The Smiling Assassin



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 that 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 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 do 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 your 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.

14 thoughts on “The Smiling Assassin

  1. Azalea says:

    I am probably paranoid but now ANYTIME anyone compliments me I immediately think to myself – hmmmm are you a narc?!?

  2. Tappan Zee says:

    The ex. No. The sauntering off hither and yon. Yes. To no end. I pretended not to care. Eventually. I headed off the fuel fest. Which at the time would have been shit storm. And no matter what I said or did; my fault. So I abandoned myself, my truth, gah my being for the sake of not providing fuel (which I thought was conflict and not worth it). I hurt like hell but it became a choice (sort of) to be honest or survive. I could not do both. He came and did as he pleased. Yes. IDK if he knew how bad it hurt during the last 2/3 of our IPPS deal because really I think he believed it all. Which is why during one of his jaunts I escaped. No note. No trail. No contact. He lost his shit. Until he didn’t. Crushed and devastated. Where are the air quotes. It was my fault. How potent we are. I DONT WANT THAT “power.” I am still siphoning out my fuel tank. He is fine. FINE. Smear campaign surely. Probably a new source et al. Me? Picking up the pieces. Healing. Still going wtf happened. Like Puerto Rico, poor infrastructure getting hit by a hurricane and having (most of) privileged society blame me. Me being the voice of abuse. A thing. Still. An object to silence. The depths of this are incredible. Sort of like the big big ocean with lots of water around PR. Good God at least “our” (not mine) president can mildly distract me. When he’s not infuriating me. I see so much of what he does and says through victim eyes. Blame shifting son of a b. Mic drop. Rant over.

  3. NarcAngel says:

    You could have saved some keystrokes and stopped at The Smiling Ass.

    1. HG Tudor says:


    2. Dr. Harleen Quinzel PsyD. says:


  4. Rhyming Fun says:

    This man looks mean as one might see in a thriller-movie. I would not go near him. The Narcissists that I was with looked kind and so sweet. This is why I did not think they could ever be anything other than “good people” 🙁

    1. Dr. Harleen Quinzel PsyD. says:

      Rhyming for fun,

      What do you mean? That reptilian stare isn’t pulling you in? Doesn’t make you wanna just pounce on him? Lmao

      1. Rhyming Fun says:


      2. Douglas says:

        Yes! The reptilian stare, I noticed that in her eyes. I’ll never forget that look again and I’ll run like hell the next time I see it.

  5. Dr. Harleen Quinzel PsyD. says:

    I’m gonna keep it completely real. The few manipulations that once worked in the past dont work anymore because I have no tolerance. I wasn’t even blind to them when they were occurring but I tried to give the person benefit of the doubt and be tolerant on a few occasions. I learned never the fuck again.

    In the past I would get even – I still probably would to some degree but to be totally honest I would probably be so turned off I would clock out and detach.

    I don’t care how emotionally involved I am anymore – I’m done with the bullshit.

  6. Dr. Harleen Quinzel PsyD. says:

    1.) condescend – annoying but at this point I’ll space out, roll my eyes, or speak to the person in a condescending manner.

    2.) inside jokes – honestly? Rude and boring and show that the person has the emotional maturity of a middle school student – doesn’t bother me other than show me what an ass the person is and I don’t respect them….

    3.) our ex – I’ve played this game before – not a good look – it’s ugly and why does she feel so comfortable to engage with you – what are you doing to keep her hanging on …..? I never tolerated that game for long when I was younger and I sure as fuck won’t tolerate it now at all. Cut the shit or you’re cut out… can’t play someone who was a player – let’s continue

    4.) ignoring you – tried to put up with this space bullshit on two occasions – I learned early to never tolerate that shit. Each time I found a man to talk to because I was being neglected so please test me …ignore me so I can have time to engage with a man who can give me the proper attention so I cheat or leave ur ass – I won’t chase after any man ever the fuck again…

    5.) the ex – hmmmm you sure you wanna take this there? Go back to her – knock urself out – not a game you wanna play with me… I will leave it there ….

    6.) flirting – oh so you think you can disrespect me? That’s cool – watch how i won’t give you a reaction – why is that? – because I’ll be too busy flirting with guy or filing your bullshit in my mental filing cabinet – ill either disengage completely or blatenly disrespect you…

    7.) spending time with other people – oh that’s obnoxious but hey that’s fine I’ll be spending time with people you don’t know about or engaging with other people – hmmm you sure you wanna do that? I won’t chase you.

  7. Merripen says:

    Reading this has put that (still familiar, not yet forgotten) twist of anger/dread/consternation in my gut. Oh my goodness, nothing else feels quite like being painted into this frustrating emotional corner. HG nailed it on each of these scenarios. You simply are denied the ability to express any of what you are feeling when this technique is deployed. All you can do is eat your emotions and emote nothing from your face or body, even as those emotions are eating you alive from inside (just like the wildebeest). It is unnatural and maddeningly frustrating for an empath to not express what they are feeling, to not have their side of the matter correctly understood. Oh my god. I so don’t miss this feeling. blech

  8. MyTrueSelf says:

    The ex was good at this. He liked to do it, then he’d pause, watch me – my reaction, he’d hold a steady stare, head slightly cocked to one side and his lips just at the start of a smirk.
    Then he’d ask “so…how’s our relationship going for you?”
    It was a totally loaded question.
    I felt sicked by how helpless I felt, how inept and ill equipped I was at handling it. I must have been I feeding right into his pathology.
    Did he enjoy it? It seems to me he revelled in the power.
    I don’t mean to seem melodramatic but I can’t get out of my mind how helpless one must feel being at the mercy of a torturer.

    1. Rhyming Fun says:

      I think about this, too.

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