Narcissistic text messages come in different varieties, but they all have one thing in common – they are a tool in the narcissist’s toolbox to control or manipulate.
Even a seemingly harmless text like, “Hey, how are you doing?” can be bait to lull you into a conversation you don’t want to have.
If harmless texts with hidden agendas were all we had to contend with, it would be one thing. But narcissists are nothing, if not crafty.
So our job is to become people who can outmaneuver the person on the other end of that notification.
The first step? Knowing what to expect.
I’ll break down some common narcissist texts and provide insights into how you should (and shouldn’t) respond.
These tips will help you see the game they’re playing and give you helpful strategies to avoid a messy back-and-forth.
Ultimately, I want you to feel empowered to say, “I’m not doing this with you,” and opt out of the experience without feeling guilty.
What’s up with narcissist text games?
To answer this question, it’s important to understand what motivates a narcissist.
Most narcissists run on what is called “narcissistic supply,” which is the admiration, validation, and attention they need to thrive. It’s like fuel for them.
You see, narcissists have the fascinating condition of being both insecure and having an excessive sense of self-worth. It’s why their need for attention and admiration is so strong. Without it, there’s nothing left to bolster their ego, which is untenable for a narcissist.
They need to feel wanted, focused on, and admired at all times, or they tank. This is their oxygen. Without it, they may experience narcissistic injury or rage, leading to impulsive or aggressive behavior and lashing out. (add attribution)
So these crazy, random, or rage-inducing text messages are the narcissist’s way of maintaining a level of narcissistic supply that allows them to function (if you can call it that). And if you are receiving these texts, that means they see you as a source of that supply.
5 Examples of Narcissist Text Messages
Text messages are a particularly convenient medium for narcissists.
Because it’s hard to correctly gauge a person’s tone and intent via text, it opens up the conversation to a wide range of interpretations, which narcissists will exploit.
It’s also recordable, so a narcissist can conveniently keep messages and take snapshots to use against you at a time of their choosing.
Here’s how they do it:
1. Love Bombing Texts
If you are in the early stages of a relationship with a narcissist, you might get met with a barrage of love bombing texts. Despite the name, these types of texts are not limited to romantic relationships. This can happen in new friendships or professional relationships, too.
These texts are intense. The narcissist comes on strong because they want to rapidly ingratiate themselves to you and gain your trust and affection.
They text you long-winded messages about how amazing you are or how smart and capable you’ll be as a business partner.
Maybe they go on about how you really get them and say things that make you feel like an outlier, somebody innately special.
You may very well be all of those things, but that’s not why a narcissist sends you these messages. They want to overwhelm you and create a manufactured sense of intimacy and emotional connection, which they will use to their advantage soon.
2. Bombardment Texts
This type of narcissistic text can be related to #1, but not always. Bombardment texts are a barrage of text messages sent one after the other.
Essentially, they’re blowing up your phone.
Bombardment texts can be “positive” or “negative.” They might use bombardment as a tool for their love-bombing, hitting you up with a long string of texts extolling all your virtues and incredibleness.
Or they might go negative, hitting you up with a long string of texts blaming you for something, degrading you, or trying to make you feel bad about something.
In both instances, they are invading you and ignoring the generally agreed-upon boundaries we all set around communication.
These texts are born out of a desire for attention and desperation. You might get them early during the love-bombing phase of your relationship.
But you might also get them if you’ve tried to pull back, set boundaries, or even ghost them. Text bombardment is a visceral reaction to losing control.
They will inundate you with a flood of texts to try to push your buttons and elicit a reaction from you they so desperately crave.
3. “Sorry, Wrong Person” Texts
Another way a narcissist might bait you into a text conversation is by sending you a vague but concerning message and then immediately pretending they sent it to the wrong person.
It could be something like, “We’re still waiting for her test results to come back,” or “The doctor said they weren’t sure.”
Concerning stuff, right? But soon after, they’ll text you, “Sorry, wrong person.”
They’re hoping your curiosity will be piqued enough to engage with them. At first, they may try to play it cool or leave you hanging. They want to make you concerned about their well-being and chase them for more details.
4. Crisis and Drama Texts
Here’s another common narcissist text: the SOS text. They will message you something urgent that expresses a level of crisis or drama for which only you can help or support them through.
It could be a long prattling of grievances that sound much bigger than they are. The expectation, of course, is that you’ll drop everything and come to their rescue.
Narcissists love to be fawned over.
It makes them feel like the center of the world, which they desperately crave. You might even get these texts at all hours of the night. The narcissist tests how available you’ll be to them and if they can keep you “on call.”
Of course, if you don’t respond to their 3 AM text, they’ll guilt trip you into thinking you did something wrong by setting a reasonable boundary.
“Wow, you just left me hanging like that. What if something had happened to me? I thought I could depend on you, but I obviously can’t.”
5. The Rage Text
With these texts, the narcissist attempts to assert dominance over you by making you feel bad about yourself. These messages are generally very aggressive and meant to elicit a negative, equally explosive reaction from you.
When you’re angry, you don’t think clearly, which helps the narcissist gain the upper hand through a variety of emotional manipulation tactics they choose to deploy.
An example of this type of text is, “You know what? You’re a really selfish, disgusting person. I didn’t see it before, but now I do. I mean, you really don’t care about anyone but yourself. I get why your ex got dumped you.”
This is a common devaluation tactic toward the end of the relationship. A narcissist might also do this in a fit of narcissistic rage if you’ve recently tried to get some distance between you.
Narcissists send many other kinds of emotionally manipulative texts to people, but this gives you a good idea about the type and tenor of these messages.
If you’re nodding along and saying, “Yep, this is familiar,” it’s time to talk about strategies.
What do you do when a text like this pops up on your phone?
How To Respond To A Narcissist Text: 7 Tips
How you respond to a narcissist’s text is important because it will establish what the narcissist in your life can and can’t get away with you. Any response you send should make clear to the narcissist that you are no longer a source of narcissistic supply for them.
But the trick to responding to a narcissist and setting firm boundaries lies more in what you don’t say than what you do.
Let’s examine a few tips from Patricia of Inner Toxic Relief.
But first, a caveat.
If you’re here because you want ideas for snappy comebacks to hurl at the narcissist plaguing your life, you will be disappointed.
I don’t have any.
These tips will do something even better for you, though. They’ll dislodge you from this toxic relationship and free up your life (and messages) for healthier dynamics with more well-intentioned people.
We’ll start with the best response and then move into a series of options dealing with narcissist texts. If you prefer video format, here’s a slightly different, but equally helpful perspective:
The #1 way to respond to a narcissist’s text:
If you get a text (or multiple texts) from a narcissist, the best way to respond is to not respond at all. Ignore the text and block the number.
Because the truth is, you can’t win this game. Don’t try. It isn’t worth your energy or peace.
If possible, cut all communication with this person and move on with your life.
But what if you can’t? Let’s say this person is a family member or somebody who is partially unavoidable.
The key to handling a narcissist’s texts is to say very little, keep emotions out of it, and deny them any ammunition to use against you.
Here’s how you do that.
1. Keep your reply very simple.
Patricia refers to this as “gray rocking.” You want to make sure your response is unremarkable and dull. Take all emotion out of it. Reply as if you are a mechanical robot. Here’s how you can do that:
- Use yes/no responses as much as possible.
- Stick to facts. Don’t include opinions about anything.
- If they explicitly ask for an opinion, use noncommittal language like, “Yes, I can see why you’re upset.”
You do not want to give a narcissist any ammunition to use against you.
Don’t take their side in an argument with another person, and don’t let them know your opinion about anything. It will come back to bite you at some point.
Eventually, the narcissist will become bored with you and move on, which is what you want.
Remember that last point. The purpose of these tips isn’t to craft a magical response that will transform the narcissist into the person you hoped they could be.
I say this with love as someone who desperately tried to do the latter (on multiple occasions) and dug myself into an even deeper, trauma-bonded hole.
This is about getting them to leave you alone.
2. Stay on topic.
Narcissists love to get people off-topic and throw them off their game.
If a narcissist can get you to go off on a tangential issue, they increase their chances of riling you up or getting you to say something revealing they can later use against you.
One way to avoid that trap is to stay on topic at all costs.
If they push hard to get you off-topic, you can reply, “We can talk about that some other time, but right now, let’s stick to XYZ topic.”
And if they can’t accept that? Stop replying.
3. Be concise.
Do not elaborate. Do not explain. Reply to the narcissist with as few words as possible.
Even if you wish desperately to clarify a point or set the record straight, don’t. It’s a trap.
Narcissist: “You’re never there for me when I need you to be. The other day, I asked you to pick me up, and you didn’t do it.”
And then be done.
4. Respond, but don’t react.
This can be difficult, especially when dealing with a narcissist who knows our buttons and how to push them.
If a narcissist texts you something provocative, take several deep breaths before replying. Set your phone down. Walk away and let the initial reaction run its course so you can think clearly.
What is the narcissist’s goal right now? What are they trying to do?
Once you figure out what they’re up to, you can craft a more measured response that follows all of the “keep it brief and boring rules.”
Let’s say you have a narcissistic parent who texts you the following:
Narcissistic parent: “So when were you going to tell me that you’re starting a new job? You’ve got time to tell everyone else but me. I shouldn’t be surprised.”
You: “Yes, I’m starting a new job.”
Narcissistc parent: “First time I’m hearing about it. When were you planning to tell me about it?”
Keep your tone neutral and your responses fact-based and brief. It will deflate the situation and eventually bore the other person when they realize the fight they showed up for isn’t going to happen.
For more on responding vs reacting, check out this video clip:
5. Don’t explain or defend yourself.
No matter how tempting, don’t allow the narcissist to drag you into a long-winded back-and-forth over text.
Don’t explain or defend yourself.
They will interpret this as guilt and use it against you. If they are making accusations about you or somebody else via text message, you do not have to engage.
You can say, “I’m not having this conversation with you.”
And then be done.
Texting is already a limited form of communication because it is harder to clearly convey your mood, tone, and point of view.
Narcissists will delight in any opportunity to take you out of context, which is significantly easier to do via text. Plus, they can screenshot and keep your texts to use against you at any time.
It would not surprise me if they have an entire folder on their phone of screenshots for future use.
6. Spread out your responses.
Another great tip is to respond to one message at a time and then increase the amount of time before you reply again.
Let’s say you have a narcissistic sibling who tries to drag you into her drama. She hits you up to spread some juicy gossip about your aunt.
Sister: “OMG, did you see that Aunt Gina is about to lose her house? That woman cannot keep her finances straight, and then she’s still talking about taking a vacation to Cancun next month. Didn’t she ask you to go on that trip?”
She’ll probably respond trying to dig more into this story. Wait a few hours before replying and keep your response boring. She’ll get the hint.
7. Set boundaries.
Narcissists hate boundaries, but you still have to set them.
If you can’t avoid someone altogether, set clear boundaries with them about communication.
Are there certain topics you won’t discuss via text? Tell them.
Do you even want them to text you? Maybe you prefer they email or call if they need something.
If they constantly try to bait you into arguments, you can say, “I’m sorry you feel hurt, but I’m not getting into a back-and-forth with you over text. I’m ending the conversation now.”
Even if you can’t fully remove people from your life, you are under no obligation to participate in their drama or emotional games.
The trick is to set boundaries with the same fact-based, emotional detachment you use when responding to narcissist texts.
That’s not easy! But it will give you the best outcome.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own.
Final Thoughts on How To Respond To A Narcissist’s Text:
Crafting the best response to a narcissist is not about one-upmanship or beating them at their own game.
Nine times out of ten, the best response is not to respond at all.
But if you have to reply, the goal is to do so in a way that makes them see you differently. Right now, they see you as a source of narcissistic supply, someone they can rile up or rely on for attention (negative or positive).
Once they realize you are no longer that person, they will leave you alone or limit their interactions with you.
That’s your best-case scenario, and these tips will help you get there.
What they won’t do, however, is help you heal from whatever damage this relationship has caused in your life.
For that, I have some additional resources and highly encourage you to speak with a trained therapist who specializes in helping people overcome narcissistic abuse.
- Why Can’t I Just Leave? Understanding The 7 Signs of Trauma-Bonding
- Why Hyper-Independence Is A Trauma Response
- When A Codependent Leaves A Narcissist, Here’s What To Expect
- What Does A Trauma Bond With A Narcissist Look Like?
- 5 Effective Trauma Processing Techniques
For resources that help you do some deeper, personal work, I recommend: