How to Read a Narcissist (& Turn His Ploy to Your Advantage)

why-narcissists-returnEven though a narcissist is a pathological liar, there are those moments where he/she offers riddles of truth amongst the lies. We, as victims, can actually get to that truth – if we would only listen. Yup, that’s right, if we really pay attention to the narcissist’s word garbage, 95% of all of our suspicions about this person would be confirmed and we’d know all we needed to know about exactly what the narcissist is up to at any given moment. In other words, it’s absolutely possible for you to read a narcissist in the same manner that he reads you and no one – especially the narcissist – will be the wiser.

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You see, the reason that a narcissist is so good at what he does (i.e. sucking us in during the Idolize Phase) is because he does something that we quickly forget how to do after meeting him. He listens. From the first conversation, the narcissist begins to process our personal information, listening carefully to our words, drawing out of us the answers to all those questions that he uses to measure a target’s long-term potential. And while he mentally takes notes, honing in on both our weaknesses and strengths and calculating the future reward of each, his charm distracts us. By the time he moves into the Devalue Stage, we’re wound like a fucking top, feeling suspicious about his every word and action yet seemingly unable to dig up a shred of evidence. Like all narcissists, my ex savored this process. Slowly but surely, I transformed into the lunatic he had been cleverly creating and, ultimately, my craziness became his justification for everything he did. Thus, as a Discard approaches and the narcissist starts accusing and twisting, calling us delusional, we switch into desperation mode because we know, without a doubt, exactly what’s going to happen. He will leave or disappear, he will hoover and return, and he will continue to use, abuse, and manipulate. We do in fact, become very in tune with the pattern of the phases and can predict what this person is going to do. The problem is that the narcissist keeps us so busy apologizing for nothing and dodging distractions that we completely miss something very important – that, amidst the narcissist’s word garbage is the missing link we need: the evidence!!!!

Now, it took me quite a few years, but what I discovered was a subtle but sanity-saving flaw in the narcissist’s façade…a crack in the mask, if you will. …and, I have to admit, it fascinated me because, once I figured it out, the method itself was foolproof! You see, narcissists, despite their propensity for lying about everything, are like little children who can’t help but give themselves away when they do something bad. It has little to do with confessing, of course, and everything to do with bragging, accusing, projecting, lying, and gas-lighting all combined.

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For years, just like you, I made myself insane trying to quietly validate a nagging feeling that my boyfriend was always up to no good. This feeling was usually stirred by his uncanny ability to accuse me of the very thing I was thinking about accusing him of. In other words, as soon as I’d gathered the courage to confront him with a suspicion, he’d suddenly accuse me of the very same thing before I even spoke a word. How the hell did he do that? Was he really reading my suspicious mind or was something else going on? Then one day the light bulb went off. In a flash, I realized that he wasn’t reading my mind about what I thought he was doing at all, but he was, in fact, actually giving himself away and telling me exactly what I needed to know. In effect, he was telling on himself in a big way and had been doing it for years. By suspecting himself that I was on to his shenanigans, he would attempt to distract me by accusing me of the very same thing. I finally discovered that if I stopped throwing fits when I recognized a lie or a ludicrous story or when he tossed out a ridiculous accusation…if I just sat back and really listened to what he was saying, I’d know EXACTLY what he was up to. So, I shut the fuck up!!!

In my book, When Love Is a Lie, I discuss the narcissist’s accusatory distraction tactic in detail and I also recommend using it to get a handle on what the narcissist is up to. This is a golden opportunity to turn his ploy into your advantage. Either a narcissist will accuse his partner of the very thing that he is doing at any given time OR he will verbally project this behavior upon exes, friends, co-workers or whoever he happens to be gossiping about while engaging in casual conversation with you. Again, narcissists are like little children who can’t help but tell on themselves. If we stop reacting and start listening, we’ll have the answers.

  1. If he accuses you, out-of-the-blue, of cheating or suddenly begins acting insanely jealous, he’s either cheating or getting ready to cheat.
  2. If he accuses you of lying about something ridiculous, he’s worried about you catching him in a lie that he told recently. Think back and you’ll find it.
  3. If he casually chit-chats about a girl – any girl (supermarket checkout girl, co-worker, neighbor, etc.) – who “really gets on his nerves” or annoys him, you can safely assume he’s getting ready to put the moves on her or he’s already seeing her. Allow me to share two examples: #1 During a six-month period where my ex carried a title loan on his vehicle, he continually bitched to me about the rudeness of the counter girl who took his weekly payments. Although this rhetoric quietly raised my suspicions, the loan was soon paid, he stopped mentioning her, and I never gave it a second thought. Imagine my surprise, a year later, when a peek into his cell phone prompted me to investigate a mysterious reoccurring number which led me to a girl named “Rebecca FXXXX” who happened to be a former employee of – you guessed it – the title loan company! #2 During another period where he drove for a shuttle service based at the airport, he’d go on and on about the “loud mouth fat girls” that worked in customer service and, apparently, did nothing but eat all day. One girl in particular (whose husband also worked there) disgusted him above all the others and he simply “couldn’t stand her”. Much later, long after he either quit or got fired, not only did I discover he’d been to this “fat” girl’s house (sans husband) at least once during a time when I was getting the silent treatment, I would, over the next few years, periodically find that he had contacted her again and again.
  4. If he does something out of the ordinary, wears something out of the ordinary, or says something out of the ordinary, look deep into it. Quietly read between the lines and don’t take it at face value. NOTHING a narcissist says or does is random even if he is not quite aware of this himself.

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I decided to write this article not because I think you should expend all kinds of energy reading the narcissist and guessing what he’s up to but because I want you to STOP expending the energy that you do just trying to validate your suspicions. You do not have to participate in the narcissist’s game a single second longer. If you still have to deal with this person, I am giving you a great excuse to NOT become insane at his accusatory bullshit. I’m telling you that the truth has always been there. I’m telling you, this is a foolproof method for reading the narcissist. Sure, the narcissist appears to be cleverly deceptive but the truth is that he/she is only as cleverly deceptive as the transparency of the bullshit. From now on, stop, look, and listen. Trust your gut feeling – always. Take the monster’s ploy and turn it into your advantage. And then, with the truth by your side, do the right thing and go No Contact, once and for all. Do it for yourself and for the rest of your life.


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  • Laura

    January 23, 2017 at 4:05 am Reply

    Maybe this will help someone:

    Not answering a question, going on the attack:
    When I questioned him about something… If he didnt answer the question, and acted like I was crazy…I knew he was Guilty..i.e, “this is getting old, I can’t help you with your insecurities”

    Pose an innocent question, you’re prying:
    When asking how his day went, not even being suspicious, and say, ‘ oh, i thought that was next week…”.if I got, “do I have to give you a play by play?” Homey is lying about something….

    Adding a detail to try and minimize guilt:
    I recall saying, “we both know you did it, might as well admit it”..he said, “well, yeah, but just once”. If it was”just once” he would have said, “yeah, I did, because…”. Adding, “but just once”, told me it occurred more then once…. (like telling a cop you only had 2 drinks) Busted, admitting to something, but it wasn’t that much, is ok…..

    The week we broke up, I had told him I knew so many lies he was telling me to my face. He asked what? I told him a few. He said, Maybe you should’ve thought “he’s lying to keep me from getting hurt”. Really? That’s all ya got???? Lmao. I had thought he was smart. Well, when someone sees thru your Bullshit, I guess that is your only comeback. He also said maybe I shouldn’t be “looking for lies”. (meaning I’m jealous and insecure). I didn’t have to look. The amount of lying he did, Id have to be an idiot not to spot some.

    That just shows how much he thought his gaslighting had worked. This idiot, is finally over him and he won’t try to Hoover me again, because he knows he can’t fool me and I don’t want him anymore, so on to a new victim. I’m an honest person, and expect others are the same. Now I know to pay attention to things that aren’t normal human behavior nor responses. There’s your sign!

  • Cass

    January 3, 2017 at 2:29 am Reply

    I only wish I knew this before I began begging like a dog for him to stay for our families sake. I feel so stupid, humiliated, angry, torn, as well as all the other feelings of distrust now. All this time he was saying he was the loyal and faithful one and that I was the piece of shit. I never cheated on him, but he would accuse me all the time of cheating. I had to defend myself constantly. That lying jerk made himself out to be holiyer than thou. I think of all those times he would set up fights so he could go out and party while I stayed home with the kids. He was probably having random sex or paying for it. I am so angry for believing his lies and deception. He made out I was just not good enough and I actually started to believe it. How could I ever got with such a dirty piece of shit. Excuse my language. He must have been out with a lot of women. Because he always found a excuse to be out. He made me out to be a neurotic bitch. I wasn’t. I didn’t yell at him. I would cry, beg and ask why did he ignore me. I am so greatful for this site, thats too some kind soul from another social sight asked me to come check heart goes out to everyone.

    • Zari Ballard

      January 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm Reply

      Hi Cass,

      I’m grateful that you found your way here and we all know very well what the “a-ha” moment is like! When it dawns on you what this person has actually been up to the whole time, it about knocks you over. Don’t feel humiliated and all that because how could you have known? Narcissists keep us so deliberately distracted by their own accusations (of us) and the overall manipulation that we don’t know up from down. All this bullshit buys them time to do whatever they want whenever they want it with whomever. From here on in, no begging. Stop and listen and you will always know whats up.

      Stay strong!

      Zari xo

  • Helen

    November 4, 2016 at 9:36 am Reply

    After reading this article (and all the others) I was given an opportunity to really listen yesterday and this morning… N of 3 years came to pick up something yesterday (he had gone to a friends who is away and he has the key for for my silent treatment) and he warns me people might say they saw him with someone but it was a “damsel in distress” he just met who he was “pretending” he was the boyfriend of to get rid of some unwanted attention she was getting… Then there was this whole CRAZY story about why he ended up at her place (but that’s a whole different subject). I would have normally questioned this but I just changed the subject like it didn’t matter. He then leaves and after texting me for a while he goes completely silent. Then he shows up unannounced this morning (he normally doesn’t wake until the afternoon and he still smelt of alcohol so I immediately thought he had been out all night) and asks to be let in. He says he had a “really sexy dream” last night and then makes a move on me. I give in but during he talks about how “I” was wearing something I never would (he pointed out in great detail what “I” was wearing and the fact I never would) and all sorts of other details like where it happened in his “dream” and the things “I” did…. Whoah. I would have always dismissed this as a dream before but when I LISTENED the details were just a little too clear… He stays for about 6 hours (initiating sex again), admits he hasn’t showered in 2 days (!!) and then leaves… Before he leaves he sets me up for not being able to contact him by telling me he is locked out of his phone and the phone company is probably shut so he won’t be able to get the code to unlock it today. I would have NEVER really taken notice of these things (apart from the first one but I would have reacted differently) if it wasn’t for this page. Thank you for giving me another tool to protect myself! I am still in love with him (dumb) and I know he will be moving back in soon (I’m not strong enough to resist yet) but little by little I hope to gain strength by applying some of the things on this page 😊

    • Zari Ballard

      November 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm Reply

      Hi Helen,

      As I always say, a narcissist lies even when the truth is a better story! In doing this, he can pump himself up if he needs to with others and he can confuse his partner as to what is fact and what is fiction. I agree, it’s crazy.

      If you haven’t read my books, please do because they will really help you. Since you like to journal (and I agree that it helps), please check out my codependency workbook for narc abuse victims. It will help you work through the remnants of the relationship and get you to a point of understanding. It was never ever you.

      Stay strong,

      Zari xo

  • Andi

    November 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm Reply


    I discovered this some time ago, and it actually has a clinical name: “duper’s delight.” When I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Narcissists deeply believe in their own superiority, and the temptation to rub it in to a victim is too great to resist – they get more fuel out of an interaction when they’ve not only cheated on you, for example, but given you the hint to find it AND YOU DON’T. That’s pure gold for them. Look for the smile; they can’t help it.

    My advice? Deliberately refuse to follow/friend them on social media – say “I hate Twitter!” or “I had a stalker on FaceBook – never again”, but have a mutual friend give you her password. They’ll post all day long about what they’re doing, thinking you won’t see it, then bold-faced lie about where they are, who they’re with, and grin like a Cheshire cat all the while. Get a screen shot. Confront them later and watch them twist to find a believable lie. There is nothing a narcissist hates more than being outflanked and cornered with incontrovertible evidence.

    A corollary to the very true statement that disparaging a woman means he’s interested in her or already involved, it’s a huge red flag if he ever refers to a woman by her last name. If Linda Patterson suddenly becomes “Patterson”, he’s trying to neutralize her and make her one of the guys. 100% certainty he’s sleeping with her.

    There are also alternate methods of projection. Rather than accusing you of something they’re doing themselves, they telegraph what they’ll do by making declarative statements to the contrary, or giving you WAY too much information. “I’ll never do X!” is a dead giveaway that he’s already doing it, and if he starts laying the groundwork to disappear for an evening by dropping hints from 10am on that he’s exhausted, not feeling well, etc., so has a ‘legitimate’ excuse not to see or even text you, engage a PI. Wait for the next day he starts scheming, then have him followed when he leaves work. You’ll find what you’re looking for, and again have time-stamped photo evidence of it.

    Keep everything. They think they’re smarter than you are, so they get careless. Play into it – act dumb and happy while you take down every phone number, every piece of the puzzle, every supply source you even suspect. Then when you very unexpectedly expose him, ALL his supply dries up.

    THEN you go no contact.

    • Zari Ballard

      November 5, 2016 at 2:56 am Reply

      Hi Andi,

      BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! I put a bold “GREAT POST” above your comment because it was spot-on. You are so right…YES! There are so many ways to read the truth in the lies. Thank you for adding to the fun! I laughed right out loud about the last name give-away.

      Awesome, girl…I can always use the help…:)

      Zari xo

  • Kate

    October 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm Reply

    Here is a recent conversation
    ‘Why are you talking to me ? You have a girlfriend’
    ‘I could ask you the same’
    ‘Do you not have loyalty?’
    ‘Yes, do you?’
    ‘Of course I do but I asked you?’
    Silent treatment – he is in sulking mode.
    They never answer a direct question, answer by reversing, which is no answer.
    His other favourite is
    ‘I’ll have to explain’ ‘but that wasn’t why I rang you’
    ‘You’re the one’ ‘I’m not sure how to get out of this mess’
    Guess what he’ll stay in the mess until he has a green light elsewhere.

  • Alison

    August 30, 2016 at 5:18 am Reply

    Well I have not even read everything and already I am blown away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been living with this animal since 2005. I want to hate him yet I feel sorry for him. Everything you have written and all I have read on other sites has confirmed what I have believed for a long long time. The fear and anger, the degrading feelings oh man I feel so mad right now. I have tried on several occasions to leave him but he makes my life and anyone and everyone close too me a living nightmare. I feel dirty and cheap, gullable and pathetic. I know that I am a strong person deep inside but feel so crippled by this man. Seeing everything I have ever thought about him is actually true I feel sick. He is described to a “T”.

  • kaye

    May 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm Reply

    i relate to a lot of what you say about the narcissist and i honestly just feel a great deal of shame about how i’ve acted and how i’ve hurt someone that i truly do care about (i don’t think i can say i loved her because love can’t coexist with abuse) but i don’t know if i actually have narcissistic personality disorder because a) i feel guilt about what i’ve done b) i’ve respected my ex’s wishes ever since we broke up and c) i really do want to change. after being made aware of how awful i was and in many ways still am i came to realize i don’t want to be manipulative and abusive even if i wasn’t aware of the behavior as it was going on it still does not excuse it but i really want to be good and i want to foster loving healthy relationships with people built on respect i do not want to be the person you’ve described here it’s scary to imagine my future that way and i want to thank you for being so honest and to the point in the ways that people like this harm others and just leave their victims to suffer

  • Sherry Martin

    October 2, 2015 at 5:45 am Reply

    I was recently married to a Narcissistic Sociopath, Dav, but didn’t know it until now. We were married 6 weeks and everything started to unfold when we went to the armed forces to get my military id. The records were showing he was still married to another woman. He had told me about marrying her and getting an annulment. We argued and he said he was going to a lawyer that we shouldn’t have gotten married. He kept it hidden from me all this time that they actually got divorced not annulled. It took him 12 days to finally show me the divorce papers after I moved in with my mom. You see, he wanted me to quit my job and be a housewife so I could take care of him. three weeks before all this came about, he got mad at me for asking him why he worked late when we were supposed to go to dinner that evening. He left and went to smoke dope with a friend. I laid in bed waiting for him to come home. He finally showed up at 12:30 in the early morning. The next day I noticed his car wasn’t there so I asked him how did.he get home. His reply was, Missy brought me home. I offered to take him to get his car but he refused. About 4 days after this, he came home from work talking about a friend at work had went to a party this weekend and the guy having the party passed out so that guy’s wife gave this friend a blow job. He said he told that friend at work that this was disgusting. I asked him who it was and he never would tell me. I started putting everything together after I left him. The lies also became often with every word almost. He has twisted everything around, refused to help me get back on my feet after financially destroying me, and he continues to lie to me in every text message he sends. I started looking up articles on liars and found one on narcissistic sociopath. I was astonished when I read it because it says everything about who he is. I want to expose him for who he really is because he has destroyed me emotionally and financially. I want to say thank you for writing this article. It has helped me come to grips with what I married, how to deal with it, and how to let go.

    • Zari Ballard

      October 11, 2015 at 7:19 pm Reply

      Hi Sherry,

      Thank you for sharing and I’m grateful that you’ve found your way to my website. Whatever a narcissist tells you about someone else is what happened to him, I guarantee it. Once, my ex’s car had mysteriously run out of gas somewhere and the cousin of a girl he worked the night shift with supposedly came by to pick him up, giving them both a ride to work. Later, I picked him up and we had a fight about it his apartment with me crying and demanding answers. I simply didn’t believe him – it was all so ludicrous. At one point, he said, “What the fuck are you having a fit about it? It’s not like I got a blow-job on the way in or anything.” Of course, that made me crazier but somehow he turned it around so that I let it go just like I did everything else. The truth, of course, was that HE MOST DEFINITELY DID get a blow-job on the way in because I know now that narcissist ALWAYS tell on themselves in some way. All we have to do is listen.

      As for exposing him, it never works. We imagine our revenge but, believe me, his revenge on your revenge will be much worse. A narcissist knows no boundaries and he will make sure you suffer more than ever before. It’s best to just get out as quickly as you can and move on with your life. You deserve to be happy and he’ll never ever be the one to do that.

      Stay strong!!!

      Zari xo

  • Thomas

    September 25, 2015 at 1:10 am Reply

    Have you ever heard of a narc ADMIT to being one? From all I’ve read it seems to me unlikely that they would but I was discarded and (not really been aware of narc’s before that – I just thought he was kind of a “cold” person) later when I was still seeking “answers” he actually replied to one of questions in a text “I am a psychopath.” I was startled at the time and just thought he was in a bad mood or something. I eventually went online and realized many of the things he did fit what narc’s DO in relationships. I am still messed up from it a year and a half later – filled with rage I never “let out” to or at him. Also angry at myself for leaving him thinking I was still fooled by him (even AFTER he told me what he was!?). To this day I still want to say the exact words in the “Fact!” image at the beginning of your article BUT realize he wouldn’t be phased AND worse, would be happy that he still “gets to me”. So, I am “trapped” with no way I’ve found to purge this anger and frustration that won’t go away.

    • Zari Ballard

      September 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm Reply

      Hi Thomas,

      Oh sure they “admit” to it but it’s used more of an excuse for their behavior than anything else. It usually takes the first partner to scream at them “You know what you are? You’re a narcissist!” (or sociopath, or psychopath) and then the light bulb in their twisted head goes on. Hey…hmmm…a psychopath! Yeah, that’s what I am! When I started throwing the word narcissist out at my ex, I found out (on the sly) that he’d become fascinated with the term, looking it up etc. Then, he’d periodically use the term whenever he’d disappear and return (i.e. “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say…I’m a narcissist”). OR there would be times that I’d hear about him talking shit about me behind my back using the term about ME (“Oh yeah, Zari…well she’s just a fucking narcissist”).

      Two other ways they might “admit” to it – both of which reflect your situation – is to blurt it out to a new partner at an opportune moment to use 1) either as an excuse for bad behavior that they conveniently never have to explain because the term “psychopath” speaks for itself, or 2) as a pre-warning that, knowing you won’t really take it seriousl, he can hold over your head down the road (“Well, I told you I was a psychopath. Don’t you remember??”).

      So, do they ever “admit” it? Sure, but it’s never authentic or a cry for help or anything like that. It just is what it is. You’ll torture yourself trying to figure the asshole out. He can never be fixed and he doesn’t care to anyway. Nothing you can ever do or say will make a bit of difference and he will lie even when the truth is a better story.

      Read my book When Love Is a Lie (Amazon) if you get a chance because it will open your eyes to the reality of the whole mess and at the same time make it less scary. You will recognize your story on every page, I guarantee it. And THEN you will feel empowered:) Give it a try…

      Stay strong and I’m here to support you…

      Zari xo

      • Thomas

        September 28, 2015 at 11:57 pm Reply

        Thanks for the reply! By that time he was done with me and basically going back to a previous bf so he may’ve used it as an “excuse” to get rid of me (I should’ve not maintained even the limited contact I did and it wouldn’t have come out). Plus all it got me was subjected to more crazymaking and an attempt at triangulation.

        After that I ceased contact because I sensed – as you say – that nothing I did or said would make ANY difference AND I suspected I could trust a word he said anyway. It was a rude awakening. About a year later he left me Christmas and birthday cards as if nothing ever happened. After such a screwy “end” to him I guess that seemed “reasonable.” To me it was ridiculous. I gave him the benefit of the doubt so many times and held back from telling him off that NOW it still bothers me I was so “pliant.” To him it probably just would’ve been amusing but perhaps for ME it would’ve “purged” my anger and I wouldn’t still be harboring it (while he hasn’t looked back and has a far better life than I do). It’s irritating to say the least!

        • Zari Ballard

          October 3, 2015 at 1:05 am Reply

          Hi Thomas,

          Don’t be feeling “pliant”, brother, because the rest of us (who’ve all been there) would never see it that way! And, btw, either would the asshole narcissist. It would have just been a waste of your breath and you would be, right now, wishing that you’d said this instead of that or said it earlier instead of later, etc. In the end, saying nothing (or, as you say, being “pliant” is really the best thing).

          Oh and as far as him living a much better life than you, how so? He’s a creep who is incapable of feeling or expressing love and who is doomed forever to a life of emotional nothingness. He doesn’t see life as good or bad or anything….and he will simply go from one unwitting target to the next forever and ever. Don’t be so quick to think that THAT is far better than your own life, my friend. I would beg to differ:)

          Stay strong and don’t be irritated over that piece of shit a second longer!

          Zari xo

  • Sassy

    June 30, 2015 at 8:09 pm Reply

    I wanted to share here because I am not in love with someone but I think I read him correctly. He strung along a mistress for about three years, sneaking around behind his wife’s back. Then his wife found out and got angry with him. When he tried to leave his wife (for the more comfortable setup with the mistress not because he actually wanted to commit) to his shocking surprise, the mistress was having relationships behind his back and had dumped him for a new guy who wanted to commit. He accuses her of being a cheat and a liar but he was doing that to his family. Lots of people suffered, including his children and he now takes medication for “depression” but I think it’s for wounded pride. I was so happy to hear his story because I realise that he was full of crap the entire time. On his blog, he tells everyone else that the woman was his wife and she left him for another man. His supporters only give him sympathy because they don’t know he was actually having the best of both worlds. Lots of women are throwing themselves at him. It was a red flag for me because I think if he’s grieving the loss of a relationship that was so special, why does he have a contact form asking for people to “say hello” on his blog, right? Some women were boasting separately, unbeknownst to each other that they have special access to him. I know he’s stringing every single one of them along behind the scenes. They all think they’re in on the joke but none of them realise that they’re all being played.

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