If you are reading this article, you are probably familiar with the active conversation online about narcissists and narcissists. Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is a serious psychological condition that affects a small percentage of people.
NPD requires a professional for a proper diagnosis, but understanding the core traits and characteristics of narcissism can help many people dealing with borderline narcissists. Non-technical discussions of narcissism are useful for describing individuals who often resort to narcissistic behavior in relationships, even if those individuals do not have a proper NPD diagnosis.
Professional therapists, counselors, and psychologists might be wary if they hear you, as a layman, talk about narcissism. A mental health is professional may view your non-clinical use of terms as revealing a lack of knowledge, rather than as the helpful professional advice you thought it would be.
You might get more respect from mental health professionals if you make it clear whether your narcissist has been correctly diagnosed with NPD or whether your narcissist is exhibiting behavior that you believe is indicative of narcissistic tendencies that are creating problems for you.
In the first chapter of Brian Brown’s popular book, The Power of Vulnerability, Brown reflects on the current wave of interest in narcissism and states that “as a mental health professional . . . makes me wince a little.” She points out that many people label toxic behavior as narcissistic without realizing that narcissism is a specific and serious mental health disorder.
To explain the normal interest in narcissism, she offers the conjecture that, when viewed through the lens of vulnerability, narcissistic traits may be a manifestation of a “shame-based fear of being normal”.
Brown sees pervasive narcissistic tendencies as a logical extension of living in a culture defined by “never enough”. Not good enough, not strong enough, not safe enough, not fit enough, not ordinary enough.
Related: Do Narcissists Have Selective Empathy?
Rather than dismiss narcissism as an undesirable diagnosis, most professionals recognize that when laypeople refer to a narcissist, they are referring to someone who exhibits many narcissistic traits, someone who is “on a spectrum,” so to speak. Narcissistic traits seem to fit a pattern, and these traits seem to cause problems in the relationship. The non-narcissist finds solace and strength in naming the problem and learning the terms needed to talk about it.
As so many regular people have become involved in an online discussion about narcissism, colorful terms have emerged to support the conversation. Mental health professionals such as Elinor Greenberg, Ph. D., recognize that slang terms about narcissism can be helpful to people dealing with manipulative relationships, whether or not that person has any real understanding of what mental health professionals mean by being diagnosed with NPD.
As Dr. Greenberg writes, “Some of these [slang terms] are quite clever and capture important aspects of someone’s love experience with NPD — like gaslighting, waving, flying monkeys. However, many of these terms are misused in the same way they are.” Uninformed people casually describe people as narcissists without any real understanding of what mental health professionals mean by this diagnosis.”
We have selected seven of the most common slang terms used in narcissistic conversation. You may find these slang terms useful, whether you’re dealing with someone with a professional NPD diagnosis or whether you’re dealing with someone on the spectrum.
7 Clever slang terms for discussing narcissism
- Flying monkeys
Flying Monkeys Don’t Know People Narcissists use to enhance the narcissist’s perspective. The Flying Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz fulfilled the Wicked Witch’s purposes. Similarly, flying monkeys in the realm of narcissism are friends or family that narcissists use to convince you of their point of view.
The narcissist, for example, might “confide” in your mother how you “mistreat” him, knowing that your mother will pressure you in his favor. Or, instead of personally apologizing after hurting you, the narcissist might post something romantic on social media, because she knows mutual friends will all respond by telling you how lucky you are to have her in your life.
It refers to a movie in which a manipulative husband secretly and gradually turns off the gaslight in the house, questioning his wife’s sanity when she notices the light is beginning to dim.
Gaslighting refers to a narcissistic person who denies the reality of something, making you question whose understanding of reality is correct. Phrases like “I never said that,” “You’re imagining things,” and “You’re overreacting” are all common gaslighting techniques.
Related: Are Narcissists Smarter Than Other People?
- Fake it in the future.
Future falsification refers to the manipulation strategy of making promises that will not be kept. Falsifying the future is a form of pathological lying.
Whether or not the narcissist believes at the moment that they will keep their promises is beside the point. “I won’t do that again” or “I promise I’ll change” may turn out to be false in the future, especially when such promises are made repeatedly without an accompanying improvement in behavior.
- Love bombing.
Love bombing refers to the narcissist’s excessive, one-sided gestures of love and affection, which pressure you into committing to something you weren’t otherwise ready for.
- Gray Rock.
The gray rock refers to a widely accepted strategy for dealing with a narcissist. Making yourself respond to the narcissist emphatically and unemotionally (with as much “feeling” as a gray rock) can cause the narcissist to lose interest in your relationship more effectively and faster than trying to push the narcissist away through direct insistence.
In narcissistic slang, a narcissist is when a narcissist dumps or puts you back into a relationship after you have been neglected or have chosen to distance yourself.
Hoover is often achieved through love bombing. The only real difference between bullshit and love bombing is that bullying refers to sucking someone back into a previous relationship while love bombing refers to sucking someone back into a new relationship.
Hoovering can be accomplished through text messages, gifts, compliments, and even copious apologies and promises (future fakes) for a better future. Be wary of pressure to forgive or trust based on words rather than actions: “Please give me another chance, you won’t regret it, I promise, I know you should hate me but I can’t live without you.”
Related: What Our Judgment Of Narcissism Reveals About Our Humanity
Triangulation is when a narcissist tries to manipulate you by involving another person or group of people in your relationship. (“M – warned me that you would do this” or “T – was right about you” or even “Most people would agree with me on this…”).
Triangulation may also involve the narcissist talking behind your back and trying to turn friends and family against you.
Knowing how to talk about a problem has enabled many people to face and overcome the challenges of negotiating with someone who exhibits narcissistic tendencies. Non-professionals often use these clever slang terms to chart a new path and change their lives for the better.