Psychology student Veronica Welles answered the question, “Why are narcissists so skilled at manipulation?” on quora.com
The answer will give you tremendous insight into people like cult leaders Mas Sajady and Fei Zhou if you’re interested in that.
The answer is very good and here it is:
Most people have four qualities that make them appear weak and stupid to the narcissists, and they are
Narcissists lack all four, and this is what’s responsible for their puzzling abilities. The four qualities impose internal restraints on external behavior, limiting us and impeding us from doing many things, effectively hindering our capability at obtaining gains through nefarious means. I can appreciate the narcissist’s perspective that these qualities make us weak because they do hinder our ability to manipulate and obtain advantages over others. This is evident in life, on a level playing field, a narcissist with the same abilities tends to get ahead of others.
For example, if you love someone, you fear to harm them, but the narcissist doesn’t love anyone, they have no prohibitions against harming anyone. Love for the narcissist is a stepping stone or an open door to advantages and gains and no subsequent burden when something even better comes along.
If you lie, you know you are lying, which makes your lies unconvincing because your body will betray you, but truth doesn’t exist for the narcissist, lies are truth, they can even convince their bodies, they believe their own lies, which makes them expert liars because they lie to themselves. You cannot.
Trust and loyalty are actually subsets of love, you do not want to betray people’s trust in you, and you trust people not to betray your trust in them. The narcissist perceives trust as openings, they trust no one, and they do not want to trust anyone, but they know they must not let anyone know this, so they learned which masks obtain the most trust, and then they plan to exploit that trust someday. They want others to trust them and create openings for them, while they distrust everyone and offer no openings. Ultimately this doesn’t work out, this is ultimately self betrayal because in the long run, they rob themselves of a future containing people who trust them. And no one will let them in anymore.
Enlightened self-interest disallows you from doing many things that you could have done in life, that you might have enjoyed doing or obtained benefits from, like taunting and provoking your spouse to relieve your boredom, having an affair and risking your marriage, stealing the candy bar, workplace fraud, telling pointless lies to gain esteem, betraying your promises or loyalties for small gains. You forsake many short term gains in life because you intuitively perceive that they are actually long term losses. The myopia of the narcissist renders in them an inability to envision the long term, and therefore gives them an inconsequential view of life, short term gains lead to no long term consequences, nothing holding them back from stealing that candy bar. This is actually due to their inability to empathize with their own future self, so they steal from their own future, effectively stealing from themselves.
So lacking all four qualities and therefore utterly lacking any internal restraints, the narcissist embarks on a lifetime course to hone their lying, cheating, stealing, and backstabbing abilities without the headwinds of morality or enlightened self-interest. The narcissist beholds the treasures of all their ill gotten gains which causes them to perceive normal people as weak and stupid because they could not do the things which come so easily to the narcissist, from which the narcissist obtains so many benefits from.
The narcissist is unlike you or I, when we lie, cheat, steal, or backstab, we unconsciously make half-hearted efforts and these reduce our chances of success and increase our chances of failure, eventually we learn from the pain of getting caught that it’s not worth it, and so we learned to prefer to take the honest path in life, simply because it was less painful for us. The narcissist approached the arts of lying, cheating, stealing, and backstabbing like an artist right from the start, fully committed to seeing the venture through, unconditionally. For them, these arts have only brought gains, not punishment, because, unlike for us, they were largely successful for the narcissist.
For them, it is a disgrace and a delight that you cannot seem to muster the capability to get these arts right.
The narcissist is so skilled at manipulation because they manipulated themselves first. They lie to themselves, they steal from their own future, they betray all love until there is no love left, even self-love. They’ve manipulated themselves into a corner inside, this makes them desperate to make manipulation work.
Manipulation is all they have left in life, it’s the single trick they use to deal with any and all life situations, they have unwittingly forced themselves to become very skilled at their only tool because they have no other tools left to get through life.
This makes them very easy to figure out. If you know how.