Dealing with narcissistic personalities is frustrating and exhausting. The only way to effectively deal with a narcissist is to understand how the narcissist came to be this way and to change the way in which you respond to the person's provocations. A narcissist may make you feel as though every little hardship in his or her life is somehow your fault. You must have confidence in your opinions, be able to communicate them effectively and brush off unfair treatment.
Narcissists are egotistical and self-absorbed. They crave constant recognition for all of their supposedly wonderful traits. They must achieve status of some sort or make everyone else think they have some sort of status. They like being envied. They have a limited capacity, if any, for caring about, understanding and listening to other people’s needs and desires. Seventy-five to 80 percent of narcissists are men.
Psychologists have not pinpointed one cause of narcissism. However, many believe that narcissism begins in childhood, when a child is either spoiled, overly dependent or lonely and deprived—or some combination of these three.
The spoiled child was allowed to believe he deserved special consideration. He got everything he wanted, and he never had to feel any sort of discomfort. He never had to take responsibility for anything. The dependent child’s parents did everything for him. The child felt incompetent and, like the spoiled child, never had to take responsibility for his actions, struggle or feel discomfort or frustration. The dependent child believes everyone should wait on him hand and foot, and he cannot make a decision without someone else’s input. The lonely, deprived child grew up feeling love was conditional and people cannot be trusted. This child was shamed in one breath and boasted about in the next, which was very confusing and made him feel unsafe. This child grows up feeling as if he should never get close to anyone.
You must have a strong sense of self to successfully deal with a narcissist. If you were mistreated as a child, the narcissist will take advantage of your trauma and bully you into compliance, knowing that you will eventually give in. If you felt like you couldn’t live up to your parents’ expectations, the narcissist knows you will want to please him and will play on this until you give in. If you were emotionally deprived or abandoned as a child, the narcissist will dote on you to suck you in, and then will begin to exert his power over you. Because you don’t want to be abandoned again, you will do whatever the narcissist wants.
In order to deal with a narcissist effectively, you need to change your responses. Fighting back doesn’t work because the narcissist feels attacked—and will lash out more to convince you that he is right. Calmly state how you feel without blaming him. Tell the narcissist you will not tolerate being treated in this manner. Then tell him you will be happy to listen when he speaks to you more respectfully. If you have to, suggest words the narcissist could use that are more respectful.
Shutting down when the narcissist attacks doesn’t work. Rehearse responses so you are prepared when the narcissist attacks you. Rehearse stating your needs directly without blaming the narcissist.
Running away when the narcissist attacks makes things worse. Stand your ground, tell the narcissist how you feel and calmly state that he is being disrespectful. If you need space, tell him. This will prevent him from coming after you. Make sure you are clear that you need a certain amount of time and tell the narcissist when you will come back to address the issues.
Narcissists can spin a conversation so quickly that you end up forgetting what started the argument in the first place. This is how a narcissist keeps you off balance so you cannot challenge him. Listening very carefully to what a narcissist is saying goes a long way toward being able to calmly and effectively deal with him. Use simple, rational explanations; every time the narcissist tries to twist the conversation around to throw the blame for an incident on you, calmly reiterate the simple established facts of the situation. This tactic will help you communicate your needs, while also helping you to feel less confused and frustrated by the argument.