Word Salad? (And How To Toss It)


You ought to have read Perfect Sense. If not, stop now and go and read it. If you already have, good, let’s proceed. The word salad is an occurrence of several disorders and is invariably an unintended consequence of certain mental health conditions. This differs when word salad is considered in the context of narcissism. What is it? It is where we communicate with you in a method which does not make sense, fails to progress a discussion or results in a lack of an outcome. As opposed to a stream of consciousness, it is a mechanism deployed by our kind to achieve several outcomes which I detail below. The use of word salad is most effective in a face to face discussion but it also appears in telephone conversations with our kind, text messages and e-mails.

How does it manifest? The Lesser Narcissist engages in this behaviour as a matter of instinctive reaction. He does not realise that he is doing it (which is one of the most confusing elements for the non-narcissist to grasp since it appears deliberate). With the Lesser it is an instinctive response by him in order to maintain the upper hand in the engagement with the victim. He does not deliberately engage it to achieve the various outcomes I will refer to, but instead he just does it. The Mid-Range engages in it and whilst he may recognise some force in the comments of the victim, his need to remain holding the whip hand in the discussion results in him immediately continuing to behave in this manner without being fully aware of what he is doing. The moment he might start to reflect on what the victim has said with regard to his conduct, his reflection is overruled by the need to deflect and deny and thus the word salad continues. If the victim makes reference to the behaviour once again, the reflection may start but as soon as it does, it is pushed aside by the need to deflect. It is akin to points on a railway starting to move but then a greater force comes along and pushes the points back to the original position. The Greater knows what he is doing. He knows the upper hand must be obtained and he revels in being obstructive, frustrating and evasive. He regards it as a game and is entirely aware of what he is doing as he deploys this manipulative technique.

Word salad can appear in many forms. For instance, there will be circular conversations where the topic just keeps repeating without there ever being a resolution. We will repeatedly project and we will also bring up the past (whether real or manufactured). It is common as well in this word salad to play the victim. We will make incredible leaps of logic which will make no sense to you, but make perfect sense to us because they are necessary in order to achieve our aims and to keep the upper hand. We will twist, contort and engage in all manner of spoken and written gymnastics to ensure that the effects we require or desire are achieved.

Why do we do it? There are several reasons why the word salad is deployed by us.

  1. Words are easy to use. They are low in terms of energy expenditure.
  2. If we engage in spoken word salad then words disappear into the ether once they have been spoken which allows us to deny what was just said and suggest that your recall of the conversation is impaired and that there is something wrong with you and not with us.
  3. We want to confuse you. If you are confused then you will struggle to drive through what is happening. You are also less likely to realise what is happening. By being caught in the web of confusion you will struggle to make sense of the word salad.
  4. Naturally using word salad provides us with the necessary fuel that we require. You will invariably become irritated, frustrated, angry and upset. All of which provides us with negative fuel. Furthermore, if you give up on the conversation, the relief that manifests when you do so also provides us with fuel.
  5. Word salad is used to control you. By keeping you on your toes, suggesting you are in the wrong, that we are not, we maintain control. Control is fundamental to the narcissistic relationship and we must always have control over you.
  6. Lack of accountability. We regard ourselves as blameless and that we have no culpability for our actions. Utilising word salad allows us to maintain this state.
  7. Entitlement. We can do as we please, say what we want and you are not allowed to stop us. By engaging in displays of word salad we are exercising our sense of entitlement.
  8. Guilt. We want you to feel guilty. By making it seem like you are the one at fault you may well become apologetic which asserts our superiority and provides us with fuel. This also assists us in asserting control because if you feel guilty you are more likely to do what we want.
  9. Deflect challenges. We do not like you to challenge us and therefore by unleashing a word salad against you, we can deflect your attempt to challenge us.
  10. Create obsession. The whole exchange will make no sense to you and therefore afterwards you will obsess over it because you want to try to make sense of what has happened. You will replay what was said, analyse the content of messages and most likely discuss it with third parties. This maintains control over you because you continue to talk and dwell on us which is something we want.
  11. Plausible deniability. By talking in riddles, in amorphous and vague terms this allows us to adopt plausible deniability which can later be used against you or to further our denials at a later stage.

Why does it affect people like you in particular? Anybody “normal” would be perplexed by such behaviour but it is especially effective against those empathetic victims who are intimate partner primary sources. There are a few reasons why this is the case (and this accords with why you are selected as our victims).

  1. You try to understand somebody else’s position. A normal may give up and walk away in frustration but you feel obligated to try to understand what we are talking about;
  2. You place considerable value in resolving matters and you want to achieve this with us, which causes you to continue engaging with us;
  3. You need to be heard. You want to have your say and feel that you must be listened to. Of course we never listen to what you have to say, we only want your fuel, but you fail to recognise this and your repeated attempts to say your piece, speak your mind and air your views will play repeatedly into our hands.
  4. You need to understand. You want to work out what is going on. In the maelstrom of devaluation you do not know what you are engaging with. You think you are dealing with someone normal and intelligent who should understand what is happening and you need to understand why we do not appear to understand.
  5. You need to get us to understand. In tandem with your desire to heal and fix, you feel a considerable urge to make us understand that what we are doing makes no sense. You are on a hiding to nothing. The Lesser and Mid-Range have no insight and the Greater will not allow you to know he has insight.
  6. You feel you have to defend yourself against what is being said as you hate the world and especially us to have the wrong impression of who and what you are.

The consequence of all of this is that you are very easily drawn into the effects of a word salad and you remain gripped by it.

How do you toss the salad aside then?

  1. The most important step is to understand that you will never ever win the argument or the discussion. Stop trying to achieve this. It just will not happen and the more you try, the more you play into our hands. Once you have grasped that you cannot succeed you will then be able to cope with the word salad much more effectively.
  2. State your position once and leave it at that. You then know you have set out your position and you have told us. Therefore you know that you have spoken up and asserted your position which will make you feel better. You have not backed down.
  3. Understand that if you state your position seven times you have done so six times too many and wasted your energy. Learn to save your energy. You need it for other things when you are caught in the devaluation.
  4. Do not feel that you must defend yourself. The allegations we make are invariably projection but you fall for it every time. Do not do so. State that you have nothing to say on the matter rather than become drawn in.
  5. Avoid providing fuel. This becomes easier once you apply steps 1-4 above. It will also eventually bring the word salad to an end when we realise it is no longer proving effective.
  6. Walk away. Remaining and staying embroiled in the word salad is not going to achieve anything. Remove yourself from it. Do not just go into another room but leave the vicinity and go elsewhere. Your removal will be regarded as a criticism which will ignite our fury but if you are not there to be the recipient of this fury we will have to seek fuel elsewhere and you avoid the ramifications of this ignited fury.
  7. Eat some steak instead. It is tasty.

82 thoughts on “Word Salad? (And How To Toss It)”

  1. HG,
    I am so glad you followed the last article with this! Great advice too. I took your advice one year ago this month. It really is the only way. Walk away and treat yourself to disconnecting your phone and a nice drink.

    I am also glad you made reference to the fact that “word salad” can occur in other disorders as well. We use it in the psych field primarily when talking about those with psychosis and to see that version of word salad is mesmerizing and confusing and at times scary. It is literally as if all the words in the dictionary were thrown in the air and land as they may—very random words that sound like sentences, but they are not at all…like “The cat erupts with tacos”.

    The skill in which narcissists use words…I would almost wish to call narcissists the Chefs of the Word Salad because you do it with more skill and less random haphazardness. It has intent and it is almost an art. Perhaps the Salad Wizard. I don’t know. It is impressive though being on the other side of someone that is really good at it.

    1. Thank you Indy. I have witnessed the “nonsensical” manifestation of this also, the kind you referred to with your cat and tacos example. Of course I have engaged in the other variety as part of my manipulations and as you identify this is more intentional (either calculated from the Greater or instinctive self-defence mechanism with the Lesser and MR) than a haphazard occurrence.

      I know in our variation it makes sense to us from our perspective and I imagine that in those with psychosis it makes sense to them from their own perspective too.

      1. Well it will appear nonsensical to you because it won’t adhere to your perspective, but it makes sense to us because it achieves our aims.

      2. I get you, though, I am asking from a clinical perspective now. Could a narcissist present with nonsensical sentences in word salad? Like “My train tucked my blue sheets in with Alfredo” ?

      3. Ahhhhh, ok. I follow. Yes, I have seen this in severe Bipolar Psychosis, Prodromal states, and in severe detox/intox. Good to know that a fuel crisis may show as this severe. Thank you HG.

        *And, just as an aside, I get what you mean by the person with psychosis thinks it is logical. This is the case. We are slaves to our perceptions and perspectives. What is real is debatable at times, no? 😉 *

      4. Indy.. (not to intrude)… so then life IS an illusion? It’s all about perception? Is that reality or magical thinking?
        Your opinion for me to ponder?

      5. No worries, intrude away. I do all the time with others 😉 These questions are always so much fun at midnight with good friends. Anyone got “Scooby snacks”? lol

  2. Oh yeah. I beat my head on a wall for a long time with this one. I would be like ‘do you hear yourself? On what planet does that make sense?’ His answer would always be something equally nonsensical. In the beginning, I just figured he had too much to drink. As time went on, I realized he would do it even if he hadn’t been drinking. I had never experienced this before, despite knowing some pretty ‘disordered’ people. Mind blown. On the up side, it was this behavior that made me realize that I was dealing with a ‘horse of a different color’. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there was actually a term for this behavior. I still shake my head some days when I reflect on our relationship.

  3. Ugh, Word Salad. If I could describe the way my ex Upper Narc communicates, it is either Silent Treatment, or Word Salad, not much in between. When we were in a “relationship”, and I was in the Loooong devaluation phase, we lived 5 min from eachother, but I would recieve these 7 hour long words salad text, followed by 3 days of silent treatment. Now some years later, I am court ordered to communicate. He still tris to use Word Salad when an Ignitor of Fury has been ignited. I have learned to keep each email conversation to a few emails and it never ends with a solution to his problem. I know if I let him, he would play word salad as long as I give him the time.
    HG, you say it is low energy, but it takes so much of the Narc time. Does it not make more sense to use that time gather better quality fuel from somewhere else? It has to be draining for the narc as well, no?

  4. What would the different schools of Narcissist do (Say, the Greater for argument’s sake) in the above scenario if the woman decided she had become aroused by all this tossing (of the word salad) and wanted some pork?

      1. I think the sight of blood and raw flesh would actually make you ill. I had you down as more of a pillow smotherer, with a penchant for metaphorical ‘stump fucking’.

  5. This is one of your writings which cause me to be unsure which level Narc I last dealt with. At the beginning of our relationship my ex Narc explained to me how effortlessly he did this in certain business dealings and how brilliantly he could manipulate a situation in his favor through these verbal tactics. He was well aware of what he was doing and so very proud of his skill and yet I was thoroughly baffled when he started doing this with me!

  6. My narc husband was a pro at circular conversations. We never resolved anything. I also received a history lesson of everything I ever did to him when we argued. He says his anger is as justified today as it was 20 years ago. He would never “just let it go.” I’m still hearing about shit I did in the 90’s, like it literally just happened. The word salad examples you describe were used by him like a professional. Good thing I left, I was tired of eating green vomit.

  7. “The Mid-Range engages in it and whilst he may recognise some force in the comments of the victim, his need to remain holding the whip hand in the discussion results in him immediately continuing to behave in this manner without being fully aware of what he is doing. The moment he might start to reflect on what the victim has said with regard to his conduct, his reflection is overruled by the need to deflect and deny and thus the word salad continues. If the victim makes reference to the behaviour once again, the reflection may start but as soon as it does, it is pushed aside by the need to deflect.”

    Holy damn, this is exactly how my mid-range acted. At times he appeared to understand my view point but then like a rubber band snapping he went right on back. He even threw in an “I am sorry Gabrielle” in there for good measure. Why bother apologizing and then just go right back to it?

      1. Your job or your blog?

        Hmmm, a lead high level criminal investigator, like UK FBI. I mean, there is authoritarianism that smacks of military, detail oriented, excellent human behavior profiler, and you see blood on not shudder. And you understand criminal behavior. Hmmmmmm

      2. Did you have “indigestion” at 3.30am btw and need to go to the fridge for some milk? Whilst checking your phone for fuel potential…..

      3. You see you proved it twice today, with this comment and the chilling Eyes Wide Shut ending! You totally proved that you are very evil. I told you you were very evil…

  8. Holy bloody dooly! Word salad. WORD SALAD?? Drove me nuts!! One partucular word salad argument sticks with me. It was about a pair of gloves I lost (I knew he took them) YEARS ago. They eventually turned up in one of HIS boxes, in his fathers shed. No denying that now is there? But ohhh no!! Deny deny deny mixed with word salad, word salad, word salad.
    Ive since tried to use word salad myself (just to see) if I can do it. But nope. Impossible!! Never again!

    HG. Off topic somewhat, but could you explain please about ‘normal’ people so to speak, in comparison to us Empaths. Its the amount of narcissism in each type that makes us who we are(CD/E/SE), but what of a normal person? 50/50??? How does that work? Or please lead me to the blog if already written. Thanks heaps. 🙂

    1. Hello Lisa,

      It is not so much about strict percentages, because it is a combination of the number of traits and their strengths

      1. CDs have very few/very low narcissistic traits and many/medium to strong empathic traits
      2. SEs have numerous/moderate to fairly strong narcissistic traits BUT numerous/strong empathic traits
      3. Es have few/low narcissistic traits and numerous/medium to strong empathic traits
      4. Empathic (but not empaths) people have some/low narcissistic traits and some/low-medium empathic traits
      5. Normals have few/low narcissistic traits and few/low empathic traits
      6. Narcissistic (but not narcissists) have some/low-medium narcissistic traits and some/low empathic traits
      7. Narcissists have many/strong narcissistic traits and no empathic traits.

      1. Ok wow!! I think Ill read that one quite a few times, just to get my head around it. Interesting….
        I appreciate your explanation HG, and time spent doing it.
        Thanks a heap. 🙂

  9. Not really sure where to post this question. I have been binge watching, reading for the last couple of days.

    I am wondering if someone in the military would display their disorder differently. Those in the military are accustomed to giving and receiving orders. They demand respect, and usually offer the same to others, (as you have stated, your kind are pleasant to the outside world and to others, for the most part).
    High ranking military people with NPD would to me, just ‘fit in’ with the other servicemen who are instructed to not show emotion, etc. In other words, it is easy to conceal themselves amongst the others who look and act just like them. The degree of ‘masking’ is flagrant in the military environment, and thus encourages and maybe even instructs, the NPD in his endeavors.

    I would like to know your thoughts, if you have any experience with those in the military on either continent.

    Thank you.

    PS. I can understand why you are in a job field/career where you see ‘blood and gore’ on a daily basis: without empathy, you can do your job well without the emotional attachments and visceral emotions most people will eventually feel working in that environment. However, having experienced the same carnage in my career, (not the military) I can say that if you ever want to truly ‘heal, change, or whatever term’ your good doctors are using these days, I believe you will eventually have to walk away from that. It plays on the ‘psyche’ in a detrimental fashion and feeds into your NPD. I speak from experience. To me, it actually explains a great deal about you that others might not understand.

    Respectfully yours,

  10. Few questions for you to mull over today HG, whilst you’re being driven from job to job….

    Do you like being thought of as evil?

    Do you think you are?

    If yes, then is it a case of you think and act it, ergo you are it? Or, you’ve been made to feel it (matrinarc et al) therefore you’ve become it?

    If not, what alternate word would best describe you? Misunderstood? (I can almost sense your rolling of eyes btw but if you could just give a straight answer that would be useful, thank you)

    If not Evil, does it ignite your Fury to have people not ‘get’ you? As in what you ‘really’ are.

    But then again, you’re not really sure what you are, are you? And that’s why you have so much repressed anger isn’t it?

    1. Hello VFH,

      Your opening comment amused me. I prefer to drive myself but I am driven on some occasions.

      1. Yes.
      2. Yes but I also do tremendous good because of my evil.
      3. I am intrinsically that way and before anything could be done about it, it was unleashed and intensified.
      4. It isn’t repressed anger, it is fury and whilst I would never admit this in my private dealings, you are partially correct. There are times when I do not know what I am.

  11. Hi HG, thank you for such a comprehensive answer.

    Leads me to a couple more questions if I may….re:

    2) Is the “tremendous good” you do all about the healing your readers do via this and your publications? Or is there a more subtle art also at work (that I alluded to during my slight meltdown over the easter weekend relating to your Personal Jesus post? If I need to expand here please do let me know as I recognise you are not filling your time contemplating your navel or pondering only my questions to you)

    4) thank you for sharing that, there are times when I don’t really know what I am either. Onwards and upwards though. Not downwards for me thank you.

    How do you know it is not repressed anger that causes the presence of the Fury? By suppressed anger I mean the type that you’re not even aware exists because your mind has not processed it, been able to name it or, therfore, deal with it.

      1. Oh OK. Can you remember the most ridiculous or longest word salads you have ever done?
        They must be legendary.

      2. Yes, looking back I have wasted many hours explaining my opinions on things, over and over. Then getting illogical talk as a reply.

    1. Entertaining … good to know.
      So, HG, without the emotions connected to the words, it’s low energy?? Why isn’t it getting tiring for you?! Or too ridiculous to go on?

      Brian, I think my exnarc once went on for about two hours before my neurons short-circuited. Other discussions could be longer, but pure circular talk & non-sensical talk/contradictions in one single session was about two hours. Till I had a friend talk to my exnarc instead, which resulted of course in him being manipulated through sweet-talk by my ex-narc, suddenly being very charming and logical.

      1. I don’t understand Ava101. What is it that you are referring to? What is it that isn’t getting tiring for me or too ridiculous to go on?

      2. When my exnarc engaged in circular and contradictory talk with me, I found it incredibly exhausting and tiring.
        –> Why isn’t it for you?

        I realize that the purpose of this kind of verbal exchange isn’t communication but to get your fuel … but still, you have a creative mind and you are very eloquent, therefore it must become tiresome to repeat and twist things?

        How is (the victim) getting tired and frustrated translating into fuel?

        I can see how it’s fun for like 15 minutes (like I enjoy annoying my mother for a short while), but not for hours.

        I just think that my exnarc could have gotten better and more rewarding things out of my mind.

      3. I don’t find it tiresome because I am getting powered by the fuel and it amuses me to twist the victim around this way.

      4. Was it a one-way monologue? I was amazed when Melanie Tonia Evans said her ex-husband was talking at her for about two hours without her even saying anything.
        In my experience that’s one thing female narcs don’t do.

      5. I know, this was irony, HG, but I’m still wondering in earnest; as long as I didn’t know what my exnarc was doing, it wasn’t so funny to me.

      6. Thank you, HG! Always good to know that one is such an excellent toy.

        Brian: no, it wasn’t a monologue. I kept trying to make sense of his initial statement and asked questions, kept finding solutions and making suggestions.

  12. Hi, HG.

    Which type of narcissist uses language like this? “absolutely stunning and glorious humans”, “magnanimous person”, “tumultuous”, and “stupendously appreciative”? I read online that this is called flowery language that sociopaths use. It seems that any word that isn’t used often that ends with a “ous” and ly before regular words is part of their language to confuse and manipulate. So, is this a sociopath’s language or a narc’s or either or?


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