13 Examples of Narc Speak

word salad narcissists

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a Narcissist or other form of manipulative person, then you’ve probably experienced some form of “difficult” communication.  You may have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to improve your communication with them–and you probably thought this breakdown of communication was partially your fault.

…And so you probably went to great lengths to try and get your partner to understand where you were coming from, thinking that if you could just get them to see where you were coming from, or if you could just get them to understand that sometimes their communication (or lack of communication) was really hurtful that things would change.

But my guess is that things never seemed to change for long…and probably even got worse.

This is because a relationship of anykind with a Narcissist is a one-sided relationship, or what I call a “manipulationship.” Manipulative people are not solutions oriented, and they don’t seek to have an equal relationship with others.

A manipulative person’s goal is to gain (and keep) power and control over their victim and over the situation. They are not looking to have a fulfilling relationship.

What is “word salad” ?

And their confusing communication is all part of their attempt to keep power and control.  In fact there is a term for this confusing communication.  It’s called Word salad (also often refered to in slang as “Narc Speak”).

In a clinical setting, word salad is known as a nonsensical mix of words, phrases, or conversations and is traditionally  associated with a person who has Schizophrenia, Dementia, Logorrhea (a communication disorder of the brain), Schizophasia, Receptive Aphasia, or cetain types of brain injuries.

A more extreme example of word salad might be along the lines of this: Asking a person how they are doing, might lead to a response such as, “I am, well, you know, pleasant…the things in the refrigerator, sometimes go red, like they do.”  The level of severity of mental illness, or brain injury often determines the severity of word salad.  A more milder form might be loosely enough related so that a person could follow the intent of the communication, even if the words aren’t strung together properly.  Example: Asking a person how they are doing might lead to a response such as, “Good, good, things, you know happy, pleasant, he’s a nice boy, smiles a lot.” (The intent, or implied feel of the conversation is that this person seems to be doing pretty well.)  In people with mental illness and brain disorders, these forms of word salad are not intentional, and are due to some form of cognitive impairment.

What is Narc Speak?

However, in the context of “Narc Speak” word salad is a combination of intentional manipulative conversational techniques that are designed to frustrate, confuse, and erode the sanity of the victim by getting them to question their perceptions of events, as well as their own judgment in general.

Narc Speak most commonly happens when then victim confronts the Narcissist with their behavior, although if the Narcissist is using these technique to “gas light” word salad can happen at any time.

The twelve most common techniques of word salad in the context of Narc Speak are:

  1. Conversations that are generally repetitive, and never end with a resolution.When confronted with their behavior, the Narcissist will often become defensive (as it is never their fault), and then deny the behavior, deny previous conversations about this behavior, bring up all kinds of other unrelated topics that serve to make the victim feel exhausted as well as feel insecure and question their motive for even bringing up this topic to begin with–often times feeling like they are being difficult, have trust issues, or have a hard time of letting things go (even though the reality is that the victim keeps bringing up the same topic, because the Narcissist’s behavior is a problem, and not because they have issues.
  2. Circular conversations. Conversations about the same topic (generally the Narcissist’s behavior) that happens over and over again, without the Narcissist’s behavior ever-changing.  Since the behavior never changes, the victim often feels like what is the point of even having the conversation in the first place.  The lack of insight and the Narcissist’s desire and willingness to change is absolutely crazy making for the victim, and then they often feel that they are the one with the issue–since the Narcissist doesn’t see their behavior as a problem.  Some common topics of circular conversation are generally about obvious behavior that shouldn’t need to be addressed time, and time again with another adult: Why are you posting pictures on Facebook of you posing with other women? Why can’t you ever talk after 5pm? Why wasn’t this bill paid? Why do I smell alcohol on your breath? (If they are an alcoholic).
  3. Condescending & patronizing tone.  Oftentimes the Narcissist will provoke the victim into an intense emotional reaction, and then stay cool, calm and collected.  Their non-emotional response often further enrages the victim, as it comes across as insulting, condescending, patronizing and entrapping (as it’s meant to).  This tone is often used by a Narcissist during the “discard” phase of the relationship, or during a smear campaignduring both of which the Narcissist has already told other outside people (his new “supply”, and other various friends and family of both the abuser and the victim) that the Narcissist is leaving because the victim is crazy and has an awful temper–and then does something outlandish to the victim in order with the goal of provoking them to prove their point.
  4. Accusing you of doing things that they are doing (projection).  During a confrontation, a Narcissist will often “project” or accuse the victim of the exact thing that they are doing, which (obviously) serves to enrage the victim, as the Narcissist seems so blind to such obvious hypocrisy.
  5. Different masks are seen.Anytime that a Narcissist feels like they are losing control of situation, they will begin to throw every manipulation and mask they have at the victim in an effort at regaining control.  The victim might see the different masks such as the good guy (I love you/”future faking”), bad guy (it’s all your fault/devaluing), dangerous guy (if I can’t have you, no one can), and little boy (I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing/pity ploy–often time with puppy dog eyes). A Narcissist trying to regain lost control is one of the most wild things a person can witness.  They will throw all their masks, and manipulative techniques, and lies and cons at the victim–all at once, in a frantic attempt ar regaining control. The victim is often left with the terrified feeling that they really don’t know who this person is (because they really don’t)
  6. The eternal victim.  Somehow their cheating and lying always leads back to a conversation about their traumatic childhood, their ongoing struggle with addiction, all their problems with you, the kids, work, or a crazy ex.The victim feels bad for them, even when they’ve done something horribly wrong. Oftentimes the victim feels that maybe this time they are getting at the root of these ongoing problems, and that maybe the Narcissist’s (cheating,lying, stealing) allowed for them to bond through these intense conversations about all their trauma and previous abuse, and that a new level of honesty and communication was reached.  The victim often thinks that now the relationship is “getting real” and can really be fixed this time. (But in reality it will just be more of the same.) Ironically, Narcissists always complain that they are the victim, when in reality it is those closest to them that are continually victimized by them.
  7. You begin explaining basic human emotions and/or behaviors. You find yourself explaining things like what it means to be nice, what flirting is, or how their (very obvious) behavior is (very obviously) impacting others. Victim’s tend to (understandably) think that they are in a normal relationship with a normal person–especially if the Narcissist is “covert”.  They believe that if they just explain to them their issue with their behavior, that the behavior will stop–but it never does.  They continue to see shades of the same issue over and over again, each time getting more and more frustrated that they don’t seem to see the very obvious connections between the different situations. Normal adults do not need these things explained to them. And they for sure don’t need these things explained to them time and again.


Victim: Why did you just call your co-worker “honey” and give her a big hug goodbye?  I’m standing right here you know.

Narcissist: I don’t see a problem with that.  We are coworkers.

Victim: That is flirting.  You are married, and I’m not okay with that.

Narcissist: (Either will continue to deny what they know they are doing, or will give a fake apology.)  I’m sorry that upset you. (Notice how a true apology isn’t given.)

Victim: Okay.

Three months later…

Victim: I’m upset that you posted a picture of yourself at a nightclub, and you have your arms around two women!

Narcissist: We were just having fun–they were just some girls at a club.

Victim: It looks like flirting to me.  Why do I have to keep pointing this out to you?!

Narcissist: Well we can’t all be as perfect as you.  You need to lighten up.  Obviously you have trust issues. 

  1. Excuses.  Narcissists are never accountable for their behavior. Ever.  That in itself is crazy making, but add in ridiculous excuses, and the fact that their words rarely match their actions and it’s even more enraging.  Narcissists will offer their victims different versions of what happened, as well as excuses as to why it happened until the victim either accepts one of the versions, or they become so exhausted with the whole conversation they give up.


Narcissist gets caught cheating, and at first denies it.  More evidence comes out, then he admits to the bare minimum–yes, he slept with her once, and it’s the victim’s fault because she was never home.  More information comes out, then he blames the other woman, by saying she threw herself at him.  More information comes out and the story and excuses keep changing.  Narcissists are not only pathological liars, they take great pleasure in lying, as when they can get their victim to believe something it makes them feel superior.  Narcissists always have a handful of different versions of what happened, although none of which are the truth.  (This is one of the many reasons that closure is not possible with a Narcissist.)

  1. “What in the world just happened”.  The conversation was so draining, the victim often spends hours or days rehashing what was said, in an attempt to untangle it, as well as trying to formulate reactions to all the points that they didn’t get address. The conversation was such a mishmash of unrelated points, that the victim can’t even articulate what just happened or what was said to friends or others, often describing it as “A bunch of craziness,” or “The conversation went nowhere…as usual.”
  2. Random words and phrases strung together. Example: Both Narcissist and victim are watching TV, and the Narcissist blurts out, “You are so stupid.”  The victim then turns to them as asks them what on Earth they just said to which the Narcissist might respond that they either said nothing as all, or that they said “Can you get me a glass of orange juice?”
  3. “Plausible Deniability,” as in the good old Bill Clinton type. They choose their words very carefully. Extremely carefully, (“There IS no relationship,” instead if “There WAS no relationship”). It is as if it is a game to them to lie without lying. Every word put of their mouth is carefully chosen, and you realize that they never did say what they seem to have said. You find yourself asking them the same question, worded in ten different ways, just to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, and then you still wonder what you’ve missed. It doesn’t matter, because if you actually hit on what they did, they will resort to a bald-faced lie anyway.
  4. Incoherent mumbling.This seems to be a type of “insurance” for them. They will mumble something incoherently in the middle of a discussion, but won’t repeat it when asked. Then, if something comes up the next day, they will say, “I TOLD you ……” The way this was used, in instances I can remember, it seemed to be for the purpose of both avoiding confrontation AND avoiding accountability. It is also a way for them to avoid being wrong, because however things turn out, they will say, “That’s what I said.”
  5. Denying their own bad behavior, and instead, bringing up (and focusing on) the victim’s.  Because the Narcissist is never at fault, and they have a huge sense of entitlement to do whatever they please, they believe that their behavior should never be in question, instead, any potential problem that someone else has with their behavior is invalid, and all their real (or imagined) problems with the victim’s behavior are then focused on.Example:Victim:”I thought you said you were going to cut off contact with your exgirlfriend.”Narcissist: Well, you still talk to your exhusband.”

    Victim: “Only when I have to–and only when it’s about the kids.”

    Narcissist: “Well, how do I know that for sure?  How do I really know I can trust you?”

    Victim: “Because I’ve never given you any reason to not trust me.”

    Narcissist: “Well, maybe you have and I just never mentioned anything before. Have you ever thought about that?  You could be cheating on me with him for all I know.”


All forms of Narc Speak are forms of verbal and emotional abuse, as their purpose is to gain power over the other person by attempting to erode their sense of reality.  If you are in a relationship or dynamic with a partner with someone who is using Narc speak as a way to punish, or otherwise minimize, or manipulate your reality, please know that this isn’t healthy communication–and creates a win/lose situation (with the victim being the one who loses).

Some pointers on how to handle Narc Speak

If you are encountering these erratic and nonsensical forms of communication, you can try setting a firm boundary by letting the other person know that you do not share their reality by saying something like, “Well, that’s your opinion” or, “I don’t see things that way.”  This may sound like you are shutting down communication, but you are not.  It is a way to let the controlling person know that you are maintaining your power and control and do not share their perception.

Here’s an example of a potential way to handle Narc Speak using the above example:

Victim:”I thought you said you were going to cut off contact with your exgirlfriend.”

Narcissist: Well, you still talk to your exhusband.”

Victim: “That is a different topic. We are talking about you and your exgirlfriend.  When we are done with that topic, we can discuss why I still talk to my exhusband.”  (Perhaps the victim still talks to her ex because she has kids with him.)

Narcissist: “I want to talk about that topic now. I bet you are cheating on me.”

Victim: “I want to finish our conversation about your exgirlfriend and then we can discuss my exhusband.”

Narcissist: “It’s always all about you isn’t it?  You’re the one with trust issues.  I can’t stand that you get so jealous.”

Victim: “Let’s stay on the original topic. We can talk about that after we finish discussing you talking to your exgirlfriend.”

Narcissist: “You are so manipulative.”

Victim: “Well, that’s your opinion.”

Narcissist: “Yes it is.”

Victim: “So can we go back to discussing why you are talking to  your exgirlfriend?”

Narcissist: “No.  Get over it already.”

At this point it has become clear that the Narcissist doesn’t want to work towards a solution.  The partner was able to stay on topic and not let the Narcissist drag the conversation off topic and spin it back onto the victim.

How to know when to stay and when to go

If the Narcissist (or any other type of person) is unable to be accountable for their actions, and/or isn’t interested in improving their communication skills, then the communication in this relationship will continue to stay at this level.

If you are in a relationship with someone who has this level of ineffective communication, I encourage you to draw a line in the sand for yourself. Get an idea of how long you are willing to hang in there and what kind of changes you need to see happen–and in what time frame.  If nothing changes by that date, then you will hopefully have more peace of mind and clarity about when to leave.

A special thank  you…

  • Definitions and examples on point #11 and #12 come from a fantastic email I recieved from a reader by the name of “Ka”.  (Thank  you Ka!)




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I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 348 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.


  1. Narc speak I used to spend an hour going over what the narc was talking about Do you mean such and such? Now is this what you are saying ? Then when I had clarified it as much as I could he would say oh no I didn’t say that or you misunderstood Going around in circles Finally I realized this was part of his drama to get attention and to destroy my sanity

  2. my ex husband would do the nark speak and it was like pulling teeth trying to get him to admit any thing, like when i would catch him again at his porn addiction, he would always only admit to what he thought i could prove one time i made him sit for 13 hours over night trying to get him to admit what he was up to, he would admit a bit then when i would find more proof he would admit that then i would find more he would admit that but it was always my fault or his mothers fault the way they were brought up he never accepted responsibility for his own actions,i tried for years with this man went to council ling gave him chance after chance listened to his lies and sometimes at the start took the blame, but no more,and after 34 years of this he discarded me for a new victim,did me a favor really shes welcome to him

  3. I use this form of communication to shut down the narc and stand my ground……I even point out all of his flaws and say things that need to be said, the truth but he continues to keep coming back. If the narcs main goal is to have a constant line of supply, why come back to me, someone who knows his game and continues to call him on it and use the tools described above? Why does he not move on to someone who doesn’t know him? Someone who falls for the lies etc because they don’t know the many masks he wears?

  4. As long as a Narcissist gets some sort of reaction from a person (especially old supply) it feeds their ego. The only way to get them to move on is to hold a firm line with them. …In otherwords, if you’ve told a person 10 times that you don’t want to talk to them, you’ve told them 9 times too many. Narcissists do a great job at manipulating others to reopen contact. Here’s some links to some other articles that I think might help:

    Link to our book club discussion on the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/forum/Thread-Book-club-book-for-December (I posted my notes from this book, and I think you might find them interesting/useful as the author gives tips on how to handle difficult people.)

    Article on Narcissistic Supply: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/narcissistic-supply/

    Articles and videos on “hoovering” (Which is the term that’s used to describe when they keep coming back): http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/?s=hoovering

    I hope this helps. (((hugs)))

  5. Ugh. How crazy making that must have been to have a conversation where he didn’t own his behavior. …We just finished a book in the book club called, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship.” The author talks a lot about the different forms of verbal abuse (many are what you are describing) and why abusive/difficult people do this. Here is a link to my notes on the book if you are interested: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/forum/Thread-Book-club-book-for-December (Scroll down to the 4th post on there.)

    I wish you all the health and healing possible in this next chapter of your life. (((hugs)))

  6. OMG I have been going thru this for the last six months, well I have been in a relationship with a covert narc for 4 1/2 years but only aware of it the last month. These are the exact repeat arguments we have until I’m crippled with anger, hurt,and frustration. He has blocked me and made it appear it is my fault I’m jealous and insecure but that’s exactly how I feel. I was never an overly jealous person, now I am super hyper sensitive but I know what I know and he’s trying to down play his behaviors as my insecurities. Now I’m alone and broken and he’s off living his life like I never existed. This is so painful and I’m so broken, I was a strong independent women and I now feel out of control and unable to function without him. I have to get better for my two sons…I need help.

  7. OMG. I used to call this “circle speak” with my ex (covert). I have probably written 1000 pages de-stressing and trying to sort out the madness. ( title: Conversations with [ ex’s] brain. At first I explained it all as my ADD diagnosis. But finally getting the right meds helped me see things a bit clearer.
    Me: xxx is going on this weekend.
    Ex: Wow, sounds great.
    The day arrives:
    Me: Are you ready to go to xxx?
    Ex: oh, I said that sounded like a good Idea for you. I never said I was going.

    He was never verbally abusive but I still felt abused. No one could see it. Self help books never addressed my issues. Anything he would do would be wrong or poorly done and I would be forced into the role of ‘the unpleasable’.
    (Filling the wrong prescription, dumping soil in the exact spot I asked him to avoid, offering to carry a purchase we were going to make, only to have put it down somewhere in the store before we got to the check out. Getting separated at a flea market and rather than trying to find me – took the bus home, I later figured out.

    He would get our kids so whipped into a frenzy with his avoidance of dealing that I was basically a single parent of four. If I asked him to speak with our ADD son he would throw me under the bus.

    I eventually came to realize yes meant no and no was never verbalized.

  8. I can totally relate to feeling abused, but not having anything concrete to point to as far as why I felt that way. …Until I read the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship.” In this book the author covers many different types of verbal abuse–most of which I wouldn’t have thought of as verbal abuse. Here’s a link to my notes on the book: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/forum/Thread-Book-club-book-for-December (Scroll down to post #4) According to this author, what you are describing is verbal abuse. I would also consider it psychological abuse, as this type of crazy making really serves to erode a person’s sanity and self-esteem.

  9. All of what you are describing is very normal–incredibly painful, but normal for former partners of Narcissists. I know that you are feeling so alone and broken right now–but you aren’t alone in this. I think all of us that have gone through something like this have experienced the same types of things and have felt the same types of ways. You won’t feel like this forever, so try and take some comfort in that. <3

    These types of relationships tend to run a very set course. Here is a link to an article I wrote about the different stages, and what to expect with each: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/cycle-of-a-narcissistic-relationship/

    If you haven’t already joined the support group, I would encourage you to at least take a look at it. Just hearing what others go through can be very validating, and it’s also a GREAT place to vent and process what you went through: http://www.NarcissistSupport.com/forum

  10. Omg! This is why i feel drained, almost shatterd into an incoherent mosaic, by the time i get home from work! It’s not the work, per se, it’s my soul vampire boss!!! He literally make me ill: migraines, ‘colds’, clouds, confusion, etc…(yes, you guessed it, i’m a freeze/fawn cptsd recoverer—a co-dependent)

    Most of the literature on narcissists/co-dependents center on intimate relationships/marriage….but what if the narc is your boss? I made the mistake of being a ‘real human being’ at work, so i became the ‘one he can talk to (at)’…now that i’m starting to set boundaries, he’s starting fights with me (narc wound) to pull me into his ring, his fight, his game…no contact isn’t an option till his contract ends in 1.5 years!!! If i went grey rock, he’d buy a jackhammer…i would need david’s sling…

    Can you tell me what david’s sling would be? Or point me in its general direction? 🙂

  11. Yes, Narcs can (and do) come in all walks of our life. they can be a significant other, a parent, a child, a neighbor, a friend, a member of our church, a boss, and so on. All you can do is to document everything and to keep a paper trail to the best of your ability. Keep setting boundaries, and continue to see him for what he is: a master manipulator. Try to distance yourself from his behavior and realize that his actions aren’t a reflection of you, they are a reflection of him. You may find it helpful to visualize yourself surrounded by a bubble of white light whenever he is around so that he can’t drain your energy. …If you have a paper trail, you may be able to file a complaint with human resources, or see if you can switch departments. Another option is to start looking for another job.

  12. I work in healthcare, with an Overt, and 2 Covert Narcs. I cannot find another job. Another of my co-workers has survived there for almost 20 years. She has been such a help to me. As our days grind on, and drama swirls, tension everywhere. One of the things she says is “I can only work on myself”, or “I can only change myself”. It is genius, Greyrock at it’s finest.

  13. Wow. I know I’m with a narc, though it’s a recent revelation of mine. I’ve been with him for almost 10 years and we have two kids. But even though I now know what he is, I still have trouble processing the fact that this is happening and this is real. So I continue to look for validation of how I feel and this article really hit home. I wanted to laugh, cry, and throw up while reading it. Thanks for blogging. It’s nice to not feel alone or crazy.

  14. This is very informative. Since learning my husband is a malignant narcissistic psychopath not only do I want to learn everything I can but I want to go to school to counsel other victims of abuse. Thank you.

  15. I think it’s great that you are turning your pain into your power by moving forward to help others who are going through the same thing. (((HUGS)))

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