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.


  1. Thank you so much! The article is very helpful for me to understand better what happened to me and how I tried to react to that… of course with no successs…. He very often used word salad for several hours prefering the late evening and night. I felt unable to escape the situation and leave the flat because I didn’t want to leave our very little child sleeping in the next room. I was in a trap.

  2. I….Love…YOU ….H.G. This one is SOOOOOOO right on time. I was victimized by word salad earlier and found myself drifting back to the old bewildered, deer caught in the headlights behavior. I have caught myself.

  3. Great advice. And the last point about eating steak instead of salad made me laugh 🙂
    There really is no way to win one of these word salad arguments. My mother engaged in them often when I was young and it was infuriating. I ended up screaming at her in frustration.
    I now know how much fuel that must have given her. To me it was painful and nervewracking, but to her it was like a sport. She intentionally guided a conversation towards it and relished the outcome.
    These kinds of people really do have serious mental flaws.

  4. Dear Mr Tudor,
    We have a current friend who plays word games over text .. I am sooo onto it!
    My narc friend played the word salad game with me so much so, he would’ve been “peeing his pants” with excitement for all the added fuel I was giving him!
    Mr Tudor, I don’t know you and we’ve never met, but, you are the one and only person in my life who has taught me more about people than anyone else. I’m so much more aware of conversations and what is being said .. I look, I listen, I’m learning! Why is it that some people I come across, its like “deja vu” …. it was like that with my narc friend? Is this a common thing with narcs and empaths ?

    This is a bloody good article for us … thank you

  5. How I wish I had this years ago! Enlightening! I engaged with N he drained my life force with years of this and Perfect Sense. He ended each long fruitless conversation by acting like I was to blame for the deterioration . Idiot empath gave and gave and gave years of my life energy love compassion tenacity loyalty into the pit . God it hurt . Thx HG this and Perfect sense are so spot on.

  6. “Eat some steak instead. It is tasty.”

    HG you’re so funny.

    You not only described it perfectly, but you got our side so well. OMG, my Mid Range narc experience was ALL about word salad! I didn’t know there was a term for it, but I kept thinking, ‘Circular arguments that lead nowhere and have no resolution.’

    Since he was so secretive and evasive with me, I was much of the time left guessing what he was feeling or thinking. This gave him a feeling of superiority/control and fuel at the fact that he knew I spent so much time wondering/guessing.

    Such as, I would say, ‘Ok, the reason you feel such and such is because…’ then he would interrupt me and say, ‘You don’t know what I feel.’

    ‘Ok, so you think so and so is like this because…’ Interruption: ‘You don’t know what I think.’

    Me: ‘So what DO you think and feel then? Please tell me. I want to know. I am willing to listen.’

    Him: ‘ I don’t like you presuming what I think and feel.’

    Me: ‘But I am asking you to explain so I don’t have to presume.’

    Him: ‘I just thought you would understand. I guess I was wrong about you.’

    Me: ‘How can I understand when you won’t tell me the problem?’

    Him: ‘I can’t trust you with that information.’

    Me: ‘When will this phase end?’

    Him: ‘It angers me that you call it a phase.’

    Me: ‘What would you call it then?’

    Him: ‘You just need to accept me for the way I am.’

    Sound familiar, anyone? I found an old email and pretty much just relayed the back and forth shit.

Vent Your Spleen!

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