Nonverbal Tactics Used by Narcissists and Psychopaths to Seduce and Control People in Romantic Relationships

I just got a media request to discuss the traits and tactics used by narcissists to control people. The journalist was inspired by the following article in the link to seek more information on tactics used to manipulate their targets.  Can my next media request be another story on Prince Harry and Meghan? Something happy.

Nonverbal Tactics Used by Narcissists and Psychopaths to Seduce and Control People in Romantic Relationships.  By Patti Wood

I am a body language expert who speaks and writes on charisma, narcissism and other dark triad behaviors. Malignant Narcissist, may use nonverbal behaviors as tactics to manipulate their targets in the different stages of their abusive romantic relationships. They seem to follow a playbook as their pattern of behavior in their relationship is always, follow the same three stages, Idolize, Devalue and Discard. And typically they cycle through the stages again and again in what is called, “Rinse and Repeat” Confusing their targets as they go from incredibly attentive and loving to mean and cruel. Eerily the first stage they act out, “Idolization” can last for a weeks, months or even the first 20 years of a marriage. What stage they are in and what nonverbal behaviors they select depend on what is happening in their game. Narcissists use their target as a source of narcissistic supply.  They feed on the targets emotions like a vampire. That supply may be gained from the attention love and adoration of their target and or the pain and anguish of their target and or the narcissistic rush from seeing the confusion of the target as they “dupe” them. Without “supply” Narcissists feel they will metaphorically or physically die) The Narcissists will cycle through being sweet and or mean toward their targets in order to get the most supply. So what may seem like loving, affectionate, ideal lover behaviors of a healthy person are “acted out” by the narcissists to gain supply?  If someone is not sure if they are n healthy relationship or not. They should check in with their feeling, emotions and limbic system’s stress responses when they are with their partner and note if they feel drastic shifts in emotions in short periods of time, from high to low, and or they feel drained tired, confused, scared or other negative emotions in excess as those are  that are not normal feeling if you are with a healthy romantic partner

1.       Hypnotic gaze/starring - They look at their target with focused intense gaze. They are reading their target’s every emotion to know how to act. Hypnotic gaze typically is done to test boundaries. They may do or say something uncomfortable right before or after the hypnotic gaze to test how the target responds. It may feel to the target like love or seduction. The target needs to check in to their feelings and body. If the gaze makes them feel off, or it seems too intense, too exciting or dangerous, they can test the “Health” of the gaze by breaking it. Even moving away from it and or getting up and move or leave the room and monitor if they feel relief and if their gazing partner’s response to the break is overly negative.

2.       Simple Gazing - We typically think of Narcissist needing attention, but in the Idolizing stage they gaze with adoration, and desire “at” their target. They gaze and gaze till the target gazes back at them. They create a feedback loop to get the constant gaze and attention they desire. It’s tricky for any target to see this as something manipulative, as you naturally want to gaze as someone you desire, like or love.  A “tell” that it could be manipulative is that it starts immediately, often on the first date. Another “tell” is that can go on for hours, till the target feels like they have gone on a long trip, (That is actually a trip through stages of exhilaration, to exhaustion and back again through the cycle.). The target can check in with their emotions and body to see if the gazing feels good or not. Once the narcissist has you in their gaze game they know they have you. Eye contact that intense can be highly addictive. That’s where the narcissists have the power over the target. Now they have groomed the target to gaze intensely at them so they have supply and they can break off the eye contact to punish their targets/victims. You may want to note any nonverbal behavior in a narcissists that seems to have an abrupt on off switch that they control.

3.       Invading space - Narcissists as a rule stand closer than other people. They use space invasion to gain attention, intimidate, show power, test boundaries, and to seduce.

4.       Matching and Mirroring -They are masters at matching and mirroring any targets body language especially in the Idolization phase. Matching and mirroring are normal behaviors for people that like and trust each other. But this will be, like their other nonverbal behaviors, over the top. An example will be they reach for the glass the same moment the target reaches for theirs. The narcissists may even smile and or comment on how high highly matched they are. They may use Again, the narcissists is acting using a nonverbal behavior manipulatively to create a connection then they can a stops doing that “wonderful” behavior in the devaluing stage to punish their target. Once the matching and mirroring stops, it may feel to the target that their partner has changed personalities. It truth they have just stopped mimicking their target. What the target see is the true person unmasked.

5.       Breaking Boundaries and Rules -They break boundaries, so they may even on the first meeting  touch a target’s face or leg or in some other inappropriate way to test how the target responds. If someone is going boundary breaking note how you feel. For example, if you find yourself freezing in place, that is body saying you are in danger. Narcissists may mask the intimacy in sweetness or politeness, for example holding hands or putting their arm around the target after they have only been together a few hours, but acting as if they are already connected and inseparable and bound together. Assuming a relationship, with physically intimacy when there is not a relationship is not normal. Physical intimacy in a healthy relationship, such a holding hands appears over time.

6.       Lifting - They may lift the target up in hug, throw them over their shoulder or carry the target. The “lifting you off your feet” may feel thrilling to the target but, cause them not to be grounded and strong “on their own two feet.” It is also something parents do with children. It may indicate a power play. In the seduction/idealization phase the narcissist works to make themselves more powerful and the target less powerful and may use parent to child behaviors.

7.       Talking over the target and or not letting the target talk - Dominating the conversation. This “over talking” involves auditory space invasion and other paralanguage factors that show they are in control. They are often quite charming and good story tellers, so it may be hypnotic to listen to them. The target needs to watch for a lack of inclusion. They need to note if they are in a conversation at all. They may just be listening to a monologue and that is not normal. A loving partner shares talking time even with an introverted partner.

8.       Loud Voice - the narcissist’s voice may get louder and stronger, even when they and their target are the only two people in the room. The target needs to note if there are abrupt changes in the emotions of the voices say from seductive, to angry. A predatory narcissists may respond with vocalized emotions that don’t seem to fit what is happening. For example, they may get angry very quickly if the target does not give their partner their full rapt attention.

9.       Looking at Target as if they pity them or think they are crazy-- In the “Gas lighting” game that typically occurs in the Devalue and Discard stage the Narcissists will tell the target they did or didn’t do something or something did or didn’t happen and then look at the target as if they are crazy. “You bought a new dress to go out Friday night?” “I didn’t say we would go out this Friday.” “I already have plans.” “You messed up.” Then they look at the target with pity. This is brutal manipulation as previously they gazed with love and admiration at the target for hours and hours. The change from sweet to mean creates cognitive dissonance in the target. And guess what? It can make the target feel crazy!

10.   Spending Time Talking - They take the targets time, and attention. Sometimes what makes it hard for the target to be or feel strong or fight back is shear amount of time that Narcissists spend talking. Time/Chronemics is a nonverbal phenomenon. Talking can become long monologues that go on and on. It steels time from the target and it can exhaust and wear their “target/partner/victim down. Charming Narcissists are spinners of tales and once they get on a role about anything it can be impossible to stop them What is the Idolize phase may have been back and forth conversations or interesting stories shared now seems never ending talking by the Narcissists. Targets have been “conditioned “to respond with their full rapt attention as that is what the Narcissist did for them at the beginning of the relationship and may occasionally treat them to. Targets want the intense attention they had but they may no longer be getting from the Narcissist, so the target may keep giving their all and listening intently.  Targets that don’t give their all can be punished further. Often by being given the polar opposite of what they craze, the silent treatment of the Narcissists.

11.   Silent Treatment - They also you the nonverbal method of the silent treatment. That could be in response their target asking them a question they don’t want to answer of making a request or to punish any behaviors they see as unacceptable. They can simply stop talking, they can leave the room. They may intensity the silent treatment by stooping  what where normal talking routines, such as multiple calls throughout the day, and or disappearing for hours, days or weeks unexpectedly. That is particularly brutal tool to use after the trauma bond has been formed with their target.  

12.   Abrupt mood changes and Parent/Adult/ Child role changes. If they narcissists is not getting what they want they can shift all their nonverbal behaviors in the blink of an eye and transform themselves. For example, if their target is chastised them or questioning them malignant narcissists can take on all the nonverbal behaviors of an innocent victimized child, with doe like eyes and soft rounded body language cues. The tell that they are not really innocent children is how the behaviors come on in an instant and seem to disappear as soon the subject changes and the narcissists has gotten what they wanted and or the subject changes. The narcissists can also shift into sudden anger they shocks their target so the target can continue questioning them or requesting something from them.

13.   Dead Eyes - In the devalue discard phases the narcissists may show their “Dead Eyes,” cold and malevolent and soulless and scary. The target is actually seeing the emptiness of the Narcissists. Malignant narcissists act and play their game to be fed because behind their charming mask there is an empty void. 

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at

Body Language Experts Analyze the Royal Family at Prince Louis's Christening Prince William's facial expressions say EVERYTHING.

"Prince William gives off this 'photos ... now ... really?' vibe," Susan Constantine, human behavioral expert and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Reading Body Language, tells "His pursed lips, intense eyes, and stern face show he was irritated with the moment, not his family."
Still, he takes initiative and serves as the protector of his family. He takes charge with Prince George and Princess Charlotte (TBH, they probably are the real bosses here) and instructs them to greet the Archbishop of Canterbury. "It's evident that he's an active father and totally present with his children in this moment," explains Constantine. "He divides (and conquers) his attention between George and Charlotte, while still keeping Kate and his newborn nearby."
Kate, on the other hand, is cradling the person of the hour: Prince Louis. "Her hand is perfectly bent to cradle the baby, giving him a security," says Wood. "But what's really significant is Kate's spontaneous and joyous expression, a rather unusual sight compared to her shy and restrained demeanor." Her open-toothed smile and raised eyebrows indicate that she's attentive and experiencing some kind of surprise (joking by the Archbishop, perhaps?).
"Her 'up' body language literally brings up the energy of those around her, including spectators like us," Wood tells us. "The definition in her neck, open mouth, and raised eyebrows show that she's not only listening to what the Archbishop has to say but she's actually interested."
Following the service, the family exited the Chapel giving us one of their finest Kodak moments yet. We're talking Christmas card 2018 material.
 "In this moment, Kate's face is nearly identical to when she exited the Lindo wing after giving birth," says Wood. "She's totally enamored with this baby and exclaiming 'OMG, look at what we did!'"
Take a look for yourself:
Later in the day, Prince William has also eased up a bit and looks more relaxed in this moment, according to Constantine. "Even better, the family is walking in unison and their feet mirror one another's." Same goes for Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Precious!
But it's not all about Kate, William, and their adorable offspring: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also gave us something to gush about. "When leaving, Meghan reaches for Harry's hand, which is obviously a norm for her," says Constantine. "However, she quickly pulls back because she knows that's not royal protocol." Meghan, the heart wants what it wants, eh?
 The bottom line: This family's love knows no bounds. The body language experts agree that Prince William and Kate Middleton are doting parents and 100% smitten with their little ones. Plus, Kate has totally mastered carrying a sleeping baby while walking in stilettos. Now, that's a true queen ... we mean, Duchess.

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at