3. Pity play
In her book "The Sociopath Next Door," Dr Martha Stout says the most reliable sign of a sociopath when you first meet them is nothing to do with fear. Instead, it is when they appeal to your sympathy.
If "you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100% that you are dealing with a sociopath," she writes in the book.
When they're trying to reel you in, a narcissistic person is likely to mention how badly they've been treated in the past. They may refer to past abuse in their life, or bad previous relationships. This isn't to say what they're saying isn't true, but it's wise to be wary.
The narcissist knows you are empathetic, and they know revealing personal information to you will probably make you feel like you're bonding with them. In reality, they're usually just trying to create the illusion of closeness, and they will ultimately use it against you.
After all, "I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him," Stout writes.
According to a blog post by psychologist Dr Stephanie Sarkis on Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic manipulative people use to gain power over someone else. It basically makes you, the victim, question reality because they're acting like a puppet master.
Sarkis says there are several stages to gaslighting. It happens gradually over time, so it can be difficult for the victim to identify before it's too late. It can start with a lie here and there, a snide comment every so often, until it ramps up more and more. It's like the "frog in the saucepan" analogy: heat is turned up very slowly, so the frog never realises it's starting to boil to death.
Narcissists may tell outright lies which you know aren't true, but they're so adamant that you question the truth anyway. They also deny doing or saying things which you know they in fact did say or do. Sarkis says the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.
Every now and then, the abuser may throw in a compliment or praise to make you feel good, and question whether they really are a bad person or not. This all just adds to the confusion and makes you think you're losing your mind, Sarkis says.
It's also common for them to use your family or friends against you by telling them you're going crazy, while simultaneously telling you not to see them anymore, creating more distance between you and those you trust.