7 Cunning Psychological Tactics Narcissists Use To Avoid Accountability

Knowing how narcissists act can help you regain your life.

couple fighting Keira Burton / Pexels 

As a Certified Trauma Informed Somatic Coach, Jenna Lea focuses on Betrayal Trauma and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery. Lea is a Brainspotting Practitioner, an alternative therapy treatment to process trauma stored in the subcortical brain, which is responsible for emotions, consciousness, learning, and motion. Based on the theory that trauma can stay stuck in the body, Brainspotting works to “reset” the memory of a specific trauma. 


Lea shared her story on her website to give context to her work. After being diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Lea “had no self worth, felt broken inside and felt like she was lost in a deep hole with what felt like no way out," yet she found her way back to herself. Her personal process of healing from narcissistic abuse led her to help others heal, as well.

She offers guidance on recognizing how narcissistic abuse operates in relationships, along with ways to overcome that trauma. 

7 cunning psychological tactics that narcissists use to avoid accountability

1. Shifting blame

When a narcissistic person is confronted about causing emotional harm, they’ll often use techniques to deflect any responsibility. Instead of owning up to their actions and apologizing for hurting you, a narcissist will make it seem like other people, even you, are at fault. 




Saying "sorry" is a learned skill, a muscle that grows the more we use it. In order to truly apologize, a person has to accept that they've hurt someone else and then work to change their behavior.

RELATED: The Biggest Tell Of A Narcissist, According To Research

2. Denial

Narcissists live in a state of consistent denial, believing they're never at fault for how they act. They won’t admit to their own negative or unhealthy actions, nor will they acknowledge that their behavior impacts others. By denying reality, they destabilize their partner, which allows them to remain in control of the relationship. 


7 Cunning Psychological Tactics Narcissists Use To Avoid AccountabilityPhoto: Timur Weber / Pexels

3. Gaslighting

Another way that narcissists destabilize people is by gaslighting them, which Lea defines as “distorting facts and manipulating your perception of reality, to make you doubt your own memory and experiences.”



4. Projecting

Narcissistic people often react in a combative way to confrontation. Calling out a narcissist for how they’ve hurt you or for behaving poorly can result in them projecting that behavior back onto you. Projecting is a way for them to deny accountability and make it seem like you’re the one who’s in the wrong.


7 Cunning Psychological Tactics Narcissists Use To Avoid AccountabilityPhoto: RDNE Stock Project / Pexels 

By assigning their personality flaws and negative traits to the people around them, they slough off any sense of responsibility.

RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist

5. Feeling victimized

Lea explained that playing the victim is yet another way that a narcissist refuses to recognize the validity of their partner’s feelings. She shared that "Narcissists often portray themselves as victims, creating a narrative where they are the ones who have been wronged."


6. Stonewalling

Giving someone the silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse that narcissists use to avoid accountability.



Lea said that narcissists "may employ evasive tactics to escape facing consequences, whether it’s changing the subject or disappearing when confronted."

RELATED: The Sneaky — But Completely Destructive — Tactic Narcissists Use To Reel You Back In


7. Minimizing their actions

On the off chance that a narcissist does take responsibility for causing harm, they’ll likely make it seem like that harm wasn’t actually a big deal. Lea noted that “even if they admit to something, they downplay the severity of their actions, making it seem less significant than it truly is.”

7 Cunning Psychological Tactics Narcissists Use To Avoid AccountabilityPhoto: RDNE Stock Project / Pexels 

Being at the receiving end of narcissistic behavior can make you feel as though you’re the one who’s at fault.

The tactics employed by narcissists function by chipping away at your sense of stability and self-worth, yet those can be rebuilt. 


Giving voice to the experience of being in a narcissistic abusive relationship is the first step toward reclaiming your life and taking back your power and prosperity. Healing from the toxicity can be a long, non-linear journey, one that may feel insurmountable. Yet given the right support networks, people can regain a sense of stability, learn how to trust themselves and let go of whatever shame they’re carrying. 

RELATED: Gen X Mom Shares What She Learned After Her Gen Z Son Gave Her An Ultimatum — Go To Therapy Or We Go No Contact

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers mental health, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.