What is Narcissistic Mirroring? The Dark Mirror of Narcissism

Have you ever been the “new person” in a group who know each other well?

You might have felt, at first, like you were a little out of the loop. They seem to be on the same wavelength. They have the same humour styles. They might even speak in similar tones of voice, or use the same mannerisms.

This is an example or normal, healthy mirroring. It’s not that a group of very similar people just happened to find each other. It’s that, after spending a lot of time with people, we adapt our behaviour in little ways, to match the other people in the group. When people like each other, they become like each other. 

It’s a natural human behavior that helps us say “I’m in your group, and you’re in mine.” In fact, some psychologists have argued that when children don’t get this healthy mirroring from their parents, it can be a trigger to developing pathological narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) in the first place.

But when does Narcissistic mirroring become a weapon for the Narcissist? When does normal mirroring change into the Dark Mirror?

Why is The Narcissist Mirroring You?

The Narcissist Mirroring You - Narcissistic Mirroring

The normal mirroring we’ve just discussed happens slowly and gradually over time. In narcissistic mirroring, the narcissist takes this process and accelerates it.

They use the words you use, claim to like the things you like, and copy your mannerisms – even if they just met you 5 seconds ago.

The idea is to make you feel as if you’re in the company of someone you’ve known for years. It makes you feel seen, like someone really gets you. When everything you like and value is being validated by what seems to be a very confident, successful person, it’s easy to see why people fall for narcissists.

At the same time, narcissist mirroring isn’t about true closeness (narcissists, in general, tend to avoid true intimacy). It’s a trick to make you feel comfortable with them, to gain your trust – to get you to lower your guard.

The Dark Mirror

what is narcissistic mirroring?

As I’ve just mentioned, people who mirror are generally people who’ve known each other for a long time – people who trust each other. By using mirroring early and aggressively, the narcissist engineers that trust more quickly. 

When you feel seen and understood, then naturally you start to open up. You reveal deep and personal things about yourself. Narcissists sometimes know just how to push people’s buttons – and this is one way they learn which buttons to push.

Eventually, narcissistic mirroring becomes a weapon

When they get to the phase of the relationship where the put-downs, abuse, and devaluation starts, the dark version of mirroring begins. Now the mirroring switches from a positive reflection of the things you desire and value, to a negative one.

Examples of Narcissistic Mirroring

So what does narcissistic mirroring look like in practice? Often it starts with simple things, building a sense of shared commonalities and interests.

You say you like jazz. “I love jazz! Jazz is amazing. That’s real music”
You say your favorite color is purple “My favorite color is purple too!”

If you say you love to go out and party to let your hair down, so do they, but if you’d said you like nothing more than snuggling up with a good book, well, surprise surprise, so do they.

You’re sat there thinking “Oh my god, I have so much in common with this person!”, but in reality, it’s a facade.

Narcissistic mirroring often involves non-verbal communication too. Whether you lean forward, back, or to the side, they mirror that. If you talk fast and loud, they talk fast and loud. If you talk with your hands, they will too – and it might be an exact, carbon-copy of the hand movement you just made. 

Mirroring can sometimes involve bigger, more outright lies. You went to Disneyland last year? They went to Disneyland last year! You used to work in finance? Guess what, they used to work in finance! Your family is from Ireland? No way, their family is Irish too!

And what about dark mirroring, what might that look like?

Well, say you revealed that you’re worried you’ll turn out like your mother, someone you didn’t get along with. They’ll store this information away for use another day. Then at the right moment, they’ll mirror that back

“That thing you just said there, that sounds like something your mother would say.”

In this example, they might use this put-down whenever they need to feel better at your expense, or to help win an argument.

Or say you’ve revealed your insecurities about work, and don’t feel you do your job well. Later, you hear about a higher-level job opening, and you’re thinking of going for it.

“You’re thinking of applying for a promotion? That sounds crazy, that sounds like too much for you. Are you sure you’re ready for that?”

In this case, the idea of you getting a promotion makes them insecure (they are the successful ones, remember?), so they use your weak points to talk you out of it.

Dealing With Narcissistic Mirroring

Dealing With Narcissistic Mirroring

Sam Vankin, who we met at the start of this article, recommends a strategy for dealing with narcissists – you mirroring narcissistic behavior.

In other words, you turn mirroring against them. If they shout, you shout. If they leave, you leave.
If they act suspicious that you’re cheating, you do the same to them. This advice crops up from place to place around the internet, so I thought I would address it here.

This approach may work in some situations and with some narcissists but in general, I would advise caution. Narcissists have been playing this game their whole lives, and you are new to it. It’s a bit like challenging a chess grandmaster to a game – they simply have more experience than you, and have a better idea of what to do in certain situations.

Also, when narcissists feel threatened, they often respond with rage, abuse, or other nasty tactics. So you’re potentially leading the way to more of the things you’re trying to avoid.

Instead, first take the steps that you should take when dealing with narcissists

  • Look after yourself: through self-help, healthy habits, or seeing a therapist to increase self-esteem and self love
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear rules for what you will and will not accept
  • Leave the narcissist: If their behavior goes beyond your boundaries, leave the narcissist

However, with mirroring, there is a further step you can take – be a better mirror to yourself. Don’t accept comments that mirror you, if they are not accurate. This applies to positive comments as well as negative ones. This means making a plan to build self-esteem and inner security – know who you are, and become comfortable with that. 

That way, if someone mirrors you, you can make a realistic assessment of these statements. Not only in terms of whether it’s true or not, but also, whether it really matters.

So, now that you’ve learned a little about Narcissistic Mirroring, I hope you’re better equipped to recognize and deal with them. And if you know anyone who lives or deals with a narcissist, feel free to share this article with them too!

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narcissist mirroring you

4 thoughts on “What is Narcissistic Mirroring? The Dark Mirror of Narcissism”

  1. This article resonates with me as I lived with a narcissist for years. Currently I am in a healthy relationship with a wonderful woman. My partners sister is a classic narcissist and constantly tries to bully & control my partners life. One of her recent behaviours is to take an experience from my partners life and twist it in to her story. She will does this at gatherings, in front of other people, almost daring us to speak up and confront her. ( Our best defence is to ignore her & not engage as she can become enraged & harass us for days) I am not sure if this is a twisted form of mirroring my partners life or a conscious effort to stab at her sister. I have learned to not react & meditate before responding but I see the pain it causes my partner and I try to be as supportive & comforting to her. Thank you for your articles providing many insights into these sad twisted people.

  2. I wondered why the narcissist was always watching me, stealthily, observing me, as a spy might do. Just in casual gatherings, or in my office, watching me, observing. After several disruptive encounters with narcissists and THEIR spies, and much distress about the same, I have lately come to realize they were all watching me; I think now, to get information they could use against me. I was an accomplished person, degreed, and hard-working. That is what they wanted to take from me. It’s been a trial.

  3. Silence is actually the best way to take care of yourself. We are too quick in our neediness to accept a narc compliments and grooming. I’ll graciously say thanks and not make a big deal of compliments from someone who just met me or knows very little about me. I try to be honest with myself, and besides a secure person in charge of their inner child doesn’t typically need a lot of complements, I only consider compliments (or criticisms) from people I really know and trust. Biggest mistakes I made is trusting too fast and revealing too much too soon. That will turn off normal people balanced people because you are throwing your inner needy child into their arms to fix, attempting by attaching your inner child’s emotional umbilical cord. In the end it this only attracts opportunistic narcs that will give you want you want up front but only as ploy to suck you dry (as they attach their hidden umbilical cord to you and suck you dry with their promises of love). Quit looking to strangers to nurture your broken, hurt and lost child! Like you were dropped off at the door of stranger expecting them to really care.

  4. It sucks but, also be suspicious if new friends and people online. I made a new friend in a site I frequent and he seens to be mirroring me. Likes what I like, basically repeats what I say with different wording, and sats he has the same ideals and such. He over shares about personal things that have nothing to do with the conversation.

    I feed him some bait (started talking about my old website and coding) abd what-do-you-know ge gas a website wuth his books up and blah blah. Not that that means he is a narc but it does seem funny.

    Because of this I’m getting that red flag feeling and pulling back s bit more. I hate doing this but after having an N dad and my ex was a Narc I don’t trust anyone.

    Also he seems too eager to help with things. At the sane time he could just be this wonderful friend I made online, so I’m not going to be obsessed about it.

    It’s okay to be a little cautious if you ask me.


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