Is there a word for someone who always tends to be the catalyst to conflict, then backs out of said conflict with a victim mentality? For example provoking an argument and then saying something like, "I'm done arguing, you always treat me poorly" or "why did you have to turn this into an argument?".

I'm not simply looking for words that describe someone who likes to cause conflict, such as:

  • Instigator
  • Antagonist

I'm also not looking for words that describe someone who makes themselves a victim in any conflict. I'm looking for a blend of both.

What word is there to describe an instigator who makes a victim out of themselves whenever someone responds to their instigation?

  • There's a saying, "You can dish it out, but you can't take it." Aug 4, 2017 at 20:06
  • That would also imply equal participation. For example, someone teasing someone yet getting angry when being teased. The scenario I've outlined is more unbiased and does not imply that anyone even "dished it back" so to speak.
    – Nate I
    Aug 4, 2017 at 20:08
  • 6
    urban dictionary has the word crybully which seems to be what you are looking for
    – depperm
    Aug 4, 2017 at 20:10
  • 1
    @depperm I did see "crybully" and "crybaiter", both of which are fairly self-descriptive. Maybe they're the only words that can apply.
    – Nate I
    Aug 4, 2017 at 20:12
  • This reminds me of 'race-baiting.' Someone introduces a controversial topic in order to get you to comment on it, and then uses your comment to play the victim and thereby slander you. Obviously you want a broader term, but that is the concept, right? I was also thinking perhaps a 'gas-lighter.'
    – user191160
    Aug 5, 2017 at 20:56

3 Answers 3


If they're doing it on purpose, they could be labeled a "manipulator." If they're not doing it on purpose, they could be a "coward." In both contexts, an adjective that could describe this behavior is "narcissistic."

  • Indeed, though all three are such massive blanket statements that you could mean any number of things by referring to someone as any of them.
    – Nate I
    Aug 4, 2017 at 20:16
  • True, you would have to apply context along with these terms in order to show a specific meaning. I believe the term "gaslighting" may include the bait-and-switch behavior that you are talking about. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting
    – PephenKinD
    Aug 4, 2017 at 20:21

A sports analogy from soccer/futbol is to dive or flop

an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed

A conflict occurred, possibly initiated by the diver, who reacts exaggeratedly to work the ref for a determination of a foul against the diver.


I think the word you're looking for is "Narcissist." The behavior you are describing is typical of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  • 2
    While the behaviour might well be likely for someone with that disorder, the common meaning of narcissist has nothing to do with instigating conflict, nor with playing the victim, it's mostly about self-absorption. Jun 18, 2019 at 5:03

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