Dealing with a narcissist.
Dealing with a narcissist can be very challenging. Narcissists can drain your energy, make you feel miserable, and manage to focus all the attention on themselves. For a lot of people dealing with a narcissist is simply too much. They sooner or later start avoiding them. For others, the narcissist’s spouse or relative for instance, this may be impossible. For them I created this Dealing with a narcissist page. Here you’ll find easy tips and tricks to make living with people with a narcissistic personality disorder (a lot) easier. In case it’s difficult to bring these tips into practice, please contact me.
For more information about narcissism, go to:
- Being the child of a narcissistic parent?
- Information on narcissism.
- Having a narcissistic in-law.
- Interesting facts about narcissistic personality disorder.
- Online counseling for narcissism or for those who are dealing with narcissists.
- Take me to the homepage.
At Barends Psychology Practice guidance for people living or working with a narcissist is offered. Contact us to schedule a first, free of charge, appointment. (Depending on your health insurance, sometimes treatment can be reimbursed).
Dealing with a narcissist: the tips and tricks!
Here are the 7 tips and tricks you can use to start dealing with a narcissist in a healthy and productive way.
Identify the narcissist type you are dealing with.
Some experts believe there are two types of narcissists: the grandiose narcissists and the vulnerable narcissists. The grandiose narcissists behave grandiose, arrogant, and seem unaffected by criticism, whereas the vulnerable narcissists are easily hurt, ashamed, and are very sensitive to criticism. From a distance these two sub-types seem really different, but if you have a closer look then you see that in the presence of relatives or good friends the vulnerable narcissists behave grandiose, arrogant, and seem unaffected by criticism, whereas the grandiose narcissists are easily hurt, ashamed and very sensitive to criticism. In other words: even though they may seem different on the surface, I believe there is simply just 1 group: the narcissist. And the narcissist behaves differently around different people depending of their relationship to the narcissist.
So we have to take a look at the relationship you have with the narcissist, because that eventually determines how the narcissist treats you.
If you are a distant friend, relative or a somewhat distant colleague of the narcissist you may perceive him or her as friendly, social, charming, but also a little bit intimidating (verbally or non verbally). When you get to know him better you may think of him as a very confident and persuasive person.
If you are a good friend, a relative or his partner you will see a different side. He feels superior to you, tries to exploit you, denies you the pleasure of success (or tries to take credit for it), doesn’t care about your feelings or needs and doesn’t listen to you at all. If you oppose him he can get aggressive (verbally, non verbally, and physically), remorseless, and revengeful. And he demands admiration, a lot!
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Realize that the narcissist you’re dealing with has issues.
Usually someone with narcissistic personality disorder had an unhealthy childhood, unfortunately. The narcissist received (1) too much praise and no criticism at all or (2) too little love and empathy. As a result narcissism can develop, (1) because a child can develop a sense of entitlement or grandiosity, or (2) because he can develop poor self-esteem, depression, and the need to exploit others. In the first case the narcissist needs to think of himself as a superior person and needs admiration from others to maintain his self-image. In the second case the narcissist never received love, affection, and empathy and simply doesn’t know how to show it himself. He does, however, know how to exploit others because he saw (one of) his parents do this all the time.
So in a way dealing with a narcissist means dealing with someone who has issues himself. The problem is: they don’t know they have issues and they will deny it when you confront them. In fact, they may even turn against you or walk away from you. In some cases, for instance at work or in a relationship, this is not really what you want. So now that you know that they have issues themselves what can you do to make dealing with a narcissist easier for you?
Figure out what you can give and take.
Dealing with a narcissist can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting, because they tend to drain your energy levels. They are really good at playing tiring mind games and you aren’t even aware of it in most cases. They play these mind games because they want something from you. At the same time if you want something from them you need to play mind games as well. You’ll have to think about your upcoming conversation with the narcissist in terms of: what do I want from him and how can I get it? And perhaps even more important: how can I keep control of the conversation? Because you will end up doing something for them instead of the other way around if they take control of the conversation. In other words: dealing with a narcissist is tiring, so figure out what you can give and take.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I looking for in a friendship/relationship, and is it reasonable for me to expect this from someone with narcissism? If you need emotional support, someone to cheer you up and to make you feel cared for, then it’s not a good idea to turn to someone with narcissism.
- What do I want to share with the narcissist? Realize that whatever you share with a narcissist can/will be used against you if the narcissistic person can benefit from it. After all, the narcissist first thinks of himself, even when he seems to be interested in you.
- What are my own boundaries? Narcissists can be very charming and persuasive, and before you know it you’re doing things for them you actually don’t want to do. So set your boundaries and stick to them. It may be good for you to remind yourself of your boundaries before engaging into a conversation with a narcissist.
- Do I have realistic expectations? Can you expect someone with narcissism to show empathy when you tell him about your problems at home or at work? No, not really. So is it realistic to expect this of a narcissist? I don’t think so. High expectations will make you experience more disappointment and that is tiring.
Realize that they cannot offer you everything you need.
People with narcissism have difficulties understanding what other people’s needs are. And even if they do realize someone else needs emotional support or someone to simply be there for them, they usually see this in terms of: “How can I benefit from this sooner or later?”. If you expect someone with a narcissistic personality disorder to give you emotional support, to help you out with something, or to do you a (big) favor, then expect to get disappointed. Dealing with a narcissist can be exhausting if you expect too much.
So ask yourself what you need of this person and see if this is what he can offer you. If he can’t offer you what you need then stop asking for it (because it will frustrate you) and find someone else who can be there for you.
In the end it’s important that you can find a way to deal with a narcissist and that means that you have to lower your expectations in this regard. He or she will not adjust to you (because they think they are perfect), so you have to do that to a certain extend.
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Stay away from mind games.
Dealing with a narcissist becomes a lot easier when you stay away from their mind games. Why? Because you’ll end up doing something you don’t want to or saying things you didn’t want to. Another reason is that the narcissist simply enjoys mind games, because that is when he is in control. Being in control is important for them. It gives them the feeling of power and of being better than you. The moment they are about to lose the discussion they easily change tactics (like changing the subject or playing the victim) to gain control over the discussion again. If, somehow, they can’t get the upper-hand in the discussion don’t be surprised if they go berserk (shouting, screaming, throwing objects, cursing and so on). Why do they go berserk? Probably because they can’t deal with the frustration of not being in control. You probably don’t want to have such a scene. So what can you do about it? I guess the best thing is to recognize the games and to stay away from them. The moment you recognize them you can address them. Here are a few examples of mind games narcissists like to play and some tips of how to deal with them.
- Changing the subject – The moment you are about to win the argument or have the upper-hand in the discussion the narcissist will change the subject in such a way that he has the upper-hand again and that you have to defend yourself again. A good way to deal with this mind game is to mention it: ˝James, I understand you want to talk about that topic as well, but we are not finished with our current topic yet. We can discuss your new topic after we finished this one˝. In this way you let them know you hear them and you validate their point. At the same time you go back to the initial topic.
- Blaming you – By blaming you he is in control, he has the upper-hand. This approach makes you feel like defending yourself all the time and that makes you vulnerable. In relationships this is a powerful mind game. It’s easy to start blaming your partner as well, but it’s not constructive at all. A better way to deal with this mind game is to focus on solving the problem. If your partner blames you for something you can admit it and them immediately focus on problem solving strategies. This way you don’t give the narcissist the time to continue his blame game. You also show you are not that vulnerable as the narcissist would like you to be.
- Projection – Dealing with a narcissist can be really frustrating because of they can be hypocrites sometimes. They can blame or criticize you for things they do themselves as well. The reason they use projection is to shift the attention away from them. And they succeed in it when they provoke a reaction. The moment you start defending yourself you give them what they want: (1) they are in control again, and (2) the focus is on you! So what can you do about this? Some people say you have to walk away. In some situations this is a wise thing to do. In other situations it may be better to use the same tactic as when they try to change the subject. This way you keep the focus on them.
- Playing the victim – Even though they think they are perfect, they like to play the victim from time to time as well. When? When you are upset about what they did, or when you are angry with them. For instance, when you are angry because they didn’t keep their promise, they may “be upset” about your response and make you feel guilty. Why do they do that? This way the attention shifts from them to you, and they regain control over the situation again. The best way to respond in this situation is to ignore their game and focus on what the narcissist did before.
- Gas-lighting – Dealing with a narcissist is tricky because they use the gas-lighting technique a lot. The gas-lighting technique means that the narcissist withholds information from you and replaces it with false information. This way they are in control over the situation, and it’s easier for them to “persuade” you into taking their view/opinion. And that’s what they want. So what can you do about this? Do not base your opinion on their information only. Try to find out what really happened and keep in mind that the narcissist may be playing games.
- Interruption – By interrupting you or by talking louder and louder they try to gain control over the situation again. Allowing them to interrupt you or to “shout” at you means that you are on the losing end of the discussion. It’s more difficult for you to make your point when you get interrupted a lot or when the other is shouting at you. The easiest thing to do is to tell them that they can talk after you’ve finished making your point. Another good thing is to tell them that you are not impressed by their shouting and that they should talk like all adults do.
- Silent treatment – The avoidance of certain topics and keeping the upper-hand in the relationship are two important goals for the narcissist. The silent treatment is a very effective way to achieve this. On top of that this treatment makes you feel guilty and makes you want to come to the narcissist to stop this silent treatment. In short: the sooner you get it over with the better. The approach may be tricky though: because they will just play the victim again. You can acknowledge their feelings briefly and then immediately continue the initial discussion. Don’t take too much time acknowledging their feelings because it’s what they want.
Don’t try to win the narcissist for you.
Winning the narcissist for you isn’t a very realistic goal given the fact that they only care about themselves. So the moment a narcissist likes you a lot it’s probably because you feed his ego, because you make him feel very important, and because he can exploit you (emotionally, mentally, and physically). The moment he finds a better person for his needs or the moment he can’t use you anymore, he will simply drop you like a rock. It’s a lot easier to keep the narcissist on a safe distance.
avoid challenging the narcissist’s desires and wishes.
By challenging the narcissist’s desires and wishes you may become his enemy. A narcissist enjoys seeing someone suffer, humiliating someone, and being in control all the time. So imagine what happens if you become his enemy? The narcissist will do everything to make you suffer. Everything he can use against you he Will use against you. Try to avoid challenging the narcissist’s desires and wishes, try to stay out of it.