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Narcissistic Abuse Tactics: Labeling

Each of us have insecurities about ourselves. Often, these insecurities tie into who we believe we are as a person and how we want to be seen. It is not hard for someone to figure out these soft spots and use them against us.

If you go into a conversation and ask for one of your needs to be met, try to hold someone accountable or share a want, and someone says, "you are just being a drama queen", you are most likely to stop immediately to avoid the label. As you pull back, your needs are not being met and in the space left behind, the needs of the other person are met. This also causes a fair bit of confusion as as you have retreated into yourself to evaluate, you have unwittingly stepped into defense, giving the other person the upper hand and allowing them to be on the offense. We are so wrapped up in evaluating, "Am I a drama queen?" that we don't realize the original intent of the conversation has been lost.

For example, if you want to be seen as a kind person, you might recoil if someone were to call you rude. If you are sensitive and considerate, you might recoil if someone states you are causing conflict. If you like to be surrounded by peace and are easy-going, it might disturb you if someone called you a drama queen. Some of these labels can be very extreme, for example, if you ask your partner if they want to be intimate with you and they call you a sexual predator. They might also respond to totally normal things like “Gosh, you are just so rude and direct.” Speaking directly is healthy, but paired with a negative word such as "rude", we attach the feeling of one word to the next and recoil from both. This also reinforces communication patterns that being direct gets you nothing, so you feel you might as well be passive.

Further examples:

Victim: "Hey, can we talk about your behavior with that other female last night, I felt you were flirting with her and it made me uncomfortable" Narcissist "Gosh, you are so paranoid, I was just being nice! You need to lighten up!"

Victim: "It really hurt my feelings when you said those negative things about my best friend last night" Narcissist "You are just so emotional, you know I am a direct person, I shouldn't have to filter what I say around you".

Victim: "Mom, I am not ok with you drinking at my house. If you drink at my house again, I will ask you to leave" Narcissist "Why are you being so argumentative and controlling. I can do whatever I want, I am an adult. I brought you into this world!"

It is important to recognize this is different than getting negative feedback, which can be healthy in some situations. This is a very specific response to derail the conversation from the topic you have brought to the table addressing your needs, feelings or wants and trying to hold the other person accountable for this.

Writing down your need, want or what you are trying to accomplish before you meet with this difficult person. Consider alternative ways to share this concern with this person, whether writing it down in email, text, or a letter, allowing space between responses to help you redirect the conversation back to your original topic.


Learning about the tactics used in narcissistic abuse is a strong way to begin to notice ongoing patterns of abuse in your life, however this blog is not intended to replace therapy. If you determine that there might be narcissistic abuse in your life, finding a therapist who understands narcissistic abuse is highly recommended.

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