Seven Back-Handed Provocations


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We are masters of the back-handed compliment, the flattery which is actually a form of provocation, the kings of seemingly pleasant comments which are really put downs. We appear with that radiant and broad smile as we then slip a stiletto knife between your ribs with deft ease. Nobody else sees us do this. It appears to everyone else, as we stand there with our false smile plastered across our faces, that we are giving you a loving hug. Our outside appearance to the world and the maintenance of our façade remains intact as we slip through your defences and land a blow against you. We revel in seeing you smiling in return, your eyes lighting up with delight at our benign manner towards you only then for you to realise the import of what we have actually said. As the metaphorical dagger pierces your skin, you realise what is actually meant by what we have said to you. It appeared as a compliment but in actual fact we have told you something which will trouble you, upset you or anger you. Your eyes narrow with confusion and we see that look of uncertainty cross your face as you cannot quite believe what is happening. Did you hear what we said correctly? Have you misinterpreted the comment that we made? Did we really just say that? We can see how you are torn between wanting to accept the supposed compliment and then that sinking sensation as you realise that we have just made a barbed comment which appeared to be a pleasant one. The look on your face is akin to the look of bewildered astonishment that one might see on a wildebeest as it is brought to ground by a hungry lion and is eaten alive from behind. It cannot quite comprehend what is happening and neither can you.

What makes it worse is that to everyone else we appear to be smiling, hugging you and being pleasant. You want to react. You want to push us away from you. You want to chastise us, lash out and reprimand us for what we have just said, but the way that we framed this back-handed compliment means that you would appear mean, ungrateful and churlish if you did so. Just as we remain close to you, holding you, dagger still lodged between your ribs as we slowly twist it, you can do nothing but remain where you are as everyone else looks on thinking that we are being pleasant to you. We know that because you are a decent and pleasant person you are conditioned to accept the compliment and not rail against it, even when you realise that it is actually hurtful. This allows us to see just how strong our control over you is. If you react to the barbed comment and lash out at us, crying or shouting at us for our remark, then we gain fuel. If you remain silent and confused by it, unable to mask your hurt and disappointment, we still gain fuel but we also derive a significant indication of our power over you. We are able to make a hurtful remark seem like a compliment and have you accept it. This is a useful way for us to put you down whilst appearing to be pleasant. It also allows us to reinforce our perceived superiority over you through the application of this control. This technique also utilises our favoured mechanism of plausible deniability. There is a degree of ambiguity whereby if you attempted to pin the blame on us for precisely what we have intended to say, we would be able to reject that assertion. We are able to accuse you of reading too much into it, twisting our words and over-reacting. All favourite methods of rejecting you intended blame and of stoking the emotional fires further. We can feign hurt by stating we were paying you a compliment and you have taken it the wrong way. Again. We then want you to apologise, soothe us and feel guilty for trying to suggest that we would do anything other than be pleasant to you. Of course, this technique where we come with smiles as we plunge our critical knife into you, is one which we revel in deploying and is just part of our arsenal that is designed to mess with your thinking. Did we say what you thought we said? What did we really mean from that comment? Are you in fact over-analysing it or should you trust your initial judgement here? All of these factors unsettle, confuse and undermine you, eroding your confidence and clouding your judgement. It is all par the course and entirely why we behave as smiling assassins. There are numerous ways this is done and here are seven of the often used back-handed provocations.


  1. Condescend

We will talk to you in a condescending tone for the purposes of belittling you, making you feel inferior and causing us to look far better by comparison. We offer unwanted advice, talk to you from the position of always knowing what is right and what is best. Of course, should you challenge this overly paternalistic approach to the way we deal with you we will point out that we only want what is best for you, that we are only trying to help you and so have your best interests at heart. Is it a crime to do that for you?

  1. Insider Jokes

We will engage in making comments which cause members of our devout coterie to laugh and giggle but you are left in the dark as to what is so funny. We will use terms that amuse us and our followers considerably but seem meaningless to you. This will make you feel uncomfortable and isolated and if you should commence some kind of protest we will point out that we have not involved you because you would be bored by the silliness (thus inferring you have no sense of humour but making it seem as if you are above our schoolboy sniggering and this is a good thing) or that you would not be interested in our style of humour because you are too highbrow for such base comments and observations.


  1. Our Ex

We will repeatedly mention that our ex is still in love with us, indeed he or she still tries to contact us and they leave messages and have telephoned us a few times. Of course we tell you that you have no need to worry because that was in the past and we are with you now, you are the person that matters. This is designed to make it appear like we can brush aside the presence of our ex because we are in love with you. In fact, although it sounds like this, we use it as a means of securing carte blanche for mentioning the ex on many occasions so it unsettles you. Of course you are hamstrung from saying anything because that would make you seem insecure and you do not want to show that this is true. Thus we feel free to keep making mention of our ex and continue to triangulate them with you.


  1. Ignoring You

We ignore you and dole out a silent treatment with all of the fuel providing and control ramification which arise from this particular manipulation. Should you even begin to protest we point out that we are so glad we are with you because you understand our need for space and some time to ourselves. This appears like a compliment and is designed to flatter you into allowing us to keep doling out these silent treatments as and when we want in order to ignore you because we can then focus on gaining fuel from other parties when we are apart from you.


  1. The Ex Again

We talk incessantly about the qualities of the ex, highlighting all of their many wonderful attributes (which of course is a sudden change from when we were calling them demon spawn when we first seduced you but that’s all changed now). We babble on about how marvellous they are, the funny things they said, how beautiful they looked, the achievements they secured and so on before telling you that we are so pleased that you are so understanding that we can talk about past relationships with you. This supposed compliment restricts you from commenting adversely but we know that inside you are fuming and desperate to reprimand us in some way. How we delight in knowing this and seeing you trying to maintain a pleasant smile when inside we know you are dying.

  1. Flirtation

We flirt shamelessly and we know you see us doing this. We also know how it hurts and angers you but we fire a compliment your way by telling you that it is refreshing to be with someone who allows us to be ourselves, someone who is not jealous and someone who is so trusting. These compliments are designed to keep you quiet as we get on with doing what we please. We draw fuel from those we flirt with and all the while we keep casting backward glances to the trusting you seeing the gathering anger in your eyes.


  1. Spending Time with Others

We spend time with other people. It may be chatting someone up in the bar, hanging out with our friends, chasing down new prospects, wowing the crowd at a work function and so on. This blatant fuel-gathering is crucial to us and when we wander in later after our third consecutive night out we head you off at the pass by praising you by saying how lucky we are to have someone who understands that because they get all of our attention most of the time, we need to be able to spend some time with other people. Once again, this comment is designed to back you into a corner and have you standing, arms crossed and fuming, teetering between our control and providing us with even more fuel.

35 thoughts on “Seven Back-Handed Provocations

  1. Shantily says:


  2. Shantily says:

    It is true that at some point we did accept the terms didn’t we ? Foolish nubile pilable infants that we are ? Even when we’re raging back or suspicious or completely on point, we are still somehow accepting the terms right HG? After a recent series backhanded compliments (pseudo congratulations;) to which I burst out laughing because in actuality they were so full of malicious insults – he stormed off! If you can’t be civil Shan and accept my sincere sentiments ..then you will not get any further assistance from ME!
    🤦🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️ , HG, you take the sting out of Bee ! thank you ! :)))

    1. HG Tudor says:


  3. 1jaded1 says:

    Yes. When 6 and 7 are done by you, they are as how you described. On the flip side, we better not smile at the kid bagging our groceries. I remember my ex N2 asking the poor kid what it was like to be jailbait. I wanted a hole to swallow me.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      A swift yet savage triangulation.

      1. 1jaded1 says:

        It was. Towards the end of our toxicity, i used to make sure a shopping bag from that store was in the kitchen.

  4. Miss_stress says:

    Thank you for reply Cody.
    That is fantastic that you can open yourself up freely here and know your voice is expressed and heard. With the added resolve of seeking and receiving advice on a narcissistic relationship. I felt the same when here months ago. I found most people quite open and welcoming on this blog.
    I would suggest to always be yourself, I found that so often people want us to be who they wish us to be that who we are becomes lost in the desires of another. If we are accommodating people we oblige their desires. I am guilty of such in all facets of relationships, not just romantic…family, friends, work, et cetera.
    Once we lose otherself to another, it is difficult to retrieve once more. Be as open and forthright as you need, know that doing so is your right and as long as you are not intentionally causing harm to another with your words and actions then there need be no guilt involved. We are all well aware, how words as weapons have been used against us.

    HG has provided a forum for voices to expressed and answers to be received. This is a stepping stone to healing, not a permanent destination to ones further addictive nature.
    HG professes not be a healer, but he thusly brings many here the serenity and knowledge they require to move forward In their lives. This knowledge is power.
    Cody, he hasn’t drained away your good qualities, I don’t even know you and I can see then shining rightly from just a few posts. It may feel he has while in the midst of his mire. Sometimes, I find writing so much easier to express my feelings then verbal conversation. Some of the things we felt we have lost return to us when we find the forum that allows us to connect and express our thoughts. I think you have found yours here. So this is your stepping stone to change and enlightenment and if you chose, freedom from your narcissist.
    I wish you well and look forward to your comments. I wish everyone here well, in healing themselves and helping others heal as well. As a community. HG, thank you for your blog and wisdom and oppurtunity for so many to express, heal and forge forward from abuse.

    1. Cody says:

      You are very kind. Thanks, Miss S.

  5. Cody says:

    Miss S, you don’t come across as ungrateful at all. A gift card is what you get a coworker or a cousin or the person who does your hair, not your gf. I was just being sarcastic – and not at all bitter! Me? Bitter at the narc? Nahhh… 😉

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You baulk at a giftcard but what if was a Black Amex card?

      1. Miss_stress says:

        I wouldn’t accept….I prefer to give then receive to be honest. It was just about the idea, more then the gift.

      2. Cody says:

        With you footing the bill, HG?
        Bring it ON!
        Make sure the fine print at the bottom is printed in 0.5 point type so it’s easy for me to miss the terms at the bottom of the card application. You know, the part where I voluntarily hand over my soul, my sanity, my self-esteem… (and don’t forget last remaining years of fertility!)

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Ha ha you are learning but you seem to have forgotten you accepted those invisible and implied terms and conditions when I first said “hello” to you.

    2. Miss_stress says:

      Bitter, leaves a bad taste In ones mouth 😏 You have wonderful sense of humour , Cody.

      1. Cody says:

        Thanks, Miss S.
        Writing here has helped me get back in touch with the me I thought I had lost. I like to think of the me you read here as the “real” me: honest, open, sometimes even funny, more than sometimes outright sarcastic… But the me you would meet in “real life” is not so fun to be around: depressed, indecisive, fearful. And good luck finding a sense of humor. My relationship with G, which you probably have figured out by now I have not yet found the strength to leave, has drained away all my good qualities. But there is a ray of hope. Reading HG’s posts and just as importanly (sorry, HG- maybe almost as importantly?), reading the stories of others shared in the comments has helped me to find my voice again. And maybe one day in the not so distant future, G will hear that voice say “Never again”. And mean it. 🙂
        (Stop rolling your eyes, HG.)

    3. Nuit Étoilée says:

      How about a gift card for a new wardrobe?
      – great backstabbing gift –

      “Here, treat yourself to a new wardrobe (bc your current choice of attire is unacceptable)”

  6. So very true. If I hear one more person tell me “But you were the cutest couple” or “But he was so charming” in response to the news of my divorce I might actually stab someone. They are so freaking conniving!!

    1. Cody says:

      Welcome DaN. (I won’t call you Dan- but if you have a preferred nickname please let us know!)
      I just spent about 20 min reading your blog, and my heart breaks for you but I am also impressed at your courage and strength.
      The post that really hit home was the one about children. Please do consider it a blessing you never had kids with this monster. I used to hate my narc’s exwife, just like we were all trained to do, but now I honestly feel for her as she will never truly be able to go no contact with him because they have a kid. And that kid, who I’ve never met despite being future-faked about it many times (because you see the kid would love to have a sibling, which it was implied I would provide), is showing all the signs from what G (my narc) tells me – I figure roughly 50% is true – of turning into Narc Junior.
      G is in his 50s and as everyone tells him despite the budding man boob’s and 1st trimester gut) looks young for his age, but his target fuel supply is women just on the “wrong” side of 40 who have pretty much given up ever having children of their own, but then meet the man of their dreams who feeds her hopes that maybe just maybe it’s NOT too late for just one precious child.
      I know I am fully to blame for “wasting” my last chance fertile years on him, but he certainly knows just the right things to say to help keep you hooked for long enough until it is truly too late.
      You are young and you WILL heal and I hope and pray find a partner worthy of you to build a family with. 🙂

      1. Thank you!!! 🙂

  7. Miss_stress says:

    Hi HG, hope you are well. Do you remember me?
    I have been absent from WordPress since March. After my bf’s initial Hoover from a two and a half month silent treatment. Since your blog was on my list of blogs I frequented I decided to return,
    The other posters here were a tremendous source of wisdom and comfort when I found this blog mid February. I was only here one month, so I am sure many of those who were posting when I was here are long gone and healing from their own narcissistic abuse.
    I suppose I am seeking further advisement in that area of my life.

    Cody….how about an Amazon gift card? Doesn’t exactly say, I love you darling. But, for him, it should have. I dare not be disappointed, either. I don’t hide disappointment well. I express all emotions. I put thought into gift giving and the person I give to. But, if someone wants to deflate the love we think they feel for us, minimal effort gift giving is one way to do it.

    HG, your writing is as brilliant and captivating as always. What is your most used and most favorite backhanded compliment to lob at your appliances?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Hello, no there are quite a few of the old guard keeping me on my toes.
      Thank you for your compliment. One of my favourites is, “You’ve made such a little go a very long way.”

      1. Miss_stress says:

        Yes, HG I have noticed a few from back then posting still. Wonderful.
        That comment is rather brilliant in its disguise. I would find offence in it immediately and question what you meant. Knowing full well what you meant and message received. To be discussed later…But I rarely take offence to sarcasm, as it is quite a skilled humour.
        Words, as you always say are your weapons.

    2. Cody says:

      Welcome back, Miss S!
      I hope the recovery process is going well or at least going forward for you. 🙂
      You know, I would actually consider a gift card an improvement on the sh*t G got me cuz then I could pick out something I (as in ME!) actually might like. Problem with the “grand gesture” of pulling out a little jewelry box is that a) it seriously f**ks with your head, and b) when it turns out NOT to be “the” ring you had been fantasizing about and praying for from him, you still have to act all grateful and honored that he would get you a present in the first place (not exactly the norm in my “relationship”) and worse, wear it…no matter how crappy or cheap it obviously is to you and the rest of the world. I contemplated an “oops” moment of letting it fall down the sink with the garbage disposal on, but my narc has me too well trained and I know better than to provoke his rage.
      But yes, aside from my “little” rant, a gift card is really not the gift you get your gf to say I love you or I’m so happy your in my life or I’m sorry I hurt you (AGAIN).
      Hope you at least bought something you liked with it! 🙂

      1. Miss_stress says:

        Thank you Cody. It was doing well after discovering HG, this blog and some wonderful people who post here. Then the Hoover and my incessant need for closure. So, it is back to square one again. But, I am well versed in such things.
        You are correct, I did buy some music with gift card. I did get what I want, I suppose I sound a tad ungrateful, I didn’t mean it that way. As he did make a quasi effort for my birthday. But the gift card was purposeful for him at time. He knew I knew what it meant, as he stated well, at last I remembered your birthday, you know how bad at dates, I am.
        Yes, I agree, Cody, seeing a ring box, you feel the excitement and anticipation of what is inside. Then the reveal and all that hopefulness, thusly shattered and a fuel surge pumping him up. I laughed at losing it down the sink.
        Often why I then said, please don’t get me a present. Just recall the date.
        I find rants to be a productive purging, myself. Rant away.

  8. TheFlowerandRock says:

    Great explication on illuminating the interplay of lacking self sufficiency and autonomy as seen in the dance of co-dependency. That painfully toxic experience of jealousy, that is alarmingly seen quite often as a believed currency of value within relationships. As victims begin to move within their healing process and look at their constructed meanings of jealousy and how it has served as a protective measure they can become better equipped to shed the heavy lead, so to speak, of jealousy.

  9. Leilani says:

    I realised now that this is a lot of work to acquire this illusion HG but it’s the projection from internal that conceives the external. The mind still rejects it due to the habituated pattern of seeking approval, control, security, separation and oneness leaving the appliance “heart broken” if you will. It’s a repetitious of cycle one after another like a hamster on a turning wheel not a clue how to get off the cycle. What does one do HG to get off this addicting run?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      The answer will appear in about 10 days.

    2. Unbothered says:

      You just get off! It’s an addiction, you have to want to stop bad enough to stop!!!

  10. Cody says:

    Here’s #8:
    Giving her a gift that was obviously regifted from some crap you received, or some cheap junk you picked up in an airport or maybe even WalMart for all we know. (Not that an Elite would ever be caught dead in WalMart…)
    You tell her, maybe after the most recent silent treatment, “I have something for you…” and watch her eyes light up with excitement, and then her lower lip starts to quiver as you pull out a small box, and she looks up at you in stunned, joyous disbelief…
    …only to find some Cracker Jack junk inside. Something that makes it patently clear that you put zero thought or effort into it. But maybe that’s not true. You DID put effort into it because you WANTED to get her hopes up before watching them come crashing down.
    And yet if we don’t act grateful and pretend to love it, WE look like an ungrateful bitch. And risk losing out on the golden period, which is coming back any day now, right? Right?!?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Damn right!

      1. twinkletoes says:

        Great idea, Cody! HG which book did that It story come from? (I’ve read so many lol). That might be a great read for him.
        I can just imagine Tubby’s face when instead of the IT dvd its Richard Simmons. ha ha ha

        1. HG Tudor says:

          It’s in Elated and Eroded TT.

  11. nikitalondon says:

    Very well explained .. these very destructful and highly manipulative ways of paralyzing by making the person self doubt and putting down to lower self steem and self assurance. In forms of jokes, comments.
    All on purpose and carefully planned….
    Takes time to realize …….. its the great value of this blog <3

  12. That is a tremendously clever image – I love it!

    Justifying “bad behaviour” while feeding the poor souls backhanded compliments so they keep their mouths shut and you get to carry on as you please.

    Another brilliant tactic that seeks to give the target that false sense of safety and comfort so that they ignore the waves of unease and discomfort your actions cause to wash over them.

    “I know it’s not right that he’s flirting with those women, but he appreciates that I am not the jealous type and I know he loves me. He tells me so all the time. I do wish he wouldn’t flirt so much, but it’s me he wants. He tells me so all the time…..But still, I wish he wouldn’t….”

    Constant push and pull, back and forth, to and fro, so the target never knows whether he or she is coming or going or even where he or she stands with you. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    What a truly precarious position to find oneself in……

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