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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a rapidly growing segment of personality disorders (cluster B) that affect an individual’s ability to have successful relationships.  In addition, the subject that finds themselves entrenched in a relationship (be it professional or personal) will be challenged in feeling heard, understood, respected and otherwise valued.  This article discusses techniques and tools that are effective in managing the Narcissist.

Remembering that NPD is a psychological disorder that negatively impacts the individual’s ability to have and hold relationships, may change how you view that person. So as to not be confused, I am not suggesting that someone stay in an abusive relationship.  Specifically work relationships and casual acquaintances may be managed by adopting the perspectives of compassion and patience while retaining emotional distance.

Before reading on, verse yourself in the common tactics used by a Narcissist so that you’re familiar with how things need to change.  It may also help to read about the victimology associated with Narcissism.

 

How to Talk to a Narcissist

Talking to a narcissist requires patience, tolerance, and focus if you want to maintain a semblance of a positive relationship with him or her.

Having patience will let you remain in the conversation while those around you disengage or even leave. Viewing the Narcissist with compassion will help you tolerate the conversation and overlook the narcissist’s selfishness and arrogance.

If you stay focused, you will be able to remember what the narcissist wants and what your objectives are in the conversation.

Talking to a narcissist can be uncomfortable, but you can still carry on a decent conversation and perhaps an acquaintance — although it won’t be a deep friendship.

  • Limit your expectations, embrace a supportive role and recognize what you are dealing with.
  • Listen carefully and offer signals of positive recognition. If possible, be genuine and sincere.
  • Make a verbal note of any of the narcissist’s achievements that you truly admire.
  • Avoid disagreeing with the narcissist’s opinion or point of view as they won’t tolerate the challenge and may attack.

Don’t worry about causing the narcissist to become more self-centered. He or she has behaved this way since an early age and is unable to stop without professional help (and that’s not typically successful).

What you want to avoid is anything that could lead them to become frustrated or angry.

 

What to Say to Disarm a Narcissist

Narcissists have a delusional sense of self-worth and an inability to feel empathy for other people.

They are unable to effectively regulate their emotions or understand the impact that their actions have on other people. As a result, disarming them is not simple.

If you want to neutralize or manage the Narcissist around you, direct communication is key.  Try saying things like:

  • No. I’m not doing that.
  • Please stop criticizing me in front of others. It’s hurtful and unkind.
  • I don’t like being told what to do or how to behave. I’m an adult.
  • Flattery and praise go both ways:  Give more if you want to receive more.
  • I’m going to leave if you keep speaking to me that way.
  • I don’t like how you are speaking to me, and I want it to stop right now.
  • I see you and what you are up to. You can’t fool me.
  • I’m not going to engage with you.
  • It’s not my job to boost your ego.
  • The way you are speaking is unprofessional. Let’s revisit this once you’ve calmed down.
  • I choose not to be manipulated today.

These statements might get their attention, but it’s not likely to change their behaviors permanently. You should probably focus less on disarming them and more on learning how to implement your boundaries and manage their behaviors.

Let’s talk about the most effective ways to talk to and shut down a narcissist so you can tolerate their irritating and often hurtful behaviors.

 

 

Tools To Disarm The Narcissist

The following tips can help you identify toxic behaviors and take back control as you manage the Narcissist in your life.

1. Awareness

Becoming aware of the narcissist and their tactics is the first step in reducing their impact on you and managing the Narcissist.  The more you learn about the effects of narcissists on their victims, the easier it will be to see how their manipulation has affected you. From there, you can take steps to free yourself from their influence.

2. Keep calm when calling them out for manipulating behaviors.

An emotional reaction will play right into their hands. When they are the calm ones, they can use your lack of control over your emotions against you. This is why so many who’ve grown up around narcissists learn to keep a tight lid on their feelings.  Expect that when the Narcissist can’t get you to snap, they’ll slide into the victim role and ride that wave as far as they can.

3. Try to empathize — without excusing their behavior.

The better you understand what’s going on in a Narcissist’s head, the easier it is to see how to respond in the kindest and most effective way.  Kind doesn’t mean “nice.” You’re not letting them have their way, but rather making an effort to see things from their perspective (though you know they won’t reciprocate).

4. Refuse to argue with them.

Arguing is pointless.  Winning an argument is impossible but even having the Narcissist see your point of view is futile.  Even if your argument is sound and theirs is not, they won’t see it. They won’t respect any viewpoint other than their own.  If you don’t think as the Narcissist does, your thinking is automatically dismissed.

5. Stand your ground with quiet confidence.

You don’t need them to agree with you. You don’t even need them to let you have your say. Once you’ve made your decision, you just need to stick to it.  However vehemently they might blame you for everything, and no matter how passionately they try to convince you that they know better, maintain your position.

6. Remember, it’s not about you.

Depersonalize the Narcissist‘s behavior to detach yourself from it. What they do comes from them;  it’s not about you at all.  How they treat you and what they say, all come from their own inflated but very fragile ego. You have as much right as anyone to be loved and to find happiness.

7. Learn to say no.

Get comfortable with saying No.  Or at least buy yourself some time by responding to one of their demands with, “I don’t know… Let me think about it,” or “This isn’t a good time. I’ll get back to you.”.  The narcissist will make demands and think you owe them everything, but you don’t.

8. Work on building self-confidence.

Growing up with a narcissistic parent, being involved in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, or even having a friendship or co-worker relationship, takes a toll on your confidence and self-esteem. It’s time to rebuild — or to build what you’ve never had.  For starters, try really spending time alone, journaling and reconnecting to you:  what is important to you, what do you value and what do you want?

9. Set boundaries and communicate them.

Connect with the narcissist on your terms, and make those terms clear.  If they invite you over, let them know you’d like to, but communicate both your expectations and what the results will be if your boundaries are crossed.  So if you say you’ll leave if they are disrespectful, and the narcissist starts to demean you, it’s no time for explanations – just get up and get out.

10. Take stock of your own behaviors.

When you grow up with a narcissistic parent or are around a narcissist for a long time, it’s understandable that you’d pick up some narcissistic behaviors of your own.  You might have no boundaries with others because you’ve learned that they don’t respect them anyways. And you might find it difficult to express your feelings, knowing they can be used against you.

11. Talk to someone who can help you sort things out.

This person can be a therapist or coach, but it can also take the form of a support group or friends who understand what you’ve been through.  If possible, talk to a professional therapist who can help you sort through your personal baggage and finally learn how to let go.

 

What Hurts Narcissists the Most

Self-absorbed people are in constant need of validation that they are fabulous people.  If they don’t receive this validation, or someone questions their greatness, they often lash out.

What hurts narcissists most is when they are not acknowledged as exceptional, or they are viewed as an ordinary person like everyone else.

This response causes them to elicit the engagement of those around them, but when this attempt fails, they can feel hurt and angry.

Insincere flattery is also something that hurts a narcissist. Deep down, narcissists lack well-grounded self-esteem.  Because of this, they need to know the compliments they receive are credible. Anything that comes across as fake can be very hurtful.

When their flaws and weaknesses are exposed and there’s no way to make excuses or cover them up, narcissists can lash out because they feel so vulnerable and weak.

 

 

Strategies to Shut Down a Narcissist

To shut down a narcissist, you have to be more prepared than they are. Let’s go over some effective strategies you can use to shut down a narcissist and help reduce the harm they inflict on you.

1. Disengage

Don’t be surprised when you are with a narcissist, and they become unreasonably angry over a seemingly minor annoyance.  Don’t try to reason with them and don’t involve yourself in the situation. Remember to think about the things that are in your control — and that’s how you respond.

The only way a narcissist will realize that they might be in the wrong (or simply let something go) is if you refuse to engage and push back.  This can be difficult, but if you know that they are wrong about something, don’t fall for their charming attempts to get you to agree with them or to bait you into an argument.

Think before you speak and do not take the bait.

2. Don’t Argue

Narcissists thrive off of a good fight because they know how to push your buttons.  When your buttons are pushed, you are probably tempted to fight back and defend yourself.

However, once you fight back, you have lost control.

If you want to get around a jab from a narcissist, stay cool and don’t have a reaction to the emotions around you.  It is important to stay in control of your actions and words because the narcissist will not be able to do this.

3. Don’t Accept Responsibility

If a narcissist is angry, let them be angry.

They may try to make you feel the same anger and pain that they are feeling, but you can refuse to comply.  It might seem easier to accept the blame to stop their rampage, but doing so can break your spirit after a while.

If you accept responsibility for their anger or emotions, you may end up doing whatever they want just to appease them.  Let the narcissist handle their own emotions and come to terms with them. They will eventually get over it or move on to another effort to satisfy their needs.

They are responsible for THEIR OWN emotions.

The challenge for those who have narcissism is to learn how to take personal responsibility instead of attributing their disrespectful or abusive behavior to those around them.

4. Say “I’m Sorry You Feel that way.”

Narcissists think they know everything. When they are insulting you, they think they are completely right in their accusations.

However, if you say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” as they are trying to engage you, it will throw them off balance and give them nothing to push back against.  When their attempt at getting you to defend yourself has failed, this will show them that the conversation is over, and you don’t have a response.

5. Watch for Your Triggers

Narcissists want to engage you by triggering you. They expect a reaction out of you when they push your buttons.

However, if you disengage when the manipulation starts, regulate your emotions and don’t react to the trigger, it sends a strong message that you’re not going to play their game.  By not offering the reaction that they expect, you’re not providing the fuel that they’re looking for.

6. Stay Real

Always be the best, most authentic version of yourself. If someone tries to convince you that you’ve done something wrong or that you are a horrible person, don’t try to retaliate or defend yourself.

Doing so only causes you to validate their accusations. If you don’t act in a way that the narcissist expects, they’re likely to give up and leave you alone.

7. Be Compassionate

Having compassion for someone who is narcissistic helps you remember that they are dealing with a mental illness that create issues that have nothing to do with you. Try to recognize the humanity of the narcissist despite their unpleasantness.

You have to keep in mind that narcissists have a deep sense of insecurity and self-doubt.  You don’t have to be sympathetic about this, but you can be compassionate.  This compassion will diffuse the fire that fuels the narcissist and deflate a situation.

8. Be Vague

The attention you give to a narcissist is addictive for them. If you keep giving them what they want, they will continue to try to control you so you will meet their needs and wishes.

Keep all dialogue to a minimum. Don’t talk to a narcissist unless you have to.  Avoid interaction as much as possible, but don’t make a big deal out of it because it will give them ammunition against you.

When you do have to talk to them, talk about boring things, like the weather. If they ask questions, give vague and uninspiring answers that don’t invite more questions.

You can quickly bore a narcissist to shut them down.

9. Walk Away

The best way to shut down a narcissist is to walk away from them. If all else fails, you can physically remove yourself from the conversation.

Even if they keep talking, simply turn around and walk away. If they follow you, close the door. Put headphones on. Pick up your phone and call someone. These actions will force them to stop eventually.

10. Remember, You Cannot Control Their Reality

If you recognize that you can only control yourself, your thoughts, your responses and your perception of things, you will be less likely to fight back against a narcissist.

You can’t challenge someone else’s perception of you:  They will think whatever they choose to think.

You will be able to shut down a narcissist easier if you can accept their faulty perceptions of you.

11. Avoid Giving Negative Attention

Narcissists love attention — either positive or negative. Receiving negative attention is a critical part of their ability to hold you accountable for their behavior.

Once you give them this kind of attention, they can hold it over your head. They need this kind of negative feedback from you to provide them with a reason to lash out and target you in return.

12. Put Your Needs First

Narcissists make others feel guilty about being happy because they expect everyone to put the narcissist’s happiness first.

If you’re not constantly praising them or accepting their criticisms, they won’t be satisfied.

Keep your needs in the front of your mind to reduce the chance of a narcissist taking advantage of you.

Set healthy boundaries that you are comfortable with to keep the distance that you need from the narcissist. Keep your eye on what you need and continue to fulfill it.

13. Keep Your Cool

Showing a narcissist that you’re upset reinforces their behavior.  They see that they have power over you. They are encouraged by your strong reaction and look for other ways to elicit the same response from you.

Always try to keep a level head and keep your emotions to yourself.

 

Narcissists and Boundaries

The reality is that it’s not your job to fix the narcissist – and you wouldn’t be able to, even if it was your job.

You simply cannot let them have the power to determine how you feel about who you are. If you give them the power to determine your self-worth in any kind of relationship with a narcissist, you will lose.  They will always make you less than and put you down because they have to feel superior.  So they’re either going to build themselves up to make themselves feel superior or pull you down.  They simply cannot have you feeling empowered or at peace around them – it makes them uncomfortable.

You can see from these strategies that most of the work in shutting down a narcissist requires managing yourself and your emotions. You must decide what you will and won’t put up with.

Specifically, with a Covert Narcissist their tactics are more subtle and less obvious.  In this case, you will need to be very self-assured and confident around your boundaries.

Create a boundary statement around whatever you won’t tolerate. For example, a boundary might be, “I will not accept unkind and critical comments about me from the narcissist.”

Now, what does it mean to “not accept” these comments? That’s where consequences come in. You may not be able to change the narcissist or stop him or her from saying unkind things, but you can implement repercussions to their behavior.

So basically, creating boundaries with a narcissist means that you cannot take the bait and you cannot be the bait.  Narcissists will say and do things that most people will find offensive.  This is not assertiveness – it’s aggression.  And it’s an attempt to make you feel ‘less than’.

So, when the narcissist crosses your boundaries, you can . . .

  • Leave the room.
  • Refuse to go to a planned event with him or her.
  • Refuse a request or favor demanded of you.
  • Go stay with a friend for a few days.
  • Report the behavior to a supervisor (if it’s at work).
  • Drastically minimize the time you spend with him or her.

None of these consequences are likely to bother the narcissist for long, but they will empower you and make you feel more in control.

Takeaway

You have to understand that you can’t change a narcissist. You can only manage yourself and how you respond.

If you want to know how to shut down a narcissist, the most important thing is to understand the disorder so you can protect yourself from the havoc they can wreak on your life.

Try using these steps to create boundaries and manage the narcissist in your life before their behavior has a long-term impact on you.

It’s up to you (and you alone) whether you continue to have a relationship with a narcissist. You don’t owe anyone your time or your affection.

PS – If you’d like support, let’s chat.

Sources

  • Psychology Today “How to leave a Narcissist or Toxic Relationship” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/toxic-relationships/201904/how-leave-narcissist-or-toxic-relationship) Accessed 01/12/23)
  • Insider.com  “20 steps to leaving an abusive relationship with a narcissist for good” (https://www.insider.com/how-to-leave-a-narcissist-in-14-steps-2018-10#avoid-arguing-at-all-costs-5) Accessed 01/13/23.
  • HelpGuide.org. Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm) Accessed 12/19/2022.
  • Nigel MacLennan.  “How To Spot And Deal with Narcissists?” (https://www.psychreg.org/how-spot-deal-narcissists/ )  Accessed 01/24/2023
Katrina Murphy
Katrina Murphy

Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.

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