twist facts, distort reality, or engage in gaslighting to manipulate others into feeling at fault.

Narcissists believe that nobody should be content without them, so they try to drag you down with them.

How to Respond

Narcissists often attract people with high levels of empathy. They rely on your good nature and compassion and know that you will find it difficult to resist helping them when they are in need.

Narcissists are skilled manipulators, making you feel like you owe them in some way or that it would be unkind to ignore them or say no.

But, you must remind yourself that their victim-playing and guilt-tripping are only attempts to manipulate and control you emotionally. They are using your vulnerabilities for their own gain.

You may believe that you are the only person who can help them. Remember that you are not responsible for the narcissist’s emotions or actions.

And know that if they cannot get a response out of you, they will just contact someone else. In fact, they probably have multiple sources of narcissistic supply.

Responding to a narcissist’s victim-playing and guilt-tripping can be challenging, as they may resist or escalate their manipulative tactics. Prioritize your well-being, trust your instincts, and seek professional help if needed. Do not engage with them. Establish clear boundaries and communicate them assertively. Be prepared for resistance or attempts to push those boundaries, but remain firm in upholding them.


Stonewalling is a communication behavior characterized by refusing or avoiding to engage in a conversation or provide any response. In other words, it is giving the silent treatment.

Narcissists use stonewalling to manipulate other people into submission. By refusing to engage or respond, the person engaging in stonewalling can exert dominance, manipulate the other person’s emotions, and maintain control over the interaction or relationship.

Being stonewalled can feel uncomfortable and frustrating. Narcissists use this tactic as bait to make you beg for their attention.

You might suddenly find yourself apologizing and begging for them to talk to you. Now the narcissist has achieved their goal and feels in control of the situation and your emotions.

How to Respond

Responding to a narcissist’s stonewalling can be challenging. Trying to force the narcissist to engage or provoking them further may only exacerbate the situation. Limit your emotional investment in the narcissist’s behavior. Meet their silence with silence. If you do not give them an emotional response, they have no power over you.

Responding to a narcissist’s stonewalling requires you to prioritize your own well-being and emotional health. Trust your instincts, set boundaries, and seek support when needed.

Emotional Triggering

Narcissists understand the power of emotions and use them to manipulate their victims. All of the examples of baiting discussed above are used by narcissistic individuals to provoke emotional reactions from others.

They learn your triggers and study your vulnerabilities, so when they feel they are losing control, they can exert their dominance and reinforce their self-importance.

Narcissists thrive on power struggles and emotional reactions, so if you argue, cry, or fight back, you are providing them with exactly what they want: attention and power.

If you want to take back control, you have to learn to control your emotional reactions. Establish clear boundaries and stay calm, assertive, and apathetic.


Narcissistic Baiting & How to Respond? ›

As noted earlier, the best way to deal with a narcissist is to respond to them as little as possible. Ignoring their bait can help starve a narcissist of the attention they seek. Take a deep breath, pause, and control your curiosity to avoid giving them the satisfaction that they have control over you.

How do you respond to baiting? ›

People who bait you often back down if they feel heard.

Here are some things you can say: "I hear you." "You could be right." "I understand what you're saying," followed by repeating back what they said.

How do you resist narcissistic baiting? ›

You can learn to manage your own responses by becoming more mindfully aware of them. You do not need to show the narcissist your reaction. You can also learn to stop biting the bait when you focus more on recognising your own feelings and then attending to that and your own needs appropriately.

What are the best mature phrases to say to a narcissist to shut them down? ›

The following are 16 key phrases to disarm a narcissist:
  • 1. “ ...
  • “I Can't Control How You Feel About Me” ...
  • “I Hear What You're Saying” ...
  • “I'm Sorry You Feel That Way” ...
  • “Everything Is Okay” ...
  • “We Both Have a Right to Our Own Opinions” ...
  • “I Can Accept How You Feel” ...
  • “I Don't Like How You're Speaking to Me so I Will not Engage”
Dec 28, 2021

What is the #1 word a narcissist Cannot stand? ›

It comes hand-in-hand with this that narcissists hate being criticised or called out. Which is exactly why there's one word in particular narcissistic people cannot stand: "no".

What is the psychology behind baiting? ›

It is a form of regulating the emotion when it gets too overwhelming to handle. When you respond with the opposite of what you are feeling (in this case wanting to chomp the baby with chubby cheeks or smooshing the face of your puppy) you regain your balance over the emotions.

How do you respond to narcissistic manipulation? ›

Set clear boundaries and communicate them assertively. Clearly define what behaviors you will not tolerate and be consistent in enforcing these boundaries. Let the narcissist know the consequences of crossing those boundaries. Stick to your boundaries and don't allow them to be manipulated.

How do you respond to a narcissist baiting you? ›

  1. Educate yourself about NPD. ...
  2. Build your self-esteem. ...
  3. Speak up for yourself. ...
  4. Set clear boundaries. ...
  5. Practice skills to keep calm. ...
  6. Find a support system. ...
  7. Insist on immediate action, not promises. ...
  8. Understand that a narcissistic person may need professional help.
Aug 18, 2022

How do you outsmart a narcissistic control? ›

How to Outsmart a Narcissist
  1. Separate yourself from the person.
  2. Take time to heal.
  3. Take responsibility for your part in a conflict.
  4. React with empathy and respect.
  5. Remain calm and unaffected.
  6. Disengage from their conversations.
  7. Set and enforce clear boundaries.
  8. Keep your intentions and goals to yourself.

How do you disarm a narcissistic personality? ›

Getting things in writing, keeping your responses brief, and stating your boundaries can be effective in disarming a narcissist. If the narcissist is showing signs of abusive behavior, it's important that you seek help immediately rather than attempting to confront them—your safety is of utmost importance.

What phrases hurt a narcissist? ›

8 Things You Should Never Say to a Narcissist
  • Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
  • Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
  • Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
  • Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
  • Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
  • Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
Dec 15, 2017

How do you take power away from a narcissist? ›

Taking Your Power Back
  1. Document Everything. ...
  2. Ignore, Ignore & if in doubt Ignore — No Contact. ...
  3. Accept them for who they really are, not the false self they present. ...
  4. Set Clear Boundaries. ...
  5. Be prepared to lose “friends” ...
  6. Cut Ties with their Family & Enablers. ...
  7. The Narc's abusive tactics and mind games.
Jan 17, 2021

How do you shut down a narcissistic rage? ›

Establishing boundaries and following through are key to stopping narcissistic abuse and rage. Actions speak louder than words and the narcissist does not listen to reason. Being steadfast, assertive, and bold with your actions is essential to overpowering their abuse and rage.

What is the weak spot of a narcissist? ›

A monumental weakness in the narcissist is the failure to look internally and flesh out what needs to be worked on. Then, of course, the next step is to spend time improving. The narcissist sabotages any possibility of looking deep within.

Who do narcissists fear the most? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

What is the hamburger method for narcissists? ›

If you need something from the narcissist, use what therapists call “the hamburger method.” This method makes receiving criticism easier. You compliment the person, confront them, then compliment. Basically, you ensure you're putting a positive spin on your interactions. Limit interactions as much as possible.

How do you respond and not react to a narcissist? ›

How to Avoid a Narcissist's Rage
  1. Establish Your Boundaries. Firmly state your boundaries and stick to them. ...
  2. Stay Calm. ...
  3. Don't Overreact. ...
  4. Empathize With the Narcissist & Validate Their Viewpoint. ...
  5. Physically Distance Yourself. ...
  6. Don't Raise Your Voice. ...
  7. Pause to Discuss. ...
  8. Remember This Is Not About You.
May 15, 2023

What are the consequences of baiting? ›

However, baiting wildlife can alter animal behavior, leading to negative outcomes such as increased disease transmission, competition, and susceptibility to predation.

How do you deal with someone who tries to provoke you? ›

They want you to be provoked, and lose control. As soon as that happens, you play into their game, they control it and can make a fool out of you without you even realizing. Don't play their game. Always maintain your cool, let them come to you, where you'll be in charge, or let them walk away.

Is baiting cheating? ›

The short answer is, yes. Yes, if hunting deer over bait is illegal where you live. It's cheating. It's breaking the law.


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