The cycle of abuse by a narcissist is frustrating. It begins with an upsetting event. The narcissist, feeling threatened, then reacts abusively. Tired of the assault, the abused defensively fights back. The narcissist justifies the abused behavior as further evidence that the narcissist is being abused. Once the abused have given in or up, the narcissist feels empowered and the pattern continues.
Getting off this insane merry-go-round can be difficult but not impossible. Try these 10 suggestions.
- Be careful what you let in. Narcissists use belittlement and intimidation to beat you into submission. Their words need to become like water off a duck’s back. As water hits a duck’s back, it beads up and slides right off due to the oily feathers.
- Test what is said. Just because the narcissist said, “You never help out,” doesn’t mean that it is true. You might not help on a couple of occasions but “never” is an overstatement. Don’t allow the morsel of truth to overshadow reality.
- Look at the big picture. Is this battle worth it? Pick your battles wisely and decide ahead of time what is worth fighting for such as your morality, ethics, family, and values. Trivial matters are not worth the energy needed to fight.
- View interactions as a chess game. In chess, there are defensive and offensive maneuvers. Narcissists constantly try to keep you responding defensively. Be offensive on occasion to balance the sides.
- Plan your words ahead of time. By now, you probably know the narcissist’s triggers. So plan out ahead of time what you should say not what you want to say. Rehearsing ahead of time is like preparing for a debate. Review the possible responses and have pat answers ready when needed.
- Stay positive. Repeat to yourself, “I can interact with the narcissist.” Remember the childhood story, The Little Engine that Could? The train kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can,” all the way up the hill. Your positive inner dialogue is an important element in your success.
- Take time before you respond. Resist the urge to answer immediately to an attack. Instead say, “That’s an interesting point, let me think about it,” and walk away. Give yourself some emotional distance before returning to the narcissist so you don’t act inappropriately.
- Find areas of agreement. Take every opportunity to say, “You are right about that,” without it being condescending. This feeds their ego and often softens them to your concerns.
- Stay cool, no matter what. Narcissists will try to upset you to minimize their own inappropriate reactions. If you have reacted angrily in the past, the narcissist will try to push you even harder once you remain cool. This takes about three to twelve times before they learn it won’t work anymore.
- Set boundaries. When the narcissist repeats an issue over and over, allow the conversation to happen only two times. After that, don’t talk about it anymore and instead say, “I’m done talking about that.” Walk away to demonstrate that you are really done.
A narcissist will not stop being a narcissist but you can stop spinning around. Try one of these suggestions at a time to test out the effectiveness. If the abuse becomes too much to handle or none of these strategies work, it might be time to exit the relationship.