A Manipulation Tactic: Word Salad
Have you ever tried to talk to someone only to regret it? Ended up looking like the guilty party although you know you were right? Or have you ever asked yourself a question like ‘what on earth was that?’ at the end of a conversation? Perhaps it’s because the person you were dealing with was a manipulator.
In this article, I will talk about another tactic emotional manipulators use frequently: Word salad.
I’d like to begin with saying that this isn’t something only the emotional manipulators do. People with other psychological disorders or attention deficit can sometimes form long and incomprehensible sentences unintentionally. So please don’t think that every single verbosity you witness is coming from a manipulator.
But then if you ever had a relationship where even the smallest disagreements were blown out of proportion and that important things could not be discussed because of this; you can continue reading.
What is a word salad?
- You want to focus on a certain thing but everything except for that thing is discussed, or the topic is changed before you can get to it. This change can occur even with a completely irrelevant sentence like ‘what should we have for dinner?’ And sometimes everything surrounding that specific topic is discussed but it’s never properly talked about.
- You try to talk to someone but it doesn’t lead anywhere. Things are left hanging in the air. And if you try to mention it again, they dismiss the attempt by saying something like ‘we’ve already discussed this’. If you insist on it, they can accuse you of being obsessive, paranoid, skeptical, uptight or jealous.
- You confront someone who has been treating you badly, but you end up being the one who’s apologizing at the end of the conversation.
- You keep trying to explain yourself. You keep thinking ‘if only they could understand me’, ‘if only they could look at things from my perspective every once in a while’ or ‘if only they could see how upset I am’ but they never do these things because they don’t seem to care about your feelings. Guess why? Because you’re trying to express yourself to a person who lacks empathy.
- If you ever try to warn them about a mistake of theirs, they instantly start mentioning your past mistakes. And if you try to defend yourself (which would be the natural reaction), this time you digress from the main topic. While your past mistakes are being discussed, their current mistakes are forgotten.
- They start accusing you of things you never did. In fact, they can even accuse you of doing the very things they did. Let’s say your spouse had a flirtatious conversation with someone else. You’re confronting them about it. They claim that you were the flirtatious one, you kept laughing at someone’s jokes or that your choice of clothing or gestures were inappropriately provocative.
- They deny it. They can tell you that they have no idea what you’re talking about at the very beginning of the conversation. Even if you have solid proof, they continue denying all the accusations. Because you’re expected to believe everything they say without question.
- They apologize really fast, but the apology turns out being more offensive than their misdeed. Something like ‘I’m sorry you got hurt’, or ‘I’m sorry it upset you, I keep forgetting how sensitive you are’. If you don’t accept their apology, they can put the blame on you by saying ‘I’ve already apologized, what else do you want?’
- The person in front of you talks a lot but says nothing valuable. They don’t really focus on the real problem. They just try to distract you from it with a long and fancy speech.
- They keep doing it until you overreact, and then they start acting like a composed and logical individual. As if you were the one being irrational in the first place.
It can be hard to notice a word salad at first glance. Therefore, you can ask yourself the questions below:
- Have you ever felt like the person you’re dealing with is not an adult but a child? Have you ever tried to teach the basic human emotions and empathy to a person in their 30s or 40s as if you’re trying to educate a child?
- Is every single argument all about winning it?
- Have you ever tried to refrain from confronting them just to avoid an argument even when you were being treated horribly?
- Do you often feel the need to apologize?
- Do they expect you to trust them completely even though their words and actions don’t match? Do you feel guilty or paranoid for questioning things?
- Do you feel exhausted, drained and misunderstood at the end of the conversation? Do you waste your time and effort for nothing?
- Do the conversations end only when you give up? Do you tell yourself things like ‘there’s no point in arguing if it doesn’t solve anything’ or ‘it wasn’t a big deal anyway’ even when it actually was something important to you?
In healthy relationships, problems can be discussed and resolved. The result may not be equally satisfactory to both parties but still, they both feel that they expressed themselves well enough and the other party understood them to a certain degree. But if you’re arguing with a narcissist or another emotional manipulator, you either don’t reach to a conclusion or you have to settle with the solution they choose. For them, arguments are nothing but power play. They either win or lose. Therefore, everything that questions their authority must be defeated with powerful defense mechanisms.
You should know that they’re not looking for a solution. They just want you to stop questioning or judging them. Besides, their sensitivity to criticism makes them feel like they’re being insulted even when your comment was harmless.
Also, whether your partner is a narcissist or not, communication is very important for all kinds of relationships. If you’re with someone you can’t communicate with, and if nothing changes for the better no matter how hard you try to fix this issue; perhaps you simply aren’t meant to be.
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You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Mackenzie, Jackson. Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People. New York: Berkley, 2015.
Thought Catalog. “20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You”. Access 2 December, 2018. https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2016/06/20-diversion-tactics-highly-manipulative-narcissists-sociopaths-and-psychopaths-use-to-silence-you/3/.
You can also check out my other articles on manipulation tactics:
A Manipulation Tactic: Mirroring
A Manipulation Tactic: Gaslighting
A Manipulation Tactic: Silent Treatment