Abuse comes in many different forms, although a few aren’t as apparent as others. If you’ve ever been in a personal or professional relationship with a manipulator, you probably faced mental and emotional abuse. How do manipulators shift blame to others for their personal gain?

Not all manipulative personalities present as cruel, abusive villains. Many seem genuinely caring and may have good social skills. However, they cleverly use their psychologically warped craft to control people to make themselves look better.

If you know people past or present who are manipulative, you may have noticed that most of them are also narcissists. It may not seem evident at first, but their provocative and controlling nature is apparent. Relatives often use their familial ties to justify why you shouldn’t just walk away from them.

Why Do Manipulators Shift Blame?

These people are typically narcissistic personalities, and they care only for themselves and what they can get. If you are unfortunate enough to become entangled in their dark web of manipulation and abuse, it will be more apparent. They will do anything within their power to protect their delusion of perfection.

manipulators shift blame
If you confront them when they are at fault, don’t expect an admission or an apology. Rather than bruise their ego, they will deny any wrongdoing. They will also go to the extent of passing the blame unto you or someone else.

The Manipulator’s Toolbox

People don’t grow up with the goal of being a narcissist and master manipulator. However, these traits are usually seen at a young age. They often model manipulative parents and have years to cultivate their craft.

Even if manipulators must lie or do other unethical things, they will refuse to own up to wrongdoing. They would much rather let someone else take the fall for their trespasses. Here are some typical ways manipulators shift blame to make themselves look better.

1. They Use Drama

Manipulators often work best when they are in a crowd. If they are at fault, they may up the drama factor. They may get overly emotional and say things loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. With this clever ruse, manipulators shift blame to you, so it looks like you are the one who is being abusive.

2. They’re Constantly Digging up Bones

Another way a manipulator shifts blame to others is by bringing up the past when they are caught. Rather than to own up for their faults and failures, manipulators refuse to be anything but blameless.

To get the spotlight off them, they will quickly remind you of your past mistakes. They hope this ploy will move the blame to you. Often, the subject has nothing to do with the present situation. Manipulators are never without a shovel to dig up the past to use against you.

3. They Ignore Facts

It’s fascinating how manipulative personalities can suddenly claim amnesia when confronted with a fault. They want to ignore any facts or situations that point to their role in the wrongdoing. When you mention the issue, these narcissists may refuse to face the facts or act as if you are lying.

4. They Use Religious Exploitation

If you consider some of the most infamous religious cults and abuse cases, you’ll discover a delusional and narcissistic leader as the common denominator. When manipulation and psychological abuse flourishes, the victims will follow their leader no matter what happens.

Even if you aren’t in a cult, you may still be challenged with spiritual abuse. Religious manipulators shift blame to others by suggesting that you aren’t holy enough to “God’s standards.”

When you experience a loss or a difficult situation, these people are quick to blame it on something you did to displease heaven. Don’t fall for this emotional abuse. Religion is supposed to boost people spiritually and enrich their lives, not tear them down. Anyone who uses religion to manipulate others is not someone worth your time.

5. They Like Playing the Martyr

Nobody likes to be at fault, but honest and mature people will confess their wrongs and make amends. However, manipulative people will do anything within their power to push the blame over someone else, so they look innocent. One tactic they often use is to play the victim card.

Do you know someone who would rather play a martyr than to admit to a fault or failure? These narcissists prey on your compassionate nature to gain your pity. They will use a past loss or grievous situation (real or imagined) as an excuse to deflect any blame from themselves.

6. They Love Emotional Manipulation

Narcissistic personalities are skilled actors, and they know exactly what words to say or emotions to display to manipulate those around them. No doubt, you’ve seen manipulators shift the blame on others by turning on the waterworks when they are confronted for doing wrong.

They burst into a torrent of crocodile tears in hopes that you will feel sorry for them instead of making them confess. On the flip side, some manipulators use fear as a tactic to tiptoe around blame. These abusive people will often use rage and intimidation when they are called to task for faults. It’s a standard tool used by those who are physically, verbally, and sexually abusive.

abusive narcissist
These ten signs unmask an abusive narcissist.

7. They’re the Classic Social Bully

When narcissists are in a room of people, they want to be the ones who are seen and heard. They want all the attention and often dominate the conversation, so nobody else has a say. Should the situation go south, these manipulative personalities become defensive and ready to blame others.

They will often talk louder and over top of the crowd to get their point across. If they are to blame for anything, they use their voice and aggression to change the subject. Substance abuse usually makes their social bullying even worse.

8. They Love Gaslighting

This is a recent psychological term that describes how abusive personalities can manipulate others. They use their skills to make another person feel mentally unstable and to blame for everything wrong in their lives.

For example, you may confront a narcissist for infidelity. Instead of confessing, he may gaslight you into thinking it’s all your imagination and may question your sanity. He might also imply that you are accusing him of cheating to block your guilty conscience because you are the cheater.

9. They Use the Big Switch

Another classic way a manipulator shifts blame to others is to cloud the confrontation with irrelevant topics. If their excuses don’t work, they may try to tear you down with abusive language and verbal attacks on your character. They might degrade how you look, your intelligence, and your trustworthiness.

For example, you may confront him about stealing money out of the family budget for his chronic gambling addiction. Of course, he isn’t going to listen, even if you show him irrefutable evidence. He may lash out and say that the reason he gambles is that you are such a nag that he needs an outlet.

10. They Love Telling Lies

Remember that narcissists are willing to do almost anything to keep their rouge. While they will sometimes distort the facts when they are manipulating you, they aren’t above outright lying to reverse the blame.

This is a particularly harmful tactic because lies can destroy lives, especially when other people believe them. Even manipulative people can’t find a reasonable excuse to blame others for their shortcomings; they may create lies as a distraction.

Strangely, narcissists usually feel justified by lying to others if it means making themselves look good.

11. They Gain Pleasure by Manipulating Those Around You

What can narcissists do when they’ve exhausted every manipulative tool against you to no avail? They will turn to family and friends in your inner circle. If they can’t manipulate you, they will use those around you to cast a shadow of doubt on your character.

They will use one or all the above ploys to place any blame on you and make you look like the villain. At first, they will usually bring one or more people into their confidence. Then, they will use drama, emotional tactics, fake humility, and blatant lies to get those closest to you on their “side.”

Be aware that manipulative narcissists will use any opportunity to make you look bad, especially in a crowd. While you may have realized their abusive tricks, others may not be as psychologically savvy. As they put on a stellar performance of tears and vulnerability, you’ll be the one who looks bad.

manipulators shift blame
Final Thoughts On Manipulators and Blame Shifting

Never allow yourself to become a pawn when manipulators shift blame to you and others. These toxic personalities will never own up to their shortcomings and stop the abuse cycle without professional help.

If you have an unhealthy relationship with a lover, family member, friend, or coworker, now is the time to walk away with your sanity and dignity intact.