How Narcissists Get So Good at Manipulation
It's a known fact that narcissists and psychopaths have amazing powers to sucker and manipulate people. Your typical street con artist is a good example. Authorities warn us not to laugh at the victim and think that we ourselves would never be stupid enough to fall for a con artist's scheme. Indeed, people en masse often fall for one to elect that guy President for Life. Psychopaths routinely sucker even their therapists. Even while still teenagers, they are expert enough at manipulation to do so.
When you are outside the con job's sphere of influence, you see clearly. You wonder what the heck the conned person is thinking. To you it couldn't be more obvious that this is a con job - the warning sirens are blaring. But the mark is oblivious. You wonder what "got into" him or her. (I love that phrase.) They seem under a spell. You see them doing things like automatons, remotely controlled by the manipulator. All he need do is drop hints to control through the mere power of suggestion and - BOOM - the conned person is thinking or doing exactly what the manipulator wants. The victim might as well be a hand or foot of his.
This is truly spooky. How does it happen?
I studied etymology, and what I learned from the archaic root meanings of words convinced me that the mythology of darkness and magic gradually evolved from a lexicon of language struggling to deal with this seemingly magical power some people have.
But it isn't magic.
The problem is that we have no idea how good at manipulation some people are. They are so good at it, that when we find out how good they are, it blows our mind. How do they get so good at it?
Are these narcissists just brilliant, with astronomical IQs? Well, the more intelligent they are, the more dangerous they are, of course. But, no, they aren't all intelligent. They don't have to be.
It's just a simple matter of "practice makes perfect."
You too would be that good a manipulator if you practiced manipulating people 24-7-365 for a lifetime.
When we interact with others, we are usually trying to communicate. Only rarely are we trying to make an impression instead. Narcissists and psychopaths are always trying to make an impression. They are never trying to communicate. In fact, they block attempts to communicate.
Remember when you were a teenager and met that cool guy or gal? In that situation, we are so busy trying to make a good impression that we do embarrassing things. We are so busy trying to SOUND clever that we say the stupidest things. Our mouths get ahead of our brains.
While we are putting on this star-studded performance, we aren't listening to him or her. We are interested only in the KIND of thing they say and the tone of voice they say it in. Their gestures and body language - we don't miss a beat. We aren't interested in their face, only the expression on it. Why? Because we are studying their continuing reaction to our actions: Ah! a smile! Oh-oh, a frown! OK - there - I got the smile back again. Oh good, s/he stepped closer to me.
See what I'm getting at? When we are operating in this mode, everything we say and do is for effect. We observe the effects and tune our behavior to win the kind of reaction we want. In other words, we are PLAYING that person for the reaction we want. We are trying to manipulate him or her. We are manipulating that smile from him or her. If one thing we say or do doesn't win it, we just try something else and keep trying things till we hit upon what impresses that person as something to smile at. Hence, if we blow it and get a frown instead, in our haste to transform it to a smile we can contradict ourselves in two seconds flat.
We are not being ourselves when we do this. We are quite literally being someone else. We are putting on an act. Our true character doesn't come through, because we are acting out the part of an idealized version of ourselves, an impressive idealized version of ourselves, a purely fictitious character. All because our aim isn't to communicate - it's simply to make an impression.
We can laugh about this rite of passage into sexual adulthood now. It's so awkward. We prefer the company of people we can be ourselves with. But even in adulthood people occasionally go into this mode. In a job interview, for example. Or when meeting a famous or important person.
We never get good at manipulating people though, because we seldom get into this mode where we try to.
Now imagine if you were in this mode all the time with everyone your whole life. That's a lot of practice. Through sheer trial and error, you will become an expert at what produces a smile in another person, or a frown or a look of fear or dejection or shame or anger or whatever you want. You will become an expert at what makes them get mad at some third party you are talking about. You will become an expert at what pushes people's buttons to do a whole list of things you want in various situations. You will be an expert at controlling people this way.
That's what narcissists are psychopaths are - experts, because they are in this mode all the time with everyone their whole life. Is it even possible for them to cut it out? I doubt it. They don't even know what normal human interaction is. They are always just trying to make an impression. They are never trying to communicate. They block communication. They don't want you to know them. The real them, that is. It's their deepest, darkest secret.
Being in this mode explains why they contradict themselves so fast and furiously when you lock horns with them. Why they are a nervous blur and never hear what you say. Why they don't later recognize your face or remember your name. They aren't paying attention to any of that in a conversation. They are just studying facial EXPRESSIONS, body language, tone of voice, and gestures. What you are saying and what they are saying gets tuned out because it doesn't matter to them. Neither does the matter you are discussing. They will say the sky is purple if they think it will draw the reaction from you that they want.
That's a lifetime of 24-7-365 practice at conning and manipulation. Practice makes perfect. So, never, never, never underestimate their powers of con artistry and manipulation. They can and will fool ANYONE.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism