Wondering how to deal with the narcissist in your life?
You are not alone.
Many online blogs and support groups for victims of narcissists have sprouted up over the years, as people have realized the damage a narcissist has done in their lives.
All of this online support for victims of narcissism can bring a sigh of relief – phew! I’m not crazy!
But you probably want practical information, as well.
How do I deal with the narcissist? What do I do? Can I stand up to the narcissist?
How to Deal with a Narcissist
Dealing with narcissists is challenging. You can’t necessarily outsmart a narcissist, as they tend to be very cunning, manipulative people who are used to getting their way.
However, you can use smart strategies to deal with the narcissist and mitigate the damages.
Here are a few strategies to deal with the recalcitrant narcissist in your life:
1. Establish and Stick to Boundaries with the Narcissistic Person.
We often have this unconscious idea that we are held hostage to anyone who wants to talk to or interact with us. You can and should say no to the narcissist who is being overly demanding of your time.
For example, if a narcissist is hogging up all your time on the telephone, just tell them you need to go. Hang up if you need to. Don’t let them monopolize your life.
2. Use Empathic Validation if You Need to Confront a Narcissist.
“Empathic validation” is a fancy way of saying, butter up your criticism with a compliment first. In fact, criticism (for anyone) is often best accepted in a sandwich form – compliment, constructive criticism, compliment.
3. Avoid Sharing Too Much Information with the Narcissist.
The acronym “TMI” (Too Much Information) is often said jokingly when someone discloses some personal info that may be a bit too personal. But remind yourself that “TMI” with a narcissist is just about anything personal because the narcissist can and will use that against you.
For example, let’s say you share with a narcissistic person that you were fired from a job once due to inputting the wrong information into a computer. The narcissist is likely to bring that up again, often in a nasty way, say, each time you use a computer. Or, worse, they will bring it up in front of a person you are trying to obtain a job from.
4. Don’t Make the Mistake of Assuming the Narcissist Cares.
Don’t ever assume that the narcissist has genuine feelings or cares. This can be one of the toughest realizations for a kind, caring person. It can be very hard to believe that another human being is really that cold and calculating. We have a tendency to go into denial about this sort of thing. But just try to drill this into your head: Narcissists really don’t care.
5. No Drama! Let the Narcissist’s Games Roll Off Your Back
Narcissists are experts at games and drama. The extremely talented narcissist goes even a step further – they stir up the drama, and then sit back, above it all, acting like they had nothing to do with it.
For example, a narcissistic mother would stir up a rivalry and animosity between two sisters. She’d say one thing to sister one, and then another thing to sister two. Then you, as sibling #3, gets put in the middle.
If you confront the mother about this, she’ll deny that she had anything to do with the drama, and then act all aggrieved that you’d even suggest she’d do such a “horrible thing.”
Try not to get sucked into games like this.
6. Don’t Second Guess Yourself with a Narcissist.
You don’t need to justify yourself to the narcissist. But, that’s the game they are going to play with you. It’s all about making you doubt yourself and your perceptions.
What narcissists typically engage in is an insidious psychological technique called “gaslighting.”
On a very simple level, it goes like this:
The narcissist does something selfish, and you confront them on it. The narcissist then twists the event around to make it sound like you were the selfish one.
Narcissists are experts at reframing reality in a way that makes them look good and you look bad.
While it can be infuriating and confusing, don’t fall for it. Stick to your guns.
7. Remember: With a Narcissist, It’s Not Personal and Never Was.
With a narcissist, you really truly are just a pawn in the game of life to them. And, if it wasn’t you who took their abuse, it would have been someone else. While this may be cold comfort, do try to remember that you didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with you or bad about you if you have been the victim of a narcissist’s abuse.
8. Do a Reality Check After the Narcissist Spins a Story.
Narcissists are typically liars, and not only that, they are usually good liars. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t feel guilt in the way other people do.
So, when the narcissist tells you something (particularly about someone else) that is very upsetting, take a deep breath. It may not be true at all! Does the narcissist in your life tell you things that other people are supposedly saying about you behind your back? Things like, “Everyone kept telling me about you, but I didn’t listen”, or, “Your friend told me not to trust you.”
Check the veracity of the statement before being sucked into the drama (remember the earlier story about the narcissistic mom).
9. Don’t Try to One-Up the Narcissist.
One of the worst things you can do with a narcissist is to try to beat them at their own game. Don’t show off with the narcissist. Don’t brag, preen, or otherwise try to make yourself look good in front of them.
Narcissists are the kings and queens of self-aggrandizement. If you try to compete with them on that level, you will always lose.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should act like a wilted flower and just slink around when the narcissist is in view. Work on having a healthy self-esteem and try to be as natural as possible.
10. Get Away from the Narcissist.
While this may not be feasible for the short-term, if you can, consider separating yourself from the narcissist as much as possible.
If you are still married to the narcissist and have children, consider the long-term effects of emotional abuse on the kids. It may be best if you leave.
However, if you do decide to maintain a relationship with a narcissist, try to keep some distance.
Get time away from them as much as possible so you can center yourself and get back in touch with reality.
11. Ignore the Narcissist – That’ll Really Get ‘Em.
Narcissists thrive on triggering reactions from people. This is how they gain power over you – while you lose control.
So, when the narcissist goes on the attack, one of the most effective ways to deal with it is to just ignore them. This can be challenging, as narcissists have an intuitive way of pushing people’s buttons. Deep breathing and stress reduction techniques can help you keep your cool.
Keeping Your Cool Around a Narcissist
You may have noticed a theme with the recommendations for dealing with a narcissist. That theme, in a nutshell, is:
KEEP YOUR COOL.
Sometimes, the best way to stand up to a narcissist is to simply remain calm.
In general, you’ll do best if you can reduce your emotional reactions to the narcissist in question.
This can be very challenging, however, as the garden-variety narcissist is typically an expert in pushing buttons. They have a superpower which allows them to know just what will trigger a reaction in the people around them.
In order to keep your cool, you will need to work on yourself.
There are many different ways to do this, including seeking help with a therapist or pursuing self-help strategies.
Mind/body techniques such as meditation and yoga can be extremely helpful in reducing the temptation to react to a narcissist’s antics.
You can also consider joining a support group, where you can get encouragement from other victims of narcissists. This is especially helpful if you are dealing with a narcissist who specializes in gaslighting, i.e., making you think you are the one to blame for everything when it’s really them.
The Narcissist in Your Life Does Not Have to Define You
Fortunately, the more you practice “not reacting” to the narcissist in question, the better you’ll get at it.
Soon, you will learn how to deal with the narcissist without that person ruling your life. The path won’t always be easy, and you will have moments where you slip up and lose your cool.
But take heart – it can and will get better.