Holding Your Own With a Narcissist (or other Personality Disordered Person)
It may have come to your attention by now that the narcissist or other type of manipulator in your life defines the terms. This is because he/she has two essential motives – to get his/her way, and to look good doing it. Ordinary people do not bode well with these narcissistic types because they tend to play by a different set of rules – fair ones; ones that involve cooperation, collaboration, equality.
So, now that you know that you have a formidable opponent, how do you arm yourself for battle? Here is some great advice from the book, In Sheep’s Clothing, written by George Simon, Jr., on character disordered people:
- Stop participating in losing battles. Your biggest losing battle is trying to get your disordered person to change. Your narcissist is uninterested in changing. He/she does not care about your feelings or your point of view, so lay your efforts down and put your energy where you do have a chance to win – into your own well-being.
- Do not deceive yourself. Stop pretending that the negative interaction you just had never occurred. Live in reality and learn to accept reality. As you interact with a narcissist be aware that you are dealing with a characterologically challenged individual and do yourself a favor – expect him/her to act accordingly.
- Independently own yourself. Do not let a narcissist manipulate you by causing you to react, respond, second guess yourself, or defend yourself. You must hold onto yourself, which means you are allowed to have, honor, and respect your own opinions and feelings, regardless of how much effort your manipulator puts into thwarting your sense of self. You never have to agree with him/her – particularly in matters involving your value or reality.
- Eliminate “easily-manipulate-able” traits from yourself. In particular, the following characteristics have no place in the same room with a narcissist: conscientiousness, self-doubt, emotional dependence, being the one who takes on responsibility for making things “right,” gullibility, or being understanding. In any interaction with a narcissist, leave these characteristics about yourself elsewhere. They will only be used against you.
- Arm yourself with Personal Empowerment Tools:
- Don’t accept any excuses for poor behavior. Remember that if someone’s behavior is wrong, any rationale for the behavior is irrelevant. Confront inappropriate behavior directly and label it for what it is.
- Don’t be manipulated by the other person’s “impression management” strategies. Don’t “mind-read.” Judge actions for what they are; don’t try to second-guess why someone does something. Remember, behavior patterns alone give you enough information about a person’s character. You don’t need to “buy in” to an explanation.
- Establish your boundaries ahead of time. That means, decide what behaviors you will tolerate and then also decide what actions you will take for behaviors you want to disengage from. This will help you cope with problem behaviors when they arise.
- Be direct and accept only direct responses. If you can’t get the other person to provide a direct response to your direct request or question, understand that the other person is trying to control and/or manipulate you. Refer back to item 1 above – you can’t change anyone but yourself; therefore, figure out what you need to change in order to be healthy and at peace.
- Stay in the here and now. Don’t let your narcissist try to drag you off on a rabbit trail. The only change that matters is that which takes place in the moment. Stick to the present issue and do not allow the other person to sway you away from it.
- Keep the focus of the responsibility on the manipulator. Narcissists are masters at projecting their problems onto the other person and are particularly adept at blame. Do not take responsibility for his/her behavior for any reason. Ask how he/she will correct his/her behavior. Do not listen to rationalizations.
- Remain calm and fair when confronting a narcissist. Realize that he/she will use any perceived hostility on your part as an invitation to respond with denial, selective inattention, and blame.
- Do not threaten a narcissist; just take action. The best strategies to use with a narcissist are actions. Even if the narcissist does not change his/her behavior, at least you can take action to take care of yourself. This always benefits you.
- Do not allow yourself to be in the “one-down” position. This is going to be hard because narcissists are unwilling to be anything other than the “winner.” They do not know how to be on a level ground position. You will have to be mindful of this reality and keep yourself on top.
- Speak for yourself. Use “I” statements. Don’t let the other person define you or tell you what you mean. Also, don’t speak for the other person either.
Suffice it to say that your relationship with a narcissist will never be an easy one. Do whatever you can to build self-empowerment and remain focused on trusting yourself.
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Stines, S. (2017). Holding Your Own With a Narcissist (or other Personality Disordered Person). Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2017/01/holding-your-own-with-a-narcissist-or-other-personality-disordered-person/